Sunday, October 27, 2013

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Oct 13, 2013): U.S. City Population Crossword Puzzle

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Oct 13, 2013): U.S. City Population Crossword Puzzle:
Q: Take a seven-by-seven square grid. Arrange the names of U.S. cities or towns in regular crossword fashion inside the grid so that the cities used have the highest possible total population, according to the 2010 Census. For example, if you put Chicago in the top row and Houston in the sixth row, both reading across, and then fit Atlanta, Oakland and Reno coming down, you'll form a mini-crossword. And the five cities used have a total population, according to the 2010 census, of 5,830,997. You can do better. (Note: This is a two-week challenge)
The first problem is going to be finding a list of U.S. cities by their 2010 census values, to match Will's example. Using the values from Wikipedia, I get a slightly higher value of 5,831,809 for his example grid. And trying to go to census.gov returns a message that it is closed due to the government shutdown. My other issue with this puzzle is whether or not common abbreviations like LA and NYC will be accepted. I hope Mr. Shortz will post here and clarify his intentions with the puzzle, or at least give more details next week on the air. In any case, this one will be a hard puzzle to discuss or hint at since there aren't really any good ways to give a hint. Even giving your population total will give too much away, so I think it's going to be a hard two weeks to comment.

Update: Using a revised list from Wikipedia showing the Top 25 U.S. cities, I get the exact same values as Will:
Chicago = 2,695,598
Houston = 2,099,451
Atlanta = 420,003
Oakland = 390,724
Reno = 225,221
TOTAL = 5,830,997

Edit: The winning entry from Glen, accepted by Will:
A:

163 comments:

  1. Here's my standard reminder... don't post the answer or any hints that could lead directly to the answer (e.g. via a chain of thought, or an internet search) before the deadline of Thursday at 3pm ET. If you know the answer, click the link and submit it to NPR, but don't give it away here.

    You may provide indirect hints to the answer to show you know it, but make sure they don't give the answer away. You can openly discuss your hints and the answer after the Thursday deadline in two weeks. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have Houston = 2 100 263, not your number. The others I agree with. I am using:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_cities_by_population

      Delete
    2. If you count NEWYORK = 8,175,133 that by itself beats Will's total.

      As for Houston, the lower number (2,099,451), not 2,100,263, seems more accurate. See Demographics of Houston by year:


      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Houston

      Delete
    3. I have a grid containing 6 cities. Is this giving away too much information ? If so just delete this.

      Delete
    4. Ron, that was exactly my dilemma -- which list of populations to use. Using that first list, I get the slightly higher total, as I noted previously. In order to get the total that Will provided, I had to use the alternate census for Houston. It seems that the 2,099,451 was retrieved from census.gov in July and the other page used an earlier retrieval. So perhaps the numbers were reduced downward based on a mistake or other double-counting.

      Again, it would have been nice if Will had provided a link to a definitive list of populations we should be using. I don't think Will counted on census.gov being shutdown.

      Delete
    5. Thanks Blaine.

      I now have a grid containing 7 cities. I hope this doesn't give too much away.

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    6. Apparently the Houston population of 2,099,451 was revised upward in December of 2012. Will's example total uses the older count.

      At this point, with census.gov being down, and Wikipedia having the latest total now on that page, I'm going to use List of US Cities by Population. It lists 289 cities with populations over 100,000.

      Delete
    7. I also found this site useful (for smaller cities & towns, to try to fill the chinks in the grid): www.biggestuscities.com

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    8. Perhaps the discrepancies appear in figures including inflated numbers of voters as opposed to registered voters in urban areas. Just sayin'. :-)

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  2. Like a high school detention punishment!

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  3. I guess it's assumed that the same city cannot be entered more than once?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think your assumption has to be correct. Otherwise there would be trivial answers with 4 CHICAGOs or 2 NEWYORKs that rack up big scores.

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  4. A good week to practice our silence ;-).

    Blaine, I had the same question about LA, NYC, and, of course, KLMZ, MI.

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  5. I would guess that LA and NYC aren't kosher. But what about NEWYORK?

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    Replies
    1. I'm doing my work with the premise that NEWYORK is kosher. And, since it has, by far, the largest population of any U.S. city, it will also do good things for the total. Any other opinions on the matter?

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    2. "[R]egular crossword fashion" would accept NEWYORK. I also guess that STLOUIS would be allowed. Will?

      Delete
  6. I’m sure I won’t be attempting to solve this puzzle. No criticism for Will – in general I love the Sunday puzzle segment. But for some reason this puzzle strikes me as too tedious, boring and time-consuming.

    Chuck

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  7. I am going to leave this one to the computer experts in the group. I know I would get nowhere on my own. Even so, I'm surprised that Will refers to entering the city names in "regular crossword fashion." His example as given uses a style of crossword I associate with My Weekly Reader or the like. I haven't seen TV Guide in years, but I imagine even their crossword uses symmetry etc. I know there is a name for this extremely loose style, but I can't think of it.

    So I will be out for another two weeks, after having been out on vacation the last two weeks. I thought two weeks back that my carbon monoxide detector might give some peace of mind ( CO ALARM - CALM ), but last wee, I must protest, I have never once heard Will's seven word version of the "familiar saying" used, only the nine word version.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to agree with you. This puzzle is an assault on the census!

