April 23, 2021


Constructor: Amanda Rafkin

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
SNAP TO ATTENTION (17A: Suddenly start listening)
CRACKLE FINISH (36A: Paint treatment used for an old-fashioned look)
POP IN TO SAY HELLO (54A: Stop by for a quick greeting)

Theme synopsis: The first words of the theme answers are the names of ELVES found ON THE grocery store SHELVES - the Rice Krispies mascots, SNAP, CRACKLE and POP.

Things I learned:
  • ASHLEY (20A: Park who played Gretchen Wieners on Broadway) Gretchen Weiners is one of characters in Mean Girls. She is the second-in-command (to Regina George) in the high school clique dubbed "the Plastics." ASHLEY Park originated the role of Gretchen Weiners in the Broadway production of Mean Girls. (The Broadway musical was based on the movie of the same name.) ASHLEY also played the role of Mindy Chen in the TV series, Emily in Paris
  • ADA (6D: ___ Twist, Scientist" (children's book)) ADA Twist, Scientist was written by Andrea Beatty and illustrated by David Roberts. The main character of the book is ADA Marie, a young girl who is full of questions such as "Why are there hairs up the inside of a nose?" I'm always excited to discover a great new children's book, and am delighted to learn about this one! You can watch ADA Twist, Scientist being read on the International Space Station during "Story Time From Space."
  • DYES (53D: Does some shibori) According to The Craft Atlas, shibori is a Japanese tie-dying technique used to produce patterns on fabric. There are different techniques, such as tying or binding, wax resist, and folding and clamping, which produce different patterns.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • BACH (23A: Composer of the Brandenburg Concertos) The Brandenburg Concertos are a collection of six orchestral compositions presented to the military commander of Brandenburg-Schwedt in 1721 by Johann Sebastian BACH.
  • HOHOHO (30A: Santa's laugh) A nice bonus in a puzzle with ELVES as the theme.
  • CRACKLE FINISH (36A: Paint treatment used for an old-fashioned look) You can purchase a number of different products (or use ordinary white glue) to help you obtain a CRACKLE FINISH on cardstock, wood, or fabric. After painting the product on, it cracks during drying, to resemble the pattern of cracking that occurs naturally as oil or tempera paintings age. 
  • PLATT (39A: "Dear Evan Hansen" star Ben) Ben PLATT played the title character in the Broadway production of Dear Evan Hansen. He received a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance. Ben PLATT will reprise the role for the movie adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen, scheduled for release in September of this year.
  • CASPER (40A: "The Friendly Ghost") Well, this clue took me right back to my childhood and reading comic books about CASPER the Friendly Ghost! CASPER has been around a long time. The character was created in the 1930s by Seymour Reit and Joe Oriolo, who sold the rights to Paramount Pictures' animation division for $175. Since that time, CASPER has appeared in many comics, TV shows, movies, and video games.
  • LOS (44A: Dia de ___ Muertos) Dia de LOS Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a time to pray for and remember family and friends who have died. It is a Mexican holiday celebrated on November 1 and 2.
  • NEEDY (62A: Like a pet that won't leave your lap) Fun clue. I have one of
    these NEEDY pets, who is trying to help me write my blog at the moment.
  • YEAH...NO (3D: "Mm...I don't think so") and UH UH (25D: "Not a chance") and IF SO (34D: "Should that be the case...") and OR ELSE ("Should that not be the case...") I liked these four answers that appeared to be telling a story or having a conversation in the puzzle.
  • LENA HORNE (9D: Actress who played Glinda in "The Wiz") The Wiz is a 1978 movie reimagining The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
  • HAIR LOVE (31D: Oscar-winning 2019 short by Matthew A. Cherry) I know I have previously encouraged you to watch Hair Love. If you haven't seen it, I once again encourage you to spend seven minutes of your day watching it. It's delightful.
  • PAN (54D: Attracted to people of any gender, for short) PAN, here, is short for pansexual, and refers to someone whose romantic, sexual, or emotional attraction to others is not determined by a person's gender and sex.
  • PIE (54D: Dessert in "Waitress") Waitress is a 2015 musical based on a 2007 movie of the same name. The main character, Jenna, is a waitress and baker. She bakes PIEs that reflect what is happening in her life. I have seen both the movie and the musical, and can confirm that they made me hungry for PIE!
  • SOX (57D: Chicago White ___) The Chicago White SOX, originally called the Chicago White Stockings, were one of the original eight teams in Major League Baseball's American League. My daughter and her boyfriend decided last weekend to become fans of the Chicago White SOX. My daughter is a St. Louis Cardinals' fan, and her boyfriend is a fan of the Cleveland Indians. However, they now live in Chicago and would like a hometown baseball team to follow and root for. They aren't sure they could root for the other Chicago baseball team because of their previous loyalties. Therefore, the Chicago White SOX it is!
Geography review:
  • DINAR (22A: Iraqi currency) In addition to Iraq, the DINAR is the name of the principal currency in Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Tunisia.
  • KOREA (60A: Seoul, South ___) Seoul is the capital and largest city of South KOREA.
Today was one of those days when I finished the puzzle without discovering the theme. I think I was distracted looking for a wordplay theme with the word ELF appearing multiple times (maybe sitting on SHELVES formed by black squares?) Anyway, I finished the puzzle, took a look at the completed grid, and said, "Oh! SNAP, CRACKLE, POP - of course. Quite clever. In addition to the answers mentioned above, I enjoyed PLAY DATE, ACTS FUNNY, and OWNS IT. I definitely noticed Amanda's stamp on this character with the abundance of music and theater clues, which I always enjoy. This puzzle was a great way to start off my Friday.
There are a myriad of crossword puzzles available for solving these days. If you are searching for puzzles to solve (in addition to the USA Today puzzle, of course!) Matt Gritzmacher's Daily Crossword Links is a great place to look. 
I do like to occasionally highlight puzzle solving opportunities, and today I have three such projects to recommend:
  • The first is the reproductive justice fundraiser that Claire Rimkus highlighted yesterday. A donation will get you 14 puzzles edited by USA Today constructor, Rachel Fabi. You will recognize many of the constructors of these puzzles from USA Today bylines. The puzzles are excellent. I solved them all in one afternoon!
  • The second is a new monthly crossword feature for The Juggernaut. This puzzle was constructed by (and future puzzles will be edited by) friend of this blog, Sid Sivakumar. The Juggernaut reports news stories from a South Asian perspective, and this puzzle and future crosswords on the site will have South Asian themes. Although I'm not the target audience for this puzzle, I was able to solve it, thoroughly enjoyed it, and learned a few things. The puzzle is free, though you have to enter your email address to access it. 
  • Third (last but not least!), today's puzzle constructor, Amanda Rafkin, also constructed the most recent puzzle from The Inkubator, titled "Twitter Alert." The Inkubator, which I wrote about last week, publishes crossword puzzles constructed by women. If you don't have a subscription (which I highly recommend!), you can purchase individual puzzles (like Amanda's!) for $1.
Happy puzzling!


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