February 20, 2021


Constructor: Evan Kalish

Editors: Erik Agard & Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
ASTRAL PLANE (17A: Realm for spirits)
PHOTO FINISH (56A: Conclusion of a neck-and-neck race)
QUICKSAND (8D: Adventure film hazard)
BUDGET CUT (32D: Spending reduction)

Theme synopsis: The last part of each theme answer is a WOODWORKING action. You might CUT, PLANE, SAND, or FINISH your wood.

And now a word from our constructor:
Evan: This puzzle was inspired by a skill I wish I had! I’d love to make more stuff with my hands, and four of the steps in creating some homemade awesomeness yielded the nice little set here. I thought it would be fun to change things up and create a pinwheel grid. Bumping the 11-letter theme entries inward (to rows 4 and 12, instead of 3 and 13) enabled this fun design, and I enjoyed working with those wide-open corners.
I was thrilled with several of the cluing references, including 5-Down (she had a really fascinating segment on “60 Minutes” a bit back), 22-Across, and 16-D. I also enjoyed writing the clues for 52-D and 53-D.

Things I learned:
  • ALMA (5D: "Cinderella" composer Deutscher) ALMA Deutscher composed her first piano sonata when she was five years old. She wrote, "Cinderella," her first full-length opera, at the age of ten.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • TOQUE (6A: Chef's hat) "TOQUE blanche" is French for "white hat." The tall, round, pleated hat is worn by some chefs.
  • MLK (22A: Stone of Hope likeness, for short) The Stone of Hope, a granite statue of MLK, is part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C. The statue was carved by Lei Yixin, who was inspired by a line from MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech: "Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope."
  • EDGE (44A: "The ___ of Glory" (Lady Gaga hit)) "The Edge of Glory" is a single from Lady Gaga's 2011 album, Born This Way.
  • TAT (51A: "LA Ink" design, for short) LA Ink is a reality TV show that follows events in tattoo studios in Los Angeles, California.
  • QUICKSAND (8D: Adventure film hazard) QUICKSAND is a non-Newtonian fluid. That means the viscosity of QUICKSAND changes under stress. Fluids which follow Newton's law of viscosity have a constant viscosity, whether they are shaken or agitated. (Like QUICKSAND, ketchup is a non-Newtonian fluid, as it becomes thinner when shaken.) Contrary to what adventure films would have us believe, it is impossible for a human to drown in QUICKSAND. You can get stuck in QUICKSAND, however, and struggling may cause you to sink further. If you do find yourself in this situation, slowly move your legs to increase the viscosity of the QUICKSAND until you can slowly rotate your body to float face up on top of the sand. (Helpful survival tips - just another service of "Sally's Take!") Here's a fun fact: In the 1960's, 3% of movies (nearly one in 35) featured QUICKSAND.
  • SALLY (12D: America's first female astronaut Ride) Hey, what a fabulous answer! I wrote about what an amazing person SALLY Ride is when her last name was in the puzzle on December 26, 2020. Speaking of space, isn't it amazing that the Perseverance rover is now on Mars?
  • LIN (13D: Architect Maya) In 1981, Maya LIN won a public design competition held to select a design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. At the time, she was an undergraduate at Yale University. She has designed numerous other memorials and public buildings, including the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery Alabama.
  • LAS (26D: "___ Mananitas" (traditional birthday song)) and CAKE (30D: Birthday candle holder) and YEAR (29D: Jupiter's is 4,333 Earth days long) There's a mini-theme going on in today's puzzle. If today is your birthday, this puzzle is for you! Happy birthday to my friends, Kaitlynn and Daphna who are celebrating today! (Hey, I'm only 4 in Jupiter YEARs!)
  • SOFIA (47D: "Modern Family" star Vergara) SOFIA Vergara plays the role of Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on the TV series Modern Family. In 2020, she became a judge on America's Got Talent.
  • SPINY (49D: Like a hedgehog's back) When my daughter was in elementary school, one of the school's teachers was looking for a home for the class pet at the end of the school year. It wasn't even my daughter's teacher, but my daughter has a soft spot for all animals, and she lobbied us to adopt the pet. That's how Pickles the hedgehog came to live with us.
Geography review:
  • ESTONIA (38A: Tallinn's country) ESTONIA is a country in Northern Europe. It is located near Finland, separated from that country by the Gulf of Finland. Tallinn is the capital of ESTONIA.
I liked this WOODWORKING-themed puzzle. As you could probably tell, QUICKSAND was my favorite theme answer. I also enjoyed the mini-birthday theme, the paired clues for LIME and LEMONS, and seeing SALLY in the puzzle. Solving this puzzle was a fine way to begin my Saturday.