Thursday, October 24, 2013

New York, New York, It's a Populous Town

Here's this week's NPR puzzle:
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.

As in a regular crossword, the names must read across and down only. Every name must interlock with at least one other name. And no two letters can touch unless they are part of a name.

What is the highest population total you can achieve? And when you send in your answer, please include the names of the cities, in order, across and down.
This took a couple logical twists to get the highest total. First, use as many of the most populous cities in 7 letters or fewer: New York (duh), Chicago, Houston, San Jose, etc. Next, you needed to link them up in proper crossword fashion.

We invited our readers to send in their grids so that Ross could make them look pretty and I could use them as the art work this week. I've made a spreadsheet with everyone's totals, which I'll happily forward to those brave few who sent in their grids.

Here are the submissions we've gotten so far:

PW's Cities (total: 11,249,849)
(Note to PW: I couldn't find a 2010 Census total for Osier, Colorado. Nor could I find an alternate Osier. So while the grid is legal and pretty, Osier didn't up your total any.)

RF's Cities (total: 13,701,979)
JG's Cities (total: 13,868,994)
(Note to JG: Sorry we took so long to post your entry. Your claimed score is a little higher than what we make it based on the 2010 figures from Wikipedia.)

JW's Cities (total: 13,907,631)
(Note to JW: I maybe cheated in your favor by using Scio Township, Michigan (pop. 20, 081) as opposed to Scio, New York (pop. 1,833). Subtract 18,148 from your total if you think I should have used Scio, New York.)

WW's Cities (total: 14,007,612)
(Note to WW: The total is 5,754 less than what you gave, but I can't see where the discrepancy might have arisen. Did you have one more city on the top row?)

JK's Cities (total: 14,098,912)

CM's Cities (total: 14,628,173)

So far, Crossword Man (aka Ross) is the winner. But we don't send our entries in!

Time for
Here are this week's picks:
Fewer than 50 -- Mendo Jim
 51 - 100 -- zeke creek
101 - 150 -- Word Woman
151 - 200 -- Joe Kupe
201 - 250 -- Alex B.
251 - 300 -- Marie
301 - 350 -- Ross
351 - 400 -- Magdalen
401 - 450
451 - 500
501 - 550
551 - 600
601 - 650
651 - 700
701 - 750
751 - 800
801 - 850
851 - 900
901 - 950
951 - 1,000
1,001 - 1,050 -- David
1,051 - 1,100
1,101 - 1,150
1,151 - 1,200
1,201 - 1,250
1,251 - 1,300
1,301 - 1,350
1,351 - 1,400
1,401 - 1,450
1,451 - 1,500

1,501 - 1,550
1,551 - 1,600
1,601 - 1,650
1,651 - 1,700
1,701 - 1,750
1,751 - 1,800
1,801 - 1,850
1,851 - 1,900
1,901 - 1,950
1,951 - 2,000
2,001 - 2,050
2,051 - 2,100
2,101 - 2,150
2,151 - 2,200
2,201 - 2,250
2,251 - 2,300
2,301 - 2,350
2,351 - 2,400
2,401 - 2,450
2,451 - 2,500

2,501 - 2,750
2,751 - 3,000
3,001 - 3,250
3,251 - 3,500
3,501 - 4,000
4,001 - 4,500
4,501 - 5,000

 > 5,000
 > 5,000 + new record
Our tie-break rule:   In the event that a single round number is announced with a qualifier such as "about" or "around" (e.g., "We received around 1,200 entries."), AND two separate people picked the ranges of numbers just before and just after that round number, the prize will be awarded to whichever entrant had not already won a prize, or in the event that both entrants had won a prize already or neither had, then to the earlier of the two entries on the famous judicial principle of "First Come First Serve," (or in technical legal jargon, "You Snooze, You Lose").  As of July 2012, this rule is officially no longer obsolete (and also I still just like having fine print).


Alex B. said...

I only got to a measly 14,447,934. Using DALLAS + OMAHA instead of PHOENIX was smart.

My grid:

The cities:
CHICAGO (IL) [first row] 2,695,598
HOUSTON (TX) [third row] 2,099,451
PHOENIX (AZ) [fifth row] 1,445,632
NEW YORK (NY) [seventh row] 8,175,133
ALTON (IL) [fifth column] 27,865
ELY (NV) [fourth column] 4,255

Marie said...

I had the same as Ross, except Amo, instead of Ajo. Amo is a mere 401' while Ajo is over 3000, darn!

Mendo Jim said...

IXL or I.X.L Oklahoma is in Okfuskee County which also has Okemah, which of course is the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson Guthrie.
These facts are the best part of this whole challenge.
I hope Will only counts submissions that do not contain New York.

Thad Beier said...

My answer is better, I believe


14573038 population based on 2010 census data

Thad Beier said...


mendojim said...

I kind of thought from the first offering of this puzzle that "newyork" (Newyork?, NewYork?, NEWYORK?) is not a word, nor is it a city.
Since I don't do Crossword Puzzles and since we have the Crosswordman here, and he likes the usage, an explanation of its suitability should be easy.
And necessary.

Alex B. said...

Ross's is slightly better as Ajo edges out Necedah 3000 to 900.

Word Woman said...

Good catch, CrosswordMan! I left off WACO from my top row. I will chalk it up to the early hour ;-). That is why you are CrosswordMan...and I am not CrosswordWoman.

Many thanks for the prettifying (I'm sure that's not really a word but it says what I want it to say).

Word Woman said...

And prettifying is, indeed, a word. Ha!

Seth said...

In Crossword Man's grid, what if you added a Y in between the N and C to make NYC? That counts, right? :-)

Will Shortz said...

I was proud of this two-week challenge. It's not easy to come up with a simple, new, fun, open-ended challenge with an objectively best answer that is not easily solved by computer.

We received a number of solutions over 14 million. The best one, with a population total of 14,584,183, was submitted by only one person. So there didn't need to be a drawing to pick the winner. The best was uniquely the best.

Interestingly, Crossword Man -- your solution was slightly higher still. You would have been the winner if you'd submitted your answer!

As most solvers understood, abbreviations (like NYC and LA) were not accepted. Multiple-word names (like NEW YORK) were fine, as that's how the cities are known and how they're listed in references. In a print contest, the rules might have been elaborated to make all these points clear, in case anyone wasn't sure. On the radio there just isn't time. This challenge's instructions were pretty long as it was.

I hope solvers (and listeners) enjoyed this novel puzzle. It's back to the usual sort this week.

--Will Shortz

Will Shortz said...

P.S. There were about 300 entries for the two-week challenge. Clearly this was something more for hard-core puzzlers than average NPR listeners. --Will

Anonymous said...

Kansas (your pic), Daly, Jersey?

Mendo Jim said...

Will saw something clearly hard-core in the 300 entries (one correct) submitted.
He has never seemed too interested in the weekly total, but he must have great vision.
The last three weeks have had 180, 350 and 150.

Word Woman said...

Will, thanks for the advance scoop.

Approximately what is the number of solutions over 14,000,000?

Word Woman

Mendo Jim said...

If this week's 300 is hard-core, what was 180 last week, 350 the week before that and 150 before that?
I don't recall Will's ever showing any interest in the number of submissions.