Puzzle #49 Solution and Puzzle #50, "The Winner Is …"

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Last week’s instructions turned out to be a little too vague at first – I asked for “a large number,” which led to a surprising number of incorrect answers based on a simplistic mechanism, so I later clarified that it was “a ten-digit number.” There were still a few tricky spots, though.

The thing that just about everyone noticed was that the grid contained quite a few Os, arranged in a very peculiar way. Before the prompt change, some folks decided to count those Os, think of them as zeroes, and give the number that’s a one followed by that many zeroes. This grid had 28 Os, though a lot of people missed one, and submitted “octillion,” which is a 1 followed by 27 zeroes. (A couple people found all 28 and submitted “ten octillion.”)

If you will allow me a brief aside – I generally try to avoid looking like I’m complaining about solvers, and clearly this puzzle was tricky enough, and the instructions vague enough, that I can understand landing on the above idea … but I have to say, the fact that so many of you submitted it as an answer took me aback a little bit. A puzzle with a vague hint to count all the Os, think of them as zeroes, and then translate that into a big-number word would be pretty boring to begin with, but this execution of it, with a nonstandard grid and an extremely forced arrangement of Os – two stacks of four and three stacks of three! alternating columns! all clustered around rows 4-9! – would be, well, garbage. I’m not the world’s best puzzle constructor, but I like to think you can count on me not to feed you complete drivel.

Anyway, sorry for griping. Here’s the actual solution mechanism:

The first image above is from an online suànpán (Chinese abacus) simulator. The way the abacus works – and maybe this is less well-known than I had realized? – is that beads are slid toward the dividing bar in the middle to represent each digit; beads below the bar are worth 1, and a bead above is worth 5. So the Os were the operative beads of the abacus (inclusion of the extra beads at top and bottom would, I thought, have made for a grid far more hideous than what we got), with the fifth row of the grid acting as the bar dividing the two sections of the abacus. The number, shown at bottom, was 1,339,724,852.

Why that particular number? If you plug it into google, you’ll find that it was the official population of China according to the 2010 census (the most recent official count.)

As a totally unintended bonus, I sort of thought the grid ended up looking vaguely like a Panda.

Okay, onward. Next is puzzle #50 (!), called “The Winner Is …”

050_thewinneris.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is either of two Academy Award-winning films.

I will once again not be able to publish a puzzle next week, so again you have plenty of time with this one. When you’re ready, submit your answer using the contact form. I hope to be back in two weeks.

To keep up with the puzzles: Twitter @pgwcc1; follow the blog for email reminders; rss feed if you’re set up for that.

Puzzle #48 Solution and Puzzle #49, "Head Count"

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After a week off – sorry about that – we’re back.

Two weeks ago I gave you a theme-packed puzzle called “Character Sequence.” There were four pairs of obvious theme entries, clued as “Roman character …” and “Greek character …” where in each case the Roman character came first.

But these were just to get you started. The actual puzzle, which asked for a company whose name was either six or two letters depending on how you looked at it, was elsewhere in the grid:

Those six doubly-highlighted entries share a feature in common: they consist of a single letter of our standard alphabet (the Roman alphabet), followed by a Greek letter, spelled out. So like the four pairs, you can think of it as a Roman “character” followed by a Greek one. The initial letters spell out IOMEGA, which similarly is a single Roman letter followed by a spelled-out Greek letter, and fits the meta prompt.

Up next is puzzle #49, “Head Count.” *** Note below that I have tweaked the meta prompt. *** Too many people are falling into a trap I thought would be too simplistic. Updated pdf and .puz file below:

049_headcount-2.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a large ten-digit number. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, February 24 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.

To keep up with the puzzles: Twitter @pgwcc1; follow the blog for email reminders; rss feed if you’re set up for that.

Puzzle #48, "Character Sequence"

I’m late again. Here’s puzzle #48, “Character Sequence”:

048_charactersequence.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a former technology company with a name that’s either six letters or two, depending on how you think about it.

I will not be able to publish a puzzle next week, so feel free to take your time with this one. When you’re ready, submit your answer using the contact form Next puzzle will hopefully come out on Tuesday, February 18.

To keep up with the puzzles: Twitter @pgwcc1; follow the blog for email reminders; rss feed if you’re set up for that.

Puzzle #47 Solution

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Last week’s puzzle, “Flock Together,” asked for something birds do. Astute solvers noticed that phonetically, we had a few birds of a feather flocking together around the grid:

PUFF + PHIN = PUFFIN
PAIR + RUT = PARROT
KEY + WEE = KIWI
AWE + SPREE = OSPREY
PENN + GWYNN = PENGUIN

The letters where these pairs of entries came together spelled out PREEN, which is something all birds (even kiwis! – those hair-like things are indeed feathers) do.

