AV Club Contest – Wednesday, April 5

untimed (Ben) 


The deadline on the latest contest from the AV Club is up! Here’s how it all works out.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s American Values Club contest crossword, “Cuts Short At The Head”

My, but this was a nice, straightforward meta puzzle from BEQ.  As noted in the instructions, we’re looking for and “alternative cut.”  There’s also a bonus alternative cut that “pairs up with the meta answer in the style of the theme answers”, but we’ll get to that later.  Here’s this puzzle’s theme answers:


  • 17A: One who’s never bought a Klippan or an Ektorp? — IKEA VIRGIN
  • 20A: Keep one’s copy of the “Magic Man” single in a cage, for safety? — PEN YOUR HEART
  • 35A: Take one’s gibbon to a pawn shop? — HOCK THE MONKEY
  • 53A: Like tusks? — BONY AND IVORY
  • 58A: Pleasant, bountiful, and totally free of demons? — UNLIKE HELL

The title of this puzzle is “Cuts Short at the Head”, which seems a little odd until you realize that all of the theme answers are song titles missing their first letter.  There’s LIKE A VIRGIN”, OPEN YOUR HEART”, SHOCK THE MONKEY”, EBONY AND IVORY”, and RUN LIKE HELL”.  Taking this first letters in order from top to bottom, you get LOSER, which definitely counts as an alternative cut.  I’d dare say it’s an alternative classic.

Now for that bonus cut: looking for a related song by Beck, “Devil’s Haircut” seems thematically related (all of these answers got a haircut), AND it becomes Evil’s Haircut if the same process as the theme answers is applied.  I have no clue if this bonus part is right – if you found something else, place it in the comments below.

Overall, I thought this was a nice intro meta – enough of an AHA to get what’s going on and hopefully get you hooked on puzzles with hidden messages.  Well done, BEQ!

4/5 stars.

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14 Responses to AV Club Contest – Wednesday, April 5

  1. Neville says:

    I submitted the bonus answer of “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails, since it can be beheaded to become “Loser.” But what do I know?

  2. Eric Conrad says:

    My bonus answer was (C)loser to Fine by the Indigo Girls.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I also submitted (C)loser to Fine. The instructions for the bonus meta were vague, and it seemed to me that we needed a multi-word answer like the ones in the grid.

      • Eric Conrad says:

        Just got the email. The bonus was Closer by Nine Inch Nails.

        ‘However, we did not accept answers that included the word “closer” in longer titles, such as “Closer to You” or “Closer to Fine.”‘

      • Aura says:

        Instructions were a dumpster fire. “Loser” meta was easy, “bonus” meta needed to conform to the multi-word theme answers in the puzzle.

        • Matthew G. says:

          Except, apparently, not. I agree with you that the logical inference was that the bonus answer had to be multi-word to match the theme, but the official answer just went out and CLOSER was deemed correct but CLOSER TO FINE was not. I don’t get it.

        • Ben Smith says:

          I agree the bonus meta was underclued (an enumeration or some other nudge towards NIN would have been nice), but to call it a dumpster fire seems overly harsh.

          • Ben Tausig says:

            Thanks for the feedback everyone. Sorry the meta was confusingly worded! My bad!

            FWIW, almost everyone who submitted got the first bonus correct, and among those who attempted the second bonus, well over half got it right.

          • Maggie W. says:

            I read the bonus clue as requiring a second title of an alternative rock song that when paired with “Loser” formed the title of an 80s rock song, minus the first letter. So, like, if “To Fine” were a second song, it would “pair[] up with the meta answer in the style of the theme answers.” (Although the Indigo Girls are off genre.)

            For me, I guess, the ambiguity was in “pair up.”

  3. Howard says:

    I had “Losing My Religion” by REM. Seemed to make sense a week ago…

  4. Jim Q says:

    The Beck Song “F***in’ With My Head” woulda made a great title… I submitted it as the bonus knowing it was wrong-

  5. Paul Coulter says:

    I submitted cLOCKS by Coldplay as the bonus answer. LOCKS as the entry is five letters, and we were asked to pair it with the answer LOSER, also five letters. It seems to me you wouldn’t pair up an entry of cLOSER with LOSER. since they’d come to the same thing. Good theme, but a bit loose on what was wanted for the bonus.

  6. doug says:

    DNF – I saw LOSER going down, but the only thing that came to mind was “I’m a Loser”. The other tunes suggested in the comments I’ve never heard of. Guess I’m just too old. I don’t mind though. I still can play singles tennis with my 24 year-old grandson.

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