MGWCC #048 -- Friday, May 1, 2009 -- "Quite Quaint Quintet"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 48 of my contest. If you're new to the contest and would like to enter, please see the site FAQ on the left sidebar for instructions.


I got to watch an intriguing all's-well-that-ends-well scenario develop with last week's crossword, "Disconsonant Vowels." As a month-ending puzzle it was supposed to be difficult, and it was: just 71 correct entries landed at my laptop's doorstep, fewer than 1/3 of the number submitted for the first puzzle of the month.

Last week's contest answer word was IOWA. Solvers needed first to notice that the 15x15 puzzle grid was divided into five bands, three squares high each, in which only one vowel appeared. The top band, comprising the top three rows in the grid, contained only the vowel A; the next band down, consisting of rows 4, 5 and 6 in the grid, contained only the vowel E; and so on through I, O and, filling the bottom three rows of the grid, U.

There were four exceptions, though, four vowels in the grid that were "disconsonant" (an old word meaning "out of place"). There were the I in AMIS at 1-across; the A in NAE at 31-across; the O in COLUMBUS SUBURBS at 63-across; and the W in HOW'S at 49-down.

This W was the source of controversy. I had thought it was common knowledge that W could be a vowel (maybe because I read this article as a teenager), but to many solvers it was not a familiar concept (even an ACPT champ told me he'd never heard of this). Others noticed that the W was a vowel in HOW'S, but not in the crossing word WOK, and this caused some confusion. Still others noted that W's vowel-hood is disputed by some linguists, and claimed the W in words like HOW'S only serves as half of a diphthong comprised of the O and W, not as a true vowel itself. See comments in Joon Pahk's write-up for more.

But there was a mostly happy ending, fortunately, as it turned out that a non-trivial number of solvers got the contest answer word without even noticing the W -- the disconsonant I, O, and A led them phonetically to IOWA. A few even admitted missing the O in COLUMBUS SUBURBS, arriving at IOWA via its postal abbreviation, IA!

But it wasn't all bad -- many solvers did unravel the meta as I'd intended and had nice things to say about the puzzle. But I do acknowledge that it's a fine line between a home run and a fly ball, and I regret that this meta landed with a thud for some solvers. Fortunately there were many paths to IOWA.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 71 correct entries received, is Lyle Wiedeman of Irvine, Calif. Lyle has chosen as his prize an autographed copy of Golf Crosswords.


Time to send a wave of MGWCC stationery across the land! 38 solvers sent in correct answers to all four of April's puzzles (CROSSWORD SOLVER, ROPE, MAJOR ARCANA, and IOWA). The following lucky ten were chosen at random from those 38:

Don Albright -- West Chester, Penna.

Eric Berman -- Indianapolis, Ind.

James Dale -- Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Charles Hamlett -- Apex, N.C.

Matt Kelly -- Des Moines, Ia.

Bob Kerfuffle -- Carlstadt, N.J.

Nancy Schuster -- Pearl River, N.Y.

Jed Scott -- Rockford, Mich.

Ed Sills -- Austin, Tex.

Vega Subramaniam -- Seattle, Wash.

Each of our winners will receive a badass MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set. Congratulations!


1) You may have noticed that COLUMBUS SUBURBS was the only theme entry that featured a disconsonant vowel. Try as I might, I simply couldn't come up with a usable 15-letter entry with no vowel but U. The closest I came was CRUNCH N MUNCH GUY, an infamously obnoxious snack vendor at Boston's FleetCenter. A little obscure, but even so I couldn't use him...because that Y at the end is a vowel, too.

So, mini-contest this week: a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set goes to whoever comes up with the best 15-letter entry using U's as the only vowels. If two or more people send in the same winning entry, whoever's entry was sent in first will receive the prize. Entries must be received by Tuesday at noon ET. [UPDATE, 5/1, 5:40 PM ET: I should clarify that these need to be actual, in the language phrases like the five in last week's puzzle, not made up phrases like SUNUNU HUNTS CURS.]

2) Bumper stickers now available: CROSSWORD LOVERS DO IT EACH MORNING AND ALL DAY SUNDAY, as a puzzle from last month put it -- and now these bumper stickers are available! Week 39 MGWCC winner Margaret Hoglund has posted her design at Bumper Art(search for "crossword"). I'm ordering one as soon as I post today's puzzle -- thanks, Margaret! It should go well with the six Ron Paul stickers already on my car.

3) Intriguing new way to make money at crosswords: Eric Berlin writes to tell about a new website called Kickstarter.com, where artists seek funding for various projects. Once adequate pledges are received, the money is collected and the artist gets to work.

Fascinating funding, and I'm monitoring it closely (and I'll be kicking in $10, right after I order my bumper sticker). Check out Eric's project here:



This week's contest answer is a common five-letter word that ties this puzzle's theme entries together -- and appears somewhere in today's blog post. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer word in the subject line of your e-mail.

To print the puzzle out, click on the image below and hit "print" on your browser. To solve using Across Lite, join the Google Group here:


Solve well, and be not led astray by words intended to deceive.

1 comment:

Alex said...

Matt --

Wikipedia gives two examples: Crushcrushcrush and Guru Kunchu Kurup. The first one is better by far, IMO.