MGWCC #474

untimed (Matt) 


Matt here, pinch-hitting for the Joonmeister. Week 5 of Guest Constructor Month, where Craig Mazin and David Kwong tasked solvers with unmasking the dastardly Crossword Killer.

First thing to notice was the presence of three poor souls in the grid: CORPSE, BODY, and CADAVER. This had to be the work of the Crossword Killer. That heartless monster! We must unravel this crime before another innocent victim is lost.

Second insight: each of those three bodies has a long trail of the same letter leading from it: the O in CORPSE starts a line of O’s, the B in BODY a line of B’s, and the first A in CADAVER a line of A’s. See grid at right and marvel at my Paint skills.

Third insight: those are all blood types, so we’re looking at trails of blood. The trails end at the words PROFESSOR, BLOGGER, and SHARP. This makes our killer the noted, loved, and feared crossword critic REX PARKER, who is a college professor by day, a crossword blogger by night, and whose real name is Michael Sharp. If you didn’t know all that, entering PROFESSOR BLOGGER SHARP into Google reveals it as well.

Thanks, Craig and David! This was quite the crossword mystery. Thanks to the efforts of the 174 solvers who got it right, Rex has been arrested and is currently being held at Broome County Regional Jail for his alleged crimes.

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34 Responses to MGWCC #474

  1. So….. I know a few other people saw it as trails of blood. I thought it was meant to be Rex unleashing a BOA on the victims.

    Snakes on a crossword plane, I guess.

  2. Margaret says:

    Oh good grief. I could tell it was Rex Parker from the PROFESSOR BLOGGER SHARP, and I saw the trail of letters from those words to the various victims (or from the victims to those words, I guess), but I entirely missed the *blood* trail part! I kept reading it as BOA and that the lines were snaking around and couldn’t figure out why BOA! D’oh.

  3. Matthew G. says:

    Blood types, aha!

    I got it right, but failed to notice that A/B/O were blood types. I thought they were intentional misdirection leading us think the answer was BOA—which is indeed a killer that often appears in crosswords, but is not a “person” as required by the instructions. Thankfully, I did look at the instructions before submitting and kept looking till I found the path to Rex.

    Fantastic puzzle. One of the most satisfying solves in a long time. And there was yet another level of elegance (the blood types) that I hadn’t even noticed.

  4. David R says:

    My first trail ended at Mahalo and Tae Bo and then I realized that we were playing chess not checkers. Wondering how many people did not know the background of Mr. Parker and that stumped them.

    • Lance says:

      I don’t read Rex Parker and only vaguely know of his work, but indeed putting the three relevant words into Google turned up the answer at once.

  5. Michael A. says:

    Wow, I actually got this correct from spotting the three keywords in the grid, but I didn’t see the trail of blood. That’s very cool. And maybe seeing it would have spared me the agony over how the STREAKING TOOLBAR fit into the picture. I kept wondering if Rex Parker was one of the top MGWCC streakers, and if so, what nickname did he use? How could I tell? Cheers to David and Craig. Cool puzzle.

  6. Gene Faba says:

    You know, my first idea was that it was Joon. He blogs, he’s sharp and he’s a professor, right?

    • joon says:

      ha! i blog when i remember, which unfortunately was not today—i’m on vacation in maine, and it’s a holiday, and i just plain forgot. loved the puzzle, though! thanks to david and craig, and thanks also to matt for filling in for me.

      (also, i’m not a professor. these days i’m a dad full-time, puzzlemaker part-time.)

  7. Mike W says:

    I’d like to propose an alternate (albeit less elegant) answer. Zorro was the killer. He killed the corpse first (since he intersects with it). He then killed the cadaver and then the body before returning to his position in the grid. The connection of the three victims with the letters A, B, and O in the grid reflect the blood that dripped from his sword as he traveled to and from the murders.

    The extra A, B, and Os in the grid are consistent with the desired answer.

  8. Tim H. says:

    I can’t be the only one who noticed that every “B” in the trail of Bs is horizontally or vertically next to an “A,” suggesting it is ‘secretly’ a different blood type and, it being week 5, making me wonder how blood-type specificity could be germane to the solution.

  9. John Lampkin says:

    And how is Rex wearing his new epithet?

  10. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I actually noticed the blood types before the trails. First thing I noticed was the dead people. Second was that there are a whole lot of Os in the grid. Then that A and B were also unusually common, and I immediately got blood types from that. Only then did I notice that the blood made trails. Briefly lost the trail where he snuck between two black squares, but then I saw more blood and found the connection.

  11. Norm says:

    They should have worked Will into the grid as the victim, no? Or would that have made it too easy?

    • Craig Mazin says:

      Oh man… I wish we had thought of that… although I probably wouldn’t have done it, cuz it’s kinda mean to both of them, and I like both of them. Friendly ribbing, and all that.

      But I wish I had thought of it. :)

  12. BarbaraK says:

    Count me among those who thought the lines of b, o, and a were representing the common crossword snake, boa.

