MGWCC #214 -- Friday, July 6th, 2012 -- GUEST CONSTRUCTOR MONTH, PUZZLE #1 -- "Distance Learning" by Joon Pahk

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 214 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.


This month MGWCC showcases metas by four guest constructors. And who better to start with than the guy who's been blogging the puzzle for the past four years? More below.


Painfully flawed meta last week: I asked solvers to find an event, my intended answer being THE OLYMPIC GAMES. Nudged by the grid's only theme answer (PRESENT THE RINGS), 194 solvers noticed that the only five O's in the puzzle were situated like the five rings on the Olympic flag, and that each crossed at two relevantly-colored words:

OCEAN + FLOE = blue
OIL + EBONY = black
ORANG + ROSE = red
ODIE + LEMON = yellow
OKRA + HOLLY = green

Put those clues together and your meta answer is THE OLYMPIC GAMES. I accepted anything with "Olympic(s)" in it as correct (Olympics, Olympic Games, Olympic Torch, Special Olympics, etc.).

So why was this meta flawed? Let me count the ways:

1) At 29-d, the clue [American gold medalist at the 1996 Olympics] for Kerri STRUG unnecessarily and confusingly contains the word "Olympics." The presence of this clue convinced a certain number of solvers that the answer could not simply be OLYMPICS, because then the meta answer would have been in a clue. Gross oversight on my part.

2) This was a Week 5 puzzle, so solvers were naturally expecting a very tough meta. Instructions asked for an "event," which is a word that certainly describes the Olympic Games themselves; unfortunately, it's also the exact word used for the sporting competitions held at the Olympics (shot put, javelin, etc.), so many solvers who'd found the rings wasted a lot of time looking for a specific Olympic event in the grid that simply wasn't there. This kind of thing should never happen, and I apologize to solvers who spent lots of time down this garden path -- you didn't overthink the meta, I underthought it.

3) A couple of the colored entries were slightly off: ice FLOE is more white than blue, though it tends to be blue-tinted. And while an ORANG certainly has a reddish hue to it, they're not the reddest things in the world. The other eight entries are uncontroversial, and these two didn't steer anyone completely off-course, but I was still surprised at how difficult it was to 1) come up with something blue in the letter pattern ??O? (note that POOL doesn't work since there can only be the five Olympic O's in the grid) and 2) to find something red that starts with O. Although now that I look at the above-linked images of ice floe and orangs I don't feel quite as bad about this point.

4) The meta was just too easy for a Week 5. I knew this going in, but liked the colored rings idea enough to take a Week 5 Toughness credibility hit (I couldn't run it late in July because of Guest Constructor Month; that's right, I'm blaming the Guest Constructors! Just kidding...). What I hadn't realized was that it wouldn't just be a credibility hit; in conjunction with 2) above, the expectation of a killer meta would also send some solvers off on a wild goose chase, which, again, should never happen in this way.

OK, not the end of the world, so let's move onward and upward...but this meta's flaws will still rankle for a while, since they ruined a nice concept!

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 194 correct entries received, is Rindy Cruise of Edgewater, N.J. Rindy has selected as her prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.


36 solvers submitted the correct contest answer to all five of June's challenges (any Greek god/goddess, 141, PINKIE, BEAGLE, OLYMPICS). The following ten lucky and skillful winners, chosen randomly from that group, will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set:

Neil Bellovin -- Port Jefferson, N.Y.

Tyler Hinman -- San Francisco, Calif.

Jeremy Horwitz -- San Francisco, Calif.

Julian Lim -- Singapore, Singapore

Jeff Louie -- Cambridge, Mass.

Ned Robert -- Los Gatos, Calif.

Dan Seidman -- Watertown, Mass.

David Stein -- Silver Spring, Md.

Scott Weiss -- Walkersville, Md.

Steve Williams -- Holbrook, Mass.

Congratulations to our ten winners, and to everyone who went 5-for-5 in June.


The third edition of Pete Muller's Monthly Music Meta is up here. Highly recommended and already very popular; note that the deadline to enter is this Sunday, so get to it if you're gonna.


Joon Pahk hardly needs an introduction here, but let's do it anyway: he's been blogging MGWCC on Crossword Fiend since 2008, and his weekly write-ups have become an integral part of the puzzle itself. Joon's also well-known for his exciting run on "Jeopardy!" last year, and runs a fun daily game called "Guess My Word" here.


This week's contest answer is a pair of symmetric entries that would form a good 5th theme answer. 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 either solve on the applet below or download the free software here, then join the Google Group (1,814 members now!) here.

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

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