August 15, 2020

Constructor: Mark McClain
Editor: Erik Agard & Paolo Pasco

Theme Answers:
YELLOW LAB (17A: Dog breed with a golden coat)
COOL RANCH (54A: Zesty Doritos flavor)
POTTED PLANT (10D: Indoor horticulturist's purchases)
DIPLOMA MILL (23D: Questionable "university")

Theme synopsis: The last word of each theme answer is a place you could work. You might be ON THE JOB in a LAB, on a RANCH, at a PLANT, or at a MILL.

Things I learned:
  • LISA (37A: "Millicent Min, Girl Genius" author Yee) Lisa Yee's book, Millicent Min, Girl Genius tells the story of an 11-year-old girl attending high school and her struggles to fit in and make friends. LISA Yee has also written Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time and So Totally Emily Embers which tell the story from the perspective of the other two central characters. 
  • TEAMMATE (41A: Sheryl Swoopes to Cynthia Cooper, e.g.) Sheryl Swoopes was a TEAMMATE of Cynthia Cooper's on the Houston Comets WNBA team. Sheryl Swoopes is currently an assistant basketball coach at Texas Tech, her alma mater. Cynthia Cooper-Dyke is currently a coach at Texas Southern.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • SNAPS (32A: Poetry slam sounds) At a poetry slam, poets perform spoken word poetry before a live audience and a panel of judges.  If you hear something that moves you during the poet's performance, you may SNAP to show appreciation. SNAPS are less disruptive than clapping, which allows the poet to continue without pausing.
  • POTTED PLANT (10D: Indoor horticulturist's purchases) My husband used to say, "If you're a person or an animal, you're lucky to live in our house; if you're a plant, you take your chances." He wasn't kidding. More than one POTTED PLANT has finished its life in our house. However, in the last couple of years, I've managed to keep several plants alive, and in fact, I have a few POTTED PLANTs that are thriving. The other day I realized that perhaps I can keep children living in my house or POTTED PLANTs alive, but not both. Now that my husband and I have an empty nest, I  seem to be able to remember to water my PLANTs. That makes a difference!
  • SAUCE (28D: "I got hot ___ in my bag, swag" (Beyonce lyric)) As I've mentioned before, my daughter is a Beyoncé fan, so I always like to highlight Beyoncé clues as a nod to her. This lyric is from the song, "Formation," which won all six MTV Video Music Awards that it was nominated for in 2016. "Formation" also won a Grammy Award for Best Music Video.
  • ELBA (48D: Idris who played Macavity in "Cats") Five days ago we saw Skimbleshanks and Mr. Mistoffelees in a clue and I asked, "Which CATS character will be featured in a clue next?" Here's our answer! Grizabella was featured in a clue on August 7. Who will we see next and how long will it take us to acquire the entire cast of characters from CATS? If you haven't discovered the podcast Two Girls, One Crossword, I recommend you give them a listen. I'm a bit behind and happened to start listening to their 50th episode, (which is in two parts) on the day that Skimbleshanks and Mr. Mistoffelees were in a clue. To my delight, I discovered that both parts of the 50th episode are about CATS - the book, the play, and the movie. (I haven't finished it yet, because I happened to be listening to it in the middle of the derecho which resulted in our losing power.) You can also find Chelsea and Grace on Twitter as The Good Evening Girls.
Geography review:
  • ERIE (14A: Great Lake with the shortest name) Here's our crossword friend, Lake ERIE, named by the ERIE people. The tribal name ERIE is a shortened form of an Iroquoian word meaning "long tail."
  • ROME (49A: Pantheon city) The Pantheon is a former Roman temple, and now a Catholic church, located in ROME, the capital of Italy.
  • WEST (60A: Utah-to-Nevada direction) Geography is not my forte, so when a direction is clued in reference to two places I rarely know the answer immediately. (This is a common way to clue ENE, WSW, etc.) However, I actually knew this one!
  • OSLO (12D: World capital on a fjord) Currently the capital of Norway, OSLO was founded as a city in the year 1040. It's name at that time was Ánslo.
  • MALTA (27D: Mediterranean island republic) MALTA is a European island country in the Mediterranean Sea. MALTA has been inhabited since approximately 5900 B.C.
When you have a category theme such as this one, the goal is for the words in the category to have a different meaning in the theme answers than when they are part of the category. This puzzle is a nice demonstration of that concept. The meanings of LAB, RANCH, PLANT, and MILL are all transformed when they are part of the theme answers, YELLOW LAB, COOL RANCH, POTTED PLANT, and DIPLOMA MILL. It's a delightful set of theme answers, too. This was an enjoyable solve and a nice start to my Saturday morning.

We are still without power as a result of Monday's derecho that went across Iowa. (Hour 116, if we were counting...) We're doing okay; we have lots of people supporting us.