September 25, 2020


Constructor: Rachel Fabi

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
THIN-SKINNED (17A: Sensitive to criticism)
BREATH OF THE WILD (38A: The Legend of Zelda release of 2017)
PEPPER POTTS (61A: CEO of Stark Industries)

Theme synopsis: The first word of each theme answer is a type of MINT. We have a THIN MINT, a BREATH MINT, and a PEPPERMINT.

And now a word from our constructor:
Rachel: This is another one of those themes that came together when I was trying to fall asleep but I couldn't get the central entry out of my head. I sent myself a text with the theme idea so that I'd still remember it in the morning, and the whole thing came together fairly quickly after that! Coincidentally, I also wrote today's New York Times puzzle (my debut over there!), so if you have a chance, give that a solve too. Finally, I wrote a guest puzzle for Matthew Stock's Happy Little Puzzles blog for today, so if you want to go for the trifecta, you can solve that one as well!

Things I learned:
  • KAT (16A: Aisha Dee's character on "The Bold Type") The Bold Type is a TV series inspired by the life of Joanna Coles, former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine. Coles serves as an executive producer of the show. The series centers on a trio of women who are best friends - Jane Sloan (Katie Stevens), KAT Edison (Aisha Dee), and Sutton Brady (Meghann Fahy). The women all work for Scarlet, a fictional global women's magazine. 
  • MANGA (33A: Arakawa's art) MANGA are graphic novels originating from Japan. Hiromi Arakawa is a MANGA artist who writes under the male pen name of Hiromu Arakawa. Her works include Fullmetal Alchemist, Silver Spoon, and The Heroic Legend of Arsian. I am not familiar with Arakawa's work, but was able to infer MANGA once I had a couple of letters filled in from crossing answers. I'm always happy to learn about new-to-me artists and authors.
  • LAMB (23D: Rogan josh meat) Rogan josh is a curried LAMB dish that is one of the signature dishes of Kashmiri cuisine, the cuisine of the Kashmir Valley of India.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • THIN-SKINNED (17A: Sensitive to criticism) The expression THIN-SKINNED has been in use since the late 1600s. Interestingly, its counterpart, thick-skinned, has been in use since the 1500s. Thick-skinned was originally used to describe the rinds of fruits and vegetables and was then adapted to mean "insensitive to criticism." It was a short leap from there (that apparently took a hundred years or so) to using THIN-SKINNED to mean "sensitive to criticism."
  • BREATH OF THE WILD (38A: The Legend of Zelda release of 2017) The Legend of Zelda is a video game franchise. The original Legend of Zelda was released by Nintendo in 1986. BREATH OF THE WILD takes place at the end of the Zelda chronology. Here's some fun trivia: When historical fiction writer, John Boyne was writing A Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom, he accidentally included some ingredients from the BREATH OF THE WILD game in his recipe for a potion to poison Attila the Hun.
  • ANNIE (45A: Musical role for Quvenzhane Wallis) Quvenzhan√© Wallis played the title role in the 2014 musical adaptation of Annie. Wallis is also the author of a series of children's books about best friends and third-graders, Shai and Emmie. The first book in the series is Shai & Emmie Star in Break an Egg!
  • MEN (60A: "Children of ___") Children of MEN is a 2006 movie based on a 1992 novel by P.D. James, The Children of MEN
  • PEPPER POTTS (61A: CEO of Stark Industries) Virginia "PEPPER" Potts is a fictional character in Marvel Comics. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe she was played by Gwyneth Paltrow.
  • DANKE (73A: Response to "gesundheit!") "Gesundheit!" the German word for health, is used by some as a response to sneezing. DANKE is the German word for "thank you." I grew up in a family that used "Gesundheit!" as a response to sneezing. My senior year of high school our family hosted an exchange student from Germany. She was highly amused by this practice, as she had never used the word in this manner.
  • NAH (2D: "I'm good") and YESES (5D: Affirmative answers) and SAID NO (6D: Answered in the negative) This succession of answers made me smile. It seems like this puzzle cannot decide on an answer!
  • OMAR (24D: Ilhan, the first Somali-American elected to Congress) Ilhan OMAR is a U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 5th congressional district.
Geography review:
  • TEL (52A: ___ Aviv) TEL Aviv, Israel was founded in 1909 as a housing estate on the outskirts of the ancient port city of Jaffa. TEL Aviv has several nicknames, including "Non-Stop City" and "The Big Orange."
  • RON (8D: Nigerian language, or a nickname in English) RON is an Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Plateau, a state in Nigeria.
I try to remember to look at the title of the puzzle right before I start solving so I can be on the lookout for the theme as I solve. (I usually solve the puzzle using the USA Today app on my iPad, and the title is not visible once you start solving.) When I uncovered THIN-SKINNED, I actually said aloud, "Ah, THIN MINT, clever!" Uncovering BREATH OF THE WILD (which I was not readily familiar with and needed crosses to discern) confirmed my suspicions and had me looking for a PEPPERMINT. The puzzle did not disappoint me!
I really enjoyed the cluing voice here. For example, clues such as (4D: Step between "lather" and "repeat), (11D: "Ugh, you win"), and (48D: Descriptor for some cheeses) elevate the enjoyment of the answers RINSE, OK FINE, and STINKY. In addition to the words I've already highlighted, I also enjoyed the entry CRIED FOUL. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Friday morning, and I am now off to solve Rachel's other puzzles!