AV Club Contest – December 9, 2015

AV Club 15:35 + 1 minute (Ben) 


Remember last week’s AV Club contest puzzle?

Francis Heaney’s American Values Club contest crossword, “Topspin”



I knew from the title alone that last week’s AV Club contest puzzle was going to have something to do with Chanukah Xanuka Hanukkah and the dreidel.  After getting through the grid (which took me a little longer than usual – this was a 5/5 in difficulty, after all), exactly what was going on quickly became clear:

  • 17A: Activity for the lead actress in “Here Lies Love” — PLAYING IMELDA
  • 35A: WWI song by George M. Cohan — OVER THERE
  • 40A: Irregular — NONUNIFORM
  • 63A: Home of the National Menorah — WASHINGTON DC

A pretty solid set of theme clues.  PLAYING IMELDA is just a little off from the format of the rest of the theme answers, but GIMEL’s a tough word to hide and it let me post an awesome clip from the concept album that preceded the show Francis referenced in the clue (Here Lies Love, all about Imelda Marcos), so it’s all good.  Plus, we’re not quite done with this puzzle.  As promised in the notes, besides these theme entries, there are four other related entries in the puzzle.  Taking the inspiration for the theme clues (the dreidel) and reviewing the rest of the grid, it’s possible to find the meaning of each dreidel side elsewhere:

  • GIMEL = ALL (12A)
  • HE = HALF (27A)
  • NUN = NOTHING (40D)
  • SHIN = PUT IN (66A)

Taking the first letter of the clues for these entries when they’re put in alphabetical order gives the final answer, our prize for solving:

  • 14A: “Good Morning to ___” (song adapted into “Happy Birthday to You”)
  • 27A: Eight ounces, relative to a pound
  • 40D: Love, to Venus?
  • 66A: Totalitarian-ish Russing president Vladimir

Yes, GELT, the chocolate coins beloved by all that you can buy in bulk online (I know this because I purchased a lot of it for a puzzle hunt earlier in the year where we challenged teams to create visual representations of winter sports with the stuff.  Pictures are here!  There’s also some other holiday-related puzzle there if you’re into that sort of thing.) is the final answer.  I found the meta extraction on this one okay, but a little underwhelming – I’m sure it wasn’t, but it felt like something that could have been retrofitted into the grid rather than constructed around this (like some of Francis’ other amazing puzzles for the AVCX)

Other nice clues from the puzzle:

  • 21A: Escalator’s snakelike counterpart in a “SpongeBob SquarePants” game — EEL (I haven’t seen an episode of SpongeBob in probably 2 or 3 years, and yet my brain immediately remembered the Chutes & Ladders variant in the show.  My brain scares me sometimes.)
  • 57A: Ulysses Grant et al.  — HIRAMS (This clue stumped me for far longer than it should have in the lower left corner)
  • 62A: Pretentious way to announce oneself — IT IS I
  • 12D: Zappos, e.g. — ETAILER (I dislike this almost as much as its close friend EMAG.  No one calls these those things!)
  • 42D: Locations in “Agnes of God” and “The Sound of Music” — NUNNERIES (Before I realized what was going on with the theme clues, I kept trying to make this ABBEYS, because nuns, despite the fact that ABBEYS is too short.)

Overall, some solid fill and fun cluing, but a so-so meta brought this one down for me.

3/5 Stars

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5 Responses to AV Club Contest – December 9, 2015

  1. Francis says:

    The intended alphabetization method was to use the Hebrew alphabet and sort the clues by their associated Hebrew letters (although anagramming EGLT isn’t really going to cause anyone much trouble). Coincidentally, the game instructions are also alphabetized in that order, but whatcha gonna do.

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Good puzzle! I figured out the theme soon enough, but never did get through the meta. It’s neat, though.

    No idea what accounts for the smattering of 1- and 1.5-star ratings pulling down Francis’s average. Either there’s a War on Hanukkah or someone’s got it in for Francis.

    • Alex says:

      I’d say it’s because the gimel part of the rebus doesn’t work without relying on a random, arbitrary phrase and a made-up sounding word. That kind of spoils the whole thing for me.

  3. Ronny says:

    Try to think of someone even an elerdly friend or family member that may not have anyone to spend it with. You can go to a movie, have dinner at a diner many are open just for the holiday and serve Thanksgiving specials. Volunteering is a good idea too.Also a good idea is to plan fun things around the holiday (a lot of businesses are closed on that day) but if you plan a spa for the day before or a shopping spree (not black Friday unless you are brave) for following weekend it will also help chase away lonely holiday blues.I am newly single too and I will plan for next year just in case I am single still then, to spend it on a a vacation which will take my mind off of any pity party. Hope this helps.References :

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