Five Vie for Puzzler’s Mantle

Five Vie for Puzzler’s Mantle

Voting for the next Nation puzzler has now closed. Stay tuned for the announcement of the winner of our Crossword Puzzle Contest!


(PLEASE NOTE: The solutions to our contestants’ puzzles are now available.)

Almost sixty-four years ago a duel was fought in these pages. Wielding wits rather than rapiers, the masked duelists—a “Mr. X” and a “Mr. Y”—vied for the prize: the mantle of Nation puzzle master Jack Barrett, who had died in a boating accident.
It was 1947. Scarcely a soul is now alive who remembers the fray. Mr. X and Mr. Y squared off on the back page of the magazine with six fiendish cryptic crossword puzzles apiece, which alternated over a dozen epic weeks. Nation puzzlers (a perspicacious and picky lot) cast their votes. And the winner was [flourish of trumpets]—Mr. Y, with three-fifths of the vote!
Mr. Y was revealed to be one Frank W. Lewis, in the October 18, 1947, Nation: “Mr. Lewis, a research analyst for the War Department [despite this modest ID, we note that Frank was a highly decorated World War II code-cracker], writes that he ‘became a puzzle addict while on a tour of duty in England, where the so-called British Crossword appears in most papers.’ ” Back home in the States, he “turned to Jack Barrett as the only American whose puzzles held sustained interest.”
So began Frank’s sixty-two-year reign on the back page of The Nation.
Bearing this illustrious history in mind, the current editors have sent forth the word: there is to be another duel in these pages—a cryptic crossword contest to select Frank’s successor (Frank died last year at age 98; we have been running golden oldies since his retirement a year earlier). Readers will once again be asked to vote for their favorite on a field of crushing cruciverbalist combat. Once again the hallowed mantle will pass to a new master.
This time around five finalists, chosen from dozens of highly qualified aspirants, are pitted against one another. This time the contest is not drawn out over twelve issues but is contained here in one issue. And this time readers will vote using twenty-first-century technology—an online poll.
So, dear reader/puzzler, now you must do your part. On the following pages you will find five puzzles, each by a different puzzle “setter” (the official term). Match your wits with these five adversaries, whom we have given noms du plume a bit trickier than Mr. X and Mr. Y. You are charged: skate their surfaces, unscramble their anagrams, wince at their puns, judge their erudition, cut their Gordian knots. Then cast your ballot. (You have four weeks to make up your mind.) May the best man, or woman, win.

Nestor Nightspree
 1 Diplomatic fault overwhelms Croat outsiders. (7)
 5 Surrounded by hundreds, I follow young female model. (7)
 9 What certain numbers are silently in math can be shouted about a rank beginner. (7)
10 Tore back cover of indifferent corporate artwork, exposing prurient material. (7)
11 Planetarium hosts Basque separatists. (3)
13 Long noun? (6)
15 Does this mean one might smell Mr. Aspin, or try to? (It’s difficult, with a cold.) (8)
19 Alien killer eliminates fifty. (8)
22 Endive, covered with lines. (6)
23 Carry away broken slide top, finally. (6)
24 Illuminated one entrance for contest. (8)
27 Clear and reorganize datebook. (8)
31 For a scoop, see the medic at the border. (6)
33 This change portends big things. (3)
35 To bully and beat someone’ll make your hair stand up! (7)
36 A tiger with cool head hides in smoke. (7)
37 An attack has been arranged, or so I hear. (7)
38 Disrupt tour and seek out capitol dome. (7)
 1 Takes down stories about Cork’s surroundings. (7)
 2 In Reno, rocker returned as local official. (7)
 3 Barely discernible collapse. (5)
 4 To mother, this was a real find. (4)
 5 Could one make such a getaway with a broken lance? (5)
 6 A jester returns, but remains apart. (5)
 7 Quiet, yet brewing. (5)
 8 Riding gear for English gentlemen. (5)
12 Ruler takes part in agent’s arrest. (4)
14 Argued about gag held askew. (7)
16 30 to a formal occasion? (7)
17 I left office work for a good time. (5)
18 It’s what’s happening! (5)
20 Terrain where a big cat might be heard. (5)
21 No more cream, please—there’s plenty in here. (5)
24 Instrument one might rely on. (4)
25 Found with Bismarck’s blood on the hearth. (7)
26 Perhaps she looks good in black? (7)
27 James or Chanel, with a hot beverage. (5)
28 Drop the cow. (5)
29 Creating a racket in soy exchange. (5)
30 Requested that a desk be moved. (5)
32 Correct girth. (5)
34 Care about the maple tree. (4)
Give up? Here’s the solution!

