MGWCC #183 -- Friday, December 2nd, 2011 -- "See the Trick?"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 183 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 mysterious Eurasian nation did last week's theme entries conceal? Here they are:

17-a fiji dollar ... S
21-a tic-tac-toe .-- W
34-a average joe . E
42-a scots-irish -.. D
52-a juxtapose . E
61-a slack-jawed -. N

No, I'm not channeling e.e. cummings, k.d. lang -- or even joon pahk. I typed this in all-lowercase because the entry at 13-down informed us that this puzzle's theme entries are case-sensitive, indicating something funny going on in that realm.

Indeed, taking the nine dots that appear over i's and j's in the theme entries and then adding the four hyphens as dashes, you get the Morse code for SWEDEN, as illustrated above.

Not a bad meta, if I do say so myself...but with one cringeworthy flaw that semi-ruined my Thanksgiving weekend when a solver pointed it out (let no one say that I don't take MGWCC seriously enough).

The flaw comes at the entries average joe and scots-irish, where the J in joe and the first i in irish would normally be capitalized. Many solvers interpreted the "CASE-sensitive" hint at 13-down to indicate that the six theme entries should be written with letters capitalized where they normally would be in print, meaning those two would read "average Joe" and "Scots-Irish." Needless to say, this throws off the Morse code message a bit.

This isn't a complete meta-killer, since "case-sensitive" could also reasonably be interpreted to mean that all letters should be in lowercase (such as when typing in a Captcha code word). But it's still unnecessarily ugly, and if I'd noticed this other interpretation I certainly would have precluded it by choosing entries which contain only indisputably uncapitalized i's and j's.

Another reason this blot didn't kill the meta: capping the J in average joe leaves that entry with neither dot nor dash, meaning it has no reason for existing. It would also leave the solver with SWNEN, which suggests SWEDEN and would be an easy backsolve.

Still, I'm rather annoyed with myself for overlooking this, as you can probably tell...so let's move on.

Joshua Kosman points out a striking coincidence:

OK, I get that I and J are dots, that's the easy part — but where are the dashes? Backsolving from SWEDEN, which seems to be the only plausible candidate, suggests that C's are dashes. I don't understand why, but I'm content with my answer.

If it's sheer coincidence that C=dash and I/J=dot yields a country on the Eurasian landmass, then you can consider my mind officially blown.

OK, that's probably in the "Top 10 Odd Things in a MGWCC" for the 3.5 years we've been doing this. The four C's (in tic-tac-toe, scots-irish and slack-jawed) can replace the hyphens as Morse code dashes, and the message doesn't change. Also critical here is that none of the other three theme entries contains a C.

What are the odds? Must be tens of thousands to one, but there it is.

Mark Taylor (and 22 others) had a good reason for submitting TURKEY:

Because I just ate some.

You've heard of an answer-specific trap in crosswords, like {Capital of Georgia} when the answer's TBILISI but the evil constructor wants you to put in ATLANTA.

This was an answer-specific meta trap, where I wanted to siphon off as many lucky guessers as I could into the TURKEY aisle (there are only a handful of six-letter countries in Europe, and the "Eurasian" hint and the holiday both point towards Asia Minor).

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 24 correct entries received, is J.T. Williams of Pasadena, Calif. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, J.T. will also receive a copy of my new book 20 Minute On-the-Road Crossword Puzzles. Next week we return to normal book prizes we switch to new special prizes! See below.


19 solvers submitted the correct contest answer to all four of November's challenges (CARNEGIE MELLON, PASTEUR, D'OH!, SWEDEN). The following ten lucky and skillful winners, chosen randomly from that group, will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set:

Peter Abide -- Biloxi, Miss.

Andy Arizpe -- Austin, Tex.

Joseph DeVincentis -- Salem, Mass.

Richard Kalustian -- Tacoma, Wash.

Joshua Kosman -- San Francisco, Calif.

Joon Pahk -- Somerville, Mass.

Miss Kali -- Brooklyn, N.Y.

Peter Washington -- Oakland, Calif.

David Wild -- Washington, D.C.

J.T. Williams -- Pasadena, Calif.

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


In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, weekly winners this week and next will receive a copy of Patrick Blindauer's new Musical Puzzlefest. Patrick is one of the very best constructors around and this is his 3rd annual puzzle suite. He'll e-mail it out to subscribers on Dec. 15th, and I've set aside that weekend to solve it myself.


This week's contest answer is a world capital. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer capital 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 either solve on the applet below or download the free software here, then join the Google Group (1,610 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.

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

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