January 22, 2021


Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Editor: Erik Agard & Amanda 

Theme Answers:
TOMATO PASTE (17A: Marinara sauce thickener)
RED TAPE (41A: Bureaucratic hurdle)
BELLY BUTTON (65A: It may be revealed by a crop top)
COLD SNAP (10D: Spell of chilly weather)
FILM CLIP (40D: Movie excerpt)

Theme synopsis: The last word of each theme answer is a type of FASTENer. We can fasten our items with PASTE, TAPE, a BUTTON, a SNAP, or a CLIP.

Things I learned:
  • REF ((38A: WFA flag-thrower) The Women's Football Alliance (WFA) began play in 2009. There are currently 65 teams in the WFA.
  • ACTOR (1D: Either performer in a two-hander) The term for a play or movie with only two main characters is a two-hander. I was unfamiliar with this term, although it was inferable once I had filled in a few letters of ACTOR from crossing answers. An example of a two-hander is the 2002 play, Tuesdays with Morrie, based on the book of the same name by Mitch Albom.
  • ATOM (23D: Small unit of matter studied by Lise Meitner) Lise Meitner was the second woman in the world to earn a doctorate in physics, which she did in 1905. (Elsa Neumann earned a doctorate in physics in 1899.) In 1938, Meitner and Otto Robert Frisch discovered nuclear fission, although the 1944 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this discovery went to their collaborator, Otto Hahn. Meitner's work also contributed to the discovery of the element protactinium. I was not familiar with Lise Meitner, and am always interested to learn about female scientists.
  • NECKTIE (47D: Avril Lavigne accessory circa 2002) When singer, songwriter, and actress Avril Lavigne first gained publicity in the early 2000s, her signature style included a NECKTIE, often worn with a tank top or t-shirt. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • RODEO (34A: "This isn't my first ___!") I was interested in the origin of this phrase, which is basically equivalent to saying, "Don't worry - I've got this!" It appears the phrase may have originated from the 1981 movie "Mommie Dearest," when Faye Dunaway (playing the role of Joan Crawford) says, "This ain't my first time at the rodeo." The line isn't in the book on which the movie was based, so is likely attributable to the writers of the screenplay. 
  • PUP (43A: Baby shark) Isn't it interesting that a baby dog and a baby shark are both referred to as a PUP? Other young animals referred to as PUP include anteaters, armadillos, bats, beavers, coyotes, dolphins, foxes, gerbils, guinea pigs, hedgehogs, hyenas, moles, mice, otters, seals, sloths, and squirrels.
  • IGOR (49A: "The Far Side" lab assistant) The comic, The Far Side, was created by Gary Larson.
  • CACTI (59A: Homes for Gila woodpeckers) The Gila woodpecker is found in the desert regions of the southwestern United States and western Mexico. They build their nests in holes made in saguaro CACTI.
  • EPA (66A: Acid Rain Program org.) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiative known as the Acid Rain Program is aimed at reducing overall atmospheric levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which cause acid rain. Acid rain is unusually acidic and can have harmful effects on plants and animals. 
The theme of this puzzle was indeed FASTEN-ATING! Did you realize there were so many varieties of FASTENers? The theme was well-executed, with solid theme answers. Notice that the words PASTE, TAPE, BUTTON, SNAP, and CLIP have different meanings in the theme phrases than when they are used as to describe types of FASTENers. As I was writing this, I noticed that NECKTIE could almost be a theme answer. We'll call it a theme bonus! This puzzle was an enjoyable way to begin my Friday.