December 21, 2020

Title: SAY AH!

Constructor: Margit Christenson

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
HONEST TO GOD (17A: "I swear!")
ALIBABA (26A: Chinese e-commerce giant)
EN GARDE (49A: Fencing phrase)
OLIVE GARDEN (61A: Chain with unlimited breadsticks)

Theme synopsis: SAY AH! That's what you need to do when saying today's theme answers. Each theme answer begins with the "AH" sound spelled in a different way. 

Things I learned:
  • HEY YA (13D: 2003 OutKast hit) "HEY YA!" was one of two lead singles from OutKast's fifth album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. The song reached number one on Billboard's Hot 100 and won a Grammy Award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • HI MOM (1A: Phrase spoken while waving at a TV camera) This made me smile. It's always nice to start a puzzle off with a fun clue and answer at 1-Across. 
  • ALEX (24A: Love interest of Piper on "Orange is the New Black") Orange is the New Black is a Netflix TV series based on Piper Kerman's memoir about her year in a women's prison. Taylor Schilling played the role of Piper Chapman, and Laura Prepon played the role of ALEX.
  • ALIBABA (26A: Chinese e-commerce giant) Founded in 1999 by Jack Ma and 17 of his friends and students, ALIBABA Group has become the the world's largest retailer and e-commerce company. One of its subsidiaries, ALIBABA Cloud, was ranked number 5 on a recent list of the Top 100 Artificial Intelligence Companies. The company has recently been in the news (and not in a good way) for developing technology that could be used to detect faces of minority groups in China. 
  • NOV (33A: Movember mo.) Movember, a portmanteau of moustache and November, aims to raise awareness of men's health issues, including prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and suicide. The movement encourages men to grow moustaches during the month of November.
  • LIL (44A: Adjective in some rap names) LIL Wayne, LIL Nas X, LIL Kim, LIL Zane - just to name a few. If you'd like to know more about rappers using LIL in their names, you can read a brief history of the trend, or check out one ranking of "LIL" rappers
  • GORP (52A: Another name for trail mix) Why is trail mix called GORP? Some say it's an acronym for "Granola, Oats, Raisins, and Peanuts," or "Good Old Raisins and Peanuts." Or it could be related to the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of gorp as a verb meaning "to eat greedily."
  • UVULA (31D: Body part that rises when saying "ah") The UVULA is the tissue that can be seen hanging down at the back of your mouth when you open wide and look in a mirror. It plays a role in preventing food from entering your nasal cavity when you eat, and is also used in articulation of certain sounds. This is a great center word for today's puzzle! I enjoyed the nice tie-in with the theme.
  • EGOT (36D: Showbiz grand slam) This is the third time we've seen EGOT in the puzzle this month. (If you need a reminder about EGOT, check out the December 7 or December 8 post). Since there are four awards comprising the EGOT, it would seem fitting if we had a fourth EGOT appearance this month. Will that happen? Stay tuned...
Geography review:
  • EUGENE (30A: Oregon Ducks city) Oregon Ducks is the nickname for the athletic teams of the University of Oregon, located in the city of EUGENE.
  • ZION (45A: National park in 29-Down) ZION National Park, located in southwestern UTAH, includes mountains, canyons, rivers, and natural arches. 
  • AVON (7D: English river that's an astronomy term backwards) There are several rivers named AVON in the United Kingdom. The River AVON which flows through Stratford-upon-AVON is known as Warwickshire AVON, or Shakespeare's AVON.
  • KOREA (11D: South ___ (Busan's country)) Busan is the second most populous city in South KOREA. (Seoul is the first.)
  • UTAH (29D: Salt Lake City's state) Salt Lake City is the capital of UTAH, and its most populous city.
AH, I liked this theme! It's subtle, leading to an "aha!" moment upon discovery. As noted above, placing UVULA in the center of the puzzle was a beautiful special touch. There are some nice long bonuses here, too: TRIPPED UP, MANO A MANO, and the timely EBENEZER Scrooge. This puzzle was a delightful way to start my Monday.


  1. (formerly known as anonymous)

    Love the theme connection you made in last paragraph: "AH, I liked this..." and, "... AHa moment..."

    1. Pat, (formerly known as anonymous - I like that!) I'm glad someone appreciates my silliness. :-)

  2. Today's was a hard theme to figure out. Mostly because I apparently speak in a different accent than the constructor. I pronounce the H in Honest and pronounce Olive Garden as "Oh-leave Garden". Don't really see ALIBABA and EN GARDE too often so I don't know the correct pronunciation of those words.

    I liked the fill of the puzzle a lot - MANO A MANO, EBENEZER and ZIG ZAG are great fill words. Also lots of high point Scrabble letters in the puzzle which is always nice to see.


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