Tomorrow night is the championship round of the Boswords Fall Themeless League. I have to give a lot of credit to the organizers John Lieb and Andrew Kingsley, editor Brad Wilber and the constructors for such a well-run multi-week virtual crossword tournament during the pandemic. Good puzzles, fun interviews with constructors and solvers ... what more could you ask for? After eight weeks, I finished 45th in the Stormy division with perfect solves on all eight themeless puzzles, and I was lucky to have my fastest solve on the last puzzle. Considering how stiff the competition is and how tough many of the Stormy clues were, I’ll take it. Best of luck to the top three finalists in their respective divisions -- you can watch the stream of the Stormy division finals here at 9 p.m. on Nov. 30.

Six phrases take a silent letter to create wacky phrases that sound exactly the same as the original phrases:

  • 23A: [Northern locale ruled by bearded folklore beings?] is GNOME ALASKA, based on Nome, Alaska.
  • 39A: [Offspring from the deified composer Frank?] is CHILDREN OF A LOESSER GOD, based on the film title “Children of a Lesser God.”
  • 62A: [Statement about a place where two people share something equally?] is THERE YOU HALVE IT, based on there you have it.
  • 77A: [Change the world a little bit at a time?] is ADJUST SOCIETY, based on a just society. I picture the base phrase appearing at the beginning of a sentence about how the world is unfair, as in, “In a just society...”
  • 94A: [Party in Portland, e.g.?] is MAINE EVENT, based on main event.
  • 97A: ["You mean the 31st U.S. president? Blast!"?] is “HOOVER? DAMN!” based on Hoover Dam.

The added silent letters aren’t random, though. The revealer phrase that describes the added silent letters in order is SILENCE IS GOLDEN at 112A: [Proverb espousing the virtue of staying quiet, and a hint to a word spelled out by six letters in this puzzle].

Silent letter-based themes always trip me up in ways that I don’t expect until I try to write one. Keeping myself to the constraint of spelling out GOLDEN in the added silent letters was one problem, but an extra difficulty was that I wanted the silent letter to be the only new letter added to the original phrases, and I wanted the words with the added silent letters to be homophones of the ones they were based on. For instance, there are several words that have a silent D, like bridge, fudge, handkerchief, lodge, and sandwich. The problem is that if you deleted the D from those words to use as part of real phrase, you would either produce a nonsense word (brige, fuge, hankerchief, sanwich) or a word that isn’t pronounced the same as the original one (loge).

I have to give the constructor and friend-of-the-show Joon Pahk credit for helping me find LOESSER as a name that both has a silent O and is a homophone of LESSER, although this bit of help was years in the making. He gave that tip four years ago in this blog post on Diary of a Crossword Fiend -- one reason that crossword blogs can be so valuable!

Some other answers and clues:

  • 48A: [Dress that the historian Rta Kapur Chishti called the “magical unstitched garment”] is SARI. I liked that description of the sari a ton.
  • 116A: [Retailer whose system of moving stock around its stores is known as a “treasure hunt” strategy] is COSTCO. On one level, this sounds like it would be pretty annoying for regular shoppers. On another level, I can only imagine how annoying it must be for Costco employees to have to move their goods around to different parts of the store when they could spend the time doing other things.
  • 119A: [Tales of the ___ Nights (board game)] is Tales of the ARABIAN Nights. I’m a big fan of this board game; it’s strategy-meets-choose-your-own-adventure with creative storytelling.
  • 3D: [Midwestern locale of the test garden run by Better Homes & Gardens] is DES MOINES. The test garden is what the magazine uses as its outdoor photo studio.
  • 14D: [1991 Kenneth Branagh-Emma Thompson film that features a hypnosis technique known as past life regression] is “DEAD AGAIN.” An unusual answer, but one that was forced by the addition of VEIL at 21A, which I thought might help with a potentially tough crossing of VAIL at 98D: [Colorado ski resort that’s a homophone of 21 Across] and BASIE at 109A: [Grammy-winning Count].
  • 36D: [Phrase represented online as ¯\_(''/)_/¯] is NO IDEA. I’m glad that I was able to use the shrug emoticon both in print and electronic versions of the puzzle.
  • 43D: [Global ___ Vault (doomsday vault built in Norway to protect Nabisco cookies from an asteroid ... yes, it’s true)] is OREO. In case you saw this clue and weren’t inclined to look it up, this story is 100% true.
  • 92D: [Train track, e.g.?] is POP SONG. If you’re not familiar with the band Train, you may have heard their hits “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” and “Hey, Soul Sister" at some point before.
  • Saving a personal clue for last. 93A: [Computer programmer and activist Swartz] is AARON Swartz. He and I went to the same high school, North Shore Country Day in Winnetka, Ill., and he was two years younger than me. His work as one of the programmers who helped build Reddit and as a steadfast advocate for internet transparency is remarkable, just as much as the story of his tragic death in 2013 is still incredibly sad and infuriating all these years later.

A heads-up that next week’s crossword has a metapuzzle. You’ve got this.

What did you think?