January 25, 2021


Constructors: Quiara Vasquez & Matthew Stock

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
CHARCUTERIE (20A: Food on a board)
PLASTIC UTENSILS (44A: Takeout extras)
PUBLIC UTILITY (53A: Water or power, e.g.)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer contains the word CUT in the CENTER of the entry.

And now a word from our constructors:
Quiara and Matthew: We're pretty sure this is the first published puzzle for either of us with left-right mirror symmetry, which is cool! This layout was great to work with for a few reasons. One, we got to include a few fun bonus answers like SOCCER TEAM, FREE SPIRIT, TEAPOT and ARM REST. And two, all the CUTs line up in the center of the grid, which adds a nice visual touch compared to a traditional layout in which the CUTs would be scattered throughout the grid. We’re particularly fond of the clues on 1-Across and 60-Across — find us on Twitter here and here if you enjoyed it!

Things I learned:
  • LISA (1A: WNBA legend Leslie) LISA Leslie played for WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks from 1997 to 2009. During that time she was the WNBA MVP three times. She was also the first player in the WNBA to dunk. In 2015, she was inducted into both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. LISA Leslie is currently the head coach for the Triplets in the BIG3 basketball league and an analyst for Fox Sports Florida.
  • PECK (17A: Attack from Hoothoot, in Pokemon) Hoothoot is a Flying Pokémon who evolves into Noctowl. Hoothoot is a Generation II Pokémon character. Even if you are unfamiliar with Pokémon characters (like me) it is inferable from the name Hoothoot, that this character is a bird, and therefore might PECK.
  • CHE (23A: ___ ba mau (Vietnamese dessert) CHÈ is a traditional Vietnamese sweet beverage, dessert soup, or pudding made with beans, tapioca, fruit, and coconut cream. CHÈ ba mau, or "three colors CHÈ" is made using green mung beans, white black-eyed peas, and red azuki beans. 
  • ELF (50A: Cosmetics initials) E.L.F. Cosmetics (usually stylized in lowercase letters as e.l.f. Cosmetics) is a company founded in 2004 to sell "affordable makeup & beauty products." E.L.F. stands for "Eyes Lips Face." This is a fun way to clue the word ELF. The fact that I didn't know this tells you how much time I spend in the makeup and beauty products aisle. 
  • ELSIE (61A: "Eighth Grade" actress Fischer) I believe there's a typo in this clue and it should read "Fisher" instead of "Fischer." In the movie, Eighth Grade, ELSIE Fisher plays the role of Kayla Day, a middle school student who struggles with anxiety. ELSIE Fisher has also voiced characters in the animated movies Despicable Me (Agnes) and The Addams Family (Parker Needler). Interestingly, there is an ELSIE Fischer. Her professional name was Elsa Stralia, and she was an Australian soprano with an international reputation. 
  • YOKO (69A: "The Last Children of Tokyo" author Tawada) YŌKO Tawada's novel, The Last Children of Tokyo is set in a Japan that has been devastated by a man-made global catastrophe. The book was published in the United States as The Emissary, and won a 2018 National Book Award for Translated Literature.  
  • AMOS (33D: Author Tutuola) AMOS Tutuola was a Nigerian writer. His books include The Palm-Wine Drunkard, published in 1952, and Yoruba Folktales, published in 1986. Of interest to me, in 1983 he was an associate of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. That was seven years before I moved to Iowa City to attend graduate school at the University of Iowa.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ASADA (5A: Taco meat option) ASADA or carne ASADA refers to barbecued or grilled meat, usually beef.
  • CHARCUTERIE (20A: Food on a board) CHARCUTERIE is a term for prepared meat products such as bacon, and ham. CHARCUTERIE may be served on a board paired with cheeses, olives, and nuts. I was simply thrilled that I spelled CHARCUTERIE correctly on my first try.
  • LIP (1D: "___ Gloss" (Lil Mama hit)) I have a sentimental attachment to this song, which I wrote about when it appeared in the August 22, 2020 puzzle
  • SOCCER TEAM (3D: The Chicago Red Stars, e.g.) The Chicago Red Stars are a professional SOCCER TEAM in the National Women's Soccer League. 
  • ANKH (4D: Symbol held by Horus) Horus is an ancient Egyptian deity who was worshipped as god of kingship and the sky. Horus is often pictured holding an ANKH, an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph used to represent the word life. 
  • POMELO (28D: Grapefruit relative) The POMELO is a citrus fruit and the principal ancestor of the grapefruit. Native to Southeast Asia, the botanical name of the POMELO, Citrus maxima, means "biggest citrus." 
Geography review:
  • KOREA (43A: Peninsula near Japan) Since 1945, KOREA has been divided into North KOREA and South KOREA. The capital of North KOREA is Pyongyang, and the capital of South KOREA is Seoul.
  • BALI (10D: Island home to sanghyang dances) BALI is a province of Indonesia. Sanghyang is a sacred Balinese dance. These sacred ritual dances are performed at religious ceremonies.
As Matthew and Quiara's notes mention, this puzzle has left-right mirror symmetry. That means the puzzle is symmetrical along a line down the center of the puzzle. As a constructor, mirror symmetry allows the use of theme answers of differing lengths - in this case, 11-, 15-, and 13-letters. It's an especially good choice here for the nice visual effect of placing CUT in the center of the puzzle. I enjoyed the cluing in this puzzle, especially the playful clues for VET (51A: Pupper checker-upper), POLO (60A: Anagram of "pool" heard in a pool), PAW (60D: Cat's "hand"), and MOO (63D: Cow's "Yoohoo!") I also liked FREE SPIRIT and HOOPLA as answers. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Monday.