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  8. This is not a clue but an appeal for help. Can anyone tell me how to put a 7x7 crossword grid on the submit answer page. Just in case I can find some answer? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See Enya_and_Weird_Al_fan's posting at the end of last week's blog, e.g.

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    2. Or, you could describe your grid verbally, as Will did in his example.

      Delete
    3. I posted on Sun Oct 13, at 06:27:00 AM PDT on last week's thread something similar to the following: (initially I had to repost the simpler grid.)

      I've devised the following grid to help out:

      ╔═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╗
      ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╢
      ╚═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╝

      The reason I've included the single-line cross-hairs inside each double-bordered square is that to post solutions here (two Thursdays from now, of course!) and not have them look like a bunch of misaligned junk, you'll need to replace the single-line crosses with letters. Had the letters been placed with a space before and after, then the rows with spaces would look a lot narrower than the border rows. Even this way they won't be perfectly aligned, but they should look somewhat decent. For example:

      ╔═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╗
      ╟─C─╫─H─╫─I─╫─C─╫─A─╫─G─╫─O─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─T─╫─┼─╫─A─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─┼─╫─R─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─L─╫─┼─╫─K─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─┼─╫─E─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─A─╫─┼─╫─L─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─┼─╫─N─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─N─╫─┼─╫─A─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─H─╫─O─╫─U─╫─S─╫─T─╫─O─╫─N─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─A─╫─┼─╫─D─╢
      ╚═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╝

      Not perfectly aligned, but still looks pretty decent.

      And for those who'd just like a simple grid that they can use with their text editor, just select, copy and paste this:

      ╔═══╤═══╤═══╤═══╤═══╤═══╤═══╗
      ║ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . ║
      ╟───┼───┼───┼───┼───┼───┼───╢
      ║ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . ║
      ╟───┼───┼───┼───┼───┼───┼───╢
      ║ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . ║
      ╟───┼───┼───┼───┼───┼───┼───╢
      ║ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . ║
      ╟───┼───┼───┼───┼───┼───┼───╢
      ║ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . ║
      ╟───┼───┼───┼───┼───┼───┼───╢
      ║ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . ║
      ╟───┼───┼───┼───┼───┼───┼───╢
      ║ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . ║
      ╚═══╧═══╧═══╧═══╧═══╧═══╧═══╝

      Like I said, looks crappy here, but in your text editor, it'll look great!

      Delete
  9. I regret that I am unable to fit BLAINE (MN), a metropolis of 59,412, into my grid, so far.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Blaine, How would you feel about us posting a round number that is less than the total 2010 population of the cities in our answer? That way, others can know if the answer they've found is approximately OK, or if they've got a better one, or if they need to keep looking, without making the correct answer computable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm worried that if we provide any details on our totals, it will give people insight into how others are progressing on this challenge or still give them a way to "reverse engineer" the list of cities used, or at least the top scoring cities. It will also give people too much information on how others are doing and where their answer ranks. This time I think it actually better if people have to guess how good their answer is and just submit hoping that their answer is best.

      Delete
    2. By the way, this "problem" of comparing numbers secretly is known as secure multiparty computation, and was proposed as "Yao's Millionaires' Problem" as a toy problem of secret salary comparison.
      I don't pretend to understand how it works (yet), and I can't find website or software to help us do this, but it's an interesting issue!

      Delete
  11. Two things (since there likely won't be as much discussion as usual over the fortnight):

    1) For Mark Twain fans (his name comes up often here):
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/02/21/172553846/book-news-even-mark-twain-has-a-shirtless-picture-on-the-internet

    2) I posted this late last week. I am still curious as to why 'W' is not mentioned as being a letter that can be both a vowel and a consonant. I know it's pretty rare but it does happen. "Sometimes Y and rarely W?"

    "I have wondered all week about the consonant/vowel swinger Y and the swinger W in our alphabet and why W never gets called out in the realm of 'sometimes.' "

    Diphthongingly,
    W.W. (live from the Welsh valley of CWM)
    ['ardly anyone in the cirque this beautiful day]

    In the meantime, I was surprised to see Denver was not in the top 25 in 2010 (though it is now).

    Back to ironing out this grid. . .



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I goT RHYTHM, I got good times" was my answer, but "A, E, I, O, U" wass not scoped out.

      Delete
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    1. My answer has 7 cities, 33 boxes.

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    2. I should say, my answer SO FAR has those stats. I plan to keep looking.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  14. Will, you disappoint me. Catch you all in a couple of weeks.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I made a submission which I thought at the time was the ultimate. Then A FEW MINUTES LATER I submitted a better solution, asking them to please disregard my earlier submission and accept my new one, which I really believe IS the ultimate this time.

    BOTH
    of my submissions use only 5 cities and take up only 30 of the 49 squares.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I got the five cities, 30/49 squares solution as well. If a better one exists, I don't have the patience to find it.

      Delete
  16. What about commonly used abbreviations such as MT for "Mount" as in "Mt Kisco", "Mt Adams" "Mt Airy", etc. or ST for "Saint" as in "St. Louis," "St. Paul", "St. Elmo", "St. Clair", 'St. Joe", etc. or "FT" for "Fort" as in "Ft Worth", "Ft Wayne", "Ft Bragg", etc.? Not that any of these are answers, but it would be an interesting possibility to speculate on nonetheless.

