February 7, 2021

Title: B DAY

Constructors: Erik Agard & Amanda Rafkin

Editors: Erik Agard & Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
BORN THIS WAY (20A: Lady Gaga hit with the lyric "Don't be a drag, just be a queen")
BLUE MONDAY (32A: Annie Lee painting)
BE YOURSELF (42A: "Just act natural")
BISEXUAL BOB (55A: Hairstyle for Tina Kennard in Season 1 of "The L Word")

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer begins with the letter B. I'm pretty certain I'm missing some layer of theme here, but I just don't see it. Please comment or send me a message and let me know what I'm overlooking! (*See note below)

Things I learned:
  • GULAB (39D: ___ jamun (doughy, milk-based treat) GULAB jamun is made from milk solids, and often garnished with nuts. It is a type of mithai - sweet treats from the Indian subcontinent.
  • FUFU (44D: Doughlike food often dipped in soup) FUFU is made by mixing and pounding cassava and green plantain flour with water. It is believed to have originated in the area that is now Ghana, and is a staple food in West Africa and Central Africa.
  • PIANO (51D: Martha Argerich instrument) Considered one of the greatest pianists of all time, Martha Argerich has said, "I love to play the PIANO, but I don't like to be a pianist. I don't like the profession."
  • BISEXUAL BOB (55A: Hairstyle for Tina Kennard in Season 1 of "The L Word") Tina Kennard is a character played by Laurel Holloman on the TV series The L Word, and The L Word: Generation Q. I learned about these TV series from the June 11, 2020 puzzle. I was not familiar with the term BISEXUAL BOB, however. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • THEIR (12A: "___ Eyes Were Watching God") Zora Neale Hurston's novel, THEIR Eyes Were Watching God was published in 1937. A made-for-TV movie of the same name, based on the book, first aired in 2005.
  • BORN THIS WAY (20A: Lady Gaga hit with the lyric "Don't be a drag, just be a queen") Part of my routine each morning is to look at the Timehop app to see what was happening in my life on this date in past years. This morning I discovered that two years ago today I posted the following status on Facebook: "I was standing looking into the bathroom mirror and the dog was getting antsy to be walked. I said, "I have to comb my hair!" And just like that I was singing "BORN THIS WAY" (even though I didn't put lipstick on). Welcome to my world." Twenty minutes after reading about this old post, I discovered BORN THIS WAY as the first theme answer in this puzzle. That was fun! (And now I will be singing "BORN THIS WAY" all day!)
  • ATE (23A: Enjoyed some injera) Injera is a flatbread with a slightly spongy texture made out of teff flour. 
  • PRAYS (29A: Performs salah) Salah are prayers performed by Muslims. Prayer is the Second Pillar of the Five Pillars of Islam.
  • BLUE MONDAY (32A: Annie Lee painting) I first learned of Annie Lee from the January 2, 2021 puzzle. Her paintings depict scenes of everyday life, and have been described as Black Americana. BLUE MONDAY depicts a black woman struggling to get herself out of bed.
  • ELF (8D: Movie with the line "Son of a nutcracker!") Fun clue for ELF!
  • GRAHAM (15D: Martha dubbed "The Mother of Modern Dance") The GRAHAM technique, named for dancer and choreographer Martha GRAHAM, is a modern dance style that has been taught worldwide. In 1998, Martha GRAHAM was named "Dancer of the Century" by Time magazine.
  • DATE (34A: Meet-up from Her) Her is a dating app.
  • PRANK (48D: Mixing Skittles into a bowl of M&Ms, e.g.) This clue made me laugh, but also cringe.
Geography review:
  • LOS (69A: The "L" of L.A.) LOS Angeles, California has 25 sister cities - relationships designed to promote cultural and commercial ties - including Tehran, Iran; Beirut, Lebanon; and Athens, Greece.
  • ADDIS (5D: ___ Ababa) ADDIS Ababa is the capital and largest city of Ethiopia.
  • HAITI (10D: Home to Franketienne) Frank├ętienne is a Haitian writer, poet, artist, and playwright. He was born in Ravine-S├Ęche, HAITI.
I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle, although, as noted above, I feel like I'm missing a layer of theme. Whether that's the case or not, it's a fun puzzle with delightful theme answers, and an affirming message to BE YOURSELF. Solving this puzzle was an enjoyable way to begin my Sunday.

*Added 2-8-2021: Thank you to those who commented about the theme. Together, we've identified an additional theme aspect. The first word of each theme answer can be abbreviated as the letter B: BORN - e.g. b. 8-20-1965; BLUE - e.g. ROYGBIV; BE - e.g. brb; BISEXUAL - e.g. LGBTQ+. It's subtle! I'm glad that together we were able to figure it out. It's good to be stumped once in awhile - it keeps us humble! And as I noted previously, whether you identified the additional theme layer or not, the puzzle was delightful. There is so much to like here. I'm still singing "BORN THIS WAY."


  1. I finished the puzzle, got about as far as you did figuring out the theme ("B" phrases?), and then have been reloading this page for the last three hours waiting for you to post to see if you figured it out any better than I did, haha. But, alas. Maybe it's as simple as that? Though I wonder what "B Day" means then--if it's some sort of holiday or tribute puzzle for today? Or just, ya know, B Day.

    1. Well, at least I feel better knowing I'm not the only one feeling stumped! Also, apologies for being so late posting today. Our temperature is 8 below here, and I did not want to get out of bed!

    2. Oh, please don't apologize! I have a newborn and solve very early these days. Thanks for doing this blog! Reading it is part of my daily routine now. Have a great Sunday!

  2. most i can get is words that can be abbreviated/shortened as B? like ROYGBIV and LGBTQIA+ for BLUE and BISEXUAL

    1. I think this is correct. "Born" can be b., and "be" can be b to lazy texters, I suppose.

      Horrid theme.

  3. I am also stumped! I was also hoping that Sally or someone else would know but I guess we'll have to wait and see if someone can help!


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