September 19, 2021

Title: I'M ALL IN

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
TONI MORRISON (20A: "Jazz" author)
HEIDI MONTAG (37A: "The Hills" actress)
MARSAI MARTIN (56A: Movie producer born in 2004)

Theme synopsis: The first and last names of each theme answer are connected by the letters I-M. 

Things I learned:
  • HEIDI MONTAG (37A: "The Hills" actress) HEIDI MONTAG is a reality television personality. The Hills is a reality TV series that aired from 2006 to 2010. The series centered on the personal and professional lives of women and men in Los Angeles, California. The show was a spin-off of Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County. A sequel to The Hills, titled The Hills: New Beginnings premiered in 2019, and follows the lives of the original cast members with their children and friends. HEIDI MONTAG is one of the people profiled in The Hills: New Beginnings
  • MARSAI MARTIN (56A: Movie producer born in 2004) MARSAI MARTIN produced the 2019 movie, Little, making her the youngest person to produce a movie. MARSAI MARTIN also starred in Little, alongside Regina Hall and Issa Rae. The movie was inspired by the 1988 movie Big, and has a similar but opposite plot. A businesswoman who treats the employees of her tech company poorly wakes up as her 13-year-old self after a child she was rude toward wishes the businesswoman were a child again.
  • MAORI (21D: People who celebrate Matariki) MĀORI are the indigenous people of New Zealand. Matariki celebrates the first rising of the Pleiades star cluster - which the MĀORI refer to as Matariki - in late June or early July. The rising of Matariki signals the start of a new year in the MĀORI calendar. I knew of the MĀORI people, but not of Matariki. Traditionally, Matariki was a time to mourn the deceased, celebrate the present, and prepare for the coming year.
  • INCA (57D: Worshipper of Viracocha) In INCA mythology, Viracocha was considered the creator of all things. Viracocha, represented with the sun for a crown and holding thunderbolts, was worshipped as god of the sun and storms. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ROTI (4A: Popular street food in Trinidad) ROTI is a flatbread made from whole wheat flour. In Trinidad, ROTI may be sold plain, or wrapped around a savory filling. I have previously written about a variety of ROTI sold in Trinidad known as "buss up shut."
  • TONI MORRISON (20A: "Jazz" author) Jazz is a 1992 novel by Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning author TONI MORRISON. Jazz is the second novel of a historical trilogy, between Beloved (1987) and Paradise (1997). 
  • WE COOL (31A: "Everything all right between us?") I confidently filled in WE GOOD at first, but that turned out not to be COOL...
  • DOC (26A: ___ Ock (rhyming Marvel nickname)) DOC Ock is a nickname for the Marvel Comics mad scientist, Doctor Octopus. DOC Ock has four mechanical appendages. He debuted as an enemy of Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man #3, published in 1963. 

    Geography review: 

    • NORTH (8A: What "Bei" in "Beijing" means) Beijing is the capital of China. The name "Beijing" means "NORTHern capital."
    • OMAHA (16A: Most populous city in Nebraska) OMAHA, Nebraska is located on the Nebraska-Iowa border, along the Missouri River. OMAHA is about 60 miles northeast of Nebraska's capital city, Lincoln.
    • DES (28A: The D in Iowa's DMU) DMU = DES Moines University has three colleges: the College of Osteopathic Medicine, the College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery, and the College of Health Sciences. DMU is located in Iowa's capital city, DES Moines. Fun sidenote: I was once offered a job teaching pharmacology at DMU (which I did not end up accepting), but at the time its name was University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences. I learned from this clue that the school changed its name in 1999. 
    • ASIA (40A: Fujian's continent) Fujian is a province of China. 
    • OMAN (9D: Country that celebrates the Muscat Festival) OMAN is a country on the Arabian peninsula. If you remembered Muscat is the capital of OMAN, it likely helped you figure out this answer. The Muscat Festival, which began in 1998, is held annually in January and February, features exhibits and displays of Omani culture and history.
    • ERIE (14D: Shallowest Great Lake) Nice to see our crossword friends, ERIE and ASIA together today. In the first year of Sally's Take, ERIE just edged out ASIA in puzzle appearances, 38 to 35. In this second year, ERIE has taken a strong lead. Today is the 13th appearance of ERIE since June 9, 2021, but only the sixth appearance for ASIA. 
    • OSAKA (52D: Japanese city home to the Shitenno-ji Temple) The Shitenno-ji is a Buddhist temple in OSAKA, Japan. The construction of the temple was commissioned by Prince Shōtoku in the sixth century. A reconstruction of the temple was completed in 1963. 
    This puzzle was more of a challenge for me than usual today. The upper right corner, in particular, had me stuck for quite some time. I didn't know NORTH, and wasn't seeing NO JOKE or JADED. I also wanted YAY instead of RAD for (10D: "Awesome!"), and though I quickly determined that answer was incorrect, I just couldn't see the correct answer. The combination of those things made it difficult to move forward in that corner. I ultimately prevailed by looking up the meaning of "Beijing," and that was enough to help me see the remaining answers. I am fine with looking up information to help me finish a crossword! After all, it's my puzzle experience, and I'm happy to learn things along the way. Obviously, I was ultimately successful, and this puzzle was a nice challenge to begin my Sunday.


    1. I question the clue for 2 Down: (When many babies start to crawl) for the answer "Age One."

      This is far less likely than starting to walk when they are one year old. I can't imagine why the clue was made to refer to crawling rather than walking.

      Since "age one" is defined as one whole year from first birthday to second birthday, I think a more appropriate clue would be to refer to walking.

      1. I agree, Pat. I remember saying, "Huh?" when I filled that in, but then it didn't jump out at me when I was reviewing the puzzle. I had no trouble figuring out what was intended, but I agree that "walk" would have made more sense in the clue than "crawl."


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