MGWCC #196 -- Friday, March 2nd, 2012 -- "See? See?"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 196 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.


Who doesn't love a treasure hunt? Solvers strapped on their eyepatches and played pirate last week, searching for a four-letter treasure buried somewhere in the puzzle.

And what a puzzling thing it was -- no theme entries at all, and just one strange hint to go on: At 24-across, the clue read {HINT: Number of the letter you must write twice into this grid; CLUE: Video game company of the 1980s}.

The answer was COLECO, which takes care of the "clue" part of that clue, so the "hint" had to be a meta hint. What's letter number 24? Why it's X, of course, but there's only one X in the grid, sitting in the upper right corner at the BMX/XLS cross. So where's the other one?

The extreme symmetry of the grid (180-degree rotational + top-bottom + left-right) suggests that the center of the grid might be a good place for it; does that lead us anywhere? There aren't any white squares bordering the central X, but the diagonals start to take intriguing forms once you plunk that X down. Reading inward from each corner we get:


Those look suspiciously word-like -- and indeed, slap one letter beyond each grid corner and you get GEOCOCCYX (that's the roadrunner bird), EXECUTRIX, MULTIPLEX and SHADOWBOX -- and you also reveal the hidden GEMS as your contest answer treasure! Thanks to Charles Montpetit for this nice illustration of the theme:

Contest instructions asked not only for the treasure, but also its location. I accepted as correct anything along the lines of either "outside the grid, at the corners" or "in the middle of the grid, where the X is." Either interpretation of the treasure's location was plausible; I just included that stipulation to exclude wild guesses of GEMS, since there are only so many plausible four-letter treasures. So rest assured if you got GEMS that your answer was counted as correct as long as you even implied that you'd grokked the diagonal-words-leading-to-X idea (in fact, now that I think of it, everyone who submitted GEMS had their entry counted as correct, since no one guessed it out of the blue).

Bob Klahn writes:

Hey Matt, I just about went cuckoo over this one! But then a roadrunner showed me the way.

(Coccyx is the Latin for the cuckoo bird -- the human bone is so named because it resembles a cuckoo's bill.)

Giovanni Pagano
wasn't fooled:

I had an inkling an extra X would play into the grid somewhere after seeing there was only one in BMX. I guess I caught that HADOWBO in the lower left kind of sounded like SHADOWBOX, and I could fill in the rest from there.

Parker Lewis saw some icky fill and knew the meta was lurking nearby:

The bottom right square gave it away for me. An N (or D or P or T) would have made much better words so that alerted me to the necessity of the U. The m of multiplex came instantly to me because I'm a juggler and multiplex is a type of juggling move where you throw two or more objects at the same time from one hand. Had to google those roadrunners though!

Russ Cooper
noticed an amusing coincidence:

Across Lite printed the 'G' in 'Gaffney' in a very opportune spot!

While Jed and Mandy Scott solved the meta under special circumstances, having had their third child a few months ago. Jed writes:

Mandy and I actually solved the meta together on Saturday night over our first dinner out in about six months. Our niece and nephew gave us dinner and a movie plus babysitting for Christmas; picture us sitting on the same side of a booth, poring over your puzzle...

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 98 correct entries received, is Jason Shapiro of New York City, N.Y. Jason has selected as his prize an autographed copy of The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Brain Games.


February was brutal, as just 26 solvers submitted the correct contest answer to all four of last month's challenges (WEIMARANER, TERRE HAUTE, MONT BLANC, GEMS). The following ten lucky and skillful winners, chosen randomly from that group, will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set:

Brian Biggs -- Wilmington, Del.

Joanna Cheng -- Sydney, Australia

Todd Etter -- Alexandria, Va.

Nathan Fung -- Brighton, Mass.

Jeremy Horwitz -- San Francisco, Calif.

Alan Neely -- Hermitage, Tenn.

Brendan Emmett Quigley -- Cambridge, Mass.

Dan Sadoff -- St. Paul, Minn.

John Stant -- Wilmington, Del.

Paul David Wadler -- Chicago, Ill.

Congratulations to our ten winners, and to everyone who went 4-for-4 in February -- it wasn't easy to do.


Just ended the heaviest week (and month, too) of traffic here at MGWCC in the almost 4 years we've been doing this. w00t!!


If you missed Ian Livengood's L.A. Times puzzle last Friday, check it out here (click on the calendar icon in the lower-right, then select February 24th).

And if you missed Patrick Blindauer's February website puzzle, try it here (scroll down a bit and click on "February 2012 -- I Love U" on the right-hand sidebar). When you're done with this one, see if you can spot what makes the grid so impressive -- e-mail me if you can't figure it out.

Incidentally, I'll be blogging Patrick's monthly website puzzles at Crossword Fiend starting today and tomorrow (I'm blogging the February puzzle linked above today, and the March puzzle, which went up last night, tomorrow afternoon. The March puzzle is also available at the above link).


The March Gryptics contest is up at Les Foeldessy's site here, and the new Gryptics app is out here. The app is free and it's iPad only for now, so if you've got that tablet then give it a shot! Programmed by a friend of mine, A. Brooks Hollar, so I'm biased when I say that it looks awesome (but it does).


This week's contest answer is a vegetable. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer vegetable 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 (1,664 members now!) here.

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

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