March 20, 2021


Constructor: Evan Kalish

Editors: Erik Agard & Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
ROCK BOTTOM (19A: Absolute lowest point)
RACHEL BLOOM (35A: "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" co-creator and star)
ROOT SYSTEM (52A: Plant network below the soil)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer BREAKs the word ROOM, with some letters of the word appearing at the beginning of the answer, and the remaining letters appearing at the end. 

And now a word from our constructor:
Evan: This idea stemmed with 35-Across, and I was pleased to include one iteration of each internal split. 46-Down was brought to my attention as part of one of Erik’s puzzles last year. It was fun working with those wide-open corners.

Things I learned:
  • BART (1A: ___ the Bear II (actor)) BART the Bear II is an Alaskan Grizzly Bear whose movie credits include Evan Almighty, We Bought a Zoo, and Game of Thrones. BART and his sister, Honey Bump, were orphaned after their mother was shot and killed. They were found by an Alaskan State Trooper, and unable to survive on their own, were eventually adopted by animal trainers Doug and Lynne Seus. BART was named after an unrelated bear that was also trained by Doug Seus.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • LUAU (12A: Party at which kalua pua'a might be served) The traditional Hawaiian LUAU dish of roast pork, or kalua pua'a, is prepared in an imu, a type of underground oven. 
  • MBA (29A: Ina Garten has one from GW) Prior to her career as a cookbook author and the host of the Food Network show, The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten worked at the White House in the Office of Management and Budget. During her time in Washington, D.C., she earned an MBA from George Washington University.
  • HE'S (31A: The Chiffons' "___ So Fine") When The Chiffons released "HE'S So Fine," in 1963, it spent four weeks at the top of Billboard's Hot 100 chart. I learned today that "HE'S So Fine," was the plaintiff song in a plagiarism case against George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord." The case was heard in the U.S. district court in 1976, and presiding judge Richard Owen (who was a classical musician and composer of operas in his spare time), ruled that while he did not believe George Harrison deliberately copied "HE'S So Fine," it was clear "that 'My Sweet Lord' is the same song as 'HE'S So Fine' with different words."
  • RACHEL BLOOM (35A: "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" co-creator and star) Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a TV series whose four seasons aired from 2015-2019. RACHEL BLOOM starred as Rebecca Bunch, a lawyer who moved from New York City to California in order to pursue her ex-boyfriend from summer camp.
  • TESS (64A: Model Holliday) TESS Holliday is a model, author, and self-described "body-positive activist." She originated the hashtag #EffYourBeautyStandards after strangers left cruel comments on her Instagram account.
  • AURORA (2D: ___ borealis) The AURORA borealis, also known as the northern lights, is a natural light display in the sky that occurs when solar winds disturb the magnetosphere. I have few bucket list items, but witnessing the AURORA borealis is one of them. 
  • TUSK (4D: Narwhal feature) A narwhal is a toothed whale. Its TUSK is an elongated canine tooth. Only male narwhals have a TUSK, which continues to grow throughout their lives. 
  • DOMO (7D: "___ arigato" ("Thank you very much")) DOMO arigato is a Japanese phrase. It is also a catchphrase in the Styx song, "Mr. Roboto."
  • MISSY (15D: Rapper Elliott) MISSY Elliott is a rapper, songwriter, and record producer. She has won four Grammy Awards, and was the first female rapper inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
  • RASTA (39D: Worshipper of Jah) Rastafarianism developed as a religion in Jamaica during the 1930s, and is based on a specific interpretation of the Bible. RASTA beliefs include monotheism, a belief in one God, referred to as Jah.
  • AO DAI (46D: Vietnamese garment)  The ÁO DÀI is a Vietnamese national garment. It is a long split garment, worn over trousers. "ÁO" translates to "shirt," and "DÀI" means long. From the November 22, 2020 puzzle, I leaned that red is a popular wedding ÁO DÀI color.
Geography review:
  • ASIA (46A: Vietnam's continent) Vietnam is a country in Southeast ASIA. Its capital is Hanoi. Today is the sixth appearance this month for our crossword friend, ASIA. This month is now tied with July 2020 for the record for most crossword appearances of ASIA in one month (since I have been blogging). There are still 11 days left this month - will the record be broken? Stay tuned...
If you're feeling like you need a BREAK, this puzzle has a ROOM for you. I appreciated that the theme answers represented all of the possible BREAKs of the word ROOM. I also enjoyed the answers RHETORIC, and RANCOR. I thought the clue for STOMP (47D: Walk like the Hulk) was rather fun! This puzzle was an enjoyable way to begin my Saturday.
If you're in the mood for more puzzling, I constructed today's Universal crossword, "Shifting Gears."