This puzzle was constructed by GB as a prize for PL, a contestant in the Enigma Variations metacrossword puzzle contest. From the standpoint of the general solver, this is an easy themeless, with three seed entries acknowledging two members of Peter's extended family. These two have lived their lives as upstanding citizens of coastal Los Angeles: Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Torrance, as well as the retirement community in Rancho Mirage, CA. Their names celebrate their lives, but also act as a watermark in the puzzle, serving to satisfy any question of authenticity. But there is a bit more to it. This puzzle contains a secret message that is designed to kick-start family communications that have been lost in space and time.
And now the rest of the story ...
The EVANSes (40-Across) have been a family of wordsmiths for generations. Granddad was a science writer for the San Diego Union Tribune. Up the coast in Hermosa Beach, Uncle JEREMY (4-Down) was a reporter, city editor and lawyer, and Aunt LOUANN (51-Down; symmetrically placed) was a public school teacher for 40+ years, ending her career as a teacher of teachers. Nearly everyone has solved crossword puzzles regularly—some with obsessive abandon—going back to pre-Maleska days. Peter's German father used the puzzle to refine his English, complementing his textbook-taught British with the missing American slang. Today, other members of the family currently solve (or try to solve) most of our nation's premier puzzles everyday. The family circle stretches from coast-to-coast, and north-to-south. While the ring of communication is sometimes broken, the family remains united in its love of solving crosswords. Indeed, family members spend more time solving crosswords than they do talking to each other. Ergo, this puzzle! The message to the family is simply this: put down the puzzle (and a modicum of ill-considered pride) and pick up the phone. It is time for the family circle to be a dynamic presence, again!
The instructions on our main page also include the following seemingly nonsensical sentence: Please keep honest good King Wenceslas, a local legend suffering from separation anxiety, Let's take a closer look: Please_keeP_HONEst_good_KinG_WENceslas,_a_loCAL_Legend suffering_from_separatioN_ANxiety. Of course, the same message is spelled out by following the circles clockwise, G-W-E-N--C-A-L-L--N-A-N--PHONE--G-W-E-N--C-A-L-L--N-A-N--PHONE-- G-W-E-N--... or (with a different starting point) N-A-N--PHONE--G-W-E-N--C-A-L-L--N-A-N--...
Get the message?!
Technical points about the construction (from GB): I wish to thank Peter Leopold, who was an active participant at all stages of the process. Once Peter explained a bit of family history to me, and I understood what his overall goal was, I was very intrigued and suggested a few possible approaches. Peter provided me with a series of names and places, as well as the ingenious idea of an endless circular message of 16 characters. I realized that we could provide a circle of 16 circles, and experimented with several ways they could be arranged quasi-symmetrically [of course, a perfect rendition of a (transcendental) circle within a Cartesian crossword grid is nigh impossible]. It was also important that the puzzle be completely solvable by someone with zero knowledge of the cast of characters. We worked on this, on and off, for about a month, and involved several of our trusted beta testers (acknowledged on the main page) who chipped in with useful suggestions. We hope that you like the end result, and that it brings about the desired reconciliation.