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IMPORTANT NOTE: As of January 2015 MGWCC is a subscribers-only crossword. The cost is $26 per year, and you can subscribe (or get a free trial month first) here:

http://www.mgwcc.com/

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS:

Title: “What’s in a Name?!”
Instructions: This week’s contest answer is a Best Picture-winning movie.
Answer: “OLIVER!”

Easy-ish Week 2 to make up for the accidental Week 3; we’re back on track now, so today is a Week 4 as scheduled.

Our five theme entries were:

17-A: Peaches and cherries, for example (!) = STONE FRUITS
24-A: Governor Doug Burgum, or any of his constituents (!) = NORTH DAKOTAN
37-A: Black-eyed Susans and hostas, e.g. (!) = HARDY PERENNIALS
47-A: Bakery behemoths (!) = SACKS OF FLOUR
57-A: Chance encounter that changed everything, say (!) TWIST OF FATE

What’s the common link? Each of the first words in these is also the surname of a famous Oliver: film director Oliver Stone, 1980s newsmaker Col. Oliver North, comedian Oliver Hardy (half of Laurel and Hardy), neurologist/author Oliver Sacks, and Dickens character Oliver Twist, on whom the Oscar-winning movie (and musical before it) “Oliver!” is named.

This week’s winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 545 correct answers received, is Brian Hattenbach of Pittsburgh, Penna. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil, and notepad set, Brian will also receive a signed copy of my book Pint-Size Crosswords.

THIS WEEK’S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week’s contest answer is a six-letter word that’s a group of characters.

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

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IMPORTANT NOTE: As of January 2015 MGWCC is a subscribers-only crossword. The cost is $26 per year, and you can subscribe (or get a free trial month first) here:

http://www.mgwcc.com/

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS:

Title: “Chemical Change”
Instructions: This week’s contest answer is a chemical element.
Answer: COBALT

Six entries appeared to be (and were) theme last week:

17-A: [Catchphrase of Rob Schneider’s “Richmeister” character, on “Saturday Night Live”] = MAKIN’ COPIES.
21-A: [There might be a clown under it] = CIRCUS TENT
33-A: [Cleanse with unproven medical effectiveness] = COFFEE ENEMA. Well, I don’t go out of my way to put “enema” in a crossword, but there was no other way to do this theme without it. Long story short: you need a familiar two-word phrase in which the first word is a B- element, and so “barium enema” it is.
43-A: [Common exterior choice] = VINYL SIDING
55-A: [It’s usually used to write one-digit numbers] = GOLF PENCIL
63-A: [Infantry member] = FOOT SOLDIER

Successful metapuzzlers noticed that the first word in each of theme could be replaced with the name of a chemical element:

Carbon COPIES
Oxygen TENT
Barium ENEMA
Aluminum SIDING
Lead PENCIL
Tin SOLDIER

The first letters of which spell contest answer COBALT.

With 354 right answers, this was right down the middle for a Week 3/5 but too hard for a Week 2/5. The Week 2 curse returns! So this week’s is a 2/5, and next week we’ll get back on track with a 4/5 and then the dreaded 5/5 after that.

Small Wave Dave says:

And I solved it in blue ink.

LouBrew writes:

I’m a HS chemistry teacher, so I HAD to get this. I almost convinced myself it was carbon since carbon is an element in vinyl, coffee, graphite (what’s really in a “lead” pencil), but it didn’t fit with the other themes.

And Thurman8er says:

A refreshing…and surprising…chemical element puzzle without chemical symbols

This week’s winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 354 correct answers received, is Charlie Moritz of Vero Beach, Fla. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil, and notepad set, Charlie will also receive a signed copy of my book Pint-Size Crosswords.

THIS WEEK’S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week’s contest answer is a Best Picture-winning movie.

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

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IMPORTANT NOTE: As of January 2015 MGWCC is a subscribers-only crossword. The cost is $26 per year, and you can subscribe (or get a free trial month first) here:

http://www.mgwcc.com/

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS:

Title: “Funny Guy”
Instructions: This week’s contest answer is a famous actor.
Answer: ROBIN WILLIAMS

My Week 1/5 fu is strong — 645 correct answers and zero incorrect ones (not counting the “Funny Guy” who lobs a guess onto the leaderboard at 12:01 each week based solely on the prompt. This week he had JOE PESCI, which wasn’t a bad guess at all). But essentially nobody missed it, which is as a Week 1/5 should be.

Our theme entries were:

17-A: [1973 David Bowie album with “The Jean Genie”] = ALADDIN SANE (1992)
26-A: [Being yanked offstage (1991)] = GETTING THE HOOK
43-A: [Reality checks (1990)] = RUDE AWAKENINGS
57-A: [Role that Gene Hackman won Best Actor for in “The French Connection” (1980)] = POPEYE DOYLE

Each of those phrases contains the one-word title of a movie that came out in the parenthetical year. ROBIN WILLIAMS starred in all four of them, making him our contest answer.

