April 10, 2021


Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Editors: Erik Agard & Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
SNAKE VENOM (17A: Toxic secretion from a cobra, e.g.)
ALOE VERA (27A: Plant with soothing gel)
GIUSEPPE VERDI (39A: "La Traviata" composer)
LIFE VEST (53A: Boater's safety garment)
ACTIVE VERB (63A: Word such as "sink" or "swim")

Theme synopsis: ALL of the theme answers contain the word EVE, split across the two words in the answer.

Things I learned:
  • DJS (1D: Performs like Honey Dijon) Honey Dijon grew up in Chicago, now lives in New York City and Berlin, and DJS all over the world. She is also involved in the fashion industry, and has produced original mix tracks for designers such as Louis Vuitton. Honey Dijon is a vocal advocate for trans rights, raising awareness as she speaks about her experiences as a Black transgender woman in the club scene. I went down quite an enjoyable rabbit trail reading about Honey Dijon this morning. Here's one quote from Honey Dijon I particularly liked, "A night of good music can shape who you are and expand you as a person, and that to me is the best reason to become a DJ."
  • TAPS (32D: Dances like the Nicholas Brothers) It turns out I've seen clips of the Nicholas Brothers dancing, but didn't know their names. Fayard and Harold Nicholas had a dancing style sometimes called acrobatic dancing, which combined elements of TAP, ballet, and acrobatics. The brothers taught master classes in TAP dance at Harvard and Radcliffe Universities. Do yourself a favor and spend three minutes of your day enjoying the Nicholas Brothers performance in the 1943 movie, Stormy Weather.
  • STEVE (40D: Half of the Marvel pairing Stucky) The name "Stucky" is a portmanteau of "Steve" and "Bucky." Stucky is a fandom-created pairing - or ship, short for relationship - of the Marvel Comics characters, Steve Rogers (Captain America) and Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier).
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • POSE (16A: Show starring Dominique Jackson as Elektra) POSE is a TV series about Black and Latino LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming drag ball culture in the 1980s and early 1990s. 
  • YETI (30A: Furry Himalayan legend) and ETS (24D: Visitors from outer space (Abbr.)) It made me smile to see the invasion of aliens and mythical creatures in this section of the grid. 
  • GIUSEPPE VERDI (39A: "La Traviata" composer) GIUSEPPE VERDI's La traviata is an opera in three acts based on a play (La Dame aux camélias) that was based on an Alexandre Dumas novel (fils). La Traviata was first performed in Venice in 1853. Although not originally well-received, the opera eventually became popular and remains one of the most frequently performed operas.
  • MEAT (61A: Seitan might substitute for it) Seitan, also known as wheat gluten, is made by washing wheat flour dough to remove the soluble starch, leaving the gluten behind. Seitan is an alternative to soybean-based MEAT substitutes. 
  • GRAIN OF SALT (26D: Questionable advice should be take with one) One theory about the origin of the phrase, "GRAIN OF SALT," is that it dates back to advice given by Pliny the Elder in his 77 A.D. writing, Naturalis Historia. A GRAIN OF SALT was recommended to be taken as part of an antidote to poison. The SALT was not part of the antidote, but was included to improve the taste of the antidote. Eventually, it came to be believed that a GRAIN OF SALT could moderate the injurious effects of poison. This eventually led to the figurative way the phrase is used today to indicate accepting a statement while maintaining skepticism about its validity.
  • NEVER (56D: "Not on your life!") I was amused to see that since NEVER crosses the theme answer ACTIVE VERB, the crossing appears as NEVER EVER! making it even more emphatic.
  • BET (67D: "Boomerang" channel) The TV series, Boomerang, on BET (Black Entertainment Television) is a sequel to a 1992 movie of the same name. The Hollywood Reporter describes Boomerang as a show that centers around a successful executive who "finds that his lifestyle choices have turned back on him when his new boss turns out to be a bigger deviant than he is."
Geography review:
  • ERIE (70A: ___ Philharmonic (Pennsylvania orchestra) A new cluing angle for our crossword friend, ERIE! The ERIE Philharmonic was founded in 1913, though there have been some periods of inactivity. Since 1974, the ERIE Philharmonic has performed at the Warner Theatre in ERIE, Pennsylvania.
  • SEINE (22D: Pont des Arts river) The Pont des Arts is a pedestrian bridge across the River SEINE in Paris, France. The bridge has been featured in many movies and TV shows, and is known as the site where lovers attach padlocks with their names on them to the bridge, throwing the key into the SEINE as a sign of their committed love. The weight of the padlocks has done structural damage to the bridge, leading the Office of the Mayor of Paris to encourage tourists to take selfies instead of leaving padlocks.
  • PESO (37D: Mexico City coin) Mexico City, Mexico is the oldest capital city in the Americas, and is the most populous city in North America.
This puzzle is packed with theme, with five theme answers. Fun to see the theme answers include the potentially dangerous SNAKE VENOM and the soothing ALOE VERA. The long bonuses of COLLEGE DEAN and GRAIN OF SALT were quite nice. This puzzle was an enjoyable way to begin my Saturday.