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FIRE FIEND time again! The Post‘s visuals stink: an overbearing Post Poker ad and the umpteenth repetition of that bleary, eyebrow-plucked shot of Peter Braunstein. The Daily News goes with the novel image of the coffee-shop guy who claimed to spot him.

Sometimes, though, it’s a bad idea to let the art dictate the copy. “I SAW THE FIEND”? Good for you, buddy. But the Post feels free to jump the counter and write the incident from Braunstein’s point of view–so a celebrity sighting becomes an action-movie sequence. Flees cops! You other guys can stick around and talk to the java jockey–the Post has a FIRE FIEND to chase!

In other crackling True Crime writing, the Post puts an outraged justice-denied spin on Russell Crowe’s plea deal in his phone-throwing case. “Secret deal spares Crowe jail” is sharp and lucid–where the News‘ secondary story treatment is indecipherable. What star? Why is “WOMAN” in quotes? Is it the title of something, or is this anonymous, ailing thespian a transsexual?

Winner: New York Post

Overall standings: Daily News 12, New York Post 9