"Carpe diem. Seize the day." - Dead Poets Society - YouTube

This week’s winner, whose name was chose at random from the 645 correct answers received, is Karen Spencer of Morgantown, W. Va. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil, and notepad set, Karen will also receive a signed copy of my book Pint-Size Crosswords.

META-CROSSWORD FORUM:

There’s a new meta-crossword forum here that’s a fun read and full of active users. It has sections to discuss the Wall Street Journal Metas, MGWCC, the Muller Monthly Music Meta, Peter Washington’s meta site, Fireball Metas, and AVCX Metas, plus a catchall section for metas on other sites.

THIS WEEK’S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week’s contest answer is a chemical element.

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

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IMPORTANT NOTE: As of January 2015 MGWCC is a subscribers-only crossword. The cost is $26 per year, and you can subscribe (or get a free trial month first) here:

http://www.mgwcc.com/

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS:

Title: “Weird Neighbors”
Instructions: This puzzle grid contains three countries. What fourth country, whose name has seven letters, should also be in the grid but isn’t?
Answer: TUNISIA

Do you have weird neighbors? These countries did, if you picked up on “weird” as the cryptic-style anagram hint. The three entries clued as just [COUNTRY] were URUGUAY, YEMEN, and USA, and our four wacky theme entries were:

17-A: [“I’m so glad that Caribbean island’s surge in popularity has finally abated!”] = ADIOS, ARUBAMANIA!

27-A: [University professor who studies nerve cells?] = AXON ACADEMIC

46-A: [Boast from someone talking on the phone at 30,000 feet?] = I GAB AERIALLY. Probably a three-word sentence that no human has ever written before now.

60-A: [Teaching someone how to smoke marijuana?] = TRAINING A BLAZER.

Anagram each wacky answer into two countries who are the only two neighbors of one of the given countries:

ADIOS ARUBAMANIA = SAUDI ARABIA + OMAN, which are the only two neighbors of YEMEN
AXON ACADEMIC = CANADA + MEXICO, which are the only two neighbors of the USA
I GAB AERIALLY = ALGERIA + LIBYA, which are the only two neighbors of TUNISIA, which isn’t in the grid but should be!
TRAINING A BLAZER = BRAZIL + ARGENTINA, which are the only two neighbors of URUGUAY. So TUNISIA is indeed our missing country, found by 389 solvers.

This week’s winner, whose name was chose at random from the 389 correct answers, is Ryan Friedman of Nashua, N.H. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil, and notepad set, Ryan will also receive a signed copy of my book Pint-Size Crosswords.

GENTLE APRIL WINNERS:

Congratulations to the following 10 winners for Gentle April, whose names were chosen at random from among the 261 people who sent in the correct contest answer to all four of last month’s challenges (KING KONG, MAMMA MIA, PIGPEN, TUNISIA). Each will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil, and notepad set:

Ben Aisen — New York City, N.Y.

Amy Bemis — Minneapolis, Minn.

Sean Forbes — Crest Hill, Ill.

Craig Harman — Silver Spring, Md.

Brian MacDonald — Stamford, Conn.

Joe Nelson — Chicago, Ill.

David Poole — Wakefield, Que.

D.V.

Mike Weepie — Cedar Rapids, Ia.

Scott Weiss — Walkersville, Md.

Congratulations to all our winners, and thanks for playing Gentle April. Now we have normal, no-special-name May. But it does have a Fifth Friday, so there’s that…

THIS WEEK’S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week’s contest answer is a famous actor.

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

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Dear MGWCC Solver,

A certain 19-month old child slept extremely poorly last night, and as a result today’s puzzle will go up at 1:00 PM ET. Please direct your rage at him instead of me (photo below) and I’ll see you here then.

–Matt

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IMPORTANT NOTE: As of January 2015 MGWCC is a subscribers-only crossword. The cost is $26 per year, and you can subscribe (or get a free trial month first) here:

http://www.mgwcc.com/

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS:

Title: “First and Third, Two Out”
Instructions: Six of this puzzle’s theme entries are starred. What is the secret seventh theme entry? (You can submit either the clue number or the entry itself.)
Answer: PIGPEN at 45-Down

415 right answers last week, so definitely a Week 2! The drought is over. Thanks for never losing faith in my ability to write a contest crossword that receives between 400 and 499 correct answers. The crossword gods tested us and we passed with flying colors.

Our six theme entries, clued just with an asterisk to indicate their themehood, were COMMUNICATE, INTROVERTED, AIRSPACE, SCHEMING, KIND OF SAUCE, and SECRET AGENT. That fifth one is a tipoff that all of these are crossword-style clues to words; the others are all just words themselves (or in the case of the last one, a common two-word phrase that’s one lexical chunk). Pick off the obvious ones and a pattern emerges: a SECRET AGENT is a SPY, INTROVERTED might clue SHY…aha! That KIND OF SAUCE must be SOY.

From the title, we have our first and third letters, which are S and Y, and the second letter is out. In order, they are:

[Communicate] = SAY
[Introverted] = SHY
[Airspace] = SKY
[Scheming] = SLY
[Kind of sauce] = SOY
[Secret agent] = SPY

Those are all in alphabetical order, and the one that comes last would be STY — and lo and behold, there’s PIGPEN in the grid.

Tyler Hinman says:

didnt submit sooner, sry

Kettlebagder writes:

Basically the worst word ladder ever

The instructions would be: “Can you get from SAY to STY in just six steps?”

And finally, ant points out:

These “leftovers” spell HOP TALK, which seems appropriate for this Easter weekend.

This week’s winner, whose name was chosen at random from among the 415 correct entries received, is Roger Friedman of Annandale, Va. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil, and notepad set, Roger will also receive a signed copy of my book Pint-Size Crosswords.

DOWNS-ONLY ARTICLE IN THE WSJ:

Nice piece on the Downs-Only movement, with lots of our friends mentioned. Subscription required, I think.

THIS WEEK’S INSTRUCTIONS:

We conclude Gentle April with today’s puzzle. I think it’s another Week 2 but we shall see…

This puzzle grid contains three countries. What fourth country, whose name has seven letters, should also be in the grid but isn’t?

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

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IMPORTANT NOTE: As of January 2015 MGWCC is a subscribers-only crossword. The cost is $26 per year, and you can subscribe (or get a free trial month first) here:

http://www.mgwcc.com/

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS:

Title: “Early Education”
Instructions: This week’s contest answer is how an easy Week 5 meta might make you feel.
Answer: BABIED

The great Jeff Chen guest constructed a beauty for us last week, in what I’m calling the SAD style of meta: “Simple And Difficult.” This is one of my favorite meta types, and one of the toughest to create; a SAD puzzle features a mechanism that is very simple to explain, but difficult to spot.

So here, I’ll explain it in two quick sentences: Each of the six theme entries contains only one letter that’s “PRE-K” in the alphabet. Those letters spell contest answer BABIED.

That’s it! But so tough to solve — just 24 got it in the Week 5 Version, and another 198 in the Week 2 Version. The only difference between the two was the bottom-right square in the grid, which was a K for PRE-K/SEEK in the Week 2 and PREP/SEEP in the Week 5. In the Week 2 PRE-K was clued as [Early education, for short], nudging solvers toward the idea.

Neville, who submitted his answer at 13 minutes past noon on Friday using the Week 5 version, writes:

WEEK 5 — and an excellent puzzle!

johnstonteacher says:

Brilliant! I solved the week 5 version first out of curiosity, but I would never have gotten it without the PRE-K nudge.

Tom Moose had no trouble:

Week 5! My job where I alphabetize things all day came in handy. Hooray librarianship!

And finally, Lucky March turned out to be oddly unlucky for Laura E-D:

The one month I get all 5, I only needed to get 3!

This week’s winners are:

For the Week 2 version: our winner, whose name was chosen at random from among the 198 correct entries received, is K.H.

For the Week 5 version: our winner, whose name was chosen at random from among the 24 correct entries received, is Andy Hinz of Denver, Colo.

In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil, and notepad set, both winners will also receive a signed copy of Jeff Chen’s young adult book ULTRABALL: LUNAR BLITZ. Congrats to both of our winners, and thanks again to Jeff for the puzzle!

LUCKY MARCH WINNERS:

Congratulations to the following 13 MGWCC winners for Lucky March, whose names were chosen at random from among the 267 people who sent in the correct contest answer to at least three of last month’s five puzzles (GREEN BOOK, BITTERSWEET, WOMEN, IVY LEAGUE, BABIED). Each will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil, and notepad set:

A.W.

Jami B. — Edison, N.J.

Mike Buchanan — Sunnyvale, Calif.

Ethan Budin — Deerfield, Ill.

Regina Cassidy — Staten Island, N.Y.

Chad D’Esposito — Simpsonville, S. Car.

R.E.

Chuck Glew — Chicago, Ill.

Ben Gutman — Portland, Ore.

T.M.

Will Nediger — London, Ont.

Joon Pahk — Somerville, Mass.

Mike Sylvia — Seattle, Wash.

Congratulations to all our winners, and thanks for playing Lucky March! Now we’ve got another theme month coming up…

GENTLE APRIL:

Lucky March was a tough month, so let’s even things out with Gentle April. All of the metas this month will be Week 1 or Week 2 level. So if you’ve ever wanted to introduce someone gently to metas, this would be the time for them to sign up for a free month of MGWCC here.

