MGWCC #204 -- Friday, Apr. 27th, 2012 -- "We, the People"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 204 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.


Controversial meta last week at MGWCC, so let's sort it out: at first glance, the solved grid appeared to have no obvious theme answers and no clues or entries that seemed especially odd. Well, maybe a few stuck out: at 54-d, isn't a Toronto ballplayer a "Blue Jay" instead of just a JAY? And how about 23-a, where the drink mentioned repeatedly in "The Shining" is actually "red rum," which reverses to a very Stephen King word, instead of simply RUM?

So the pattern emerged: 12 grid answers work fine with their current clues, but also work with a little color added -- on three black squares! They are:

21-a {Put two and two together} = either INFER or INFER(RED)
23-a {Drink repeatedly mentioned in "The Shining"} = RUM or (RED) RUM
10-d {Word painted on many airplanes} = JET or JET(BLUE)
26-d {Chesapeake Bay creature} = CRAB or (BLUE) CRAB
33-a {Color named for a bird} = CANARY or CANARY (YELLOW)
35-a {Symbol of remembrance or welcome} = RIBBON or (YELLOW) RIBBON
7-d {Put back into the ground} = REINTER or REINTER(RED) (bug or feature, using the ambiguously-tensed "put" to hide RED, both here and at 21-a? I intended it as a feature, and most indeed dug it, but a chunk of solvers found it inelegant)
39-d {"Lady Be Good" actor, 1941} = SKELTON or (RED) SKELTON
50-a {Like the taxi in a Joni Mitchell hit} = BIG or BIG (YELLOW) (the song is titled "Big Yellow Taxi")
51-a {Pool hall 1's} = BALLS or (YELLOW) BALLS (the 1-ball in pool is solid yellow, or the clue could have been interpreted to mean balls in general as scoring one point each, depending on the game)
34-d {Jacket shade} = NAVY or NAVY (BLUE)
54-d {Toronto ballplayer} = JAY or (BLUE) JAY

So the upper-rightmost black square on the main diagonal takes RED across and BLUE down; the center square takes YELLOW across and RED down; and the lower-leftmost square on the diagonal takes YELLOW across and BLUE down. Mix these together, as hinted at by the title (and the placement of the colors themselves), and you get a PURPLE (or VIOLET), ORANGE and GREEN square in the grid. That makes these three shades, or their collective name the SECONDARY COLORS, our contest answer, as submitted by 84 solvers.

Now, the controversy (which spawned a spirited and lengthy discussion here): 142 solvers submitted either PRIMARY COLORS or YELLOW, RED and BLUE as their answer. I don't consider this (and only a handful have argued otherwise) to be as good an answer as SECONDARY COLORS. If each of the three black squares had been a solid primary color, with four YELLOW, RED or BLUE clues converging on it, then PRIMARY COLORS would be the obvious and best answer. But with two different primary colors feeding into each of the three squares, the suggestion to mix the two, when combined with the title nudge, is so strong that SECONDARY COLORS must be considered the superior answer.

The counterargument runs: MGWCC titles usually hint at the meta, but sometimes, especially late in the month, they're just placeholders that don't really move you clearly towards the meta since I don't want to give anything away right off the bat. Also, while SECONDARY COLORS may be the superior answer, PRIMARY COLORS is also a "familiar group of 3," so some solvers quit looking once they had it. As Roy Denham wrote in comments at the Crossword Fiend link above:

I stopped with Primary colors. I saw and noted the “Mix” in title and grid, but that is what one does with the primary colors to make others.

Another issue to be settled: MGWCC metas shouldn't be ambiguous, but 23 solvers who submitted PRIMARY COLORS mentioned in their e-mails that they had also considered the SECONDARY COLORS, but rejected it in favor of the Primaries. This should not happen! While the majority of those who noticed both sent in SECONDARY, the uncertainty of many of those who did, combined with the 23 (or more; see below) who ultimately chose PRIMARY shows that the meta was too ambiguous here; 80% isn't nearly solid enough for a meta. It needs to click a lot harder than that. Why, even Joon Pahk wasn't quite sure, though he did ultimately submit SECONDARY:

when i figured out what was going on, i still wasn’t 100% sure that matt did indeed want the secondary colors and not the primary colors. i sent in secondary, because that was the one that better demonstrated that i understood what was going on in those special squares (and that i hadn’t missed half of the meta), but nothing about the instructions or the puzzle’s title makes it unambiguous that he wanted the trio formed by mixing, rather than the trio being mixed. i suspect most of the people who sent in primary didn’t fully grok the meta, but i don’t really know.

So here's what we'll do moving forward:

***84 solvers submitted SECONDARY COLORS or GREEN, ORANGE and PURPLE (or VIOLET). Those 84 answers are counted as fully correct.

***23 solvers submitted PRIMARY COLORS or RED, YELLOW and BLUE as their answer AND mentioned somewhere in their e-mail that they had also considered the secondary colors. These 23 answers are also counted as fully correct.

***If you submitted PRIMARY COLORS or RED, YELLOW and BLUE as your answer AND did not mention somewhere in your e-mail that you had also considered the secondary colors BUT you did consider them before submitting, your answer will be retroactively counted as fully correct next week. If this is what happened with you, please put the words SECONDARY COLORS somewhere in the body of your e-mail while submitting your answer to this week's puzzle (MGWCC #204). While I could not logistically put you in the drawing for MGWCC #203's weekly prize, you will still be eligible for April's monthly prizes if you've gotten all four metas correct.

***If you submitted PRIMARY COLORS or RED, YELLOW and BLUE as your answer AND did not at any point consider the secondary colors, then your answer is counted as incorrect. I know this will ruffle some feathers and concede that it's not an easy call, but in the end I feel that the placement of the colors in the grid is too suggestive to count the Primaries as 100% correct.

HOWEVER, as a concession to those knocked out of the month by this close call, I'm going to randomly choose five people from this group to be eligible for MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad sets IF they got the right answer to month's other three metas. And then, so as not to penalize the SECONDARY COLORS people, I'm going to give away 15 MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad sets this month instead of the normal 10 (so that's 20 MGWCC stationery sets total this month instead of 10). So there's still everything to play for, no matter what colors you submitted (but note that only those who answered PRIMARY COLORS are eligible for the 5 consolation prizes; those who submitted nothing at all, or something different entirely, cannot win those).

So everyone's happy(ish) now, right? Peter Gordon, who is editing the first book of MGWCC puzzles as we speak, had a clever suggestion if we use this one in the second book:

Have the instructions just ask for "a set of three whose words contain a total of 17 letters."

Now he tells me!

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 107+ correct entries received, is Paul Melamud of Milford, N.J. Paul has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sit & Solve Commuter Puzzles.


If a thunderbolt crashes through my window anytime soon, we'll know it was an angry Thor: seven solvers (Charles Montpetit was first) pointed out that it was he who has Bestla as a grandmother, not ODIN (58-a). I plead for leniency from Valhalla (not to mention the crossword-friendly Aesir).


This week's contest answer is a country in Africa. 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. NOTE: there are three possible answers to this week's meta, but you only have to submit one of them.

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 (1,705 members now!) here.

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

1 comment:

jefe said...

Regarding last week's, you could reclue 56D to something along the lines of "What must be done to solve the meta".