XW Info

Thursday, October 23, 2014
A SIGN OF THE TIMES
by Patrick Blindauer
A Crossword Contest
All the puzzles this week, from Monday to Saturday, have been created by one person, Patrick Blindauer. Keep your solutions handy, because the Saturday puzzle conceals a meta-challenge involving the solution grids of all six. When you have the answer to the meta-challenge, send it to crossword@nytimes.com. Twenty correct solvers, chosen at random, whose entries are received by 6:00 p.m. E.T. Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014, will win one-year online subscriptions to the New York Times crossword. Only one entry per person, please. The answer and winners' names will appear on Friday, Oct. 31, at www.nytimes.com/wordplay.
© 2014, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes: Contest week! Jim and I decided to keep everything quiet until the contest is over, including the grid solutions. I doubt we'd give anything away by publishing all the clues and answers, but this method better preserves the mystery.

Speaking of mysteries, this week is an appropriate time for me to delve into some of my favorite cryptological mysteries throughout history. None of these write-ups have anything to do with the contest, I promise (I'll put up a post summarizing how I solved it afterward, assuming I solve it). I simply like sharing my obsession with unsolved coded puzzles throughout history. And my posts will need to get shorter anyway, as a certain 11-day-old little dictator is screeching a long speech lauding the benefits of an autocratic society.

THE WOW! SIGNAL

Who among us hasn't wondered who else is out there? I've followed SETI for a long time, especially interested in the SETI at home project. Talk about a cool use of crowdsourcing. (As an aside, a friend of mine is behind another awesome crowdsourcing project, "Fold It," a computer game designed to get millions of people working on complex protein folding problems through the use of a game where contestants earn "points.") I constantly have to resist the urge to put SETI as fill in my crosswords, as I realize it's not something most people are familiar with.

So when I read about the "Wow! signal" a few months ago while researching for a book, I couldn't believe it wasn't more well known. A potential signal from outer space? A real-life "Contact" type of mystery! My wife and I just watched the new "Cosmos" narrated by Neil Degrasse Tyson, and given the grandeur of the known universe, it's inspiring to believe that perhaps the Wow! signal might have been a true artifact from another culture thousands of light-years away.

Was it a true signal, one of our own artifacts caromed off the atmosphere, some sort of hoax, or something else? It's unlikely we'll ever know. But along with the rest of the SETI believers out there, I eagerly await new results.

Will Shortz notes: (see my Note from Monday)

© 2014, Jim Horne