Remember last week’s AV Club contest puzzle?
Erik Agard’s American Values Club contest crossword, “Shiftwork”
Nothing particularly theme-y seems to be going on with the entries in this week’s AV Club, but something did seem to be happening with the clues, given that the puzzle is hiding both an author of a work AND a weapon from that work:
- 17A: Silicon Valley city (“Where Are the Children?”) — SANTA CLARA
- 23A: Transfers of info from your head to somewhere safer (“The Count of Monte Cristo”) — BRAIN DUMPS
- 33A: Practical joke pulled by departing upperclassmen (“The Diary of a Young Girl”) — SENIOR PRANK
- 45A: Jazz pianist who composed “Ain’t Misbehavin'” (“The Color Purple”) — FATS WALLER
- 51A: Gymnastics score for Comaneci (“The Joy Luck Club”) — PERFECT TEN
The first thing I thought of while solving the puzzle were the authors of the works listed in parentheses – Mary Higgins CLARK, Alexandre DUMAS, Anne FRANK, Alice WALKER, and Amy TAN. Each of these lines up nicely with the second word of each theme clue to provide the author and weapon:
CLARK CLARA DUMAS DUMPS FRANK PRANK WALKER WALLER TAN TEN
The only KAFKA story I know of that involves an APPLE used as a weapon also involves a giant cockroach that used to be a man. THE METAMORPHOSIS is the Meta answer to the puzzle.
The nice part of a crossword like this where the theme and meta don’t really affect the fill is that you don’t deal with areas where you have a lot of relatively stale fill in the service of 2 or 3 awesome entries. There was a lot of nice fill and clues throughout the grid – comediam Wyatt CENAC got a nice shoutout at 15A, and even if her promoters never manage to make her crack the Billboard charts on US shores (which, “I Will Never Let You Down” is suprisingly decent for generic Top 40 pop, I admit), Rita ORA (50A) seems poised to have at least a few years of infamy as crossword fill over here. Other nice cluing:
- 9A: Nickelodeon character whose surname is Marquez — DORA (this clue managed to get the song from the opening credits to another show featuring a Latina on Nickelodeon, Taina, stuck in my head. DO NOT CLICK ON THAT LINK.)
- 29A: Crack commando unit sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit, before escaping to the Los Angeles underground where today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune, with “the” — A-TEAM (I’m using this as an excuse to link to Mr. T’s fantastic “Be Somebody or Be Somebody’s Fool”. CLICK ON THAT LINK.)
- 1D: Invectives “dropped” by the foul-mouthed — F-BOMBS
- 25D: Live-streaming app named after a desert animal — MEERKAT (Remember the week or so before Periscope was released that everyone was all about Meerkat? I do.)
I really dug this puzzle. The meta felt a bit easy, somewhere between a week 1 and week 2 on the Gaffney scale, but I knew exactly what was going on mid-way through the puzzle and only needed a minute or so of work after filling the grid to get the final answer. Still, solid fill, solid cluing.