    Google informed me that Boa is indeed a name, the stage name of Kwon Bo-ah the “Queen of Korean Pop”. Didn’t really think that was right, but I would have submitted and vigorously defended it if I hadn’t also googled “blogger professor sharp”.

  13. Craig Mazin says:

    Our initial ambition was to also include a fourth victim and trail of alternating A’s and B’s to indicate a blood type of AB, but that basically turned an already-difficult grid to fill into an impossible one. And it would have also meant one more clue to the killer’s identity, which might have made things too easy.

    • Abide says:

      Very nicely done. I did notice the trail of 3 ABs in the northeast, but they didn’t connect up.

      My first guess just reading the title was Timothy Parker, so I was half right before even starting…!

  14. Martin Davis says:

    I went down a deeeeep rabbit hole with all the proper names in the puzzle, trying to anagram middle initials, or given names, or only including the ones that crossed the three theme answers. Finally caught on to the trail of O’s and that was a very satisfying solution! Great puzzle.

  15. ASB says:

    I got stuck in a DOA rabbit hole, thinking those had to be the relevant letters, and had to have something to do with dead bodies.

  16. Garrett says:

    Zero from me. Pffft

  17. PuzzleCraig says:

    The Bs jumped out at me immediately when I was solving, and after having noticed that there were also a lot of As and Os, I decided to do a frequency analysis to verify my suspicions.

    I used the English language letter frequency table in Wikipedia to verify that the three letters were too common; however, I recognize that that standard was based on corpus studies that might not match a crossword letter distribution.

    Has anyone compiled a similar letter distribution study for crossword grids? Several sources of data should be readily available.

  18. Lance says:

    The bodies stood out, but I spent a lot of time not knowing what to do with them–they were all single-word clues? Did that matter? In the end it was all the Os in the lower right that put me on the trail, so to speak.

    Before I got there, I was pretty sure my longshot guess was going to be ERROLL KOSAR, because that certainly killed my ability to finish the grid. (Also with ORSK and KASI in the mix…? I genuinely started to try to read the letters in the grid where proper names crossed, but it didn’t go anywhere.)

    • Craig Mazin says:


      Sorry about that Natick-y mess in the SE corner. Believe me, I tried and I tried to improve it. So did David. It was the best we could manage with the o’s and the themer down there…

      I consoled myself with the fact that it was a meta, so if people had to cheat to get KASI or KOSAR, it wasn’t the end of the world. Still… I regret that corner.

      • e.a. says:

        fwiw, KASI, who is in my top 5 of directors, and who acted in one of the greatest movies of all time (…speaking of killers and B’s), bumped this puzzle from a 5 to a 5.5 for me

  19. LuckyGuest says:

    Loved this one; I can definitely see it being a contender for Crossword of the Month. Saw the bodies, saw the consecutive letters, connected them up and saw they formed a trail from the bodies to (clues about) the culprit, which Google helped me solve. Interestingly enough, I was thinking of Rex Parker going in, so seeing the connection to his real identity was cool. Didn’t notice the blood type aspect, an extra level of elegance.

  20. Jim Schooler says:

    I got the A and O trails of blood but didn’t Google Professor Sharp, which I’m sure would have exposed Mr. Parker, but I’m not that familiar with him. I sent in “Edwin Larkin, Ph.D.”, the Streaking Professor of UNH.

  21. Erich Peterson says:

    I got stuck for the lonnnngest time focusing on all of the pairs of words in the grid that were different only by 1 letter –
    REO – EERO
    ANO – ANON

    Seemed like too many to be coincidental. Then my wife wanted to look at the puzzle on Monday night and within 5 minutes said – “Do you think this long line of O’s coming out of CORPSE has anything to do with it?” Ding, ding, ding.

    My question – is the triangle of letters spelling KILLER in the SE corner a coincidence?

    A great puzzle and a fabulous way to finish Guest Constructor month – kudos to all!!

    • Small Wave Dave says:

      I noticed that KILLER too.
      There’s also an arc that spells BLOOD in the NE quadrant starting with the B in Boron. Coincidental or not, that was what tipped me off to blood types.

      Impressive puzzle!

    • Craig Mazin says:


      Total coincidence. In fact, I didn’t even realize that until you pointed it out.

      This, by the way, is what drives me nuts about metas. I have all of these amazing theories (your nearly-identical word list is very much something I would have thought of), but I know there’s a constructor out there who has no idea that’s even there.

      I used to think that Matt actually built the puzzles to include red herring solutions, but now I think… hmmm… these grids are basically Rorschach blots. We see what we see.

      Thanks for the nice review, and I’m very glad you enjoyed it!

  22. kaes says:

    Very clever puzzle! After noticing a bunch of extra O’s and B’s around, I spent a while trying to find trails composed of B, L, O, and D (the letters in BLOOD). Turns out there are just splashes and rivers of BLOD all over the puzzle, but they don’t clearly lead to anything, and there is a suspicious lack of them around CADAVER. Finally zeroed in on single-letter trails and found REX pretty quickly, but I never realized the bonus of A, B, and O being blood types — that brings this up to another level.

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