AV Club Crossword – 23 March 2016

Last week’s AVCX was a meta called PILE UP. The deadline for submission was Sunday. You know what to do!

AV meta 3 23

“Pile Up”

Constructor: Francis Heaney

Difficulty: 3.5/5

Theme: Meta puzzle that asks for a good alternate title made up of two reversed grid entries that form a common phrase.

The circled letters in the grid are in little stacks of two, spaced evenly, and spell out CORDUROY, VELVET and SHAG CARPET. Obviously, all three of these are kinds of carpeting — it’s a little weird that CARPET is included in the last one, but I guess SHAG wouldn’t have been enough on its own. The title is a reference to carpet pile (the woven upper layer of carpeting).

Anyway, there are only a handful of grid entries that form actual words, but the two we’re looking for are PAN (58A: Swivel the camera) and EMIT (59A: Discharge), which reverse to nap time, the answer to the meta. In textiles, nap appears to be more or less a synonym for pile.

Ben: This is alright. The meta was pretty hard to miss, but it’s smoothly executed. The impact was muted for me, because I don’t know anything about textiles — I ended up making a list of possible words, spotting “nap time” as the likely answer, and Googling “carpet nap” to confirm. Admittedly, that may just be a knowledge gap on my part.

I kind of wish the grid-spanners had something to do with the meta. Still, two of the three longer entries (DEMOLITION DERBY and PAVE THE GOAT PATH) are fun. I didn’t know the latter, but it was easy enough to work out once I filled in the letters from SHAG CARPET. The circled squares are supposed to be carpet fibres, I assume, but the impact is somewhat lost because of all the black squares in the gaps.

Some unusually constrained fill this week — working with triple-checked squares is no joke, which is probably why we end up with ARCO (which I’ve never heard of), UCSB (11D: Sch. near Goleta), SEC crossing NANTESRPGER (50D: One who enjoys playing D&D and such), and so on. To be honest, I was getting a little sick of the fill by the end of the puzzle, which almost never happens with AVCX.

In fairness, Francis works in UNIVALVEVERITE (31D: Cinema ___) and LAUREATE very smoothly, and there’s some fun cluing on HARD C (9D: Cold front?) and SHAMU (48D: Orca who died in 1971, not that you’d know since SeaWorld keeps using the name). But it’s not as snappy as I like, and I didn’t think the meta was quite good enough to justify the slightly iffy fill. It’s not bad or anything, just not up to the usual standard.

Liked the three opening Down clues — SMUDGE (1D: ___ stick (bundle of herbs burned ritually)), POSERS (2D: People who burn herbs ritually while knowing absolutely nothing about those rituals, e.g.) and AROMAS (3D: Scents, as may be sensed from incense). Those are all really good. And I’ve been reading a lot of Shakespeare lately, so EMENDS (22D: Polishes before printing) was fresh in my mind from footnotes — that was kind of cool. And I like 49A: The moral universe’s is long, but bends toward justice, hopefully as the clue for ARC — nice livening up of a very common crossword entry.

Not my favourite puzzle, but a good entry-level meta.

  1. e.a. said:

    LMAO i did not get circled/shaded squares in my version and was mystified as to how anyone solved this


  2. fheaney said:

    You’re not the only one who had that problem. What app were you using to solve? I know the circles displayed correctly in Across Lite. The pdf will always have the best visual representation of what’s going on any time there’s a gimmick.

    Thanks for the write-up. Just wanted to make one correction: velvet and corduroy aren’t types of carpet. (Pile and nap also refer to raised ridges on fabrics.)


    • Ben Johnston said:

      Ah, my mistake. That’ll teach me to skim the Wikipedia entry…


      • glasser said:

        The Android Standalone app shows circles when it is downloaded through their service but not when opened from a file.


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