At the bottom of this post is an extra note that contains major spoilers for a recent metapuzzle from a different outlet. The submission window for that one is closed, but in case you’re behind and still plan to solve it, I’ve put it below another spoiler space. Scroll down if you like.

Unfortunately, puzzle #48 is constructed, but not yet clued. Between work and my son’s birthday today, I am going to have to delay its release until tomorrow. My apologies; stay tuned.

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In a crazy coincidence, this week’s WSJ contest crossword – a Matt Gaffney joint – made use of this exact same “two words that phonetically sound out a thing” trick. His were bodies of water:

CHESS + APEAK Bay
ARK + TICK Ocean
BARE + RING Sea
Lake SOUP + EERIER
YELL + OWE River

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a metapuzzle with this core idea, and now we get two in one week, independent of one another. It’s not Baader-Meinhof, but it’s a pretty weird happenstance.

Puzzle #46 Solution and Puzzle #47, "Flock Together"

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Last week’s instructions asked for a letter taken from one of the six theme entries. Those entries were:

LAMPREYS
ARROGANTE
CONTRALTI
AHEM SORRY
ARMY MAJOR
ORANGELO

That’s an eclectic mix of words and phrases, and there weren’t really any other hints about how to proceed – but one puzzle-solving strategy that’s often worth a shot is anagrams. In this case, there was a slight twist – each theme entry could anagram to something, but with a letter left over (aha, now we’re doing something related to the meta prompt!):

LAMPREYS -> PARSLEY + M
ARROGANTE -> TARRAGON + E
CONTRALTI -> CILANTRO + T
AHEM SORRY -> ROSEMARY + H
ARMY MAJOR -> MARJORAM + Y
ORANGELO -> OREGANO + L

So we’ve got a collection of herbs, and the extra letters spell out … METHYL, which again has nothing to do with anything. But of course, the prompt asked you for a letter taken from one of the entries, suggesting we should repeat the meta mechanism, and it’s pretty easy to see you can get yet another herb – METHYL -> THYME + L. So the answer was the L from ORANGELO. For those who like pictures:

Up next is puzzle #47, “Flock Together.”

047_flocktogether.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is something birds do. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, February 3 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.

To keep up with the puzzles: Twitter @pgwcc1; follow the blog for email reminders; rss feed if you’re set up for that.

Puzzle #46, "Taking Reveals"

Is two days late better than never? We’ll see. Here’s this week’s puzzle:

UPDATE: a successful solver pointed out a slight error in the clue for one of the theme entries; I have changed the clue to 35-across to make clear that we’re looking for the plural form, which wasn’t obvious before especially since the crossing (a Hindu goddess) might not be familiar to everyone. Corrected files are below.

046_takingreveals.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a letter taken from one of the six theme entries. I’m going to try to get back on the Tuesday schedule, so this week’s submission window is shortened; submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, January 27 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution next Tuesday. Will it be accompanied by a new puzzle? I’m scared to promise …

To keep up with the puzzles: Twitter @pgwcc1; follow the blog for email reminders; rss feed if you’re set up for that.

Puzzle #45 Solution

Once again I find myself apologizing that I haven’t gotten a new puzzle ready for Tuesday, as promised last week. Some additional work responsibilities have come my way recently, and I may need to move to an every-other-week schedule … we’ll see. Meanwhile, here at least is last week’s solution.

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I asked for a book of the Gospel … and then I put all four books of the Gospel in the grid itself, each one clued simply as such. So what was the deal?

The title was “Good News, You’re In The Right Place.” Good News, of course, is a way of referring to the Gospel. So which of the four was in the right place? To figure that out you had to look at the three long entries, PRINCE CASPIAN, IN IT TO WIN IT, and CURSE OF CHUCKY. Each of those is a title in a longer series of books/movies. Prince Caspian was the second (in publication order – I’m not even gonna get into this stupid controversy) of the Chronicles of Narnia; In It To Win It is number four in the Bring It On series; and Curse of Chucky is the sixth in the Child’s Play franchise. What you had to figure out is that each one of those was also “in the right place,” thusly:

PRINCE CASPIAN, which is #2 in a 7-part series, is at 27-across;
IN IT TO WIN IT, which is #4 in a 6-part series, is at 46-across; and
CURSE OF CHUCKY, which is #6 in a 7-part series, is at 67-across.

Well, there are four Gospels, and in the Bible they appear in the order MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE, JOHN. So MARK, which is #2 of 4 Gospels, is in the right place because it appears at 24-down in the grid.

I will try to get another puzzle out soon!