I got nowhere with the meta on this, which made me apprehensive about ACPT. Accurately, as it turned out. The contest question for Dominick Talvacchio’s puzzle is “Two answers in this puzzle can have their letters anagrammed into a word that can precede a third answer in this puzzle to make a ninth theme answer. What is that theme answer?”
Each theme answer is a two-word phrase; the second word can be anagrammed to make another phrase.
- 19a [Starters] is FIRST TEAM (first mate).
- 24a [Mud block?] is SUGAR LUMP (sugar plum).
- 45a [Place where there might be a fan under the table] is a SPORTS BAR (sports bra).
- 50a [Fine Young Cannibals chart-topper from the movie “Tin Men”] is GOOD THING (good night).
- 70a [They’re often seen in the final minutes of close hockey games] is EMPTY NETS (empty nest).
- 80a [Major second] is a WHOLE TONE (whole note).
- 3d [Invisible member of a binary system] is DARK STAR (dark arts).
- 55d [Schussboomer’s place] is SKI SLOPES (ski poles).
The “hidden” answers are 14d [Article in El Diario] UNA and 15d [Favorite] PET, which can turn into PEANUT. Pair that with 86a [Cause of sneezing, perhaps] ALLERGY and you have PEANUT ALLERGY, which can be anagrammed into PEANUT GALLERY. Ta-da!
Waaay too many layers for me, and I don’t do well with anagrams most days anyway. A remarkable construction. I applaud the 90 people who got it right.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’ve never heard of ELYSE Levesque. She’s been busy, but I don’t watch that much TV.
We don’t have a tag for Dominick. Is this a debut?