Barney Prey
 1 Crosses liqueur with fifth of bourbon found in stockpile. (5,2,3,4)
 9 Trying to lose weight? Eat in, do exercises. (2,1,4)
10 Sort of vibration affected elm root. (7)
11 Expressions of gratitude for us carrying something to cry on. (5-4)
12 Brought back tired old fitness routine. (3,2)
13 Quaint roses covering up openings. (6)
14 Criticize perfect limousine feature. (3,5)
17 Really enjoyed oneself with one fleeting touch in corridor. (3,1,4)
19 Saying team’s starter is in the grip of liquor. (6)
22 Once again offend sap? (5)
24 The commercials involving coffee server get people’s attention. (4,5)
25 Leave a music group giving a performance. (7)
26 Land camera I misplaced. (7)
27 Previously communicated with a factory’s leaders and ordered it done. (14)
 1 Motorboat’s Southern harbor, if backtracking Northern general. (14)
 2 Unyielding worker follows opening of Aswan Dam. (7)
 3 British assemblage comes together, withdrawing chemical weapon. (5,4)
 4 Not one working concept. (6)
 5 Clumsy giant has run into trouble. (3,1,4)
 6 Sandwich muffling each feeble complaint. (5)
 7 Approaching wild ocelots. (5,2)
 8 According to reports, nut rounded up famous murder suspect. (7,7)
15 Browns full of energy before one game. (9)
16 Elevated mass unit a record for element. (8)
18 Female included in nudist affair. (7)
20 Tack a note up from Florence, perhaps. (7)
21 Delegate or prosecutor elected. (6)
23 Low bridges in a directory. (5)
Give up? Here’s the solution!
Remi Silk-Knee
 1 44- degree game in which we arrange the Cards against the Crimson Tide, briefly. (6,5)
 7 Cap primary energy allotment for a mission the CIA might undertake. (6,9)
 9 Cuban currency that’s no longer in use. (4)
10 Go out to repair store image. (3,4,3)
12 Appreciated actor Oliver engages a star named Taylor. (8)
13 See 24
15 Transport through western Georgia mired in snow. (6)
17 Skulduggery of chef Bobby is captivating—o my gosh! (4,4)
20 Hoodwink chum, taking in a returning thief from French literature. (10)
21 Poem manages to include a Jane Austen character. (4)
23 Aphorism that does not apply to the Isle of Man? (2,3,2,2,6)
24 and 13 Viola seeker has pen in play! (11,2,4)
 1  Absorb a variant part for a European site. (7)
 2 Scarce arrow-borne poison, once copper is extracted. (4)
 3 Coed lets loose, having not revealed a sexual orientation. (8)
 4 Where a Ukrainian might be passed over, smuggling some lifted letters. (6)
 5 In a way to trigger panic buttons, sending weapons into friendly nation. (10)
 6 Discard two caplets of vitamin A, and return orange in a lively musical manner. (7)
 7 A CNN employee arrived, still wet behind the ears, at a Mideast nation. (11)
 8 You might have one in your household staff disruptively demur, “Nay, sir!” (11)
11 Adapting an awkward subject of the “eats shoots and leaves” joke. (5,5)
14 Gingerly prepare to take dinner, eating frequently. (6,2)
16 Creatures of myth biting the tail off manticore to get plans for life? (7)
18 Drink from Long Island sent to Gettysburg victor. (7)
19 Stuck-up, cheesy legionnaire guards the French president’s palace. (6)
22 A land where Mongkut was king, almost all the way to the end! (4)
Give up? Here’s the solution!

