GB: Upon logging in to my e-mail at 9 p.m. CST on Wednesday night, February 18, 2015, the eve of my 60th birthday, I found a message from Ralph Bunker with the subject line "Happy birthday meta." There was an attached "runt puz" with the question: "What letter belongs in the middle square?" followed by "The prize for guessing is a word list." I thought, what a fun surprise, and got to work on it immediately.

You may find the puzzle itself on our main page. I did not find it to be particularly challenging, but then again, I had an enormous advantage, viz, knowing my own name. As I wrote to Ralph, "There were some very clever clues, I particularly liked those for AYE, EYE, and the audacious BOY/YOB crossing, all in the SE; ERG and AGE in the NW; EGG and RGE in the NE; and ORA and BAR in the SW. That's not meant as a criticism of any of the rest, just saying those are ones that really tickled my fancy." Plus, although they are clued separately, I couldn't help noticing ROB ROY. As to the meta, I stared a the finished grid for a minute or less, say GEO_RGE across the top row, and BAR_Axx across the bottom row, a sprinkling of Y's, so what else could be missing from the runt except for the letter N? I e-mailed Ralph with my conclusion at 11:15 p.m., and was rewarded the next morning, at 7:30 a.m., which Ralph's reply congratulating me for cracking the meta. But I'll let him pick up the narrative now.

RB: Initially I wanted a 7x7 grid with GEORGE in top row and BARANY in the bottom row that only used letters in George's name. But I had trouble making a puzzle with answers longer than three letters. Unfortunately, the puzzle with only three letter words ended up with a lonely unchecked square in the middle. I then had the idea to replace the ANY with ABE (clued with a birthday reference), put an N in the middle and not use N in any other place in the puzzle. And voila, I had a metapuzzle.

I wrote a program to find all words in the Ginsberg database that use only the letters in George's name and found 1793 of them. You can view them here.

This lead to the following idea: what could an experienced constructor create using only the words in this list? Given the number of constructors among George's friends, this seems to be a good place to ask this question.

I am curious enough about this to offer $215 to the best puzzle that meets this criteria.

BTW, the program I wrote to generate the Barany word list can generate a word list for any name or phrase. Please let me know if you want a word list generated.

GB: Thanks again to Ralph for this wonderful and thoughtful birthday gift, and for your generous offer. [Further instructions and commentary, added in the last week of February 2015, are now moot and have been removed.]

On "Super Pi Day" (3/14/2015). Ralph announced that the winner of the contest is John Child. The winning puzzle can be accessed by clicking here. After consultation between John, Ralph, and myself, it was decided that the monetary prize will go to Martin Ashwood-Smith, in recognization of his myriad contributions to the cruciverbal arts, and his friendship and mentoring to many members of the Barany and Friends crossword consortium.

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