Merl Reagle, June 21
I thought at first that this would be a typical doubled-letter kind of theme, with answers like BOOKKEEPER and the like.
But it turned out to be much more clever than that — although why Merl ran this AFTER basketball season ended is a little curious. Maybe he thought the Lakers would need more than five games to beat the Magic.
The theme answers are names of NBA teams: MAGIC WIZARD (17 Across, “Merlin”) is a little redundant, but it incorporates the names of the Orlando team (the Magic) and the Washington team (the Wizards). Same with SUN KING (20 Across, “Louis XIV’s nickname”), for the Phoenix and Sacramento teams; CELTIC WARRIOR (102 Across, “Fifth century tough guy), for Boston and Golden State; and, in an impressive long one, SUPERSONIC TRAILBLAZER (60 Across, “Chuck Yeager?”), for Seattle and Portland.
However, the Seattle Supersonics don’t actually exist anymore; they moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder.
Another quirk that got me curious was that, at least in my version of the puzzle in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the theme clues were all bolded. Usually just a question mark at the end of the clue, or the fact that the answer is long, is enough to indicate the answer is part of the theme. Maybe since some of them were so short (SUN KING, for example), Merl felt like he needed to emphasize they were part of the theme.
Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy