In something of an intersection with today's puzzle, I saw a deer at the side of the road on our way to a dinner party Saturday night. Unlike in today's puzzle, however, there were no DEERCROSSING signs in the area. I'm not sure if the animal I saw was DOE, STAG, HART, FAWN, or HIND, but I daresay that's due to a deficit in my data banks. It would behoove me to brush up on the Cervidae family.
Horace's review yesterday pointed out that the black squares in the center of the grid spelled out the theme letters SOS, so I looked at the black squares in today's puzzle. There is a big cross in the bottom center, but is unclear (to me) whether it is meant as a reference to the puzzle's theme. Maybe the upper black squares represent antlers, or birds, or trees in the forest. Maybe I should reduce my DOSAGES. :)
Like a deer on the run, today's puzzle covered a lot of VARYING ground from ACRE to OMEGA by way of HOOHA (!?!), plus GUAC, GRIFT, GOTHS, and GAYBAR.
I enjoyed "Hit with a deft comeback" (ZING), "Stuns, as with a phaser" (ZAPS), and "Assailed" (HADAT) - all kind of an INTENSE come to think of it.
ATFIRST, I was MOROSE about AVERTS for "Wards off, as danger" and
ALE for "Bitter beer" because they didn't seem to ring true but I looked up the definition of both wards off and ale and the antlers I found convinced me that I OTTER change my tune.