Sean-Carlo Rewind
 1 Dismayed? Ah, tags misspelled. (6)
 4 Testing biblical weapon around camp mostly. (8)
10 Colored cooks get Pine MD. (9)
11 Los Angeles room is loaded. (5)
12 Pet perhaps in “Fudge-Nut” mart. (7)
13 Bit of glitter in Spanish fish. (7)
14 Hoses Tuesday around big top. (5)
16 Calling up third of inventory: ring, ruler… (8)
19 Erl’s idea: “Dance of the Stars.” (8)
21 Somewhat sinister, nasty and grim. (5)
23 Reference to $100 in “Rent” show. (7)
25 Not noticing United Nations area out around point. (7)
27 Lose tremor. (5)
28 Scuba gear, e.g., and half a reel kept by swimmers. (9)
29 Introduction Tour—ever fresh. (8)
30 Separated fibers of meal with speed, oddly. (6)
 1 Cut off from first aid: wildcat, mutt, ape. (8)
 2 “Indian Building Pig!”—article. (5)
 3 Central Russians trespass on edges of Arkansas mountains. (7)
 5 Serious illness takes eastern assistants. (5)
 6 Fish and headless doll in knapsack. (7)
 7 Ending ice cream need. (9)
 8 Look into organ deregulation. (6)
 9 Poison part-time love and principal sweet-heart. (8)
15 Dreadful cafe’s brie in lawyer’s possession. (9)
17 “Birds” rule US TV broadcasting. (8)
18 Raw poetry in “Semi-Fecund.” (8)
20 Note athletic core and hands: that’s initially a factor. (7)
21 City’s key in sink. (7)
22 Painting escape in back. (6)
24 River tribe is new. (5)
26 Supports mid-season: maintains wager. (5)
Give up? Here’s the solution!

Cosima K. Coinpott
 1 Actor Eric and Newton are well-known in tropical country. (6,8)
 9 Deranged, lewd dad wasted time. (7)
10 Reactionary company: leading American organization with far-reaching influence. (7)
11 South African province with no citrus? (6,4,5)
12 The nearly optimal Egyptian location. (6)
13 Spotty cloth by arrangement. (7)
17 Sing off key and do wrong registers. (5,2)
19 Facilitate baleen conversion. (6)
21 Head north to chatter shrilly—begged to catch glimpse of a legendary old sow-and-sow? (6,9)
24 Exclude upper-class sign in groove. (4,3)
25 You do it to software in a stable. (7)
26 What shows up repeatedly in this puzzle: frequently, that guy with long, low, backwards underwear. (5,2,3,4)
  1 Rising, society girl updates her blog with places to keep her chewing gum overnight. (8)
 2 London prison yields the latest scandal? (7)
 3 Anaïs clothes Simon in a pale color. (4,5)
 4 Freed from ignition starter in broken-down Ford. (3,2)
 5 Layer covering rodeo cowboy in a suitable way. (8)
 6 Gabby testimony conceals pieces of memory. (5)
 7 Accuse one British politician apiece. (7)
 8 Reportedly, walkway is key. (4)
14 Famous waltz sounds all racket-and-ballish? (9)
15 Herb mixed iron with talc. (8)
16 Swinger’s unsightly nude lump. (8)
18 Popular, healthy Republican? Bill Clinton claimed he was not one. (7)
20 Hybrid beast’s stinger raised Norwegian king. (7)
21 Sixties dance from Jamaica? (4)
22 Getting up, I cry out for a woman. (5)
23 Run off and run quickly, losing a second. (5)
Give up? Here’s the solution!


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