    BTW, it's likely while there may be only one correct answer, there will be many interesting answers based on number of cities, number of squares filled, how they're arranged, etc. Let's put it on our Outlook calendar (or other favorite scheduler) to enter our submissions at 3 PM Eastern on Thursday, 10/24/13, just to compare what we've been able to create.

    Lastly, to the first timer from last week, I'm sure by now that you're getting the hang of what this blog is all about. Obviously, this week's challenge is atypical. My suggestion for what to post to future blogs is to review the blogs for previous weeks, note the correct answer for that week's puzzle, then work backwards to see how the various puns, phrases, anagrams, etc. relate to that week's ansswer. You'll find it to be as much fun as much as it is for us "veterans"!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Based on my limited research on the internet, it appears that the actual city names are:
    St. Louis (stlouis-mo.gov)
    Saint Paul (www.stpaul.gov)

    ReplyDelete
  18. After spending way too much time trying to improve my grid, with way too little improvement in total population, I'm calling it done. (Unless someone posts something very interesting.) I've got 9 cities & towns (5 of which you've heard of), filling 32 of the 49 boxes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 9 cities is quite good, but the question is the population, right? I can get 7 cities, all well known, with 33 squares filled. Can we say roughly where our population is, or will that incur our host's ire?

      Delete
    2. Chrysanthemum's the word on the population. See Blaine's comments above. Thanks.

      Delete
    3. I suppose another question (for Will) is if NewYork is acceptable for New York City, is Kansas acceptable for Kansas City?

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    4. Yes, ecoarchitect, the city count isn't really relevant, just a slight hint as to my approach, the goal of which is to maximize total population. Blaine doesn't want us to discuss even rough population numbers before the contest deadline.

      Delete
  19. Can we post a coded question, which can be decoded only by a key that is our population total, and which anyone able to decode the question can answer and then recode and paste here? For example, a question would be: 4D9B5E0F1FBDAD5CD9135B925F4F99F3B8A0065561DC94553F66B703C782529C3BB8B491DC86C3B2F4F2A4E6
    (I won't post a link to how to decode this into a question, but my population total would do so.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cam, I think your parenthetical note has it backwards. I think you should tell us how, given a certain total, to then use it to decode a question, then post a new, differently coded question, decipherable only to someone who happens to enter your total as the key.

      I propose you post an example: The puzzle itself gave an example and its total, and Blaine, near the start of this blog, said from it he had arrived at the total of 5,831,809. So let's use that number. Why don't you encode a sample question and then show us how to use 5,831,809 to decode it? Then you can post a different question coded to your total!

      Delete
    2. Like totally, Man. I totally agree! :-)

      Delete
    3. OK, here goes nothing. This is the site to decode my message: http://www.topsecretemail.com/Decode_Message.cfm. If you paste in the hex string from my message, and then use your population total as the key, you will get a plain English result that is a question (but only if your population total exactly matches mine. I am using the 2010 census exact population results, including any official corrections. The answer to my question has nothing to do with this week's puzzle, so if you want to post it here, that would be one interesting way to see if anyone is on the same page without giving away what my total is, per Blaine's rule.

      Delete
    4. I'm afraid the encoding/decoding is less sophisticated that you may have been thinking, E_a_W_A_f. But here is a different question, encoded using the population total Will Shortz announced on air (no commas in the number): 7A758FC516D690B6AD5F568603075F9982AC475392960692AFFF5CA64382DE8E6A3352999F9A8F1DD1EB39AEAF83A0E9629697ABBD9296D31292BB4C6B1B9B9B558298968758DCD5C4B7B392C7965D1F4AAE97B51FD2B2CA838CCB5C87508AB2529AAA3D

      Delete
    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    6. 439C4A5B4CB4B04C95031394174394F1ECA013197D898F1D

      Delete
    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
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

      Delete
  20. My city counts as a double dipper, how does that count? Just as the higher one?

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  21. My cities have an interesting property which I'll reveal in a week (3 PM Thursday, 10/24/13).

    Also, in response to the earlier post regarding Kansas City: that is the official name of the cities in Missouri and Kansas bearing that name, whereas "New York" is the official name of the largest US city. I think our guidance should be the US postal address, or whatever is shown as the name on maps. Thus, the correct names for the cities in question are "Kansas City" and "New York."

    ReplyDelete
  22. Blaine:

    I've thought of a way that we could provide clues to our totals. Suppose I posted concerning my total:

    If you divide my total by <4-digit number #1> and take its remainder, then divide my total by <4-digit number #2> and take its remainder, then the two remainders add up to exactly <blank>.

    Then maybe someone else replies: "I think I may have found your solution! Tell me, if you divide your total by <replier's own 4-digit number #1> and <replier's own 4-digit number #2>, then those remainders add up to exactly <blank>?"

    Anyway, would that exchange be acceptable?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Well I decided I was not going to waste my time on this one, and I was way too busy until this evening anyway. After a hectic day (does that mean you don't believe in God?) I ended up enjoying an Emerson String Quartet performance at the UofW Meany Theatre and got to thinking about it a bit. I came up with an answer that may not be the highest total, but could be. It uses five cities and 30 squares as mentioned above. I wonder if it is the same one. Anyway whether it is or isn't I really don't care that much because I solved it in my head without anything to help me, i.e. pen and paper. I just used logic. Of course now I am back home I had to look up the census figures. I also came up with a hint at my answer which is: I had to lock up my liquor cabinet before I could solve it. If that clue makes any sense, or census, to you, please post here and I will know you have the same answer.

