Cryptic Puzzle

And the Winner Is . . .

And the Winner Is . . .

By Tom Toce

By Tom Toce
Some say puzzle-solving is good for the brain and may stave off dementia.

Some say puzzle-solving is good for the brain and may stave off dementia. Others say that puzzle-solving is only good for helping you get good at puzzle-solving. I’m happy either way, contributing to the common welfare or to time-wasting.

Puzzle-creating definitely helps the brain. I believe I have developed a superpower through shuffling words around, finding hidden meanings, and inventing intricate diagrams. I’ve recently learned that I can now predict the future! On November 3, 2020, our country will hold a presidential election. The entry at 17A calls for the winner. The election itself, to say nothing of the date when the winner is actually announced and accepted by all, occurs well after the publication of this magazine. How then am I able to reveal the winner, without risking a “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment? Solve the puzzle, is all I ask. If you do it correctly before November 3, you can amaze your friends.

There will be four proper nouns entered into the grid. (Another word could be a proper noun but doesn’t have to be.) There are two foreign words. Everything else is playable in Scrabble. Ignore punctuation, which is intended to confuse. Thanks to Bob Fink, Eric Klis, and Jerry Miccolis for test-solving and editorial suggestions.


1.   Brains do swim unusually

5.   Outlaw spoke

8.   Complicated if Steve is gay

11. Mature herb pruned

13. Crazy fact, Ian–crazy

14. Kind of elite, maybe?

15. Holy Ohio city?

17. Winner of the 2020 US presidential election

19. A yarn manufactured in Rome

24. Occupation of Letterman for some time

27. Put Jackson or Derek in, it may have an effect

29. Play “Runaround Sue”

30. Remember fall is coming back, exhibiting vivid imagery

31. To Marx, the less fortunate in recession

32. Salt on boiled claws


1.   White hat is how much?

2.   Strongly inclined with no time to move slowly

3.   Murder is wrong

4.   Nub fitting in the ear

5.   Podcast loop on Munch

6.   Pain-in-the-ass singer turned enthusiastic

7.   Before close, core reorganized to make money again

9.   Nosy stranger, given a little shot, becomes condescending

10. Amobarbital is used finally in prescriptions like this

12. Gory, thrown-together sandwich

16. It accompanies every other piece of Stravinsky, Poulenc, Penderecki, Liszt, Ives, and Hook

17. Ejected, with half of a law degree decided

18. What Cicero heard with Ares in ruins

20. Film director Kazan offering a lie indiscriminately

21. Standard units of nonconformists

22. Border patrol on permafrost

23. Bio dissection Tuesday, with a brief summary of what it all meant

25. Roue upset Mark’s replacement

26. Messages cut short in the kitchen

28. Killer whale disgorges rare tuber

Previous Issue’s Puzzle—Cryptic Corners


1.   DEPTH—DEPT (“Commerce or State”) + H (“have for starters”)

4.   SATES—STATES (“cases”)—T (“time”)

5.   ANODE—AN (“A”) + ODE (“dedicated passage”)

7.   UNHOLY—UN (from United Nations, “WHO’s parent”) + HOLY (homophone of WHOLLY, from “altogether”)

10. SINUS—Anagram of “sun is”

12. LARGESS—LA (“Los Angeles”) + first letters of “rookie gamely executes suicide squeeze”

17. SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED—Anagram of “boys squirmed, seem real”

18. TARGETS—TAR (“Sailor”) + GETS (“achieves”)

19. REPEL—Reversal of LEPER (“pariah”)

22. WHEEZE—WHEE (“Hooray”) + ZEBRA—BRA (“ref loses support”)

23. ASIDE—Anagram of “aides”

24. THEIR—T (“true”) + HEIR (“beneficiary”)

25. LARGO—Double definition


1.   DISMAY—DIS (“insult”) + MAY (“Spider-Man’s aunt”)

2.   PATHOS—PATH (“NY/NJ rapid transit” + OS (“operating system”)

3.   HASTEN—HAS (“takes in”) + TEN (“Hamilton”)

6.   DIMMER—Reversal of MMI (“2001”) inside RED (“communist”)

7.   UPSET—UPS (“big brown truck”) + ET (“little green man”)

8.   HOMER—Double definition

9.   LEAVE—LEAVEN (“add yeast”) omitting “the last”

11. STYLES—Double definition

12. LEER—Reversal of REEL (“stumble”)

13. ROUGH—Homophone of RUFF (“sound from a dog”)

14. EERIE—E (“empty”) + ERIE (“lake town”)

15. SIDLE—S (“Small”) + IDLE (“useless”)

16. ASKS—TASKS (“duties”)—T (“taking 20% off the top”)

20. PASTEL—Anagram of “petals”

21. LINEAR—Inside “metal in earth”

22. WEIRDO—Homophone of WE’RE DOE (“female deer identifying themselves”)


BELT—Double definition

HOWE—HOW (“what state”) + E (“error”)

APEX—APE (“Gorilla”) + X (“crossing”)

DUES—Homophone of DOS (“parties”)

LADY—LAD (“boy”) + Y (“health club”)

TOES—Reversal of every other letter in “seen out”

HEAR—Anagram of “hare”

TUNE—Homophone of TOON (“Jessica Rabbit”)


Correction: I inadvertently omitted Todd Dashoff’s name from the list of solvers last time.

Team AALO (Kristen Bischoff, Danny Clark, Kristen Detwiler, Alec Pirritano, Zach Gerth); Steve Alpert; Anthony Amodeo; Dean Apps; Jack Brauner; Bob Campbell; Lois Cappellano; Todd Dashoff; Mick Diede; Deb Edwards; Bob Fink; Mendy Friedman; Phil Gollance; Pete Hepokoski; Catharine Hornby; Max Jackson; Ruth Johnson; Eric Klis; Paul Kolell; Mike Kosciuk; Ken Kudrak; Ben Lynch; Dave McGarry; Jon Michelson; Jim Muza; David and Corinne Promislow; Alan Putney; Jay Ripps; Leaor Schwartz; Bill Scott; Andrew Shewan; Karen Skoglund; Zig Swistunowicz; Team KT (Katie Anderson & Megan Taylor); T. O. C. E. (Josh DenHartog and Sean Donohoe); Betsy and James Uzzell

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