November 9, 2020


Constructor: Paolo Pasco

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
SPELLS DANGER (20A: Bodes perilously)
TAKE A GANDER (36A: "Check this out")
ARIANA GRANDE (55A: "thank u, next" artist)

Theme synopsis: The last word of each theme answer - DANGER, GANDER, GRANDE - is an anagram of GARDEN.

Things I learned:
  • THAT (8A: "How You Like ___" (Blackpink song) Blackpink is a South Korean girl group, and the highest-charting female Korean act on Billboard's Hot 100. This clue is a fine example of a clue type I have mentioned previously, using a song title to clue a common word. Even if you are unfamiliar with Blackpink and/or the song, "How You Like THAT," the answer is inferable. I am a fan of these types of clues, and through them am frequently introduced to new songs and music groups.
  • PIANO (17A: Yuja Wang's instrument) Yuja Wang is a Beijing-born internationally recognized concert pianist. She has performed with many orchestras as the featured soloist, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Toronto Symphony.
  • ANN (27A: Designer Lowe) ANN Lowe was a fashion designer. She designed the ivory silk taffeta wedding dress that Jacqueline Bouvier wore in 1953 when she marred John F. Kennedy.
  • EVA (24D: Pop singer Simons) EVA Simons is a Dutch singer-songwriter who has collaborated with Afrojack, and was featured on the single "This Is Love." 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • OREO (18A: Cookie similar to a Joe-Joe) Joe-Joe's are a brand of cookie sold by the grocery store chain Trader Joe's. As the clue tells us, an OREO is similar to a Joe-Joe, and vice-versa. Like OREOs, Joe Joe's come in multiple varieties - there's even a mango variety (available seasonally)!
  • CORDS (31A: Landline features) True story - when I read this clue I thought, "What's a landline? Is that some type of geographic feature?" Oh, dear. It's been quite a few years since I've had a landline, but at this point I can still say I had landlines - with CORDS - for most of my life. I'm blaming this brain blip on Monday morning.
  • TAKE A GANDER (36A: "Check this out") The phrase TAKE A GANDER has been used in this context since the late 19th century. Gander is the name for a male goose. Geese are known for their long necks which they stretch out to investigate their surroundings. This led to the use of the word gander to mean stretching your neck out to take a look, and eventually to the phrase TAKE A GANDER.
  • AVA (41A: "August 28" director DuVernay) AVA DuVernay was commissioned by the Smithsonian to create a film about African-American History. The result was a 22-minute film, August 28: A Day in the Life of a People, which explores six significant events that happened on August 28. The events depicted in the film are: William IV's royal assent to the UK Slavery Abolition Act (1833), the lynching of Emmett Till (1955), the release of the song "Please Mr. Postman" by The Marvellettes (1961), Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech (1963), the landfall of Hurricane Katrina (2005), and then-Senator Barack Obama's acceptance of the Democratic nomination for president (2008).
  • I SAY (49A: "___ a Little Prayer" (Dionne Warwick hit)) Dionne Warwick's, "I SAY a Little Prayer" peaked at number four on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart in 1967. Here's another example of using a song title to clue a common word (or two).
  • SNOW (48A: What skiers ski on) Wait, skiers ski on skis... Oh, yes, the skis are on SNOW. (More Monday morning brain.)
  • SLAP (67A: Be really good) I learned this meaning of SLAP from the July 1 puzzle. Crossword puzzles are educational in so many ways!
  • SODA (15D: Apple Sidra, e.g.) Apple Sidra is a Taiwanese apple SODA. It was first produced in 1965, and is sold in a yellow can. 
  • ROSA (39D: "On the Bus with ___ Parks" (Rita Dove collection)) This book of poetry was first published in 1999. Rita Dove was the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995. 
  • RITA (52D: Actress and writer Wilson) As an actress, RITA Wilson has appeared in many movies and TV series, including Sleepless in Seattle and Runaway Bride. As a producer, her credits include My Big Fat Greek Wedding. As a singer-songwriter, she has released several albums, including Halfway to Home. RITA Wilson has been married to Tom Hanks since 1988. Earlier this year, both Wilson and Hanks contracted COVID-19. Remember that - way back in March? Thankfully, they both recovered, and have donated their blood antibodies for virus research. 
  • DNA (61D: Rosalind Franklin researched it) Rosalind Franklin was a chemist and X-ray crystallographer whose work on X-ray diffraction images of DNA led to the discovery of its double helix structure. A woman in science clue - you know I love to see it!

    Geography review:
    • DES (40A: ___ Plaines, Illinois) DES Plaines, Illinois is a suburb of Chicago. It is named after the DES Plaines River, which runs through the city.
    • LANAI (66A: Island near Maui) LANAI is the third-smallest of Hawaii's main islands. It was just yesterday that I wrote about which Hawaiian islands have appeared in the puzzle since I have been blogging. We've seen LANAI previously on October 7. We're still waiting on the appearance of Kauai, Niihau, Kahoolawe, and Hawaii.
    Most days I solve the puzzle using the USA Today puzzle app. One of the quirks of the app is that once you start solving the puzzle, the title is no longer visible. I try to remember to look at the title of the puzzle before I begin so I can play "guess the theme" while solving. When I saw GARDEN VARIETY, I was imagining theme answers with flower names, or perhaps a VARIETY of words that could precede GARDEN. The first theme answer I completely filled in was ARIANA GRANDE, and I exclaimed aloud, "Oh, that's clever!" as I recognized GRANDE as an anagram of GARDEN. A clever theme with some lovely theme answers. The rest of the puzzle was delightful as well. MANSPREADS with its perfect explanatory clue made me chuckle. The cluing was inclusive and varied, featuring song titles from 1967 and 2019 - a little something for everyone. I felt especially seen by MAMA and GEN X, and for some reason I am hungry for brownies ALA mode. This puzzle was an enjoyable way to begin my Monday morning. 


    1. Hi, Sally, I thought I was going nuts. The puzzle image from yesterday is showing above our write-up for today. Twilight Zone time. So, I'm not sure about some entries. I have IMA for 51 Across and MARA for 52 DOWN. There may be others. I've never heard of AERIAL YOGA but Googling I see it is a real thing.


      1. Ack, David, I'm so sorry!! Thank you for letting me know! I have fixed it now. I definitely had a bad case of Monday brain this morning. My apologies.

      2. And, yes, AERIAL yoga is definitely a thing. I've never tried it, though I've wanted to. I have a friend who loves it!


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