July 28, 2020

Constructor: Evan Kalish
Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
EXTRA CREDIT (20A: Teacher's bonus offering)
SEA CREATURE (33A: Manta, for example)
BANANA CREAM (41A: Pie variety)
CAMERA CREWS (53A: TV production teams)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer contains the letter string A-C-R-E spanning the two words. Therefore, each theme answer is HOLDING an ACRE of LAND.

And now a word from our constructor:
Evan: Here was another fun concealed-word concept. I love when there are several solid options available. The grid is fairly straightforward, with a couple of solid long downs in the NE/SW; though my favorite bits of bonus fill were at 8- and 43-Down.
I love the clue for 27-D, which I can’t claim credit for, though I was happy to be able to reference “Stranger Than Fiction” in the clue for 59-Across. That film was underappreciated.

Things I learned:
  • EMMA (59A: Stranger Than Fiction" actress Thompson) Stranger Than Fiction is about an IRS worker (played by Will Ferrell) who begins to hear a disembodied voice narrating his life. He eventually discovers the voice is that of a particular author known for killing off the main characters in her novels. EMMA Thompson plays the role of the author, Karen, who has been suffering from writer's block. I admit that although I am a fan of EMMA Thompson, I have not seen this movie. It's been added to my (rather lengthy) "movies I need to watch" list. Oh, another thing I discovered about the movie is that it was filmed in Chicago.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • RAY (23A: Manta, for example) and SEA CREATURE (33A: Manta, for example) This was a nice duplicate clue.
  • RAPINOE (8D: Soccer great Megan) Megan RAPINOE is a professional soccer player currently playing for the Tacoma, Washington team OL Reign (previously known as Seattle Reign FC). RAPINOE also plays on the United States women's national team. 
  • ASK AWAY (43D: "Got questions? Let 'er rip!") A fun phrase to see in the puzzle, particularly with the playful clue.
  • COMMA (50D: Punctuation mark seen in "I, Too") This is an example of using an ordinary word to add inclusivity to a puzzle. There are many phrases and titles that include a COMMA. Nice choice to highlight Langston Hughes' poem, "I, Too." (You can read the poem in the write up for the June 18 puzzle.)
  • MILA (54D: Actress Kunis) MILA Kunis has appeared in the movies Bad Moms, The Spy Who Dumped Me, and Friends with Benefits. Born in the Soviet Ukraine, MILA moved to the United States with her family when she was seven years old. MILA Kunis occasionally visits my city and state (though not to see me!) as she is married to Iowa native, Ashton Kutcher.
Geography review:
  • NIGER (25A: West African country) NIGER is a landlocked country in Africa. Over 80% of NIGER's land area is in the Sahara Desert.
This was a delightfully smooth puzzle. A nice hidden word theme with some interesting theme answers. As I was solving the puzzle, I found myself starting to feel hungry. There is definitely a food mini-theme going on here with BANANA CREAM pie, RUSSET potatoes, YAMS topped with marshmallows, S'MORES (more marshmallows!), Pie ALA mode (more pie!), a candy CANE, Maryland CRAB, EDAM cheese, and EGGO waffles. Pardon me while I go in search of a mid-morning snack.