MGWCC #178 -- Friday, Oct. 28th, 2011 -- THE HUNT FOR FOOD OCTOBER, PUZZLE #4 -- "A Time to Cull"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 178 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.


The Great Deity brought the spirits of the dead back to life: from a tribe of 211, 275(?!?!) enjoyed non-toxic mushrooms last week (more metaphysical details on this seeming impossibility below). The Eaters-of-Apple-and-Okra tribe now count 171 surviving members entering the final week of our hunt.

8-down instructed tribal members to LOOK FOR DOUBLE M'S to locate the seven mushroom patches, and indeed there were seven MM's in the grid (see solution at right). But which of these three were poisonous?

Any reader of fairy tales knows that you don't eat a toadstool. Merriam-Webster backs this wisdom (emphasis added):

Definition of TOADSTOOL
: a fungus having an umbrella-shaped pileus : mushroom; especially : a poisonous or inedible one as distinguished from an edible mushroom

With this knowledge it's easy to pick out the three MM's with a TOAD sitting atop them (they're toad-stools, get it?): eMMys in the upper-right, aMMo in the center and aMMan in the lower-left were the three poisonous patches, which enabled successful Wise Shaman-chosen tasters to eat only from the four non-toxic patches.

I was quite liberal in accepting any answer that indicated the correct areas of the grid. Even simple entries like "Under the toadstools" were counted as correct, as were the handful of entries that didn't fully grok the toadstool concept, but did find TOADs sitting on the three relevant mushrooms and submitted their locations.

Rich Dobkin asks:

So what's the morel of the story?

Mark Manuel
writes about himself:

It would be a bad day if a guy with the initials MM missed this meta.

And Alan Neely says:

This Wise Shaman seems like a pretty fungi to me.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 275 correct entries received, is Chuck Cooper of Shalimar, Fla. Chuck has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Brain Games.


The Wise Shaman leads us from the mushroom patch. Many were saved from starvation, and many spirits of departed brothers and sisters returned as if visions of the future guided them from beyond the physical world.

Only 171 members of our tribe remain; can the Wise Shaman lead us from winter’s crush? Now only his skill avoids starvation for our tribe; only with a successful hunt of big game will we find enough meat to avoid starvation during the winter; only with luck, we’ll survive; only his words get us there.

The Shaman places (while sitting on a rock) a mushroom in his mouth to confer with the Great Deity. The tribe surveys the unfamiliar landscape; instead of lush savannah for hunting, our surroundings look bleak, despite the Wise Shaman’s reassurances. We see little but scrub brush, small trees and the occasional rock, with dangerous cliffs off in the distance. In a daze of madness the Wise Shaman wanders off alone towards a small, distant hill.

In a few hours the Wise Shaman returns, walking slowly and holding the eyeless, eerie skull of a large animal. He has recently convened with the Great Deity, it is plain to all members of your people. His head gyrates back and forth as the tribe looks on in hopeful wonder.

“We must continue forward,” the Wise Shaman finally announces to members of the tribe. “The Great Deity says that we must forsake our traditional, bountiful hunting grounds. Though the land here appears lifeless, I am promised by the Deity that great herds of game lie just one more day’s travel through this barren land.”

The tribe appears hopeful but fearful as they move forward across the dusty undergrowth. Hours of travel pass without spotting a single animal, but still you dream of bountiful herds of big game. Perhaps they will appear on the horizon at any moment, if the Great Deity speaks the truth.


This week's contest answer is the big game you must hunt to save your tribe AND the precise method you use to kill your quarry. E-mail them to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer game and method in the subject line of your e-mail.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You may still enter the contest even if you've missed one or more of the first three weeks of H40! You won't be eligible for the monthly prizes, of course, but you can still win the weekly prize.

To print the puzzle out, click on the image below and hit "print" on your browser. To solve using Across Lite either solve on the applet below or download the free software here, then join the Google Group (1,587 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.

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

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