August 22, 2020

Title: OPEN UP!

Constructor: Evan Kalish

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
FINE POINTS (3D: Nuances)
NEPOTISM (15D: Family favoritism)
GENE POOL (35D: Sum of all the alleles in a population)
ONLINE POLL (30D: Internet survey)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer has the letter string N-E-P-O. Since the theme answers are all Down entries, reading UP, each answer contains the word OPEN.

And now a word from our constructor:
Evan: 10/8/8/10; so much room to breathe! I enjoyed gridding this, particularly with the cascade of eight-letter across entries and those large NE/SW corners.
I love, though cannot take credit for, the clue at 20-Across. (Sometimes it helps to have editors who know their pop culture!) I first learned about 61-Down on “Adam Ruins Everything,” and I’m glad they’re getting a shout-out here.

Things I learned:
  • RHEA (61D: Comedian Butcher) When RHEA Butcher appeared on "Adam Ruins Everything" episodes, they played the role of Adam's sister, RHEA. Since 2018, RHEA has hosted a baseball-focused podcast titled Three Swings.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • LIP GLOSS (20A: "Probably the reason all these boys got crushes," in a Lil Mama hit) I actually knew the answer to this pop culture clue! There was a time when my daughter played the song "LIP GLOSS" a lot. ("'s poppin', it's poppin', it's poppin'!) One time I, in all my mom-uncoolness referred to it as "The Chapstick Song." (My memory of the circumstances of the actual conversation are vague.) My daughter, of course, thought this was hilarious, and it has become the source of a long-standing joke between us.
  • RETTON (42A: Gymnast Mary Lou) It's only been six days since we saw Olympic medalist Mary Lou RETTON in the puzzle. That time, the answer was LOU. When MARY is clued as [___ Lou Retton] she will have won the all-round gold medal for USA Today crossword clues. 
  • SAM (51A: Author Greenlee) SAM Greenlee is the author of The Spook Who Sat by the Door, which was made into a movie of the same name. 
  • FRIDA (5D: "Viva la Vida, Watermelons" painter Kahlo) Mexican artist FRIDA Kahlo has been described as one of the most instantly recognizable artists. Most of her recognition occurred later in her life and posthumously. Although many of FRIDA's paintings were self-portraits, "Viva la Vida, Watermelons," as the name suggests, is a still life of watermelons in various cut shapes.
  • EELS (12D: "I'm sorry Ms. Jackson, I am four ___" (misquoted lyric)) From the Outkast song, "Ms. Jackson," the actual lyric is "I'm sorry Ms. Jackson, I am for real." Another clever clue for a frequent crossword answer.
  • GECKO (17D: 29-Down spokeslizard) and GEICO (29D: State Farm competitor) Fun to see GECKO and GEICO in the same puzzle.
  • ERRS (33D: Answers "airs" for this clue, say) This was a clever way to clue this frequently-seen answer.
Geography review:
  • CAL (23A: UCLA's "C," for short) CALifornia is the most populous U.S. state. It is the third-largest state.
  • RENO (38A: Nevada City) RENO, Nevada is named for a Union Major General, Jesse L. RENO, who was killed in action during the American Civil War.
  • USSR (37D: Cold War country) The USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) existed from 1922 to 1991. 
This was a delightful puzzle! NEPOTISM and GENE POOL were nice theme answers. You can't be on social media for long at all without seeing an ONLINE POLL, so I enjoyed seeing that entry in the puzzle. Evan used the openness of the grid well, and there were plenty of enjoyable non-theme answers, too. GONE GIRL, the aforementioned LIP GLOSS, TIME TO GO, LET'S HOPE were all fun to discover. Solving this puzzle was a lovely start to my Saturday.