MGWCC #085 -- Friday, January 15th, 2010 -- "Aenigma Alphabetica"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 85 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.


Which well-known body of water hides in the phrases NORA MARCONI, BALE PARODIST, SPRUCY LIPITOR, ERECT SAMISEN and ACUTE HORDES? The Mediterranean Sea, naturally, which was last week's contest answer.

Well, maybe not so naturally -- after 283 correct entries came in the first week of January, a mere quarter of that -- 71 total -- arrived for week 2. That's not supposed to happen, which means I severely underestimated the difficulty of this meta (which left quite a few solvers unhappy with the sudden incline). Solution at top left.

Those who did find The Med noticed that each of the five theme entries consisted of one anagrammed city on the Mediterranean plus one anagrammed island in it:

NORA MARCONI --> Oran + Minorca
BALE PARODIST --> Elba + Port Said
ERECT SAMISEN --> Crete + Messina
SPRUCY LIPITOR --> Cyprus + Tripoli
ACUTE HORDES --> Ceuta + Rhodes

My logic in assigning this second-week difficulty was: solvers only had to notice one of the easier anagrams (like ERECT/Crete or BALE/Elba) to get a toehold into the theme, and didn't need to get all 10 to know they were right (many solvers mentioned missing Port Said and/or Minorca, for example, but they still knew they had the right body of water). I didn't fully appreciate how tough it was to spot the initial pattern, though.

Laura Dove found this tiny (population 43!) alternative solution to Port Said, while commenter cybergoober at Diary of a Crossword Fiend writes:

Nobody posted a comment yet about how these are THE_MED entries? Hmm?

Last week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 71 correct entries received, is Jose Chardiet of New Haven, Conn. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Jose will receive a 50-puzzle subscription to Peter Gordon's new Fireball Crosswords (over 500 subscribers!).

Note: Fireball Crosswords finally debuted last week, so we'll return this week to the normal book prizes.


Patrick Berry
has a new website up, featuring info on his books and puzzle gigs. But definitely start by looking at this photo of the cool house he lives in.

John Farmer has a new cinema/puzzle website called MAD About Movies. January features a three-crossword contest you can enter here. I solved the first one and it was a lot of fun.


This week's contest answer is the two clues (note: clues, not grid entries!) in this puzzle that, when combined, would have made an excellent sixth theme entry. E-mail these two clues to me (the clues themselves, not their clue numbers) 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 (1,041 members now!) here.

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

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