August 31, 2020


Constructor: Kate Hawkins

Editor: Erik Agard & Paolo Pasco

Theme Answers:
SLATE MAGAZINE (18A: "Dear Prudence" publication)
SILVER BULLET (30A: Magical solution to a complex problem)
ASH WEDNESDAY (39A: First day of Lent)
CHARCOAL GRILL (52A: Briquette-fed barbecue device)

Theme synopsis: The first words of the theme answers are SHADES OF GRAY. We have SLATE, SILVER, ASH, and CHARCOAL.

And now a word from our constructor:
Kate: It's great working with great editors. When I came to Erik with this puzzle, he suggested replacing an alternate theme answer with SLATEMAGAZINE, giving me a chance to give a clue shoutout to a podcast/column I enjoy and strengthening the whole puzzle. Thanks to Erik and Paolo for the excellent clues for CEO and IAM and for running with my clues for ANIMAL and SLIME!

Things I learned:
  • ARTURO (12A: "Alternatino with ___ Castro" (comedy series)) ARTURO Castro created and stars in the comedy sketch show "based on ARTURO's experiences as a Latino millennial in the United States."
  • BRIM (4D: Snapback feature) A snapback hat is a type of baseball cap which adjusts via a snap closure in the back. I know exactly the type of hat being referred to here, but the term snapback was new to me. I did an informal poll to gauge familiarity of the term, but my husband wasn't familiar with it either. We learned a new term this morning! I wonder if this is a regional term, or a term used by people in certain age groups. If you have insight on this, let me know.
  • BEA (10D: Comedian Aisling) Aisling BEA is the stage name of Irish comedian, actress, and screenwriter Aisling Clíodhnadh O'Sullivan. Since 2016, BEA has been a team captain on 8 Out of 10 Cats, a British comedy panel show.
  • DANIEL (14D: "Get Out" star Kaluuya) DANIEL Kaluuya played the role of Chris Washington in the movie, Get Out. He also played the role of W'kabi in Black Panther.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • BELT (4A: Sing really loudly) I entered WAIL at first, which might tell you something about my singing ability.
  • DICE (14A: Cubes in a casino) and ICE (9D: Cubes in a drink) This was a nice pair of clues. One more "cube" reference in the puzzle would have allowed me to make a bad joke about the clues themselves being cubed... (Math humor on a Monday - it's going to be a fun week!)
  • SLATE MAGAZINE (18A: "Dear Prudence" publication) The "Dear Prudence" advice column's name is a reference to the Beatles song, "Dear Prudence." The column has had multiple writers since it began in 1997. Herbert Stein was the column's first author, although he remained anonymous during his three-month authorship. Margo Howard, whose mother is Esther Lederer aka Ann Landers, authored "Dear Prudence" for eight years. Howard was followed by Emily Yoffe, who wrote the column from 2006 to 2015. Since November 2015, the writer of the "Dear Prudence" column has been Daniel M. Lavery. Until 2018, Lavery wrote under the pseudonym Mallory Ortberg. The "Dear Prudence" podcast launched in June 2016.
  • I AM (37A: "___...Sasha Fierce" (Beyonce album)) This is a great clue for a simple, short, two-word answer. Sasha Fierce is Beyoncé's on-stage alter ego. I AM...Sasha Fierce, Beyoncé's third album, was marketed as a double album. The two discs are titled I AM... and Sasha Fierce
  • MENTEE (58A: Oprah, to Maya Angelou) This is a lovely clue referencing two admirable women. 
  • ANIMAL (61A: Muppet drummer) "Ha! ANIMAL!" is exactly what I said when I read this clue. A delightful clue. 
  • ERMA (48D: Gospel singer Franklin) If you tried to make ARETHA fit here, know that ERMA Franklin was Aretha's older sister. In addition to recording her own gospel records, ERMA sometimes provided backup vocals for her sister, including singing backup for "Respect."
  • SLIME (51D: Kids Choice Awards goop) "You've been slimed!" SLIME has been an integral part of the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards show since 2002. 
  • CEO (57D: Shonda Rhimes, for Shondaland) I appreciate any clue that highlights a female in a leadership role. 
Geography review:
  • NIGERIA (26D: Country home to Lagos) Lagos is the most populous city in NIGERIA and the most populous city on the African continent.
  • ESTONIA (41D: Country on the Baltic Sea) ESTONIA is a country in Northern Europe. The capital of ESTONIA is Tallinn.
What a delightful puzzle to begin this last day of August! The theme is straightforward (and that's perfectly fine). In addition to the answers I've already highlighted, I liked FIRE SALE, TRIVIA, and WITHER. I learned a few things, chuckled at a few answers, and enjoyed solving this puzzle.