October 14, 2021


Constructor: Stella Zawistowski

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
GRANITE STATE (18A: New Hampshire nickname)
MARBLE MADNESS (32A: '80s arcade game with a rolling ball)
CONCRETE ROSE (50A: Angie Thomas novel with a floral title)

Theme synopsis: The first word of each theme answer is a HARD substance. The components of our HARD PUZZLE are GRANITE, MARBLE, and CONCRETE.

Things I learned:
  • MARBLE MADNESS (32A: '80s arcade game with a rolling ball) MARBLE MADNESS is an arcade game developed by Atari Games and Midway Games, and published in 1984. In the game, a trackball is used to guide a blue marble through a series of courses, attempting to avoid obstacles along the way. Apparently I didn't spend enough time in arcades during the 80s, or my memory is simply fuzzy, because I couldn't bring the name of this game to mind without the help of crossing answers. You can watch a playthrough of the Nintendo home version of MARBLE MADNESS here
  • BEANIE (44A: Hat worn by PaRappa the Rapper) The BEANIE-wearing PaRappa the Rapper is an animated rapping dog, and the title character in a Sony PlayStation game released in the 1990s. PaRappa the Rapper is a rhythm game in which the player must progress through the stages of the game by rapping. You can watch a sample of PaRappa the Rapper here
  • CONCRETE ROSE (50A: Angie Thomas novel with a floral title) Angie Thomas's first published novel, The Hate U Give was published in 2017, and debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Seller list for young adult novels. The book tells the story of Starr Carter, a teenage girl, whose friend, Khalil - an unarmed Black teen - dies after being shot by a white police officer. CONCRETE ROSE, published in January of this year, is a prequel to The Hate U Give, and tells the story of Starr's father.
  • CREE (49D: Like Walking-Out Ceremonies) Walking-Out Ceremonies are a CREE tradition. When children are born, they are carried whenever they are outdoors until their Walking-Out Ceremony. Occurring in early spring, the Walking-Out Ceremony is the first time a young child walks outside on their own. Dressed in traditional costumes, and carrying toy tools, each child walks outside, circles a tree, and returns to the tent, where everyone enjoys a feast. The Walking-Out Ceremony is one way of teaching a child about the CREE way of life.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ATE (9A: Enjoyed some kitfo) In Ethiopian cuisine, kitfo is a dish of minced raw beef mixed with a blend of spices. I learned about kitfo from the September 18, 2021 puzzle
  • BEST (17A: "You're My ___ Friend" (Queen song)) Queen's 1976 song, "You're My BEST Friend," was written by bass player, John Deacon, for his wife. 
  • SALAAM (29A: Respectful greeting) SALAAM is an abbreviated form of a Muslim greeting meaning, "Peace be upon you."
  • SEDER (63A: Ritual where charoset represents mortar) The SEDER meal is a ritual marking the beginning of the Jewish holiday, Passover. During the SEDER meal, the history of the Jewish people is recounted, as participants eat symbolic foods. Charoset is a sweet paste made of fruit and nuts, that represents the mortar used by the Jewish people when they were slaves in Egypt.
  • SATAN (20D: "Not today, ___!") The saying, "Not today, SATAN!" was popularized by Bianca Del Rio, the winner of season 6 of RuPaul's Drag Race. Since then, the saying has been used as a meme, printed on t-shirts, and been the title of an episode of the TV series, Tales of the City.
  • RAFA (23D: Nadal's nickname) Rafael "RAFA" Nadal is a professional tennis player from Spain. He has won 20 Grand Slam men's singles titles, and 36 Masters 1000 men's single titles.
  • MENAGERIE (31D: "The Glass ___") The Glass Menagerie is a play by Tennessee Williams that premiered in Chicago in 1944. The play opened on Broadway in 1945, and won a New York Drama Critic Circle Award for Best American Play. The Glass Menagerie is a "memory play," a term coined by Tennessee Williams, meaning the play is narrated by a lead character who is telling events from their memory. The narrator of The Glass Menagerie is Tom, who presents the audience with his recollections of his mother and sister. The Glass Menagerie has been adapted to movies, radio, and TV.
  • AND (55D: "Akeelah ___ the Bee") Akeelah AND the Bee is a 2006 movie about an 11-year-old girl who participates in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Keke Palmer, Angela Bassett, and Laurence Fishburne star in this excellent movie. 

    Geography review: 

    • GRANITE STATE (18A: New Hampshire nickname) The STATEhouse in New Hampshire is, appropriately, made of GRANITE that was quarried in Concord, the STATE's capital. The abundance of quarries and rock formations in New Hampshire earned it the nickname, the GRANITE STATE. We've seen GRANITE STATE as a theme answer before
    The title of this puzzle made me smile. Constructor Stella Zawistowski's crossword site is titled Tough As Nails, and Stella often tweets about puzzles not being hard enough. (She also tweets a cryptic clue each day, which I enjoy following and have learned a lot from.) Therefore, it is fitting that Stella has constructed A HARD PUZZLE for us. I was relieved that the HARD part of the puzzle was confined to the theme! I enjoyed the conversational clues in this puzzle, including: SO DO I (15A: "Samesies!"), RUDE (59A: "Ugh, the nerve!"), LOT ("That's a ___ to process"), YES (62A: "I'd love to!"), WHO (2D: "Never heard of them"), AYE AYE (9D: "On it, captain!"), and BRO (44D: "My dude!") Also, the excited conversation of the person who is perhaps waiting to play MARBLE MADNESS or PaRappa the Rapper: LET ME TRY (34D: "I want a turn!") and I'M NEXT (42D: "It's almost my turn!") This was a delightful, and not too HARD, PUZZLE to begin my Thursday.