AVCX Contest – “The Nutcrackers”, December 18, 2019

untimed (Ben) 


The latest meta contest puzzle from Francis Heaney, “The Nutcrackers”, had its deadline for submissions close earlier this week. Here’s the solution.

AVCX 12/18/19 – “The Nutcrackers”

Last week’s contest was a 17×17 grid by Francis Heaney with some kind of meta going on under the surface.  If you looked at each of the long entries…

  • 19A: Italian science facility (yes, it’s real) that sounds like a good place to study whether the moon is made of cheese — ASIAGO OBSERVATORY
  • 25A: One making a birth plan, perhaps — EXPECTANT MOM
  • 42A:  Products of a certain Havana factory, once — LA CORONA CIGARS
  • 52A: Is unable to get enough passengers to make a cruise profitable — CAN’T FILL BERTHS
  • 68A: Reminder about deliveries on some long weekends — NO MAIL MONDAY
  • 77A: Unwisely not giving up on the pipe, in a way — SMOKING CASHED WEED

The mix of real phrases (ASIAGO OBSERVATORY, EXPECTANT MOM, LA CORONA CIGARS) and green paint-y things like CAN’T FILL BERTHS, NO MAIL MONDAY, and SMOKING CASHED WEED would be a little weird, if not for a few other things in the grid pointing you towards extracting the meta answer from all of these.

We’re told “[t]he answer to the meta is a word that describes someone 86-Across”.  86A’s clue is “Like many nutcrackers”, for which the answer is WOODEN.  Looking in each of these answers, there’s something that a nutcracker may be handy for:


Six nuts, each with something inside when you crack them open.  Those extra letters spell out the answer to this puzzle, STOLID, which means “calm, dependable, and showing little emotion or animation”, or, y’know, “wooden”.

All in all, this was clever, and pretty immaculately constructed, as tends to be the case with Francis’ puzzles.  Happy holidays if you’re celebrating this week!

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1 Response to AVCX Contest – “The Nutcrackers”, December 18, 2019

  1. Matthew G. says:

    Great puzzle, but the AVCX’s difficulty ratings continue to be very weird. This was no more than a week 2 on the Gaffney meta scale (and probably not even that), yet they gave it the highest difficulty rating the AVCX has.

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