I was only like one when this originally aired, and thus, suffice to say, I did not watch Simpsons. So I do not know how hyped this was. I assume it was hyped as such because it was the first Simpsons cliffhanger (Still is the only one to this day, unless you were to count Ned/Edna at the end of Ned-Liest Catch), and they wanted viewers. I know back then, they had good ratings and whatnot, but hyping this up for as long as they did, probably helped in terms of ratings for the season 7 opener. I mean, I imagine being disappointed by the outcome itself (oh it was maggie), but I think the episode as a whole has enough humor that the end doesn't drag the episode down a lot.Having it be a season finale with the long layover was designed to increase the suspense, and they just promoted the hell out of it at the time as being a big deal. So it kind of raises your expectations that you're really going to get an amazing solution to the mystery.
I mean, I laughed numerous times in this episode; Wiggum's dream sequence, Speedway Squad! In color, "D'oh!" "That's what they all say. They all say d'oh", Moe's ever popular lie detector scene, etc. Sure, the conclusion of having it be Maggie might not be the best resolution, but it didn't drag the episode down for me (and it seems for some people this is the case). This episode might not be as good as part one (I certainly do not think it is), but it is still pretty decent (not that anyone really is disagreeing with this... i don't think anyway).
By the way, speaking of the contest, what was it? I remember briefly reading that they were having a contest because of publicity, but what was the winner supposed to get? Furthermore, wasn't there like one person who actually guessed Maggie, but they did not get the prize for being right for whatever reason?