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  24. I wouldn't expect Will to comment here before clarifying this Sunday. He would think it gave us Blainites an "unfair advantage". We are all going to have one particular city, probably several in common, and then will be vying to get up our totals by working in lesser cities and scrambling for crumbs in the form of 100K additions. I'm guessing there will be less than a hundred "correct" answers with identical assemblages and thus "luck" will still be the determining factor. I hope I didn't give away too much, senor B.

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  25. What do you all think about townships? Are they allowable? I've got a six-city solution right now that could be improved with the use of a township. Fair game?

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  26. Will said, "cities or towns". I say, go for it.

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  27. I went without it. I'm up to 9 cities now. Wikipedia and I are getting to be best friends...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Check that. I'm at 8 cities. Hope my math is better than that on my total.

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  28. Replies
    1. And we thought we had population counting issues before...;-)

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    2. I find ghost towns are useful for connecting various parts of the
      crossword pattern. As long as it is a real town that had a
      positive population earlier but now has no population, I think
      it is just fine to use.

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    3. Somebody may have lived there in 2010, but I would need to edit Wikipedia to inflate my answer.

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  29. I decided that to be really certain of the highest population total it would be helpful to think outside the box. It seems to be working for me as I am now up to 57 squares and counting on finding more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A Möbius crossword! Clever.

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    2. Yes, and I'll give a small hint here too. One of my cities is Mobius, Alabama.

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    3. Loop, I thought surely you would weigh in on the Möbius strip discussion. . .

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    4. Loop doesn't want in this conversation because he can see no end to it.

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    5. So, skydiveboy, this week I have missed your endless banter.

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    6. I am certainly sorry for not weighing in on this conversation as it has been a busy week. My days have seemed like they're on a continuous...no, I won't do that. Just adjusting to married life (no real adjustments except for having to write out "thank you" cards.) I will have to come up with a witty zinger and get back to you on this mobius discussion.

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    7. In adjusting to married life, you'll find that all your arguments are one-sided.

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    8. "Yes, dear." and "As usual, you are right, dear." Practice these phrases carefully and often ;-)

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    9. Also, "Are you kidding?! Your butt looks amazingly sexy in those jeans!"

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    10. Or, Uncle John, if you are a DNA researcher, "...in those genes!"

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    11. Or what I think when at the grocery store: "With YOUR genes, not THOSE jeans." Of course these days it's sweats or pajama bottoms...in public...who raised these people?!

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    12. I fund that our argumentd are two-sided. On one side I lose and on the other she wins. Ah, the best of both worlds.

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  30. 1 o'clock Eastern time. Thought I'd post my answer. Just kidding!

    Hope everyone is having an awesome week.

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    Replies
    1. Sure. Scouring lists of one-horse towns with short names is certainly MY idea of awesome!

      Delete
  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  32. Now that census.gov is back online, I've compiled a master list of U.S. cities and towns, sorted by population, that was derived directly from the reported figures in the 2010 census (caution: 6.1 MB).

    The list of U.S. cities and towns, sorted by population (18,088 entries, 422 KB).

    The above, but with the city and town names stripped of non-alphabetic characters (418 KB).

    The above, but only including names of length seven or less (8,120 entries, 172 KB).

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  33. A Brown out shout out in the puzzle this morning.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just heard the shout out to Brown. Thanks for the heads-up, zeke.

      A shout out to the new Smith President and a story from Friday:

      In honor of President McCartney's inaugural weekend, I wore my Smith pin yesterday. One of the kindergarten students asked me about it.

      "Oh, this is from Smith College. Remember that, it's a great place to go!"

      "Where is it?"

      "Massachusetts."

      "Oh, I'm not allowed to go any place by myself."

      Just you wait, girl!

      Word Woman
      (Africa! Africa! Africa!)

      Delete
  34. I waited until I heard the puzzle on air today before sending in my entry, in case Will revealed any new information, which he did not.

    I wonder how he will define "correct" entries this week? Do they have to have the absolute maximal population, or will entries that include the bigger cities but miss one of the little towns than can be fit into the grid count? What if Will has found a better solution than any listener?

    ReplyDelete
  35. A curious puzzle. My typical ideal is doing the puzzles in the car, and they can almost always be solved that way. Any time I have to resort to looking things up online is kind-of cheating. Of course, in this case, it's completely impossible -- you need to get the census data. As other people suggested, the www.biggestuscities site gives the exact values that Will quotes in his puzzle, so I went with that.

    Writing a program to create a crossword puzzle was a lot of fun. My result has seven cities. I wasn't sure whether Will's "standard crossword" rules include the typical rule that all letters must be connected, that there be no independent islands of interlocking letters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A more exhaustive search (I think I searched every possible solution) yields an 8-word list which i think is optimal, given the 8000 or so cities posted above.

      Delete
  36. It occurs to me there is indeed a way for us to check if we have the same answers as each other, without revealing the specific answer and without even revealing population totals, boxes filled, or number of cities used, and the answer is a one-way hashing function like MD5 or SHA-1. (An online tool for calculating the SHA-1 of input text is here.)

