May 17, 2021


Constructor: Sara Cantor

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
SAFETY FIRST (17A: "Be careful")
LAST MINUTE (30A: In the eleventh hour)
PIXAR SHORT (46A: "Bao" or "Lava," for example)
CENTER STAGE (62A: Focal point in a theater)

Theme synopsis: The last word of each theme answer can precede the word HAND to form a new phrase, giving us FIRST HAND, MINUTE HAND, SHORTHAND, and STAGEHAND.

Things I learned:
  • EDDY (29A: Violinist Chen) Australian violinists EDDY Chen and Brett Yang, are the classical comedy duo known as TwoSet Violin. According to their website, the duo aims to make "classical music relevant to the modern generation through fun, humor and simplicity." In 2014, the pair began making YouTube videos about life as classical musicians. Their YouTube channel has over 3 million subscribers. In 2016, Brett and EDDY gave up their spots in the Sydney and Queensland Symphony Orchestras. Since that time they have been touring (pre-pandemic) and performing live classical comedy.
  • SESAME (1D: With 13-Down, banh ran tidbit) and SEED (13D: See 1-Down) Bánh rán, also known as SESAME balls, originated from northern Vietnam. The outer shell of bánh rán is made from glutinous rice flour, and the filling is made from mung bean paste and coconut, and scented with jasmine flower essence. The balls of dough are covered with SESAME SEEDs and deep fried. A similar dish known as bánh cam originated in southern Vietnam.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • PAPA (7A: "___ Was a Rollin' Stone") The 1972 recording of "PAPA Was a Rollin' Stone" by the Temptations was ranked 169 on Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."
  • PIXAR SHORT (46A: "Bao" or "Lava," for example) Bao is a 2018 PIXAR SHORT about a steamed bun (bao) that comes to life. Bao, which preceded Incredibles 2 in theaters, won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Lava, a 2014 PIXAR SHORT, is a musical love story about a lonely volcano longing for love. Lava was released alongside the movie Inside Out.
  • STYX (6D: Mythical homophone of "sticks") In Greek mythology, the river STYX forms the boundary between Earth and the Underworld. STYX is also the name of the goddess of the river.
  • PRESSURE (11D: Something required for diamonds to form) The amount of PRESSURE needed to create a diamond is approximately 725,000 pounds per square inch. I enjoyed this clue.
  • STARBUCKS (34D: Coffee chain with a siren in its logo) In Greek mythology, sirens were creatures who used their enchanting singing voices to lure sailors to shipwreck on their islands. Originally sirens were believed to look like a combination of a woman and a bird, but over time their appearance came to be described as women with fish tails who lived in the sea, also known as mermaids. The logo of STARBUCKS is a twin-tailed mermaid, or siren.
  • OLIVE OIL (38D: Spaghetti aglio e olio ingredient) Spaghetti aglio e olio, which translates to "spaghetti garlic and oil," is a traditional Italian pasta dish. As the name suggests, the dish is made by sautéing garlic in OLIVE OIL, and tossing it with spaghetti. 
  • BURGER (51D: Beyond ___ (meatless option)) The Beyond BURGER is a plant-based meat substitute offered by the company Beyond Meat. 
Geography review:
  • SAN (23D: ___ Antonio, TX) SAN Antonio, Texas is the second-most populous city in Texas.(Houston is the largest.) SAN Antonio's nicknames include Alamo City, The 210 (for its area code), and Something to Remember.
  • BERN (41D: Capital of Switzerland) BERN is the de facto capital of Switzerland. The Swiss refer to BERN as their "federal city," as it is the location of the federal authorities. According to local legend, the founder of BERN vowed to name the city after the first animal he met while on a hunt, which ended up being a bear.
GIVE this puzzle a HAND for providing an enjoyable theme with a nice set of theme answers. In addition to the fun theme, the collection of long, non-theme bonuses is great - PRESSURE, JOKESTER, OLIVE OIL, MIXED USE, AUTOPILOT, STARBUCKS - all delightful to discover. I enjoyed learning about EDDY Chen and TwoSet Violin today. This puzzle was a lovely way to begin my Monday.