Want a tougher challenge? Here are two suggestions:

1) Don’t look at the instructions. Joon Pahk does this on Week 1’s and it’s extremely entertaining to read about later.
2) Only use the Down clues. Joon also does this. You get the sense that Joon like tough crosswords.

However you play Gentle April, have fun with it! Let’s begin…

THIS WEEK’S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week’s contest answer is a classic movie that would have made a good fifth theme entry.

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

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IMPORTANT NOTE: As of January 2015 MGWCC is a subscribers-only crossword. The cost is $26 per year, and you can subscribe (or get a free trial month first) here:

http://www.mgwcc.com/

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS:

Title: “Early Learning”
Instructions: This week’s contest answer is a two-word phrase.
Answer: IVY LEAGUE

This played much tougher than I’d intended. The first three letters of each word in the theme entries was also the first three letters of an Ivy League school:

PRIVATE BROWSING = PRINCETON + BROWN. Small ding for the extra W used there but I couldn’t find a way around it.
COREY HART = CORNELL + HARVARD
DARK COLOR = DARTMOUTH + COLUMBIA
YALTA’S PENINSULA = YALE + PENN. I thought this one would give the game away since that’s obviously a contrived entry so I figured YAL–>YALE and then off to the races, but my difficulty-o-meter is way off this month.

This week’s winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 183 correct entries received, is Peter Fridy of New York City, N.Y. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil, and notepad set, Peter will also receive a signed copy of my book Pint-Size Crosswords.

MGWCC WEEK 563 WINNER:

With my short post last week (due to technical issues since resolved) I forgot to post the weekly winner’s name. It was Paul Manaster of Irvine, Calif. Sorry about that, Paul!

NOTE ON THIS WEEK’S PUZZLE:

I had trouble writing a Week 2 puzzle this month, so a friend has stepped in to assist. Please enjoy Jeff Chen’s MGWCC #565, “Early Education.”

This puzzle is available in two difficulty levels: Week 2 and Week 5. If you really missed the missing Week 2 in March, then here it is — just solve the Week 2 version. If you didn’t miss the Week 2 and want a tougher challenge, solve the Week 5 version.

Since last week’s puzzle turned out to be Week 5 difficulty, solving either version of today’s puzzle will get you full credit for the solve. You won’t break any streaks or lose credit toward your Lucky March or yearly totals by solving the Week 2 version.

However, there will be a special drawing of a book and stationery prize for those who solve the Week 5 version. So if you go this route, please put the phrase WEEK 5 in the comments box along with your submission. I’ll draw one prize next week for which both Week 2 and Week 5 solvers are eligible, and then one prize where only Week 5 solvers are eligible.

Thanks and have fun!

THIS WEEK’S GUEST CONSTRUCTOR:

Jeff Chen is one of the very best constructors publishing these days. He writes:

I’m a Seattle author and crossword puzzle maker. My debut novel, ULTRABALL: LUNAR BLITZ, came out recently (HarperCollins, Jan 2019). I’m currently in the final stages of editing ULTRABALL book 2, as well as drafting book 3. I’m also working on THE STONE CROSS ENIGMA, a novel about two kids who crack a 20-year-old puzzle mystery — involving a crossword!

Mostly though, I chant “Serenity now” in hopes that my two kids don’t drive me insane. Ha ha ha, I love them! But seriously, Serenity Now.

There’s Jeff flanked by rock-climbing pals holding copies of his book, and then goofing around with daughter Tess. In addition to a MGWCC stationery set, winners of this week’s contest will receive an autographed copy of Jeff’s book linked above.

So thanks, Jeff, and everyone enjoy his Week 2/Week 5 challenge!

THIS WEEK’S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week’s contest answer is how an easy Week 5 meta might make you feel.

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

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Well, it looks like WordPress just reconfigured their entire setup so I’m going to have to relearn how to write up a post here. Why don’t they at least give you a “keep things how they were” option when they do this? Grrr…

Anyway, I blogged MGWCC #563 at Crossword Fiend here (even linking that page took me a minute to figure out, fun) so check out the solution and explanation there.

NOTE: This week’s puzzle is my third (!) attempt at a Week 2/5. Week 1 had 616 correct answers, so that was good. But then Week 2 was really a Week 3 with 307 correct answers, so I tried for a Week 2 again last week. But that puzzle was a Week 4 with just 249 right answers, so I’m trying again now. If I nail it (between 400 and 500 correct answers, come on folks — help me out!) then we’ll have had a 1, 3 , 4, and 2, and can sail confidently into a Week 5/5 next Friday. So let’s aim for 450!

Hope everyone who’s attending the ACPT this weekend will have fun. If you happen to meet anyone who works at WordPress please have them contact me since I have many questions.

This week’s contest answer is a two-word phrase.

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

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