October 10, 2020


Constructor: Paolo Pasco

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
PICKING UP THE TAB (3D: Paying for everyone's meals)
POINT OF NO RETURN (9D: Pivotal juncture)
DAY SHIFT (36D: Work period ending before sundown)
GONE HOME (37D: 2013 video game involving an empty house)

Theme synopsis: The last word of each theme answer is the name of a KEY found on a computer keyboard. All of the theme answers are down entries and placed such that the KEY is LOW in the puzzle.

And now a word from our constructor:
Paolo: the idea for this puzzle came together while i was watching griffin mcelroy speedrun GONE HOME. i'm not a "gamer" by any means, but Gone Home is a joy to play through, i highly recommend it, and i'm happy to be shouting it out in today's puzzle!

Things I learned:
  • TRIP (61A: "Girls ___" (2017 movie)) Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, and Jada Pinkett Smith played reunited college friends in Girls TRIP. Time magazine chose Girls Trip as one of its top ten films of 2017.
  • TRIBE (63A: A ___ Called Quest) A TRIBE Called Quest was a hip hop group composed of rappers Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White. The group was the subject of a 2011 documentary, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A TRIBE Called Quest.
  • TOTORO (8D: "My Neighbor ___" (Studio Ghibli film)) My Neighbor TOTORO is a 1988 anime film telling the story of a professor's two young daughters, Satsuki and Mei, and their interactions with friendly wood spirits. The movie is set in post-war Japan. The title character, TOTORO, has since made cameo appearances in a number of Studio Ghibli films and video games. 
  • HAUL (27D: ___ video (YouTube upload cataloguing purchases)) A HAUL video is a recording of someone discussing purchases from a recent shopping trip. There are (apparently) over a quarter of a million HAUL videos on YouTube, some of which have been viewed millions of times. This was a completely new term to me, though I am familiar with the related term, "unboxing video," in which people record themselves unboxing purchases they've received. I do not like to shop. (In fact, my daughter has said to me, "I know you love me because you will take me shopping.") Therefore, watching someone else talk about their shopping purchases does not appeal to me. However, I realize some of the things I'm interested in (such as crosswords, even) do not appeal to others, so it's all good.
  • GONE HOME (37D: 2013 video game involving an empty house) GONE HOME is a first-person exploration video game. The player of the game assumes the role of Katie, a young woman who returns home from overseas to find her family gone. The goal of the game is to piece together the story by exploring the house. The game has been used as an example of video games as art. I'm not an avid "gamer," but I might have to check this one out. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • SOLANGE (21A: "A Seat at the Table" artist) A Seat at the Table was the third studio album released by SOLANGE Knowles, and her first album to reach number one in the United States. We've had back-to-back puzzle appearances by the Knowles sisters, as Beyoncé was in yesterday's puzzle.
  • ALGAE (28A: Nori or spiraling, e.g.) Nori is dried red ALGAE (red here refers to its genus, not its color). Referred to as edible seaweed, sheets of nori are used to wrap some sushi rolls. Spirulina is a blue-green ALGAE used as a dietary supplement.
  • SHEATHE (50A: Put in a scabbard) This was the last answer I filled in. I'm familiar with the term "scabbard," which is a SHEATHE for holding a sword or knife, but every time I read the clue I got distracted thinking about Scabbers, the rat from the Harry Potter series. And then my brain was trying to parse the answer as SHE ATHE. Some days it feels like my brain is intent on my not finishing the puzzle!
  • SUITS (1D: Many Janelle Monae outfits) SUITS is often clued as corporate bigwigs, and I found this reference to singer Janelle Monáe a welcome fresh take.
  • THE GOAT (13D: No. 1, in slang) Standing for "greatest of all time," THE GOAT is often used in reference to athletes.
  • WERE (41D: "I Knew You ___ Trouble") This Tayor Swift song has now become my earworm for the day. Thanks, Paolo. It's a catchy song and I like it - it could be worse!
  • AVAST (46D: "Stop," to a sailor) I usually only use the word AVAST on "International Talk Like a Pirate Day," (September 19) but I'll make an exception for today's puzzle. AVAST is derived from the Dutch term "hou' vast" meaning "hold on."
  • HULU (51D: "Devs" streaming service) Devs is a TV miniseries that premiered on FX on HULU in March of this year. The series centers around software engineer, Lily Chan, whose boyfriend mysteriously died on his first day working at Devs, a division of the tech company, Amaya.

    Geography review:
    • ERIE (53D: Alphabetically first Great Lake) Well, hello, our crossword friend, ERIE! We haven't seen you since...yesterday's puzzle. The Great Lakes in alphabetical order: ERIE, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Superior.
    This was a fun puzzle with a clever, placement-related theme. PICKING UP THE TAB and POINT OF NO RETURN are nice grid-spanning phrases. Just a note about the theme answer GONE HOME. Some keyboards (like the one I'm typing on right now) don't have a HOME KEY. For keyboards that do have the HOME key, it can be used to return the cursor to the beginning of the line of text or to the beginning of the document. This puzzle uses left-right mirror symmetry. This makes for an interesting grid shape. I think it looks like a one-eyed alien with antennae who is wearing black boots. In addition to the answers highlighted above, I enjoyed TAKE TEN, LAYS LOW, and THAT TOO. This puzzle was a delightful way to start my Saturday.
    One more thing: For those of you who enjoy numbers and patterns, as I do, happy 10-10-2020! This would be a fine day to make a plan to vote in the November 3 election.