Solution: Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other

Written by wolf

Solvers are presented with two lists of crossword-style clues, the second list much more obtuse than the first. After confirming several of the clues in the first list and using the title as aid, solvers should realize that the first list is in alphabetical order, and every single answer is six letters long.

Former studentsALUMNI
H.P. Lovecraft settingARKHAM
Political protectionASYLUM
Trick-taking card gameBRIDGE
Author McCullersCARSON
Country singer CorbinEASTON
Surname of Mama CassELLIOT
Former girlfriend of Scott PilgrimKNIVES
______ algebraLINEAR
Footballer MessiLIONEL
Rich heiress on The Suite Life of Zack & CodyLONDON
Artist DuchampMARCEL
Legislative proposalMOTION
It includes Word and ExcelOFFICE
Father of quantum theoryPLANCK
Chemist that discovered the law of definite proportionsPROUST
One of the friends on FriendsRACHEL
Aprile of The SopranosRICHIE
Group of fishSCHOOL
“Pleasant Valley ______”SUNDAY

The next step is to realize that the bottom ordered list has half the number of clues in the first half—and the clues from the top list can pair up to form (6, 6) phrases that fit the clues on the bottom list.

The final clues are given in order for extraction:

Church activity SUNDAY SCHOOL
French author MARCEL PROUST
Setting of several video gamesARKHAM ASYLUM
Physics 101 topic LINEAR MOTION
Nursery rhyme subject LONDON BRIDGE
Minuscule unit PLANCK LENGTH
They might ask for donations ALUMNI OFFICE
Environmentalist RACHEL CARSON
Possibly thrown objects COMBAT KNIVES
Left-handed guitarist ELLIOT EASTON

Reading the first letter of the words (both the left and right parts of each phrase) gives us two more clues to solve: SMALL PARCEL, which clues PACKET, and SPAM BLOCKER, which clues FILTER. Combining them produces one last (6, 6) phrase: PACKET FILTER, which is the answer.