Sunday, May 2, 2010

Happy 100th!

I recently wrote in this space about Matt Gaffney's Weekly Crossword Contest, in which one of the nation's top crossword puzzle makers posts a new grid online every Friday and invites participants to solve both the crossword and an extra puzzle ("metapuzzle") he builds into it.

This week marks the 100th episode of the MGWCC, which Matt is celebrating in appropriately centenary style with a 100-themed metapuzzle.  I thought it was particularly elegant so I'm giving it a shout-out here to alert my literally tens of readers.

The MGWCC is easiest on the first week of any given month and gets tougher as the weeks go by.  In a month like April 2010, with five Fridays, the last one can get pretty challenging, so don't get discouraged if you don't solve the meta.  You can jump in again the next week as Matt starts over in May (though he has also promised that May's puzzles will be fiendishly difficult, so beware).

Check it out here.  You've got until noon Eastern time on Tuesday to submit the answer.

Congratulations, Matt!


Bob Kerfuffle said...

As one of Ben's followers who also does Matt's puzzle every week, I must second the thought that this one is really amazing. I solved it, I'm sure, but can't say more than that until Tuesday noon!

Elaine said...

My hat is off to you, as I cannot even solve the wee puzzle, and the meta-puzzle, still less.

Due to the extreme youth of both constructors and solvers (compared to my rickety old self) I am not taking this to heart, but least carry on a bit about how very, very difficult and trying your solving experience was.

thank you.

Bob Kerfuffle said...

@Elaine - My DOB is 2/20/1946. Is that "extreme youth"?

Ben said...

Bob, nice work. That blanket of roses Super Saver got, do we get one?

Elaine, the puzzle took me 7:13. This may not sound like that long a time, but it was. The grid was only 11x11 and I can bang out, e.g., some Monday NYT 15x15s in under 4 minutes. This little monster was tough.

As for the meta, I stared at it for a few minutes in complete confusion, then went to bed. Woke up at 4am still thinking about the "1 of 100" thing and an idea just popped into my head. Sure enough, I tested the theory it was correct.

I won't say more just yet because the deadline is tomorrow. You can do it!

Bob Kerfuffle said...

@Elaine - Now that the embargo is lifted, here is part of the email I sent Matt with my answer:

"G" as in the third of three "G" tiles in a Scrabble game, or "G" as in, "Matt, you are a God!" What a brilliant puzzle; how long did it take to put this one together?

The 11 by 11 grid was a big help in getting the idea of what was involved in solving, of course. Once I had finished solving and started looking for the meta, I was sure I had the right idea but wondered what you had done about the blanks. Very clever also!

A personal, historical note: When I was much younger, we used to play Scrabble on camping trips with my family set. Of course it was easy to lose a tile in those circumstances, and when I got home I would count the tiles to be sure they were all there (they weren't always.) But I started out counting each letter separately according to the listing on the board! It took awhile before I realized there were 100 tiles and all I had to do was count the total and only worry about individual letters if I came up short! So all these years later that experience helped me solve this beautiful meta!

Ben said...

I asked Matt how hard it was to construct a crossword puzzle using 99 of the 100 Scrabble tiles. He said it actually wasn't that tough for the following reasons:

1. The letter distribution in the game is based on that in the language itself.

2. An 11x11 grid with a highish 22 black squares results in a not very open layout, so you have smaller words and more choices.

3. The two blanks helped.

Elaine said...

All of those Scrabble games, all of those years, and I still never tumbled to the trick. Just Not Yet In The Groove.

Okay, Bob KerFUFfle, I hope you're happy. I am embroidering "At least I am not as OLD as BOB" on all of my bath towels. (My baby brother was born on February 20th, 1950. I was thrilled. On 2/20/1946 I was a mere bun in the oven--DOB 6/08/1947. You win. DAMN!)

Congratulations to you guys; I never realized it was 100 tiles, and frankly I never thought it mattered how many there were. Now I see that my entire LIFE has been misspent-- oh, sha, alas! (as my old father would mysteriously say.)

Elaine said...

On the other hand, today I completed a quilt that I've worked on for more than 18 months. Completed crosswords, I confess, go into the trash (even the ones I can finish.)
Perspective is everything, although I'd still have liked solving this puzzle.