January 30, 2021


Constructor: Mark McClain

Editors: Erik Agard & Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
EXOTIC SPECIES (20A: Non-native flora or fauna)
FOREIGN LANGUAGE (38A: Some travelers may learn one)
ALIEN INVASION (51A: Occurrence in many sci-fi stories)

Theme synopsis: The first word in each theme answer is a synonym for STRANGE. We have EXOTIC, FOREIGN, and ALIEN.

Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • TRADE (9A: The "T" in NAFTA) The North American Free TRADE Agreement, or NAFTA, was an agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the United States which created a trade bloc, reducing barriers to trade and investment between the three countries. NAFTA was in force from January 1, 1994 until July 1, 2020, when it was replaced by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
  • HEXES (16A: "Practical Magic" spells) Practical Magic is a 1998 movie based on Alice Hoffman's novel of the same name. Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman played the roles of Sally and Gillian Owens, sisters who are witches. 
  • SOON (18A: "___ You'll Bet Better" (Taylor Swift song with The Chicks) "SOON You'll Get Better" is a song Taylor Swift wrote about her parents battling cancer. The song was from her 2019 album, Lover, and featured backup vocals by The Chicks. 
  • IAN (28A: Singer Janis) "Society's Child," and "At Seventeen" were two of Janis IAN's hits. When Janis IAN appeared in the September 14, 2020 puzzle, I discovered that in addition to singing, she is also a writer. You can read some of Janis IAN's writings, including some of her science fiction stories, on her website.
  • MAR (37A: Women's History mo.) The United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia celebrate Women's History Month in MARch to correspond with International Women's Day on March 8. Canada celebrates Women's History Month in October. In the United States, Women's History Month is designated each year by Presidential proclamation. President Jimmy Carter issued the first such Presidential Proclamation, designating a Women's History Week. The designation was extended to a month in 1987. Each year the National Women's History Alliance selects a theme for the month. The theme for 2020 was "Valiant Women of the Vote," honoring women who worked to win suffrage rights for women, and women who continue to fight for voting rights.
  • MET (Took a Bumble match offline) Bumble is a dating app originally released in 2014.
  • ARGO (61A: Ship protected by the goddess Hera) In Greek mythology, ARGO was the ship Jason and the Argonauts sailed on to retrieve the Golden Fleece. According to the legend, ARGO and the crew were specially protected by the goddess Hera.
  • RISE (1D: "Still I ___" (Maya Angelou poem)) "Still I RISE" was first published in 1978 in Maya Angelou's book of poetry, And Still I RISE
  • DEC (12A: Hanukkah mo., often) Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar. These dates fall anywhere from late November to late DECember in the Gregorian calendar.
  • INGRID (21D: Bergman of "Casablanca") INGRID Bergman played the role of Ilsa Lund in the 1942 movie, Casablanca. The movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture when it was released, and consistently appears on lists of the greatest films in history. 
  • CANON (22D: "___ in D" (Pachelbel piece)) Like many other couples, my husband and I had Pachelbel's CANON in D played at our wedding.
  • EMAIL (31D: "This meeting could have been an ___") This clue made me laugh! I have this feeling about almost every meeting I've ever attended.
  • ANGER (50D: Red "Inside Out" character) In Pixar's 2015 animated movie, Inside Out, the emotions of a young girl named Riley are depicted as colorful beings helping her navigate life. As this clue notes, ANGER is depicted as RED. Inside Out is one of my two all-time favorite animated movies. I highly recommend it. (Meet the Robinsons is my other favorite.)
  • ALAN (51D: Actor Rickman) ALAN Rickman's film, TV, and stage credits are many. I was having trouble deciding where to begin highlighting his fabulous work, so instead, I'm going to share a link to a video he narrated several weeks before he died. He worked with Oxford University students to make the video to raise money for the refugee crisis. Click on the link, watch the video, and enjoy listening to ALAN Rickman's distinctive, mesmerizing voice. 
Geography review:
  • EAGLE (32D: Bird on the flag of Egypt) Egypt's flag consists of horizontal red, white, and black stripes, and features Egypt's national emblem, the Egyptian EAGLE of Saladin.
  • UGANDA (36D: Country on Lake Victoria) Located in East-Central Africa, UGANDA is a land-locked country. UGANDA is one of three countries on Lake Victoria - the other two are Kenya and Tanzania. The capital of UGANDA is Kampala.
Did you notice anything STRANGE about this puzzle? This puzzle's STRANGE theme was delightful with an ALIEN INVASION of an EXOTIC SPECIES speaking a FOREIGN LANGUAGE. Throw in some HEXES, and "GOODY, GOODY gumdrops" you have a puzzle that did not inspire ANGER, but instead was an enjoyable way to begin my Saturday.