Did somebody say “contest”?

Yes! There was a contest here: Devise the worst centennial theme paying tribute to the births and other events of 1910. Even with three juicy crossword books offered up as prizes, there were only 11 (!) entries. I guess not everyone thought this was as captivating an idea as I did. Thanks for playing, all 11 of you!

Without further ado, the winners:

#1. DadofTwins went with the  beautifully inconsistent “1910: The Year in Produce.” KORN isn’t a vegetable, PEARS is plural, GREEN is missing the plural it needs, and CHERRY doesn’t appear at the end of its entry (plus CHERRY BLOSSOM isn’t a person). Good themes have parallelism, and this one absolutely doesn’t have it, and doesn’t have it in spades.

  • CHULALONGKORN (13)—[King of Siam, died October 23]
  • PETER PEARS (10)—[English tenor, born June 22]
  • EDITH GREEN (10)—[Oregon congresswoman, born January 17]
  • CHERRY BLOSSOM (13)—[Japanese tree, first given to U.S. January 28]

#2. Alex grouped three people with the same birth date. Tight theme! You know what else unifies this theme? The completely non-intuitive spellings of these non-household names. Why, including just one of these surnames in a grid could be enough to sandbag a puzzle submission.

  • MICHEL AFLAQ (11)—[Founder of Ba'athism, born 12/29/1910]
  • RONALD COASE (11)—[Nobel-winning economist born 12/29/1910]
  • KONSTA JYLHA (11)—[Violin virtuoso born 12/29/1910]

#3. Tuning Spork combined familiar names in American/Western culture with wildly unsuitable (for a daily newspaper crossword) editorializing bound to offend many.

  • BONNIE PARKER (12)—[Noted self-serving thief born 100 years ago]
  • CLYDE BARROW (11)—[Noted self-serving thief born 100 years ago]
  • MOTHER TERESA (12)—[Noted figure born 100 years ago whom the Phoenix New Times once described as a “heartless, self-serving thief”]

Please join me in congratulating our winners for their exceptional badness. Millions of people can come up with lame, unusable themes, sure, but it takes real talent to deviate from crossword conventions in an entertaining way.

DadofTwins gets first pick from among these prizes.

- Brendan Quigley’s new book, Diagramless Crosswords
Simon & Schuster Mega Crossword Puzzle Book #4 (John Samson, ed.)
Simon & Schuster Mega Crossword Puzzle Book #5 (John Samson, ed.)

All three winners, please e-mail me your mailing address (my e-mail is hiding in my name atop the sidebar) and the books will come your way in January.

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7 Responses to Did somebody say “contest”?

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Not bad choices but the HOWARDS END one deserves an honorable mention. You can almost see someone using that theme.

    In fact…dibs!

  2. Evad says:

    I think this was one contest I was happy not to win!

    Either that, or my shameless suck-up vote from Howard Barkin was declared ineligible due to a hanging chad.

  3. janie says:

    always fun to play along — and a serious tip o’ the hat to the winners. it is with great respect that i say i must concur: you are the worst by far!!

    ;-)

  4. Howard B says:

    Hey, suck-up vote? I assure you, those entries were all enjoyably bad in their own ways! I think hanging chads would improve your chances, in this case.
    I’d also think ineligibility would only result from actually being a viable theme (Orange? Don’t mean to step on your zest here).

  5. Tuning Spork says:

    Yeah, the HOWARDS END theme was actually pretty good, so you knew that one wasn’t gonna win. I mean lose. I mean…

  6. DadofTwins says:

    Thanks, I think.

    I’ve only constructed three puzzles since college, and have never been published. So it’s good to know I have just enough talent to be terrible. I guess.

    Seriously, thanks for the contest. I’ve been a fan of the Bulwer-Lytton contest for years, and this version seemed right up my alley.

  7. Alex says:

    Gosh, it was an honor just to have been nominated. Thanks for having the contest!

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