November 11, 2020

Title: Side Gig

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Guest Blogger: Matthew Stock

Theme Answers: 

GOES OVER BIG (16A: Is very well-received)
GUINEA PIG (29A: Experimental subject)
GIVE A RING (47A: Call up)
GRETA GERWIG (62A: "Lady Bird" director)

Theme Synopsis:
When they're not posing as crossword entries, this puzzle's themers each have a "side gig" — that is, they're bookended by the G-I-G string.

Things I learned:
  • PERT (6A: Synonym found in "impertinent") I have definitely definitely seen this word before, but I'm sure I could not have told you what it meant without this clue. Try using it in an email today!
  • DUMBO (14A: Disney film whose production was interrupted by an animators' strike) After Pinocchio and Fantasia underperformed at the box office, Walt Disney laid off a bunch of animators, many of whom in turn joined the Screen Cartoonist's Guild (yay unions!) Disney was the last major animation studio to recognize the union, but eventually signed a contract following the Dumbo strike.
  • ATARI (27D: Rebecca Heineman won its Space Invaders Tournament in 1980) With this win, Heineman is considered to be the world's first videogame tournament champion. She went on to found several videogame companies, including Interplay Entertainment (which makes the Fallout series).
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • WIT (41A: Knack for quick comebacks) Alas, CLUTCH GENE didn't fit!
  • TOK (58A: "TiK ___" (Kesha's breakout hit)) I'm only 24, but TikTok (and the fact that I don't use it and don't know anything about it) definitely makes me feel old. Loved the throwback earworm here to shake things up.
  • GRETA GERWIG (62A: "Lady Bird" director) So fun to have full names as standalone entries! If you haven't seen Lady Bird, I'd highly recommend you do.
  • WALL-E (68A: Pixar movie about a robot) If you haven't seen WALL-E, please stop reading this blog post and go watch it now.
  • RAT TRAP (46D: Dilapidated place) Welcome back! Hope you loved the movie. Anyway, my grandfather taught me the word "dilapidated" when I was really little, and I smile every time I see it.
  • RAE (63A: Corinne Bailey ___) We see tons of Carly RAE Jepsen and (more recently) Issa RAE in puzzles, but not enough Corinne Bailey RAE! "Put Your Records On" is an all-time great feel-good song.
Geography review:
  •  NAPA VALLEY (28D: California region with a Wine Train) Some fun facts I learned — Napa contributes about $50 billion toward the American economy per year, and 95% of the wineries in the region are family-owned.

Hi everyone! Happy to be back filling in for Sally and raving about another phenomenally smooth and delightful offering from Zhouqin Burnikel. As a constructor, theme sets with lengths 11/9/9/11 are really fun to work with, since there's so much flexibility in how you arrange the grid skeleton around those theme entries. Zhouqin cashes in on this at every turn — I loved hitting CASSATT, NAPA VALLEY, ACID TEST, TOGGLE and RAT TRAP especially, and all the themers were fun as standalone entries. 

Thanks a bunch for solving along with me today! Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.


  1. Put me in the "needs to watch Lady Bird" category. I got to that one and kinda mindlessly put in "AVAVUVERNAY", so at least I had two letters right.

    1. I definitely second Matthew's recommendation of Lady Bird! (and WALL-E!)

    2. I will say that Ratatouille is the most underrated Pixar film of all time, but you certainly can't go wrong with Wall-E.


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