MGWCC #092 -- Friday, March 5th, 2010 -- "Draw An Award"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 92 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.


In my Google Group note I stated that last week's meta was both "simple" and "sadistic." The results bore this out -- though the metapuzzle was not terribly complicated for a last of the monther, just 41 entrants found contest answer AFGHANISTAN. Solution at top left.

The puzzle's two long theme entries read:


Solvers scoured the grid for cities...but they were hiding in the clues! Five cities in total sat there, as follows:

67-across * Shanghai (China)
22-across * Mumbai (India)
4-down * Mecca (Middle East)
65-across * Moscow (Ukraine)
14-across * Novosibirsk (Ural)

Place those five cities in their proper Risk territories (in parentheses on the above list), and you'll see you have AFGHANISTAN completely surrounded. Red dots represent our five metropolises:

Is Novosibirsk in Ural or Siberia on the Risk board? It's close to the border of the two, and geographical precision is tough on a map that excludes (among other places) Lake Baikal, New Zealand and all the Caribbean islands. But this cool Sporcle quiz goes with Ural, so I went with it as well.

In addition to the 41 AFGHANISTAN entries, other popular answers included:

IRKUTSK -- 29 entries (only landlocked territory, so it might be said that "cities surround" it; see below)
KAMCHATKA -- 12 entries (because Irkutsk and Yakutsk are cities as well as territories, and Kamchatka borders them)
SIBERIA -- 10 entries (same reason as Kamchatka, though one solver who submitted this referred to it as a "lame guess")
ARGENTINA -- 9 entries (because Peru and Brazil are towns in Indiana, and those two semi-surround Argentina)


Several solvers who submitted IRKUTSK made the case that I should count it as an alternate answer due to the logic mentioned above. I was disinclined to accept it, since I didn't feel the link between "landlocked" and "cities" was strong enough. But with 29 entrants and a few people energetically arguing for it I decided to send it off for a vote to the panel -- three familiar crossword figures whose identities I'll keep secret for their own protection.

Drum roll, please...and the result of the panel's vote is...3-0 against accepting IRKUTSK as an alternate answer.

In addition to my objection above, two of the three panel members noted (independently of each other) that there aren't many real cities in that part of the world anyway, so it's a stretch to say IRKUTSK is "surrounded" by them. It is a fun word to say, however, as many solvers pointed out (same with YAKUTSK and KAMCHATKA).


Given the vagueness of last week's meta hints it's not surprising that folks went down some incorrect yet interesting paths. Another one came from H.R., who submitted CONGO while explaining:

Once again I'm not at all sure that I got this right, so I'll illustrate. Reading the hint as "CI" TIES SURROUND THE LAND YOU SEEK. Am I nuts?

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 41 correct entries received, is Clare Farris of Brooklyn, N.Y. Clare has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.


The following 10 lucky (and skillful) winners were chosen at random from the 34 entrants who successfully sent in all four of February's contest answers (SEX LIVES, OHNO, BOXING, AFGHANISTAN):

John Aldape -- Boise, Ida.

Neil Bellovin -- Port Jefferson, N.Y.

Russ Cooper -- Phoenix, Ariz.

Linda Graham -- Nipomo, Calif.

Karen Horn -- Centennial, Colo.

Cole Kendall -- Washington, D.C.

Bob Klahn -- Wilmington, Del.

John Lenning -- Irvine, Calif.

Diane Rhodes -- Cliffside Park, N.J.

Michael Yanagisawa -- Woodbridge, Conn.

Congratulations to our winners, and to everyone who went 4-for-4 in February.


This week's contest answer is a film that won the Best Picture Oscar. This film's title would have made a good theme entry this week. 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 (1,107 members now!) here.

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

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