    The only thing that needs to be standardized for this to work is the notation we use for our grids. I propose all upper-case alphabetic characters, and the use of an asterisk (*) for blank boxes. In addition, since a reflection along the upper-left-to-lower-right diagonal results in an equivalent grid, I suggest the input take the form of only those seven boxes that lie along this diagonal, since this is the same in both grids. (In theory this would increase the chance of a collision, but there's still 27^7 ~ 10.46 billion possibilities so this isn't much of a concern in practice.)

    So, for instance, Will Shortz's example grid would be transcribed as C***NOD, which has the SHA-1 hash PUycPQw+9p3ReHEf3Ru43cA2VNM= (in base64), or d5df34d295574e89835606c30f058764f3d47410 (in hexadecimal). (Here's online tools for converting hex to base64, and for converting base64 to hex.)

    Okay, I'll start. My best answer so far has the (SHA-1 base64) hash 1frQKuEG6rEQcQQ4dgDFoHLbcyI=.

    Let the hashing begin!

    ReplyDelete
  37. The puzzle for me this week is why they invited a nit-wit to play the on-air quiz with Will. Was Michelle Bachmann too busy crocheting tea cozies for her colleagues? Of course Poundstone couldn't get the Africa answer—Americans think Africa is a country, not a continent. Most probably also think those who reside there are incontinent, and they may have been if they were listening to that travesty.
    Speaking of ungodly debacles. If the House decides to dump Champion of Idiocy, John Boehner, and replace him with Michelle Bachmann as Speaker, do you suppose she will use a croquet mallet for the gavel in order to compliment her other subtleties?

    ReplyDelete
  38. Hey, I love Paula Poundstone. She is in fact quick on her feet, and a hilarious comic. Listen to her sometime on "Wait wait don't tell me". And Will did nothing to clarify, so I say we use the 3-letter codes used for airports!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Slightly bummed by a posting on another puzzle blog by someone with a higher population total than mine. But, I'm glad that only one entry per person is allowed, because I do NOT want to work on this anymore. Looking forward to the post-3pm EDT discussion tomorrow.

    Yeah, I like Paula Poundstone, too, but I can understand why she's not everyone's cup of tea.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Jan!

      Submitted mine to NPR and to the guys at the other puzzle blog. It will at least be posted over there in case I am knee-deep in chromium-6 analyses.

      Bring on the new puzzle, please, Will!

      Delete
  40. Just to box myself in:
    If population grand total is AAA,BBB,CCC
    Then AAA+BBB+CCC for my answer is 991.

    Sunday's final answer will be interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  41. 13,317,860 population total of seven cities/towns from 2010 census.

    DOWN:

    Houston 2,099,451
    Saginaw 51,508
    Chicago 2,695,598
    Newark 277,140

    ACROSS:

    Sac, Iowa 2,220
    Ada, Oklahoma 16,810
    New York 8,175,133

    H_ SAC
    O_ A_H_N
    U_ G_ I_ E
    S__I_ C_W
    T_ N_ADA
    O_ A_G_ R
    NEWYORK

    ReplyDelete
  42. As it is now 3:01 on the East Coast...My best result -- with Planned Chaos' database above -- is as follows:

    N E W Y O R K
    E M N
    C H I C A G O
    E X H X
    D A L L A S
    A
    H O U S T O N

    New York 8,175,133
    Chicago 2,695,598
    Houston 2,099,451
    Dallas 1,445,632
    Omaha 408,958
    Knox 3,704
    Necedah 2,327
    IXL 51

    total: 14,830,854

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Grrr...formatting didn't work
      N.E.W.Y.O.R.K
      E...........M....N
      C.H..I..C.A.G.O
      E.....X....H.....X
      D.A..L..L.A.S...
      A....................
      H.O.U.S.T.O.N

      Delete
    2. Uh, Thad, you're using Phoenix's population for Dallas'!

      Dallas' population is 1,197,816.

      Delete
    3. OMG. Hanging head in shame. Thank you for pointing it out. I did the puzzle at home, and tried to re-create it at work...unsuccessfully!

      14,583,038 is my answer

      Delete
    4. The use of Dallas instead of Phoenix is a perfect example of how a greedy algorithm doesn't always find the optimal solution. In this case, an initial loss of 247,816 allows for a later gain of 382,920, resulting in a net benefit of 135,104 over this solution.

      Delete
  43. Ok, here are the top 4 (as far as I know):

    At #4 (This was my FIRST submission, which at the time I THOUGHT was the ultimate):
    ╔═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╗
    ╟─H─╫─O─╫─U─╫─S─╫─T─╫─O─╫─N─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─E─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─B─╫─A─╫─R─╫─S─╫─T─╫─O─╫─W─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─Y─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─C─╫─H─╫─I─╫─C─╫─A─╫─G─╫─O─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─R─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─┼─╫─N─╫─E─╫─W─╫─A─╫─R─╫─K─╢
    ╚═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╝
    Houston 2,100,263
    Barstow 22,639
    Chicago 2,695,598
    Newark 277,140
    NewYork 8,175,133
    ──────────────────
    Total: 13,270,773


