November 16, 2020


Constructor: Amanda Rafkin

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
STAR OF BETHLEHEM (9D: Nativity story sighting)
HEART OF GOLD (16D: Kind and generous nature)

Theme synopsis: At the beginning of the theme answers we find the words CIRCLE, STAR, and HEART. Since the theme answers are all down entries, each SHAPE is at the TIP TOP of the puzzle. 

Things I learned:
  • DEL (18A: Dolores ___ Rio) Dolores DEL Rio was an actress, dancer, and singer who had a successful career in both the American and Mexican film industries. She appeared in multiple movies, including The Fugitive and Bird of Paradise
  • BAT AND BALL (31A: Gear for Jessica Mendoza) Currently a sports broadcaster for ESPN, Jessica Mendoza was a member of the United States women's national softball team from 2004 to 2010. She won a gold medal with the team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Mendoza also played professionally in National Pro Fastpitch for the Arizona Heat and the USSSA Pride. I struggled with this answer mainly because I had trouble seeing the correct parsing for the answer before I had it completely filled in. As I looked at BATA_D_ALL, my mind drew a complete blank.
  • AMELIE (63A: Title role for Audrey Tautou) AMÉLIE is a 2001 French-German movie about a waitress, played by Audrey Tautou, who decides to devote her life to making other people happy. AMÉLIE achieved international success, and is the highest-grossing French-language film released in the United States.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ALICIA (1A: Keys who plays the keys) Clever clue! As a classically-trained pianist, ALICIA Keys does indeed play the piano keys.
  • KISS ME (7A: "___, Kate" (Broadway musical)) KISS ME, Kate is a musical version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.
  • OCD (23A: "Turtles All the Way Down" condition) Turtles All the Way Down is a novel by John Green. It tells the story of Aza, a high school student with OCD and anxiety. 
  • MOP (38A: One with a wet head) Ha!
  • GO HOME (61A: Head back to the crib) Crib is used here in its slang meaning of house or residence.
  • LOVE (2D: "___ is or it ain't" (Morrison)) A quote from Toni Morrison's Beloved: "LOVE is or it ain't. Thin LOVE ain't LOVE at all."
  • KAT (7D: "The Vampire Diaries" star Graham) KAT Graham plays the role of Bonnie Bennett on the TV series, The Vampire Diaries.
  • STAR OF BETHLEHEM (9D: Nativity story sighting) I am almost embarrassed to admit how long it took me to fill in this answer correctly. (I say before going ahead and telling you...) Having spent 13 years as a freelance writer specializing in writing Sunday School curriculum, I wrote about the Nativity story more times than I can count. And yet, although I filled in STAR right away, I somehow ended up with FROM THE EAST for the remainder of the answer. (That doesn't really make sense with the Nativity story. Perhaps I was thinking of Magi from the East?) This made things interesting for a bit until I got that corrected.
  • MUTED (11D: Like some conference call attendees) Well, this is certainly a clue for our time, isn't it?
  • HEART OF GOLD (16D: Kind and generous nature) One of the years my daughter participated in high school show choir, her group performed to Neil Young's song, "HEART OF GOLD." As a result, this phrase always reminds me of show choir.
  • SON (22D: Ganesha, to Parvati and Shiva) Ganesha is a Hindu deity whose image is recognizable by his elephant head. Hindu mythology identifies Ganesha as the SON of Parvati and Shiva.
  • ANNE (25D: Green Gables girl) Ah, ANNE of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I still have a boxed set of the ANNE of Green Gables books that I purchased (with my own money!) from a Scholastic book order when I was in elementary school. 
  • ODE (29D: "___ to the Female Reproductive System" (Sharon Olds poem)) Published in 2016, Odes, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Sharon Olds, not only contains this particular ODE, but also odes to stretch marks, whiskers, and a composting toilet.
Geography review:
  • HOTLANTA (16A: Nickname for Georgia's capital) The origin of this particular nickname for Atlanta, Georgia is unclear. Although popularized by a 1971 instrumental song by the Allman Brothers Band, the name appears to date back to before 1960 when it was coined by a journalist.
  • ISLA (8D: Ibiza, por ejemplo) Ibiza is an island in the Mediterranean Sea off the eastern coast of Spain.
This puzzle is a SQUARE OF JOY. Actually, it's many joyful squares, and sadly, "square of joy" is not a commonly used phrase. Today's theme answers, however, are all common phrases in the format SHAPE OF ___. Delightful entries, all of them, combining into an enjoyable theme. I also enjoyed the playful cluing voice. This puzzle was a PERFECT FIT for my Monday morning. I recommend Amanda Rafkin's puzzle site, Brain Candy, where you'll find more squares of joy in various sizes.