July 24, 2020

Constructor: Patrick Jordan
Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
SPECIAL ISSUE (20A: Collectible magazine)
INORGANIC MATTER (39A: Stuff that's neither plant nor animal)
ROYAL SUBJECT (57A: Person living under a monarchy)

Theme synopsis: The last word of each theme answer - ISSUE, MATTER, SUBJECT - is a synonym for TOPIC.

Things I learned:
  • ROSIE (38A: "Birds of Prey" actress Perez) ROSIE Perez played the role of Renee Montoya in Birds of Prey, a superhero movie based on DC Comics. The film, Yo soy Boricua, pa'que tu lo sepas! (I'm Puerto Rican, Just So You Know!) documents ROSIE Perez's activism for Puerto Rican rights. 
  • AXE (Sharp nickname on "Billions") Billions is a TV series about Bobby Axelrod (AXE) and his accumulation of wealth and power. In the series, AXE is a hedge fund manager for AXE Capital, whose dealings sometimes border on illegal, and draw the attention of U.S. Attorney Charles "Chuck" Rhoades, played by Paul Giamatti. Although I've never seen Billions, the wordplay in this clue made it inferable.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • TONI (14A: Morrison who wrote, "No man should live without absorbing the sins of his kind") TONI Morrison's full name was Chloe Anthony Wofford Morrison. In 2016, TONI Morrison was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
  • ICEE (24A: Beverage brand with an ursine mascot) The ICEE company's mascot is a polar bear. 
  • INORGANIC MATTER (39A: Stuff that's neither plant nor animal) This clue made me think of the "Animal, vegetable, mineral?" question asked when playing the game 20 Questions. Items in the mineral category are INORGANIC MATTER. As you might guess, I also liked this because it's a science-related clue and answer.
  • SUE (45A: Author Linda ___ Park) Linda SUE Park has published six children's novels and five picture books. Many of Linda SUE Park's writings focus on Korean history and culture. Her book, When My Name Was Keoko, is about the Japanese occupation of Korea during World War II.
  • SEA (22D: Home to Nemo and Dory) When Finding Nemo first came out in 2003, I took my (then 7 year-old) daughter to see it in the movie theater, and felt like a terrible mother when she sobbed through the first part of the movie. (It is a tad scary.) My daughter has since come to appreciate the movie and it was upon her urging that my husband and I recently rewatched Finding Nemo and then watched Finding Dory for the first time. 
  • SCI-FI (56D: Octavia E. Butler's genre) In 1995, Octavia E. Butler became the first SCI-FI author to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. Butler's books include Parable of the Sower, Patternmaster, and Fledgling.
  • TAFT (60D: 27th U.S. president) William Howard TAFT was president of the United States from 1909 to 1913. TAFT was also the tenth Chief Justice of the United States and is the only president to have been Chief Justice.
  • ZEN (63D: School of Buddhism) The ZEN school of Buddhism originated in China during the Tang dynasty. ZEN emphasizes understanding of Buddhist texts and doctrine through spiritual practice and interaction with an accomplished teacher.
Geography review:
  • PONCE (35D: City on Puerto Rico's southern coast) The capital of Puerto Rico is San Juan. PONCE is the largest Puerto Rican city outside of the San Juan metropolitan area. PONCE is on the southern coast of Puerto Rico.
  • RIO (40D: 2016 Olympics city, for short) RIO de Janeiro, Brazil was the first South American city to host the Summer Olympics.
This puzzle was a smooth solve for me. It was one of those rare times when, upon reviewing the puzzle, there were some Down clues that I hadn't seen because I had completely filled in the answers from the Across clues. For categories in this theme type, the goal is for the synonym words to change meaning when in the theme answer phrases. This puzzle's theme did that, with ISSUE, MATTER, and SUBJECT having meanings different than TOPIC when used in the phrases SPECIAL ISSUE, INORGANIC MATTER, and ROYAL SUBJECT. It's a nice, interesting set of seemingly unrelated theme phrases. An enjoyable Friday morning solve.