September 27, 2021


Constructors: Kate Hawkins & Janet Strauss

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
STAND-UP COMIC (4D: Professional joke-teller)
SELLING SUNSET (8D: Netflix series about a real estate firm in Los Angeles)
FIGHT THE POWER (17D: 1989 Public Enemy hit)
CRASH LANDING (22D: Pilot's emergency procedure)

Theme synopsis: The last word of each vertical theme answer can be placed before the word STRIP to form a new phrase. We have a COMIC STRIP, SUNSET STRIP, a POWER STRIP, and a LANDING STRIP.

Things I learned:
  • ALL (21A: "___ That She Carried") ALL That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake is a book by Tiya Miles, published in June of this year. The inspiration for the book is a cotton sack, dating back to the mid-19th century, that was given to a girl named Ashley by her mother, an enslaved woman named Rose. Until earlier this year, the sack was on display at the Smithsonian's Museum of African American History and Culture, where visitors could read these embroidered words: "My great grandmother Rose/ mother of Ashley gave her this sack when/ she was sold at age 9 in South Carolina/ it held a tattered dress 3 handfulls of/ pecans a braid of Roses hair. Told her/ It be filled with my Love always/ she never saw her again/ Ashley is my grandmother/ Ruth Middleton/ 1921." Historian Tiya Mills began with the cotton sack and attempted to trace the history of the women involved, a daunting task given that archives documenting the history of Black women are scarce. I had not heard of this book, but it sounds interesting, and I'm glad to learn about it. 
  • SIN (49A: "It's a ___" (HBO miniseries)) It's a SIN is a British miniseries released in the U.S. earlier this year by HBO. The five episodes are set in London between 1981 to 1991, during the HIV/AIDS crisis. The series depicts the lives of a group of friends who move to London and become chosen FAMILY, and then live through the HIV/AIDS crisis together.
  • OWL (52A: Wise Foods mascot) Wise Foods is a snack company based on the east coast, and one that's not familiar to me. However, the answer was inferable given that an OWL is associated with being wise. I just might have to seek out some Wise Foods Cheez doodles and give them a try.
  • YEN (66A: Currency accepted at a konbini) A konbini is a Japanese convenience store.
  • SELLING SUNSET (8D: Netflix series about a real estate firm in Los Angeles) SELLING SUNSET is a reality TV series centered on a high-end real estate brokerage firm, the Oppenheim Group. The show follows a group of real estate agents in their personal and professional lives, including twin brothers Brett and Jason Oppenheim, who are co-founders of the Oppenheim Group.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • BLESS (5A: "___ your heart") It's going to be a great day when the second clue in a puzzle makes me laugh out loud. Although "BLESS your heart" is sometimes said sincerely, it's often used as a barely-veiled insult, especially in the southern part of the United States. 
  • BLOT (13A: Rorschach test mark) For more about these particular BLOTs, read what I wrote when we saw RORSCHACH TEST as a theme answer on May 16, 2021
  • FAMILY (17A: Chosen ___ (support system)) I really liked this clue/answer. Chosen FAMILY may or may not include some or all of a person's family of origin. 
  • NIA (30A: Actress Vardalos) NIA Vardalos wrote and starred in the 2002 movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and the 2016 sequel, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. In April of this year, NIA Vardalos confirmed that My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 is in the works. The first two movies made me laugh aloud, so I look forward to the release of the next one.
  • TAP (32A: Dance like Savion Glover) Savion Glover is a TAP dancer, actor, and choreographer. Although it's not what he's best known for, Savion appeared on Sesame Street from 1989 to 1995, often dancing on the show. He even tapped with Snuffleupagus. I thought we'd seen Savion Glover before, and we have; in fact, he appeared in Kate Hawkin's last puzzle on June 4, 2021
  • EPIC (50A: ___ fail (major oopsie)) It is delightful to think of an EPIC fail as a "major oopsie!"
  • FIGHT THE POWER (17D: 1989 Public Enemy hit) The hip hop group, Public Enemy, released "Fight the Power" in 1989. The song was created at the request of Spike Lee, and was used as a theme song for the 1989 movie, Do the Right Thing
  • MILO (27D: "The Phantom Tollbooth" protagonist) The Phantom Tollbooth is a 1961 book by Jules Feiffer about a young boy named MILO and a magic tollbooth that transports him to the Kingdom of Wisdom. The book was adapted into a 1970 movie of the same name.
  • BTS (31D: First K-Pop group to perform at the Grammys) BTS performed their song, "Dynamite" at the 2021 Grammy Awards, which was their third appearance on the show. They were presenters in 2019, and performed at the 2020 Grammys. 
  • ERIK (35D: The Phantom's real name) The Phantom here is not in a tollbooth, but in The Phantom of the Opera, a 1910 novel by Gaston Leroux that was adapted into a musical and a film. 

    Geography review:
    • NYU (43A: Big Apple school) New York University (NYU) began as an all-male institution in 1831. Women were first admitted to NYU in 1888. NYU's main campus is located in Greenwich Village. NYU alumni include Spike Lee, Ang Lee, and Robert Mueller 
    • DENMARK 46A: First country to legally recognize same-sex unions) In 1989, Denmark introduced "registered partnership" laws, becoming the first country to recognize civil partnerships for same-sex couples. In 2012, Denmark replaced those laws with gender-neutral marriage, and allowed same-sex marriages to be performed in the Church of Denmark. 
    This is fun version of a classic theme type to start off the week. I enjoyed all of the theme answers, as well as the collection of various STRIPs that were represented in the newly formed phrases. In addition to the theme answers, I especially liked SMOOCH and SMOOSHES. I also liked the collection of indeterminate shapes in the upper left portion of the puzzle, with BLOT, GLOB, and BLIP. Congratulations to Janet Strauss, who is making her USA Today crossword debut! [Edited to add: After I posted this, I discovered via Twitter that Janet is Kate's mom! How cool is that?! Fabulous puzzle from a mother/daughter duo.] This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Monday.