May 1, 2021


Constructor: Evan Kalish

Editors: Erik Agard & Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
FIRST STEPS (20A: Toddlers' milestones)
VICTORY LAPS (37A: Celebratory circuits)
BONUS MILES (55A: Airline reward)

Theme synopsis: The last word of each theme answer is a unit of distance, increasing in size moving down through the puzzle. While RUNNING, you take STEPS, those STEPS turn into LAPS (if you're RUNNING on a track), and if you run long enough, those LAPS turn into MILES. 

And now a word from our constructor:
Evan: Several iterations of this idea were gnawing at me for months before I settled down and executed what turned out to be a fairly straightforward progression. The grid had lots of room to breathe, and I really enjoyed cluing this.

Things I learned:
  • ISAAC (15A: "Minari" filmmaker Lee ___ Chung) Lee ISAAC Chung's semi-autobiographical movie, Minari, follows a South Korean family who immigrate to the United States in the 1980s. Minari won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
  • TATIANA (39D: "Orphan Black" actress Maslany) Orphan Black is a science fiction TV series about human cloning. TATIANA Maslany plays the role of five genetically identical clones - Sarah, Alison, Cosima, Helena, and Rachel. The show ran for five seasons from 2013 to 2017. TATIANA Maslany won a Primetime Emmy Award for her roles on the show. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • PSA (27A: "Hope Starts With You" ad, e.g.) "Hope Starts With You" is a Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The ads originally aired in 2015. There are two versions of the ad, one showing a person with depression, and the other showing a person with schizophrenia. The underlying story of the ads is that no one has to suffer alone. In addition to the PSAs, you can read more about the NAMI Effect, and watch a Behind the Scenes video about the making of the ads.
  • PAINTS (33A: Emulates Mary Cassatt or Hilma af Klint) Mary Cassatt was an impressionist painter in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Her paintings include "The Child's Bath," on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. Hilma af Klint was a Swedish painter, also during the late 1800s and early 1900s. In her forties, she began to make abstract paintings. When she died in 1944, at the age of 82, she left all her abstract paintings to her nephew with the stipulation that her work should be kept secret for at least 20 years after her death. Her abstract work was shown for the first time at an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1986. The exhibition was called "The Spiritual in Art, Abstract Painting 1890-1985." One of Hilma af Klint's paintings is "Group IX/UW, No. 25, The Dove, No. 1."
  • TONI (39A: "Recitatif" author Morrison) "Recitatif" was published in 1983 in Confirmation: An Anthology of African American Women. It was TONI Morrison's first short story to be published. 
  • BINARY (40A: The B in NB) That's NB as in non-binary, a gender identity that is neither male nor female. NB may also stand for "nota bene," a Latin phrase meaning "note well," or New Brunswick, a province of Canada, or the NB class of steam locomotives, or a programming language known as "New B." 
  • EXIT (63A: The highest -numbered one on a U.S. interstate is 880) EXIT 880 is found on Interstate 10 (I-10) in Orange, Texas. A portion of I-10 (west of Houston) has 26 lanes!
  • Sometimes answers in a puzzle seem to go together so well, it's almost as if they are trying to tell a story. IT'S FUN! (1D: "You'll enjoy yourself!") LET'S DO IT! (5D: "Sounds like a plan!") (51A: Answer to the joke "What flowers grow on your face?")...TULIPS!
  • SAMOSAS (11D: Savory pastries often served with chutney) SAMOSAS are savory pastries that are fried or baked. They may be filled with potatoes, onions, peas, beef, or lentils.
  • INUIT (50D: Most Greenlanders and many Alaskans) INUIT are an indigenous people of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska. INUIT are the descendants of the Thule people.
  • RED (58D: Classic covered bridge color) Covering wooden bridges strengthens
    the structure, and prolongs the life of the bridge by protecting the trusses from the weather. Why were so many bridges painted RED? The simple answer is because RED paint was cheap. This is the same reason many barns were painted RED. Before paint became common, farmers mixed their own paint to protect their barns from the elements, mixing together milk, lime, and rust. This winter, my husband and I were taking a snowy hike and we happened upon a small covered bridge in the woods. Yes, it was RED! 
Geography review:
  • SELMA (19A: Dallas County Voters League city) That's not Dallas, Texas, but Dallas County, Alabama, of which SELMA is the county seat.
  • UNITED (24A: ___ Arab Emirates) The UNITED Arab Emirates is a country in Western Asia. It is located on the Arabian peninsula along the Persian Gulf, and borders Oman and Saudi Arabia.
  • BILOXI (44D: Mississippi city known for its casinos) BILOXI, Mississippi is in the southern part of the state, and lies on the Mississippi River near the Gulf of Mexico. BILOXI is home to eight casino hotels, and gambling is allowed 24 hours a day.
  • UCLA (56D: Campus near Hollywood) Hollywood is a neighborhood in central Los Angeles, whose name has become synonymous with the movie industry. The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is the second oldest branch of the 10-campus University of California system. (UC-Berkeley is the oldest.)
Feel free to take some VICTORY LAPS for finishing this puzzle. A nice progression of distance units, found in an enjoyable set of theme answers. I also enjoyed the answers TENACITY and VOICE BOX. This puzzle was a fine way to start off my Saturday.