On the morning of Sunday, Dec. 26, Donna Honemann rose from bed in her Hampden rowhouse, grabbed the Sunday Sun and casually opened the Arts & Society section to an intriguing double-page with a large crossword puzzle shaped like a crab. It was midnight before she pulled herself away. "It became an obsession," Donna says, echoing the words of several puzzle lovers and Baltimore trivia buffs who entered our Great Crabtown Crossword Puzzle Contest.
Chosen at random from correct entries among the 223 crosswords returned to us before midnight Dec. 31, Donna Honemann's is our winner. Donna will share the prize -- dinner at La Tavola and a "Century in The Sun" gift package -- with her puzzle partner, Larry Doering. She might want to bring her mother along, too; Mom provided a critical answer. "I had to call my mother for help with `Mass Appeal,' " Donna says.
Ah yes, "Mass Appeal," the correct answer to the notorious clue at 168 Across: "Priestly play at Mechanic (1982)." Graphically isolated at the top of the crab's body, with answers to Down clues providing only four of its 10 letters, "Mass Appeal" was a puzzle pooper for many; for some, the one piece that kept them out of the prize pile. Frustrated, some resorted to guessing the name of the play: "Mass of Fear," "Cursed Fear," "Kiss Me Dear," "Miss My Bear," "Dressy Dead," "Nunsensets," "Monsignear," "Massed Teas," "Days of Heat," and "Ransom Seat."
The other big puzzle killer was the name of the artist who created the massive abstract sculpture in front of the National Aquarium. "Dan, even the National Aquarium doesn't know!" wrote a frustrated Jane Martin of Joppatowne, who sent in a puzzle that had been "eaten on, napped on, scratched at, sweated over. ... Thanks for the memories. It was fun."
That sentiment was shared by many solvers, including gangs at Bandaloop's in South Baltimore, the Mount Royal Tavern and multi-generational families from Owings Mills (398 Down) to Columbia who picked at the crab together.
A few readers sent in notes, corrections and polite complaints. "This thing gave me a mental hernia but it was fun," wrote John Bennett of Bel Air. "It will take another century to recover from doing it!" said Helen Blumberg and Bob Burke of Lutherville. One reader groused that the puzzle was "absurdly trivial" and "fun but annoying." (To which I respond: Mission accomplished!)
I want to thank Clarke and Kathy Fitzpatrick of Ellicott City for noting the lack of a Down clue for "tons." (We missed one). Thanks to all who said they'd like to see this crab again.
As for our winners: Donna Honemann is a librarian at the North Point branch of the Baltimore County Public Library and Larry Doering is a computer systems administrator at the National Center for Biotechnology Information in Bethesda. Donna's mom, Dorothy, works for the Health Care Finance Administration in Woodlawn.
Congratulations. See you for dinner at 124 Across.