January 1, 2021


Constructor: Mark McClain

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
NEW YEAR'S DAY (20A: Time for resolutions)
COFFEE BREAK (53A: Time to caffeinate)
MOVIE STARS (11D: They get a lot of screen time)
PRAIRIE DOG (29D: Great Plains rodent)

Theme synopsis: The last word of each theme answer can follow the word LUCKY to form a new phrase. We have LUCKY DAY, LUCKY BREAK, LUCKY STARS, and LUCKY DOG.

Things I learned:
  • POE (52A: Director Tayarisha) Tayarisha POE is the writer and director of Selah and the Spades, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019, and was released online in April 2020. The film centers on high school senior, Selah, the leader of the Spades, a group of boarding school students who sell drugs to other students. Though I haven't seen the film, in reading about it, I learned there is a scene in the movie where Selah is getting ready for prom, and gelling her EDGES with a toothbrush. A nice tie in with 66A. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • WISP (1A: Tiny bit of hair) and EDGES (66A: Some hair) The EDGES of this puzzle are hairy! EDGES are the baby hairs growing at the perimeter of your forehead. EDGES are most commonly found on Black women's hair, and styling these WISPs of hair can be a work of art.
  • IAN (23A: McKellen in X-Men films) and STAN (13D: Lee who co-created Magneto) In the X-Men films, IAN McKellen plays the role of Magneto, a character co-created by STAN Lee. Not only are these answers connected in the grid, their clues are woven together in a way that might be missed by a casual solver, but once noticed delivers a satisfying "Aha!" moment.
  • ALI (10D: Undefeated boxer Laila) Laila ALI is a former professional boxer. ALI, the daughter of Muhammad ALI, was undefeated during her eight-year boxing career.
  • AGENT (22A: ___ M (Tessa Thompson's role in "Men in Black: International")) In the 2019 movie, Men in Black: International, Tessa Thompson plays the role of a rookie MIB recruit, Molly Wright/AGENT M. There was also a character named AGENT M in Men in Black II. That AGENT M was a cameo role for Michael Jackson. 
  • PAGE (52D: "The Umbrella Academy" actor Elliot) The Umbrella Academy is a TV series based on the comic book series of the same name. The show is centered on a family of adopted sibling superheroes reunited to solve the mystery of their father's death. (Oh, they are also trying to prevent an impending apocalypse.) Elliot PAGE plays the role of Vanya Hargreeves, a violinist who can unleash great force by focusing on sound.
  • AUNT (57D: Family member who's an anagram of a fish) AUNT Tuna just made me giggle.
Geography review:
  • OSLO (5A: Capital city on a fjord) OSLO is the capital of Norway and the country's most populous city. A fjord, such as the one OSLO is situated on, is a long, narrow inlet with steep cliffs. Here's some interesting trivia: The coastline of Norway is approximately 1,600 miles if fjords are excluded, but is estimated to be 18,000 miles if the nearly 1,200 fjords are included in the measurement. 
  • CAIRO (39D: City near the Great Pyramid) CAIRO is the capital of Egypt, and the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the world.
Are you FEELING LUCKY? This puzzle would have been successful and enjoyable on any day, but it's an especially nice touch to be solving it today with its appropriate first theme answer of NEW YEAR'S DAY. The multiple interconnected clues gave the puzzle a nice cohesive feeling - two hair clues, the IAN/STAN intersection, the pair of rodent clues (PRAIRIE DOG and GOFER), two capital cities, two theme answers clued as "time for..." and even I SEE and I FEAR in parallel at the top of the puzzle. Solving this puzzle was a lovely way to begin 2021. Happy NEW YEAR'S DAY to you!