mezzacotta Puzzle Competition

Solution: 3A. Interesting Bunch of People

The given names in this puzzle don't fit into the supplied grids, so it seems we must perform some manipulation or association to produce words which can fit into the grids. Very few of the names seem to be of particularly notable people, with the most notable possibility being Tony Green, a British sports commentator.

This implies we should do something else with the names. The correct approach relies on a bit of popular entertainment knowledge. If you know your superheroes, several of the first names and surnames might stand out. We have Clark and Kent, which together form the secret identity of Superman; and Bruce and Wayne make the secret identity of Batman. In fact, by rearranging the first names and surnames, we can form all of them into superhero identities. Some are well established ones from traditional comics media, while a few are from modern webcomics, TV shows, or other sources:

Secret Identity NameHero
Alison GreenMega Girl
Bruce BannerHulk
Bruce WayneBatman
Clark KentSuperman
Dana PriceWonderella
David HarsteinEnvoy
Diana PrinceWonder Woman
Dinah LanceBlack Canary
Eric TwingeBananaman
Hal JordanGreen Lantern
Helen ParrElastigirl
Natalia RomanovaBlack Widow
Oliver QueenGreen Arrow
Ororo MunroeStorm
Penry PoochHong Kong Phooey
Scott SummersCyclops
Steve RogersCaptain America
Sue StormInvisible Woman
Tony StarkIron Man
Usagi TsukinoSailor Moon
Wally WestFlash

We can now notice that the superhero names can be fit into the supplied letter grids. But there are ambiguities, since there are multiple candidates for several of the name lengths. The grouping of the grids into three separate boxes is a clue to resolving this. The heroes split neatly into three groups of seven: DC Comics heroes, Marvel Comics heroes, and a group of others. Making this split, we can fit each group into a large box, noticing that the heroes are ordered alphabetically in each box to resolve any remaining ambiguity:

completed grids

Now we can read the marked letters in each box, in the order indicated by the numbers. These spell out three new names:

Looking up these names might reveal some interesting but not obviously relevant people. In fact, the correct thing to do is realise that these names are jumbled in the same way as the first step of the puzzle. Applying this recursive step and checking the possibilities brings up a much more likely looking set of names:

A quick search for anyone not familiar with the work of these three gentlemen reveals that they worked together on the ground-breaking comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. We can also notice that the puzzle title, "Interesting Bunch of People", is a paraphrase of "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen".