The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Solution to Evan Birnholz’s Jan. 9 Post Magazine crossword, “In Character”

Solution to January 9, 2022 crossword, “In Character” (Evan Birnholz/FTWP)
Placeholder while article actions load

The first Post Magazine metapuzzle of 2022 was hopefully an easier-than-normal hunt. The instructions say we are looking for a famous cartoon character. Nine wacky theme answers will get you started:

  • 25A: [Compassionate fire-wielding superhero?] is THE HUMANE TORCH.
  • 40A: [Pontifical blue toon?] is PAPAL SMURF.
  • 42A: [Great Dane who leads people into destruction?] is SCOOBY-DOOM.
  • 54A: [Web-slinger with long and heavy hair?] is SPIDER-MANE.
  • 81A: [Homer Simpson’s dweeby neighbor?] is NERD FLANDERS.
  • 91A: [Heroic pooch who provides financial support?] is FUNDERDOG.
  • 94A: [Manga android who bobs up and down in a harbor?] is ASTRO BUOY.
  • 109A: [Green Avengers heroine who builds a storage structure?] is SHED-HULK.
  • 122A: [Disney heroine who wore a jangling cat collar?] is PRINCESS BELLED.

Each of these answers are animated characters with one letter added to their names:

  • The Human Torch + E = THE HUMANE TORCH
  • Papa Smurf + L = PAPAL SMURF
  • Scooby-Doo + M = SCOOBY-DOOM
  • Spider-Man + E = SPIDER-MANE
  • Ned Flanders + R = NERD FLANDERS
  • Underdog + F = FUNDERDOG
  • Astro Boy + U = ASTRO BUOY
  • She-Hulk + D = SHED-HULK
  • Princess Belle + D = PRINCESS BELLED

The added letters spell ELMER FUDD.

It’s been a little while in crossword years (really just six weeks), but this meta was inspired by the drawing I did of the pope in the Nov. 28 puzzle “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” I showed it to a couple of friends of mine and one of them described him as a PAPAL SMURF. Thus, a theme was born.

What was much trickier than I expected was to find viable cartoon characters where you would add a letter that wasn’t E. I found several where I could add E, but the pool was much smaller for every other letter. For R, some alternatives were PORKY PRIG, PEPPA PRIG, BURGS BUNNY, and SAILOR MORON. For U, there was SLINKY DOUG and PHILIP J. FURY. For D, there was YOGI BEARD, BOO BOO BEARD and MR. MAD GOO. I was tempted by the latter, but I thought the resulting phrase was a little too strange; “mad goo” isn’t a thing, whereas the additions to the other characters created real, single words.

Also, I’m aware that PRINCESS BELLED is maybe a tinge inapt since, even though she is part of the Disney princess canon, most of the time she’s just called Belle. But, like I said, it was tougher than I thought to find animated characters where you can add a letter and get a phrase that can be clued decently. Either way, I hope you cracked the meta and got a laugh out of characters like PAPAL SMURF and SCOOBY-DOOM.

What did you think?