Thursday, November 24, 2022, Samantha Podos Nowak

Posted by admin on

 Sports Heroes

I was unable to find a trace of Samantha Podos Nowak in the LA Times database, nor anywhere else on the Internet (Google, Facebook, etc), so this looks like her puzzle debut.   

The characters referred to in Samantha's theme originated in the comic fantasies of the  Marvel Comic Universe (MCU)  and its competitor DC Comics (DC).   As a MCU/DC newbie, I can't begin to explain the world they live in, nor their complex relationships, but the preceding Wiki links can get you started if you're interested. 

The themers all start with the word "When" and end with a "_____" for you to fill in.  The first word of each fill is a character from one of the universes (MCU or DC), followed by a second word giving a common phrase.  The original comics have long since morphed into many movies and video game adaptations and are BIG business.  Several of the characters have appeared in multiple movies, and have been played by multiple actors.  I believe some of the characters have occasionally appeared in both universes.  Here are the themers:

19A. When one of the X-Men needs to communicate with the pitcher, __: STORM SIGNALS (MCU).   Storm is a superhero who first appeared in Marvel Comics in May 1975.  Descended from a long line of African witch-priestesses, she is a member of a fictional subspecies of humans born with superhuman abilities known as mutants. She is able to control the weather and atmosphere and is considered to be one of the most powerful mutants on the planet, and one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe.

33A. When a member of the Justice League has possession of the football, __: FLASH DRIVES.  The Flash is a superhero who first appeared in DC Comics in 1956.  Because he is a speedster, his power consists mainly of superhuman speed. Various other effects are also attributed to his ability to control the slowness of molecular vibrations, including his ability to vibrate at speed to pass through objects. The Flash wears a distinct red and gold costume treated to resist friction and wind resistance, traditionally storing the costume compressed inside a ring.
41A. When one of Marvel's Avengers needs to create a lineup card, __: VISION PLANSVision first appeared in Marvel Comics in August 1968.  He is an android (sometimes called a "synthezoid") built by the villainous robot Ultron.  Originally intended to act as Ultron's "son" and destroy the Avengers, Vision instead turned on his creator and joined the Avengers to fight for the forces of good. Since then, he has been depicted as a frequent member of the team, and, for a time, was married to his teammate, the Scarlet Witch. He also served as a member of the Defenders

You'll notice that each themer is also a reference to either baseball or football and hence the reveal:

50A. Idolized athletes, and an apt title for this puzzle?: SPORTS HEROES.

Let's finish with some real SPORTS HEROES in OUR Universe.

Here's the grid:

Now that we're back on Earth, we'll now consider the rest of the clues.


1. Intro to physics?: METAMETAPHYSICS, a topic explored in depth in the 2005 Sci-Fi fantasy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  Here's Deep Thought, voiced by Helen Mirren, with the answer to the meaning of life:

5. Fundamentals: ABCSThe metaphysics of OUR reality.

9. __ test: BETA.  This type of test is often done by the programmers.  All of the rest are done by YOU.

13. Monopoly token replaced by a cat: IRON.  Betcha Hahtoolah had something to do with this.
14. "Yeah, why not?": SURE.  But see also 44D.

15. Has status: RATES.  Doesn't it depend on the RATING?

16. Breaking point: LAST STRAW.  Here's the STRAW'S side of the story ...
18. Coming up: ON TAP.  Coming right up!

21. App pop-ups: ADS. Do you get a lot of these when you read Corner comments on your cell phone?

24. "That's __-brainer!": A NO

25. Called before: NEE.

26. Concentrate: FOCUS.

28. Achievement for a goal-oriented player?: HAT TRICKEver wondered why scoring three goals in one game is called a hat-trick?

36. Spanish Mrs.: SRASenora.

37. High-voiced Muppet: ELMO.

38. Allude (to): REFER.

39. "The Night Circus" novelist Morgenstern: ERINThe Night Circus is a 2011 fantasy novel  originally written for the annual writing competition National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) over the span of three competitions. The novel has a nonlinear narrative written from multiple viewpoints.
Erin Morgenstern

40. Mushroom top: CAP
43. Pronged spears: TRIDENTS.  The TRIDENT is often associated with marine deities such as Poseidon and Neptune because the weapon was most commonly used for fishing.  But they have other uses.
45. Seamaster watchmaker: OMEGA.  These cost thousands of dollars, but they're much cheaper if you buy them used. Every 10 years or so I get a new Timex Ironman Classic.  Last time it was $30 dollars, now it's going for $40 dollars (yikes!):
Timex Ironman Classic
46. "Shoot!": ASK.

47. Airport rental: CAR.

49. "__ Misérables": LES.   Les Misérables is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, that is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century.  The novel follows the lives and interactions of several characters, particularly the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption.  Examining the nature of law and grace, the novel elaborates upon the history of France, the architecture and urban design of Paris, politics, moral philosophy, antimonarchism, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love. Les Misérables has been popularized through numerous adaptations for film, television and the stage, including a musical.  Hand up if you've read the novel?

56. Uncanny: EERIE.  80% vowels!

57. Like a wide load: OVERSIZED.

61. Rise to the top of a news feed, say: TREND.

62. Ham or lamb: MEAT.

63. Sushi wrapper: NORINori is a dried edible seaweed used in Japanese cuisine, made from a red algae genus.  It has a strong and distinctive flavor, and is often used to wrap rolls of sushi ("Maki").
Drying Nori

64. Nasty hangover?: SMOG.  Clever clue.

65. Writer Bombeck: ERMAErma Louise Bombeck (February 21, 1927 – April 22, 1996) was an American humorist who achieved great popularity for her newspaper humor column describing suburban home life, syndicated from 1965 to 1996. She also published 15 books, most of which became bestsellers.
Erma Bombeck

66. Vice president between Quayle and Cheney: GORE.


1. The Brewers, in box scores: MIL.  The Milwaukee Brewers are members of the National League Central division and are named for the city's association with the brewing industry.  Since 2001, they have played their home games at American Family Field, which was named Miller Park through the 2020 season and has a seating capacity of 41,900 people.
2. Cy Young stat: ERAEarned Run Average, the average number of earned runs scored against the pitcher in every nine innings pitched.  Cy Young's career ERA was 2.63.

