Title: MADE UP
Constructor: Evan Kalish
Editor: Erik Agard
GRANTED AMNESTY (4D: Given a pardon)
EDAMAME (21D: Sushi bar appetizer)
ICE DAMS (30D: Wintry roof buildups)
WHAT'S THE DAMAGE (16D: "How much do I owe you?")
Theme synopsis: The theme answers are all Down entries containing the letter string E-D-A-M. Looking in the other direction, all the theme answers contain M-A-D-E UP.
And now a word from our constructor:
Evan: You never know how a puzzle will develop until you pair up potential theme entries. This unusual 14/7/7/14 pattern enabled a grid with several nice across slots, including the paired 8s in the NE/SW corners and fun quasi-pairing of 28 and 43-Across. I love when I can jam loads of interesting bonus answers in a grid!
This puzzle also contains an Easter egg. It involves a certain entry that crosses the thematic string. Did you notice it? (Answer below!)
Things I learned:
- EVE (46A: "Dispatches From Elsewhere" actress Lindley) On the TV series, Dispatches From Elsewhere, EVE Lindley plays Simone, a trans woman looking for a way out of isolation.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
- NASA (7A: Org. where Mary Jackson worked as an engineer) Mary Jackson is one of the women featured in the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race. She was also in the film adaptation of the book.
- GATES (38A: "The Moment of Lift" author Melinda) Melinda GATES' book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World highlights the failure to acknowledge women's unpaid work. Nice choice to clue GATES as Melinda.
- MAYA (47A: Comedy star Rudolph) MAYA Rudolph is a former Saturday Night Live cast member and has been in many movies, including A Prairie Home Companion and Bridesmaids. MAYA's TV work includes appearances on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. She currently plays the role of Judge Gen on The Good Place.
- TAPE (2D: Word after "cassette" or "duct") I would have laughed if the clue had added - or "duck." Duct TAPE was originally informally called duck TAPE because it was made using duck cloth. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (the crossword-friendly OED!) the term "duck TAPE" has been in use since 1899 (when it was used to refer to strips of duck cloth), while the term "duct TAPE" has only been around since 1965. In 1971, Jack Kahl trademarked the term "Duck TAPE," which is now a brand name for a type of "duct TAPE."
- ADELE (6D: "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)" singer) I would like to go to a concert of "Crossword-Friendly One-Named Singers" featuring ADELE, Cher, Enya, and Sia. I'd include Lizzo, too, although those Z's can be challenging for constructors.
- FETA (13D: Crumbly cheese from Greece) When I reached this clue after already encountering GOUDA (34A: Mild cheese from the Netherlands), I thought, "What a cheesy puzzle!" But wait, there's more...
- IDA (24D: Journalist ___ B. Wells) Earlier this year, IDA B. Wells was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize for "her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching."
- PSAS (33D: Anti-vaping spots, e.g.) The word "spot" is commonly used for "ad" in crossword clues, and yet, it misleads me every time!
- I SAW (51D: "Guess who ___ today?") and MATE (52D: "G'day, ___!") and MEET (56D: "Nice to ___ you!") I feel like there's the beginning of a short story here.
- MADRID (14D: Spain's capital) MADRID is the capital and most populous city of Spain. MADRID is the second-largest city in the European Union (EU), surpassed only by Berlin.
- ANDEAN (From a South American mountain range) The ANDEAN mountains are the longest continental mountain range in the world. The mountains pass through seven South American countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.
It's unusual to see two 7-letter theme answers in a puzzle. Some constructors and editors would not consider these short themers, preferring that the theme answers be the longest entries in the puzzle. Personally, it doesn't bother me, and I think it works here by sandwiching the 7's in between the two 14's. My favorite theme answer was WHAT'S THE DAMAGE? I also enjoyed the bonus fill that was allowed by this grid design. PHENOMENA is a fun word that doesn't often make puzzle appearances. I particularly like the stacked, MUST READ and PLAY DATE. The playful Easter egg bonus was also a delight.
And now, more from Evan:
Answer: 34-Across crosses the thematic four-letter string at 4-Down. What is that string, read top to down? Why, it's another possible answer for 34-Across!
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