I’m still on vacation in Florida so today’s post will skip notes about non-theme answers and clues. But here’s a quick plug for an upcoming puzzle book. Eric Berlin’s “Puzzlesnacks” features more than 100 bite-size puzzles of several different varieties, ranging from easy to more challenging. The book is due to be released on July 30 and you can preorder it here. Eric’s “Winston Breen” puzzle series for children has garnered a ton of critical acclaim from puzzle solvers all over, so you can expect good things from “Puzzlesnacks.”


Solution to July 14, 2019 crossword, "Losing the Plot" (Evan Birnholz/The Washington Post)

Today’s puzzle features a meta with the following prompt: “What nine-letter noun has been lost from this puzzle?” Like so many shows before them, the TV shows in this puzzle seem to have compelling plots until they go off the rails, unable to sustain their success over the course of many seasons. Each show is based on a real title with one letter deleted:

  • 23A: [Political drama about a Democratic president, his advisers . . . and a flooded White House section?] is “THE WET WING,” based on “THE WEST WING.”
  • 25A: [Dramedy set on a luxury cruise ship . . . whose captain is a creature with a romantic squeeze?] is “THE LOVE BOA,” based on “THE LOVE BOAT.”
  • 46A: [Legal drama about the spouse of a disgraced politician . . . who happens to be a deity?] is “THE GOD WIFE,” based on “THE GOOD WIFE.”
  • 48A: [Drama about penitentiary inmates planning an escape . . . using only a bird’s bill?] is “PRISON BEAK,” based on “PRISON BREAK.”
  • 62A: [Dramedy set in the 1960s and 1970s . . . featuring Kevin Arnold’s magical listening organs?] is “THE WONDER EARS,” based on “THE WONDER YEARS.”
  • 77A: [Sitcom about a pair of roommates . . . and a quirky two-door car?] is “THE ODD COUPE,” based on “THE ODD COUPLE.”
  • 94A: [Sitcom about the Seaver family . . . and cookware items that never stop increasing in size?] is “GROWING PANS,” based on “GROWING PAINS.”
  • 110A: [Sitcom about scientists, their relationships . . . and a gigantic purse?] is “THE BIG BAG THEORY,” based on “THE BIG BANG THEORY.”
  • 121A: [Horror drama that serves as a prequel to “Psycho” . . . but set in a lodge full of flying mammals?] is “BATS MOTEL,” based on “BATES MOTEL.”

Take the deleted letters from each title in order, and they spell out STORY LINE. In retrospect, it would have been fun to do this same theme with JUMP THE SHARK as the target phrase, but even fitting in nine wacky titles proved to be challenging. Fitting in 12 might have demolished Puzzle Headquarters entirely.

A heads-up that next week’s puzzle is going to be a challenging one. Never fear; you’ve got this.