    At #3:
    ╔═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╗
    ╟─C─╫─H─╫─I─╫─C─╫─A─╫─G─╫─O─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─N─╫─┼─╫─┼─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─H─╫─O─╫─U─╫─S─╫─T─╫─O─╫─N─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─I─╫─┼─╫─┼─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─N─╫─E─╫─W─╫─Y─╫─O─╫─R─╫─K─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─C─╫─┼─╫─┼─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─M─╫─E─╫─M─╫─P─╫─H─╫─I─╫─S─╢
    ╚═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╝
    Chicago 2,695,598
    Houston 2,100,263
    NewYork 8,175,133
    Memphis 646,889
    Antioch 102,372
    ──────────────────
    Total: 13,720,255


    At #2:
    ╔═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╗
    ╟─C─╫─H─╫─I─╫─C─╫─A─╫─G─╫─O─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─┼─╫─I─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─D─╫─A─╫─L─╫─L─╫─A─╫─S─╫─┼─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─┼─╫─L─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─N─╫─E─╫─W─╫─Y─╫─O─╫─R─╫─K─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─┼─╫─A─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─P─╫─H─╫─O─╫─E─╫─N─╫─I─╫─X─╢
    ╚═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╝
    Chicago 2,695,598
    Dallas 1,197,816
    NewYork 8,175,133
    Phoenix 1,445,632
    Hialeah 224,669
    ──────────────────
    Total: 13,738,848


    And at #1:
    ╔═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╗
    ╟─H─╫─O─╫─U─╫─S─╫─T─╫─O─╫─N─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─O─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─┼─╫─D─╫─E─╫─N─╫─V─╫─E─╫─R─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─F─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─C─╫─H─╫─I─╫─C─╫─A─╫─G─╫─O─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─L─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─N─╫─E─╫─W─╫─Y─╫─O─╫─R─╫─K─╢
    ╚═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╝
    Houston 2,100,263
    Denver 600,158
    Chicago 2,695,598
    NewYork 8,175,133
    Norfolk 242,803
    ──────────────────
    Total: 13,813,955



    #1 Total: 13,813,955
    #3 Total: 13,720,255
    ──────────────────────
    Difference: 93,700

    ReplyDelete
  44. ACROSS:
    HOUSTON, MESA, CHICAGO, NEWYORK

    DOWN:
    MACON, WACO, NORFOLK

    ReplyDelete
  45. I went with a solution similar to Thad. Didn't notice Necedah.

    I went with

    HOUSTON
    NEWYORK
    CHICAGO
    DALLAS

    as across cities.

    Tied together with

    OMAHA
    KNOX
    ORR
    SKY

    And if we're allowing "ORE" for "Ore City" that can be thrown in as well, but I think that city is called "Ore City", much like "Kansas City".

    I think my answer is a few hundred short of Thad's.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ian, I just looked up Sky (disambiguation) on Wikipedia.

      I see 22 listings under News corporation, 20 listings under "Other TV and radio stations", 4 Television series, 3 Television characters, 5 magazines, 4 bands, 4 albums, 1 song, 4 people, 2 listings under "Science and technology", 3 under Transportation, and 5 under "Other Uses"; NOT ONE REFERENCE AS A U.S. CITY or ANY CITY!!!

      Delete
    2. There's a site that has 26 pages of U.S. cities and towns. There's a Sky Missouri (must be small, because it doesn't have its own website). That's where I found Orr (Minnesota), Knox (four states) and Ore City (Texas). But this answer is going to come up short of the one Thad put together.

      Delete
  46. My interpretation of the rules avoids New York.

    P A D U C A H
    H _ A _ H _ O
    O _ L _ I _ U
    E _ L _ C _ S
    N _ A _ A _ T
    I _ S _ G _ O
    X _ _ _ O _ N

    Chicago 2,695,598
    Houston 2,099,451
    Phoenix 1,445,632
    Dallas 1,197,816
    Paducah 25,024
    Total 7,463,521

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  47. Well played, Thad!

    I had two possible answers:

    PHOENIX
    I--------L
    NEWYORK
    C-----------I
    HOUSTON
    ---------E
    CHICAGO


    (That's Phoenix, New York, Houston, Chicago across and Pinch, Ely, Tea, and Rio down. Total Population: 14,429,008)

    Unfortunately, Pinch is a technically a census-designated place and Rio is a village. So, my solution with narrowly defined cities and towns is:

    HOUSTON
    ---------E
    CHICAGO
    O
    PHOENIX
    A-----L
    NEWYORK

    That dropped my total to 14,425,420.

    Didn't spend enough time checking the possible benefits of Dallas for Phoenix. Thought the puzzle was really enjoyable. Maybe next time!

    ReplyDelete
  48. H * * S C I O
    O * M * H * M
    U * E D I N A
    S * S * C * H
    T E A * A D A
    O * * * G * *
    N E W Y O R K


    City Population

    New York, NY 8,175,133
    Chicago, IL 2,695,598
    Houston, TX 2,100,263
    Mesa, AZ 439,041
    Omaha, NE 408,958
    Edina, MN 47,941
    Ada, OK 16,810
    Tea, SD 3,806
    Scio, OR 838

    Total: 13,888,388

    ReplyDelete
  49. @Natasha - The statement of the puzzle says "regular crossword fashion", which means spaces and punctuation disappear from the grid in multi-word names and phrases, IMO.

    ReplyDelete
  50. I had a hard time with this puzzle and topped out at about 13.7 Million, mostly because I remain morally opposed to Texas.

    -- Ben

    ReplyDelete
  51. Anyone able to top Thad's answer of 14,583,038?

    N E W Y O R K
    E _ _ _ M _ N
    C H I C A G O
    E _ X _ H _ X
    D A L L A S
    A
    H O U S T O N

    New York 8,175,133
    Chicago 2,695,598
    Houston 2,099,451
    Dallas 1,197,816
    Omaha 408,958
    Knox 3,704
    Necedah 2,327
    IXL 51

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Noooooo....I was so close! Don't know how I missed Necedah. I had all the others and Amo, pop. 401, instead of Necedah.

      Delete
  52. Did not consider towns smaller than 100,000, but got just shy of 14 mil with

    H _ W A C O
    O _ _ _ H _ N
    U _ B O I S E
    S _ _ _ C _ W
    T U L S A _ A
    O _ _ _ G _ R
    N E W Y O R K

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My "ghost town" was LOW, UTAH, but it added nothing. It fit between TULSA and NEWYORK.

      Delete
  53. I admit I did not work hard on this puzzle. Only used 5 cities and one of them was backwards. Hey "it's my crossword and I'll reverse if I want to"
    I figure if NPR just randomly picks someone with a right answer, I could be eligible despite you 13 and 14 millionaires.
    So:

    * * H * C * *
    * * O * H * T
    * * U * I * U
    * * S * C * C
    E L T T A E S
    * * O * G * O
    L I N C O L N

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey! I live in Seattle; and we are not Bcakwrads!

      Delete
  54. Should have read
    Houston and Chicago down
    and Seattle (backwards) and Lincoln (Nebraska) across for a total of 6,183,016

    WW I loved your Kindergartner-future Smithie story

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Backwards! I never thought of spelling a city backwards! And how appropriate, since Will's NY Times crossword today (like many Thursday puzzles) features backwards answers. Good thinking, RoRo!

      Delete
  55. I did not spend a lot of time on this and I suspected my total would not be the high one. Here is what I came up with:

    ╔═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╗
    ╟─C─╫─H─╫─ I─╫─C─╫─ A─╫─G─╫─O─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─L─╫─┼─╫─┼─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─D─╫─A─╫─L─╫─ L─╫─A─╫─S─╫─┼─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─┼─╫─L─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─M─╫─┼─╫─A─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─N─╫─E─╫─W─╫ Y─╫─O─╫─R─╫─K─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─┼─╫─D─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─A─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─H─╫─O─╫─U─╫─S─╫─ T─╫─O─╫─N─╢
    ╚═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╝

    Chicago = 2,695,598 (1st row across)
    Dallas = 1,197,816 (3rd row across)
    NewYork = 8,175,133 (5th row across)
    Houston = 2,100,263 (7th row across)
    Aledo, IL = 3,640 (2nd column down)
    Alamo, TX 18,353 (5th column down)
    Akan, WI = 403 (7th column down)
    Total, 7 cities = 14,191,206.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Ok, here is Thad Beier's winning entry shown using my box characters:

    ╔═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╗
    ╟─N─╫─E─╫─W─╫─Y─╫─O─╫─R─╫─K─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─E─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─M─╫─┼─╫─N─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─C─╫─H─╫─I─╫─C─╫─A─╫─G─╫─O─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─E─╫─┼─╫─X─╫─┼─╫─H─╫─┼─╫─X─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─D─╫─A─╫─L─╫─L─╫─A─╫─S─╫─┼─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─A─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╢
    ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
    ╟─H─╫─O─╫─U─╫─S─╫─T─╫─O─╫─N─╢
    ╚═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╝

    Across:

    NewYork 8,175,133
    Chicago 2,695,598
    Dallas 1,197,816
    Houston 2,100,263*

    Down:

    Necedah 2,327
    IXL 51
    Omaha 408,958
    Knox 3,704

    *Yes, I know that Will used 2,099,451 as the population of Houston in his example, but it's been discussed here that that was old, original estimate and that 2,100,263 is the more accurate, REVISED figure. Any the total is 14,583,850 or 14,583,038 using the outdated figure for Houston.

    ReplyDelete
  57. I already have my lapel pin -- I hope somebody else wins this week :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh, Thad, can you take a picture of the lapel pin and put it in Instagram or DropBox and link to it? We all want to know what we're missing! ;-)

      Delete
    2. happy to! it only took ten years!

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/97324121@N00/8020018268/

      Delete
    3. Thad, still a mystery! Might you change the sharing permissions on that photo in flickr so we may view it? Thanks!

      Delete
    4. Thad, am I correct in concluding that you were NOT called today?

      And if they didn't call you, then to whomever they DID call, would you PLEASE POST YOUR WINNING ENTRY to this blog!!??

      Delete
    5. Picture above is now viewable, sorry about that.

      I was not called, but I sent in this entry after the deadline to help them out.

      Delete
    6. Thanks, Thad!

      Now I have to keep submitting my answers...and consider a leather jacket to wear it on. Bet it has started a few fun conversations. . .

      Delete
  58. CHICAGO, HOUSTON, PHOENIX, NEWYORK and going down ACTON, ELY
    Total 14,442,805

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Replace Acton, Massachusetts with Alton, Illinois for an additional 5,941 (27865-21924); this was one of my earlier answers.

