Francis Heaney’s American Values Club contest crossword, “Magazine Inserts”
I love this theme—familiar phrases get a magazine name inserted into their midst, converting the phrases into goofy, made-up stuff:
- 23a. [Seagoing vessel that's shot?], PELLET BOAT. PT boat, Elle.
- 28a. [Strongest theory of where the next "Real Housewives" show will be set?], TOP BRAVO GUESS. Top brass, Vogue.
- 36a. [Nickname for the lead singer of Aerosmith, who keeps spilling glittery paint on himself?], GOLD STAINS TYLER. Gold star, InStyle.
- 50a. ["Check out the nifty guitar sound in this Judas Priest cover band we formed!"?], DIG OUR METAL TONE. Dial tone, Gourmet.
- 69a. [Feather duster's gay best friend in "Beauty and the Beast," as portrayed by Harvey Fierstein?], RASPING MOP. Rag mop, Spin.
- 74a. [Medical cleansing procedure provided by the city?], CIVIC ENEMA. Cinema, Vice.
- 89a. ["This inflammatory joint disease I'm suffering from couldn't be more perfect, Mr. Mineo"?], MY GOUT’S IDEAL, SAL. My Gal Sal, Outside.
- 103a. [Sugar pill that "the Science Guy" stops being addicted to?], PLACEBO NYE KICKS. Place kicks, Ebony.
- 112a. [Magical beings who deliver orgasms via neckwear-based autoerotic asphyxiation?], TIE CLIMAX IMPS. Tie clips, Maxim.
- 123a. [End of a proof showing the proper method of securing a sail to a mast?], FURLING Q.E.D. Fur-lined, GQ.
The crossword proper played like a Sunday puzzle, a little on the challenging end of the spectrum. Lots of fresh fill (PALEO DIET, PRAISE GOD, POGOS, Michael HANEKE, FANDANGO, GANGSTA, BOTTEGA Veneta, LA-Z-BOY) and not much in the way of compromised fill, despite the inclusion of 10 theme entries and some constraints on where those circled letters could land. And the clues! So much fun, with the lack of a newspaper puzzle’s space constraints:
- 32d. [Movie ticket site named after a dance, because why do things need to have anything to do with each other], FANDANGO.
- 18d. [Talking to customer service, typically], HASSLE.
- 20a. [President pushing both Sharia law and the gay agenda, according to some], OBAMA.
- 7d. [Chairman you shouldn't carry pictures of if you want to make it with anyone, per Lennon], MAO.
- 35a. [Gene who would ask "Is this film more interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch?"], SISKEL.
- 45a. [Crooked Ken Lay's crooked company], ENRON.
- 60a. [Interjection that seemingly no one on the internet can spell correctly], WHOA. Yes! Thank you, Francis (and Ben). I CRINGE every time I see “woah.” (See also: “hehe” for a laugh, “yah” or “yea” instead of “yeah.”)
As for the contest, the instructions were to tease out two “extra theme entries concealed in highlighted squares in the grid. …[I]t is up to you to determine which letters belong to which entry. One reads from left to right, and the other reads from top to bottom. The bonus clues are as follows:”
- Reading left to right in some highlighted squares: In “Lady and the Tramp,” what Lady requires to be a tramp? (3 words, 12 letters)
- Reading top to bottom in the remaining highlighted squares: When you can expect your soy sauce pastry to show up? (3 words, 15 letters)
To solve, I wrote out all the circled letters from left to right (A E D O G E I T S A T A L U R T C M R N L E E I D S A) and looked for words that could answer the tramp clue. There’s a DOG towards the beginning, and N*EE*DS near the end, so I pieced together DOG SLUT NEEDS, which is dogsleds + Utne. Then I highlighted those letters in my printed-out grid and read the remaining letters from top to bottom, and had TAMARI ECLAIR E.T.A., or ta-ta + Marie Claire.
Well played, Mr. Heaney! The meta wasn’t too hard—I’d place it at no more than Week 2 on the MGWCC Meta Challenge Scale. I always appreciate a meta that I can solve but that takes a few minutes of work. 4.5 stars from me.