March 26, 2021


Constructors: Brooke Husic & Mollie Cowger

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
CATERPILLAR (15A: Future butterfly)
CATASTROPHE (2D: Total disaster)
CATHEDRAL (26A: St. Louis ___ (New Orleans landmark))
CATHARSIS (23D: Emotional release)
CATERS (43A: Provides food for an event)
CATCHY (43D: Like a song you might start humming unintentionally)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer begins with the letters CAT. The CATs meeting in the grid, intersecting along the diagonal line of symmetry and forming a "KITTY CORNER."

And now a word from our constructors:
Mollie: This is my first foray into the world of diagonal symmetry, and I had so much fun exploring it with Brooke aka the *queen* of diagonal symmetry. I'm especially enamored of how this theme she dreamed up takes advantage of the "corners" that are created along the diagonal axis. Outside of the theme, I like how LET ME UP and GET LOST occupy symmetric slots as sort of opposite sentiments (which I'm only noticing now as I write these notes). Other bits I especially dig are SAID PLEASE, IT'S OVER, and Brooke's clue for HAD ["You ___ one job!"]. Hope you enjoy, and look out for more from us down the road!
Brooke: I'm beyond honored to collab with Mollie and am a huge fan of her amazing puzzles. It was so fun to make this grid together! After we settled on some theme answer options Mollie set up the layout. I also wonder if we're writing a hidden saga here which starts with LET ME UP and not only a request to GET LOST but the assertion that IT'S OVER. I really like the northwest corner of the grid, and I also love Mollie's clues for CATHEDRAL and ELLE and IS IT (I always have the hardest time cluing IS IT) and especially CATCHY (a perfect clue imo). If you want to see some of Mollie's masterwork with trickier clues you should check out her Inkubator puzzle that just dropped yesterday!

Things I learned:
  • POT (54D: Tagine, e.g.) A tagine is a clay POT with a wide and shallow base, and a conical lid. As food cooks, steam rises into the lid, condenses, and trickles back into the POT, keeping food moist. Although a variety of foods can be cooked in a tagine, it is often used for making stews. Berber, Moroccan, and Algerian cuisines feature slow-cooked stews called tagines (or tajines) that are named after the POT they are cooked in. I have a sense that at one time I knew what a tagine was - I do a lot of cooking and look at a lot of recipes - but I couldn't recall that information when I read this clue.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • PI DAY (20A: Celebration on 3/14) PI DAY is an annual celebration of π, the mathematical constant whose first three digits are 3.14. In 1988, a physicist named Larry Shaw, who worked at the San Francisco Exploratorium, organized what is considered to be the first PI DAY celebration that involved marching around one of the museum's circular spaces, and then eating pie. In 2009, the House of Representatives passed a resolution designating March 14 as National PI DAY. I have to admit that a holiday combining mathematical nerdiness and eating pie is a win for me. We have celebrated PI DAY with a variety of types of pies, both savory and sweet. This year I let my husband choose, and he requested French silk pie ("like I used to order all the time at Baker's Square.") I like to follow up PI DAY with my own personally-designated holiday on March 15, "Eat Pie for Breakfast Day."
  • LET ME UP (30A: Request when buzzing into an apartment building, perhaps) and SAID PLEASE (9D: Asked politely) I had a funny interaction with these two answers. As I filled in "LET ME UP," I thought, "You didn't say please!" (Yes, I am in fact that person...) Then I reached the 9-Down clue and saw that SAID PLEASE crosses LET ME UP. Perfect. You may STAY (11D: "Don't leave yet.")
  • OTTOMAN (48A: Piece of furniture named for an empire) The OTTOMAN Empire controlled much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. Furnishing practices in the Empire consisted of low wooden platforms intended to be piled with cushions. These platforms were the central places for seating in residences. The furniture made its way to Europe in the late 18th century, and was named for its place of origin.
  • SUPERSONIC (52A: Faster than Mach 1) An object's Mach number is the ratio of the speed of an object to the speed of sound. Objects traveling at speeds greater than Mach 1 are considered to be moving at SUPERSONIC speed, faster than the speed of sound.
  • ELLE (59A: Magazine helmed by Nina Garcia) Nina Garcia is the editor-in-chief at ELLE. She has also been a judge on the TV show, Project Runway, and is the only judge that has been with the show since it began in 2004. 
  • SALT (6D: "___, Fat, Acid, Heat") SALT, Fat, Acid, Heat is a 2017 cookbook by Samin Nosrat which was a New York Times bestseller, and won the James Beard Award. A four-part Netflix series of the same name, and starring Nosrat, premiered in 2018. In the cookbook and on the show, Samin Nosrat proposes that SALT, fat, acid and heat are the four elements of successful cooking.
  • CATHARSIS (23D: Emotional release) I like the word CATHARSIS, and think it's fun to say. It comes from the Greek word "katharsis" meaning "cleansing." 
  • PEARS (42D: Asian ___ (fruits)) Asian PEARS are fruits from a species of pear tree native to East Asia. The PEARS are round and have yellowish-brown rinds.
Geography review:
  • CATHEDRAL (26A: St. Louis ___ (New Orleans landmark)) The St. Louis CATHEDRAL, also known as the CATHEDRAL-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France is the oldest CATHEDRAL in continuous use in the United States. Located in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, the church was elevated to CATHEDRAL rank in 1793.
  • MILE (49D: The ___ High City (Denver nickname) Denver, Colorado is the state's capital, and its most populous city. "The MILE High City," refers to the fact that the city's official elevation is exactly one mile (5,280 feet) above sea level.
This puzzle has diagonal symmetry; it is symmetrical along a diagonal axis extending from the upper left corner to the lower right corner. It was fun to see the theme play on this, with the KITTY CORNERS formed along the line of symmetry. I also liked how the CAT intersections progressed, beginning with a T-intersection, then intersecting at the A, and finally a C-intersection. The theme answers are CATCHY words, too. I'm particularly a fan of CATHARSIS and CATASTROPHE. The VIBE of this puzzle is far from a CATASTROPHE. I enjoyed answers such as SUPERSONIC, IT'S OVER, OOMPH, and SAID PLEASE. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Friday.


  1. It doesnt have total diagonal symmetry though, because I dont see a corresponding black square for the most top left black corner

    1. The line of symmetry goes right through that square (diagonally), so it provides its own symmetry (so to speak).

    2. That makes sense. Thanks for explaining it to me !

    3. Adorable puzzle today by Brooke and Mollie. I just love the title and "criss crossing" theme. Much more accessible than Mollie's puzzle today in the Inkubator where there were too many television least for me. :-)


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