      Delete
  59. Column 1 down HOUSTON
    Column 5 down CHICAGO
    Column 7 down MESA

    Row 1 across WACO
    Row 3 across BOISE
    Row 5 across TULSA
    Row 7 across NEWYORK

    My total is 14,132,417, though I left off WACO on the version I sent to Ross, CrosswordMan (hey, it was early...).

    RoRo, I also enjoyed your backwards clue! And you may be happy to know that President McCartney also enjoyed the story from last Friday. She seems like a great leader for Smith.

    Bob K, I think you called it the My Weekly Reader crossword, yes? That made me smile (loved MWR).


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Replace Tulsa, Oklahoma with Omaha, Nebraska for an additional 17,052 (408,958 - 391,906); this was the first one I found.

      Delete
    3. Samo schmamo. Sal and I stopped at the 14,132,417 seven.

      Delete
  60. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. PlannedChaos, nice going on trading Tulsa for Omaha...Did you plan all this chaos in the three rapid-fire deleted comments ;-)?

      Delete
    2. No, my post just wasn't initially appearing as an inline reply to your original comment.

      Delete
    3. planned rhetorical question, humor attempt

      Delete
  61. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  62. If we allow common initialisms and abbreviations.

     8,175,133 NYC
     3,792,621 LA
     2,695,598 Chicago
     2,099,451 Houston
     1,526,006 Philly
     1,197,816 Dallas
        23,647 Galt, ᴄᴀ
    ——————————
    19,510,275

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, here's ONE WAY to arrange them together in a 7x7 grid:
      ╔═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╦═╤═╗
      ╟─┼─╫─P─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─D─╫─┼─╫─H─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─C─╫─H─╫─I─╫─C─╫─A─╫─G─╫─O─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─┼─╫─I─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─L─╫─┼─╫─U─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─┼─╫─L─╫─A─╫─┼─╫─L─╫─┼─╫─S─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─┼─╫─L─╫─┼─╫─G─╫─A─╫─L─╫─T─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─N─╫─Y─╫─C─╫─┼─╫─S─╫─┼─╫─O─╢
      ╠═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╬═╪═╣
      ╟─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─┼─╫─N─╢
      ╚═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╩═╧═╝
      Oh, and your total was over by 3.

      Delete
    2. Oops, fat fingers on the numeric keypad. Population total: 19,510,272.

      Also, no need for the text grid. See the image link in my original post.

      Delete
    3. Wow! I notice your arrangement was exactly the same as mine!

      Could it be that, barring the transpose, that's the only arrangement possible!?

      Delete
  63. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  64. To those you went to the Top Secret Mail.com site and tried to follow the conversation between Cam Barker and PlannedChaos; well, after trying total after total of all that's been posted today, I finally found the key!

    They were using 14132417, which was the total for Word Woman's answer using the revised figure of 2,100,263 for Houston, which I noticed is exactly Bryan's answer, but including MESA.

    Anyway, using the link above and 14132417 for the Unique Key, you can decode Cam Barker's initial cipher and then follow their conversation using that same key each time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I rechecked what Bryan's answer had been and realized that Word Woman's answer was actually an improvement of Bryan's answer, replacing NEWARK with MESA. An improvement of 161,901 (439,041-277,140)

      Delete
  65. hi all-- i was the winner of this npr puzzle. my name is glen keenan, in des moines, ia. got a call from NPR yesterday, & recorded w/ will & rachel today.

    my winning grid was:

    Across:
    (1st row) NEWYORK
    (3rd row) CHICAGO
    (5th row, starting 1st square) DALLAS
    (7th row) HOUSTON

    Down:
    (2nd column, starting 5th square down) AJO
    (5th column, starting 1st square) OMAHA
    (7th column, starting 1st square) KNOX

    by my calc, the total population for this grid is 14,584,776. (will stated the total population on the call, but i can't recall if it was exactly the same as my calc.)

    turns out that i could've had 59 more if i'd also had IXL in the 3rd column, starting 3rd square down.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congrats, Glen.
      Hope you continue to be a part of the blog.

      Delete
    2. Yes, congrats, Glen...and welcome!

      Delete
  66. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  67. fyi: during the taping, will said he didn't allow abbrevs like NYC (but he didn't specify whether he allowed abbrevs like STPAUL).

    ReplyDelete
  68. The official 2010 census (from which my source list was compiled) didn't include Ajo, ᴀᴢ, so I never could have found the winning grid. Assuming that this week's winner was chosen on the merits, it appears that Glen's after-the-fact discovery of Ixl, ᴏᴋ would've made Crossword Man (AKA Ross) the winner, had he chosen to submit his entry.

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  69. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  70. Congrats to Glen . I thought splitting words like New and York would be okay, since crosswords do that a lot.

    15,424,834

    Across:
    SANJOSE
    LOS

    Down:
    ANGELES
    HOUSTON
    NEWYORK
    BELL (CA)

    Looks like this:

    ¬¬A¬H¬N
    SANJOSE
    ¬¬G¬U¬W
    B¬E¬S¬Y
    E¬L¬T¬O
    L¬E¬O¬R
    LOS¬N¬K

    ReplyDelete
  71. New puzzle is up.

    "Name a brand of beer. Rearrange the letters to name an activity often associated with beer."

    Submit your answer.

    ReplyDelete