MGWCC #073 -- HELL MONTH PUZZLE #4 -- Friday, October 23, 2009 -- "Outrageous Death"


A clowder of fierce cats struck first, and now a horrible vampire. Our once-mighty band of 327 is reduced, in a mere two weeks' time, to 156.

Those who remain are weary and frightened, but I exhort them nonetheless -- exhort them to be bold in the face of two challenges ahead. Though secretly, in my private thoughts, I wonder if their fate is not in the hands of a power greater than they know -- and the tasks that await us, more daunting than those that have come before.

Never would I utter such words aloud, but I deem it likely that the total remaining alive after this week will require only two numbers to express...


NOSFERATU, writes Roger Ebert in this review, is a scarier sounding word than "Dracula."

It's also a much handier word to use when writing a letter bank crossword, as last week's puzzle showed. 156 solvers noticed that the only nine letters in the entire puzzle grid were those which comprise the seminal horror classic NOSFERATU, which made it last week's contest answer word. Solution at left.

Judging by their e-mails, a non-trivial percentage of solvers who found the correct contest answer did so without realizing that the entire grid used only that ennead of letters. They'd noticed the title (with its red herring alliteration) and the four longest entries in the grid, but hadn't seen that the fill ignores 17 letters of the alphabet as well.

Four solvers even noticed a red herring I hadn't intended: at 43-across, the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic FORTUNATE SON anagrams to NOT NOSFERATU! Now that's meta-meta.

I probably won't try to sneak another letter bank puzzle by you for a few years -- it'll be the cruciverbal equivalent of an underhand serve, its surprise value requiring much time to recover.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 156 correct entries submitted, is Karl Wallulis of Walla Walla, Wash. Karl has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Literary Crosswords.


Many solvers pointed out that NOTE at 66-across is incorrectly clued as {Part of n.b.}. As co-consul of the Walt Whitman High School Latin Club (1988-89) I am duly ashamed. The answer should have been NOTA (or BENE) but not the English NOTE.


This week's contest answer is six letters long (this is not a trick!). 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. [UPDATE, 10/23, 5:30 PM ET: Only 11 correct answers so far, compared to 34 at this time last week. Hell Month is hell!][UPDATE #2, 10/24, 2:10 PM: 24 hours in and still just 21 correct entries.]

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 (931 members now!) here.

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

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