3. Lean-__: TOS.

4. Aardvark meal: ANTS.  By pure co-incidence, ANT-MAN just happens to be a member of the Marvel Comic Universe

5. __ Martin: ASTON.  Sean Connery chased Dr. No around Jamaica in an Aston Martin in last Thursday's puzzle.  And somebody just bought it last summer for $2.4 million bucks.

6. Beast of burden: BURRO.  Not this guy (lyrics) ...

7. Stuff: CRAM.  Best not to try stuffing it the night before the exam.

8. Follows a pattern, say: SEWS.

9. Stadium sign: BANNER.

10. "The Wallflower" jazz singer James: ETTAJamesetta Hawkins (January 25, 1938 – January 20, 2012), known professionally as Etta James, was an American singer who performed in various genres, including gospel, blues, jazz, R&B, rock and roll, and soul. Starting her career in 1954, she gained fame with hits such as "The Wallflower", "At Last", "Tell Mama", "Something's Got a Hold on Me", and "I'd Rather Go Blind".  Here she sings "The Wallflower" backed up by "The Peaches" ...

11. Turquoise kin: TEAL.  Here they are.  Below each color are the "RGB codes" you can use to reproduce the precise hues with a computer:

12. Egyptian snakes: ASPS.  Last week it was MAMBAS, this week it's ASPS.  Maybe we should get St. Patrick in here and drive 'em all out.

15. Webster's shelfmate: ROGETS.  I found only one synonym for ROGET in the online and it  led me to this.
Peter Mark Roget

17. Secret supply: STASHFLASH keeps his secret STASH in his ring.

20. Future resident: INTERNAn INTERNSHIP is actually the first year of a RESIDENCY.

21. Change: AFFECT

22. Buck: DOLLAR.

23. Garlicky dish: SCAMPI.   Here's a recipe.

27. Gp. for the troops: USOUnited Service Organization.  Here's Mr. USO himself with Francis Langford and Patty Thomas entertaining the troops in 1944 ...

28. Old audio systems: HI FIS.

29. Chevy subcompact: AVEO.  The Chevrolet Aveo (sold as Chevrolet Sonic in North America and parts of Asia since 2011) is a subcompact car manufactured since 2002 (by Daewoo from 2002 to 2011).  The second generation Sonic began with the 2012 model year and was also marketed as the Aveo; production ended in October 2020.
2011 Chevrolet Aveo

30. Mideast birthplace of actress Gal Gadot: ISRAELGal Gadot-Varsano (born 30 April 1985) is an Israeli actress, model, and former Miss Israel. Her first international film performance was in Fast & Furious (2009), where she played Gisele Yashar.  By another pure co-incidence it turns out that she's our puzzle's 5th superhero, joining the Justice League in the film Wonder Woman 1984 released in 2020:
Gal Gadot

31. React to an awkward moment, say: CRINGE.

32. "The Wizard of Oz" setting: KANSAS.  Here's Dorothy on her way from KANSAS to OZ ...

34. Gin and tonic: DRINKS.  Cocktail wouldn't fit.

35. Staff symbol: REST.  Take 5 and check this out.

39. Dartboard wood: ELM.  For some reason I always thought they were made of cork.   Here's the history of dart boards.  Two weeks ago I was indebted to CrossEyedDave for posting the epic "joke scene" in Roxanne that resulted when Charlie Wales (played by Steve Martin) lost a game of darts.  For those of you who missed it ...

41. __ interest: VESTED.  Show me a politician without any VESTED interests, and I'll show you a one handed lawyer.

42. Facial mask targets: PORES.  Clever clue.

44. Willing to take risks: DARING.  The cost of living.  See 59D.

47. Half of half-and-half: CREAM.

48. Vital blood vessel: AORTAEverything you might want to know about the AORTA (except maybe for you MD's out there).

50. Hardens: SETS.  Before mixing 5 minute epoxy, make sure you have a PLAN.

51. Make waves?: PERM.  "To PERM?"

52. Cookie with a limited edition Pumpkin Spice flavor: OREO.  Just in time for today's dessert!

53. Word before and after sweet: HOME.

54. "Best. Day. __!": EVER.  Thank you Google ...

55. Join the chorus: SING

58. Herpetologist's employer: ZOO.  We could use one to keep track of all the ASPS, ADDERS, COBRAS, and MAMBAS slithering around the blog.

59. __ on the side of caution: ERR.  We should "ERR on the side of caution" if there is a significant risk of a negative outcome.  Thus tests for cancer should be designed with the lowest possible margin for error: a false negative (type 2 error) would result in a case going undiagnosed and untreated, whereas a false positive (type 1 error) would likely lead to retesting.  Here's more about these  types of errors.

60. Game cube: DIE. The end!


As always, thanks to Terifor proof reading and for her constructive criticism.


Samantha Podos Nowak, you are invited to post anything you'd like to share about this puzzle, its evolution, the theme, or whatever, in the Comments section below.  We'd love to hear from you.

We wish you all a Happy, Blessed, and FILLINGFUL Thanksgiving!

Freedom From Want
Norman Rockwell 1943

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →