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[Photograph: jwendorff]

Don't forget to enter our Halloween Carving Contest before Sunday at 6 p.m. Winners will receive shiny, sharp Viking knives. This Cookie-Monster-o'-Lantern is just one of the submissions so far. Check them all out here. We'll announce the winners on Monday, November 2. Think you can do better? After the jump, a step-by-step guide to carving your orange creature.

  • Select a pumpkin (butternut squash or gourds are also acceptable). For more elaborate designs, go with the bigger size (and obviously chubby ones are good just generally speaking). Avoid infected pumpkins—those with bruises, dents, and funky mold.
  • Once you find the winner, do not carry it by the stem. That is pumpkin abuse! Think of the breaking-off potential. (But if the stem does break, don't freak out, just use a toothpick to mend it.)
  • You will need: a thin bladed knife, a large spoon or ice-cream scooper, and lots of newspaper.
  • With the thin bladed knife (sharper is better and safer) cut around the pumpkin stem at about a 45 degree angle. Make the circle wide enough so you can stick your arm in there and scoop out the guts (which includes all stringy material, but save the seeds!).
  • Once it's properly de-gutted, decide which side of the pumpkin is the most attractive. Use a crayon to sketch the carving design.
  • Cut through the lines you drew and carefully push out the pieces. Serrated knives are best for more detailed work.
  • Candle time: use a small votive candle in a glass holder or tea lights in a metal case. To avoid fire hazards, you may want to cut the bottom of the pumpkin (just like you did the top) due to wobble factor.
  • Do not try to eat this pumpkin.
  • However, you can turn it into an air freshener by sprinkling the bottom side cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
  • For a non-carving alternative: try painting with royal icing.

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