July 30, 2020

Constructor: Brooke Husic and Evan Kalish
Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
VIRGINIA WOOLF (20A: Pioneer in stream-of-consciousness narration)
GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (30A: With 33-Across, painter with a museum in Santa Fe)
HANNAH MONTANA (45A: Fictional teen pop star who sang "The Best of Both Worlds")
KERRY WASHINGTON (52A: Producer and star of "Little Fires Everywhere")

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer is the NAME of a person who shares their first or last NAME with a STATE.

And now a word from our constructors:
Brooke: A lot of Evan's and my collaborations are the result of a jointly workshopped theme idea, mostly his grid, and mostly my clues. This one was actually a true team effort at all stages. I really wanted to keep 30-Across, and was inspired by one of Evan's previous puzzles* to suggest a mirror layout to accommodate that theme entry. We both filled some of the grid and talked over the clues together.
Evan: This was a beast. I was pondering this premise and not getting very far. One week later Brooke independently pinged me the same idea. She developed this coherent set of entries and had the idea of left-right symmetry. It took hours and hours, but I found a layout that worked.

*The May 21, 2020 Andrews McMeel Universal Crossword: “Prime Numbers.” (see image)

Things I learned:
  • GUAVA (2D: Fruit in Bahamian duff) Duff is a British name for pudding. In Bahamian duff, GUAVA is folded into dough and then boiled. The dessert is often served with a brandy butter or rum sauce.
  • OKRA (32D: Bhindi kadhi veggie) The word bhindi is borrowed from Hindi and refers to the vegetable OKRA when used in Indian cooking. When you see the word bhindi in the name of a dish, chances are good that it contains okra. Bhindi kadhi is an Indian yogurt soup with chickpea flour and OKRA.
  • FLAN (34D: ___ de queso (Puerto Rican dessert)) FLAN de queso is a caramel-topped cream cheese custard dessert. Here we go with the puzzle making me hungry again!
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • VIRGINIA WOOLF (20A: Pioneer in stream-of-consciousness narration) VIRGINIA WOOLF''S writings include the novel, Mrs. Dalloway, and the essay, "A Room of One's Own." The essay contains the oft-quoted line, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."
  • GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (30A: With 33-Across, painter with a museum in Santa Fe) GEORGIA O'KEEFFE is known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, New Mexico landscapes, and New York skyscrapers. The GEORGIA O'KEEFFE museum in Santa Fe opened in 1997. (Side note: I often forget that O'KEEFFE has two F's in it.)
  • LET (40A: "___ It Go" (Menzel hit)) A bit sneaky to clue "LET It Go" simply as a Menzel hit, without mentioning that Idina Menzel sang it in her voice role as Elsa in Frozen. It didn't fool me!
  • HANNAH MONTANA (45A: Fictional teen pop star who sang "The Best of Both Worlds") Miley Cyrus played the role of HANNAH MONTANA, a teenage girl living the double life of a famous pop singer and an average schoolgirl (named Miley Stewart). 
  • KERRY WASHINGTON (52A: Producer and star of "Little Fires Everywhere") KERRY WASHINGTON played crisis management expert Olivia Pope on the TV series, Scandal. She served as executive producer for Little Fires Everywhere, the TV miniseries based on the novel of the same name written by Celeste Ng. KERRY WASHINGTON also starred in the miniseries, along with Reese Witherspoon.
  • ELLIS (3D: Tracee ___ Ross) Tracee ELLIS Ross plays the role of Dr. Rainbow Johnson in the TV series Black-ish.
  • OXEN (6D: Zodiac animals before tigers) As determined by the Chinese zodiac calendar, the next year of the OX will begin on February 12, 2021, in case you were wondering.
  • SARAH (27D: ___ Lawrence College) SARAH Lawrence College is a private college in Yonkers, New York with an academic approach similar to the Oxford/Cambridge system focusing on small group teaching sessions. SARAH Lawrence College was originally a women's college and became coed in 1968.
Geography review:
  • OAK (37A: Tree on Connecticut's state quarter) Connecticut is the southernmost state in the area of the United States referred to as New England. Its state tree is a specific white OAK tree named the Charter OAK. According to tradition, the tree was used as a hiding place for Connecticut's Royal Charter of 1662 and thereafter became a symbol of American independence. Sadly, the Charter OAK was felled by a storm in 1856. Lumber from the Charter OAK was used to make a number of chairs now displayed in the Capitol Building in Hartford.
  • OSLO (59D: Capital home to Vigeland Sculpture Park) OSLO is the capital of Norway. Frogner Park in OSLO houses a permanent sculpture installation created by Gustav Vigeland. Here's a piece of trivia for you: In one of the two-hour special episodes of The Love Boat, some of the crew visited Frogner Park and saw the Viegland sculptures. I'm sure your day is better for knowing that.
This is a delightful puzzle. The premise of the theme is straightforward enough, but I noticed a couple of subtle aspects that elevated the theme. It was a nice choice to make all of the theme answers women. There are certainly plenty of men with STATE NAMES, and I appreciated the choice to represent women. I also enjoy that the four featured women represent different professions - a writer, a painter, a (fictional) singer, and a producer/actress. As Brooke and Evan mentioned, this puzzle has left-right mirror symmetry. Kudos to them for finding a way to make their chosen theme answers work. Nicely done.