Friday, August 14, 2009 -- MGWCC #063 -- "Moral Hazard"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 63 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.


Last week, Brendan Quigley and I asked Rex Parker for a random phrase that we each then worked into a crossword theme published on our respective sites. Full write-up on that below, but first let's take a look at the MGWCC results.

245 entrants deduced that HATCHET MAN was last week's contest answer, as it was the only theme entry appearing in both my and Brendan's puzzles. Solution at top left.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 245 correct entries submitted, is Bruce Schechter of Brooklyn, N.Y. Bruce has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

Re how easy this puzzle was compared to the previous two, Pam Fowler writes:


[the first F stands for "first"]


Brendan and I asked Rex for a random 10-, 11- or 15-letter phrase, specifying those lengths because they're the least awkward to fit into a 15x15 grid. Rex's phrase was HATCHET MAN, which, had this been a Rorschach Test instead of a crossword entry, would've caused me some alarm.

I went to work, and came up with absolutely nothing. Nada. Zippo. Several dead ends included:

*** political phrases that start with the surname of a politician
*** phrases that end with the anagrammed five-letter name of an artist (MANET)
*** TOMAHAWK CHOP, HATCHET MAN, and AXE BODY SPRAY (in addition to the obvious symmetry problems, I thought this idea was too obvious to use, although another constructor subsequently made it work elegantly -- see below)

So, with only three days left before deadline, I IM'ed Brendan with an offer to bury the hatchet idea and pretend the contest never happened. Only problem was, Brendan had come up in the meantime with a HATCHET MAN theme idea he liked. Here's our instant message exchange, edited to remove an irrelevant side conversation we had (also, SPOILER ALERT: Brendan didn't wind up using the theme we discuss below in our contest, but he did post a puzzle using that theme today on his site. So if you plan to solve that puzzle, be warned I'm about to give away its theme here):

Matt: hey
Brendan: what's up
Matt: have you come up with anything decent for HATCHET MAN?
Brendan: half decent
Matt: I've got nothing but lameo ideas
I was going to offer you that we bail on the idea
I will accept the shame to Rex
Brendan: well
4:08 PM as luck would have it
This Friday marks the 13th anniversary of my first-ever published puzzle
Matt: so you'd rather do that instead?
Brendan: no
I am going to mention it tho
4:09 PM so if you want to shitcan the idea, I do have something to talk about
Matt: oh ok -- if you have a semi-decent idea let's go ahead -- my ideas are sort of lame, publoishable but lame
Brendan: well
do you want to share the ideas or keep them under wraps?
Matt: I think the point has been made (to my satisfaction anyway) that you can't just pick a random phrase and build a crossword about it
4:10 PM well I guess it's cheating but my idea is HATCHET MAN, AXE BODY WASH, TOMAHAWK CHOP
Brendan: oh
mine's called "Swingers Party"
Matt: I also thought of phrases that start with a senator's name
4:11 PM Brendan: answers are going to be HATCHET MAN, TARZAN THE APEMAN, ALBER PUJOLS
(maybe not Tarzan)
Matt: oh that's awesome!
Matt: brilliant!
Brendan: let's go with it
Matt: yes, let's -- I'll try to come up with something more clever

So I'm thinking how clever that BEQ is, and what a fool I was for only seeing the words in HATCHET MAN and not the phrase's meaning. What else do people do but swing hatchets? They chop with them -- and so my AMERICAN CHOPPER theme was born. So in a sense we can give Brendan credit for three themes from the original phrase -- the concept behind mine, plus the Superheroes and Swingers' Party themes he published on his site (in a minor piece of redemption, however, I gave Brendan the "Unlikely to save the day" subtitle to his Superheroes theme).

But wait a second -- does Brendan's wife Liz get the credit for one of these themes? Read all about it here!

And you didn't think you were getting away with only three HATCHET MAN puzzles, did you? Of course not. Alex Boisvert and Mark Diehl have each taken a whack at the idea as well. Their puzzles are here:



Eric Maddy points out that at 45-down in last week's puzzle, the Mexican food brand is "Old El Paso," not simply "El Paso." Eso es un error, si.


This week's contest answer is formed by reversing one of the grid entries in today's puzzle. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer 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 download the free software here, then join the burgeoning Google Group (802 members -- big week, thanks Rex!) here.

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

No comments: