The Hater who had a Hater by proXimal
Replaced/Omitted central (The Grinch’s changing heart size) letters give THEODOR GEISEL SEUSS; THE GRINCH is replaced by CHRISTMAS and four central letters (changes of HEART) produce MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM PROXIMAL.
When I realised that an EV slot was on Christmas Eve, I decided to write a Christmas-themed puzzle. I wanted to stay away from anything too traditional, so the idea of doing a puzzle about the Grinch seemed a nice idea; the story is set on Christmas Eve and the has the same number of letters as Christmas, so a grid substitution gimmick would work nicely. It’s a story I know well from a compendium of Seuss stories I used to read to the children.
The fact that his heart is two sizes too small and then grows three times could be exploited as another gimmick, using ‘heart’ to mean central letter(s) as it so often does in crosswords. So, I used that in the clues to generate the author’s name, needing solvers to add a central letter to effectively increase the normal heart size and delete two occurrences of central letters to show the heart two sizes too small. That, combined with The Grinch appearing in the grid, would be enough to confirm the theme.
For the endgame, I chose to use the ‘Christmas’ changed from ‘The Grinch’ in a message to solvers, as shown in the grid. This would emulate the end of the story when the Grinch becomes less grinchy and embraces Christmas. Using another heart gimmick, I noted that I could have three more entries close to MERRY, FROM and PROXIMAL which solvers could amend by changing the hearts of crossing down clues, so I used MARRY, PROM and PRODIGAL as across entries to be changed. Saying in the preamble that it was a personal message and using ‘cryptic Hater’ to signify a ‘change of heart’ would provide hints as to what needed doing and the possible message that might be revealed. The title references the Grinch as the hater of Christmas and then the second hater as his change of heart.
Thanks to everyone who gave feedback on the puzzle.
A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.