MGWCC #074 -- HELL MONTH PUZZLE #5 -- Friday, October 30, 2009 -- "65 to Stay Alive"


With one mighty swing, almost a hundred more culled from our ranks -- by neither cats nor a fanged monster, but by poisoned candy. Our unseen enemy strikes always in the manner least expected.

There is but one struggle remaining, yet only a handful -- 57 of us -- left standing to surmount it. We steel ourselves against what must be the greatest battle of the five, but I find myself pondering a most curious idea: might our enemy, in his sinister bloodlust, not consider posing a simpler challenge than we assume, tempting us to blunder our chances away by overthought?


Zounds -- we're down to double digits! Just 57 entrants found the very hidden piece of Halloween candy in last week's puzzle, a ZAGNUT bar. So if you found it you can feel proud, but if you didn't don't feel too bad -- a lot of very good solvers missed it, too. Solution at left.

The puzzle's theme was deeply hidden, but three subtle and intended hints pointed solvers towards it -- as did one extremely subtle and unintended hint.

The three nudges I put in on purpose were:

1) the bizarre entry SIX BARS across the middle of the grid.

2) the title ("Outrageous Death").

3) the instructions hint that the answer "is not a trick."

Well if it's not a trick, and we're nearing Halloween, then it must be...a treat, right? And six bars must therefore mean not taverns but candy bars. And looking around the grid, a solver might notice that six entries, with a quick change of one letter, turn into six candy bars:


Those six replacement letters, properly anagrammed, spelled last week's contest answer bar, the delicious yet tough to find these days ZAGNUT. Hey, Hershey, market that thing better!

And what about the title? It's an extension of the theme, with the NUTRAGEOUS and HEATH bars concealed by the letters O and D (and, as several solvers pointed out, O.D.'ing on chocolate is an all too common indulgence).

Finally, what was that fourth hint, the very subtle one? It takes a thief to catch one, and it takes a crossword constructor to catch a hint this small. While sending in his correct answer, the great Trip Payne writes:

I knew there had to be a reason you didn't go with CLAYS/DYE/WES and AMP/MAPS!

(Instead of the clumsy CLARA/DRE/WEA and AMU/MAUS, he means.)

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 57 correct entries submitted, is Elissa Grossman of Santa Monica, Calif. Elissa has made my day by choosing as her prize an autographed copy of the Pocket Idiot's Guide to Kaidoku.


This week's contest answer is a popular Halloween costume that's five letters long. 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 Google Group (937 members now!) here.

Happy Halloween -- solve well, and be not led astray by words intended to deceive.


Alex said...
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JannieB said...

Is there an error in the answer to 32A or does Krusty have more than one Sidekick named "Sideshow ???

Alexander Boisvert said...

Jannie --

There are (or were) five characters named "Sideshow", some more obscure than others.

Joon said...

i'd just like to report that sam's halloween haul included 0 zagnut bars. still never seen one.