AV Club Contest – Wednesday, February 22, 2017

untimed (Ben) 


The deadline on the latest contest from the AV Club is up! Here’s how the puzzle worked.

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

What a lovely post-Valentine’s puzzle from Francis.  I didn’t crack it in time, but looking at it again tonight (and talking with Joon Pahk) helped it all fall in place.  The note that comes along with the puzzle is the key to cracking what’s going on (and you’ll want to click the image at right to see the full grid on this one):

Thirteen couples in this grid (which you may recognize from seeing them here and there) have written letters to show their loving, devoted attachment to each other. If you intercept their mail and read it, you’ll see what they all are.

It’s that “here and there” that sticks out, because there are 13 other places in the clues (not the fill, we’ll get to that in a second) where another common X-and-Y phrase shows up:

  • 38A: Meal with an array of hot and cold dishes — FEAST
  • 48A: Rebel whose weapon might be a gun, or just pen and inkAGITATOR
  • 57A: Raining cats and dogs, say — WET
  • 81A: What people who hem and haw aren’t taking — ACTION
  • 90A: Obey a hard-and-fast closing time, say — CLEAR OUT
  • 104A: Prim-and-proper-seeming piece of needlework — DOILY
  • 106A: Untidy pile of bits and piecesHEAP
  • 14D: Uses a rod and reelCASTS
  • 61D: They may land fore and aft, in a game of Battleship — SALVOES
  • 73D: She and Mary-Kate share a mom and dad (and birthday) — ASHLEY OLSEN
  • 109D: Ones born and bred across the pond — BRITS
  • 121D: Glided to and froSLID
  • 124D: “___ way” (“Yes and no“) — IN A

Okay, now let’s get back to the grid, which I’ve posted again below.  All of the non-“and” words in those phrases?  Are in the grid, with each phrase connected by an extra letter:

  • WYES and NOW
  • TAO and AFRO
  • THEM and THAW
  • PEND and DINK
  • PROD and REPEL
  • SHOT and SCOLD
  • FORTE and TAFT
  • MOME and DEAD

The extra letters, in order from top-to-bottom, left-to-right, spelling out WANTED POSTERS, the final answer and what the various couples have been writing to one another.

This is a absolute feat of construction and cluing, and I’m truly in awe and how elegantly this was done.  Hope you enjoyed this one as much as I did – this is the sort of thing the AV Club does best in the indie crossword world.

5/5 stars.

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14 Responses to AV Club Contest – Wednesday, February 22, 2017

  1. austin says:

    dang, i did not get this when i first solved and a busy weekend meant i never really had time to look at it again. now i’m wishing i had made time.

    elegant af.

  2. e.a. says:

    avcx: here’s a 21×21 metapuzzle from francis heaney

  3. kaes says:

    Wow — I somehow solved this without ever seeing the pairs in the clues!! It took me a while to find all thirteen pairs in the grid without those hints, but in retrospect I’m glad I did it this way, because my mind was totally blown when I finally managed to uncover “BRITS and PIERCES.” Really nice (and subtle!) cluing makes this puzzle even better than I realized.

  4. Hand up as another person who never saw the X-and-Y phrases in the clues, but got the meta anyway from the grid alone. That is some devilish witchcraft there, Francis.

  5. Francis says:

    When I came up with the idea, my plan was to just have the pairs in the grid without having them repeated in the clues, but that seemed too mean, even for me. I’m extra impressed at anyone who solved it from the grid alone!

  6. Paul Coulter says:

    Spectacular feat of construction. We are not worthy, Francis.

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I made zero headway on the meta, but WOW. Amazing work!

  8. Keith says:

    Wow! Well done Francis! Amazing feat of construction! I had already emailed you but I was stuck because there just so happened to be thirteen pairs of letters in the puzzle. I thought these letter pairs were the “thirteen couples” hinted at in the meta text, but reading left to right/top to bottom meant nothing, so the best I could do was try to anagram them but even then, nothing made sense (beyond my lame entry of Boss Peed Me Off).

    I have no experience in solving metas (I’m still stuck on the last step of Patrick Blindauer’s Space Puzzlefest that I got during his Kickstarter) so I had no hopes for this, but I had a lot of fun attempting it!

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