MGWCC #066 -- Friday, Sept. 4, 2009 -- "This Isn't Gonna Work"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 66 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.


Did I underestimate the meta-solving prowess of MGWCC solvers, or did I overestimate the trickiness of phrases like WILLIAMS FLYTRAP? Either way, 185 solvers unlocked the secret combination of last week's contest answer phrase, which was 5-1-4-2-3. This sets a new record for end-of-the-month correct entries, as well as upsetting the cosmic order of August (we'd had 245-202-179 going into last week, so >179 wasn't supposed to happen).

Solvers noticed that each of the puzzle's five theme entries contained two words, either of which could precede a planet [UPDATE, 9/5, 10:00 AM: Ben Bass points out that I meant "follow" a planet, not "precede" one] to form a new two-word phrase. So we had:

WILLIAMS FLYTRAP (Venus Williams, Venus Flytrap)

BAR ATTACKS (Mars Bar, "Mars Attacks!")

RISING FLORIDA (pop band Jupiter Rising, resort city Jupiter, Florida)

ANGEL MOVER ("Earth Angel," earth mover)

DIME THERMOMETER (Mercury dime, mercury thermometer)

Put these five in the correct order -- distance from the Sun, as most solvers correctly intuited -- and you get 5 (Mercury) - 1 (Venus) - 4 (Earth) - 2 (Mars) - (3) Jupiter, or 5-1-4-2-3.

172 of the 185 correct entrants submitted 5-1-4-2-3, but over the weekend I started to notice a few 2-4-5-3-1's coming in as well. Took me a couple of minutes to figure out what was going on, but then I realized: instead of placing the numbered grid entries in planetary order, these solvers had taken the planets and placed them in grid order number.

Not precisely what I'd asked for in the instructions (which were clear about placing the grid entries in correct order, not the planets themselves), but it's intuitive enough of an alternate solution that I decided to count the eleven 2-4-5-3-1's I received as correct.

I hadn't anticipated that alternate solution, but I did guess that a few people might order the planets by size instead of proximity to the Sun. Two people submitted that entry (5-2-1-4-3) and those entries were counted as correct as well.

Jenny Meyer writes:

I'm a planetary scientist! Loved this meta.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 185 correct entries submitted, is Lance Enfinger of Lakewood Ranch, Fla. Lance has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.


A record 90 solvers correctly submitted all four of August's contest answers (HATCHET MAN, AESOP, KAFKA SAMSA and 5-1-4-2-3). The following lucky ten were randomly chosen from that 90 and will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set. Badass!

Andrea Blumberg -- Philadelphia, Penna.

Bevin Bullock -- Glendale, N.Y.

Ron Byron -- Lady Lake, Fla.

Mark Halpin -- Cold Spring, Ky.

Tyler Hinman -- San Francisco, Calif.

Patrick Jordan -- Ponca City, Okla.

Jonah Kagan -- Los Angeles, Calif.

Mark Navarrete -- Quezon City, Philippines

Jill Palmer -- Leverett, Mass.

Steve Tolopka -- Portland, Ore.


1) My weekly Daily Beast 21x21 now has an Across Lite option, in response to many solver requests.

2) This week's Faster Times puzzle is up -- will take you 30 seconds if you follow tennis, 60 seconds if you don't.

3) Excellent week of puzzles over at the Kaidoku blog -- Alex Boisvert, Joon Pahk and I all chipped in to make a very nice set (puzzles #21, #22 and #23). Joon's puzzle took me 7 minutes and Alex's took me 9, both using the applet. Beat that!


I've gotten a few e-mails recently from people who solve the MGWCC each week, yet never actually enter the contest. I'm curious how many of these solvers there are, so this week only, I'm asking everyone who solves the puzzle to send in an entry so I can see more precisely just how many people do these things.

To add a little incentive, I'm offering two MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad sets this week to two randomly-chosen first-time entrants (please put the words "FIRST TIME ENTRANT" in the subject line of your e-mail, along with the contest answer word). To give equal treatment I'm also awarding two MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad sets to two randomly selected entrants who've entered MGWCC previously -- no need to put anything but the contest answer word in the subject line of your e-mail in this case. The regular weekly book prize continues this week unaffected by the additional prizes.

This week's contest answer word is five letters long and it's what's missing from this week's puzzle. Giving an extra day this week because of the holiday -- e-mail your entry to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Wednesday at noon ET.

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 Google Group (828 members now!) here.

Enjoy the long weekend, solve well, and be not led astray by words intended to deceive.

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