First off, if you missed last week's interview with puzzler Jeffrey Harris, you should probably peep it now by visiting the slick navigation bar to your right. On to business. As promised, it's meta time at The Cross Nerd. What's a meta? Let me explain (if you're familiar with metas such as Matt Gaffney's Weekly Crossword Contest, you can skip this, as the standard rules apply):
A meta, short for meta-puzzle, is a puzzle within a puzzle (technically, I guess, a meta-puzzle would be a puzzle about a puzzle, but cruciverbalists are of course not known for their linguistic acumen). Basically, you first solve the crossword puzzle like you would any other, and then you try to extract a single, final answer. This answer can be suggested by the theme answers (if there are any), other answers in the solution grid, the clues, the grid design, the title, a combination of some/all of the above, or anything else within the puzzle itself (it's worth mentioning that Matt Gaffney has hidden solutions entirely outside of the puzzle before, but I won't be doing anything that underhanded). Also, the answer to a well-constructed meta will be the only answer that makes sense, and should be obviously correct once you get it. If it seems ambiguous or ill-defined, either you or the constructor (hopefully you) missed something. Ok, great. So...how do you find this answer? Well, that's for you to figure out, and, in fact, therein lies the fun. To avoid spoiling anything, I won't give you any examples, but you might want to check out some of Gaffney's old solutions (there are a few hundred, and he explains them very clearly). What I will tell you is how not to find the answer. The answer will almost certainly not actually appear as an entry in the grid. Metas are much more sophisticated than plain word searches. However, if while solving you notice an entry that seems to have something to do with the general "theme" of the meta (maybe it relates to the title or the answer category), make a note of it, as it may tie in to the theme to lead you to an answer. Then again, constructors like to toy with solvers, and sometimes toss in entries to deliberately throw them off the scent. Oh, one last thing: googling is encouraged, and may be needed for some of these puzzles (depending on the solver's background, of course). Check your hang-ups about "cheating" at the door: although the crosswords themselves are often solvable by any capable solver, many metas have even the best puzzlers hitting the net to piece the whole thing together. Of course, you'll still have to have enough of an idea about the nature of the puzzle to know what to search for...
Enough preambling, let's play. Here's the deets:
Meta Contest Overview: There will be four metas in total, one each week. I will be trying my best to consistently increase the difficulty each week, but, hey, I'm new at this. Each week, one winner will be randomly chosen from the list of solvers with the correct answer to the previous week's puzzle. They will win the opportunity to suggest an entry and/or clue for a future Cross Nerd puzzle, and will bring honour to their family and their country. At the end of the four weeks, any solvers that answered all four metas correctly will be entered into a draw to win untold riches, most likely in the form of a puzzle book or two (haven't decided yet, but seriously probably something around a $25 value).
Instructions: This week's contest answer is a medical procedure. It's week 1, so I've tried to make it easy (though maybe not as easy as a MGWCC week 1). Send an e-mail with the answer in the subject line to peter[dot]bananarchy[at symbol goes here]gmail[dot]com by midnight on Sunday, June 24 (and for God's sake please don't discuss it in the comments). Limit one answer per solver.
One last thing: I got an exciting phone call this week. You can read about it at 64-Across (this isn't part of the meta, BTW).
More words, crossed and otherwise, next Tuesday.
Puzzle: Contest Puzzle #1 - Dim the Headlights
Download the PDF file here and the PUZ file here, or solve or download the Across Lite puzzle and/or software from the embedded app below.
Congrats on an getting a puzzle in the NYT!
Was the deadline at last night at midnight (2012-06-24 00:00:00) or midnight tonight (2012-06-24 23:59:59)? And what time zone?
The midnight between Sunday and Monday. Central Standard Time.
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