October 29, 2021

Title: SLAY!

Constructor: Rachel Fabi

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
GARLIC BREAD (16A: Side dish for spaghetti)
SUNSHINE LAW (35A: Regulation requiring government transparency)
STAKEHOLDER (55A: One with a business interest)

Theme synopsis: The first part of each theme answer is something that is useful if you are trying to SLAY a vampire. Vampires are warded off by GARLIC (and apparently if you decapitate one, you should stuff its mouth with GARLIC to prevent it returning to life). SUNSHINE is fatal to vampires, as is a wooden STAKE through the heart.

And now a word from our constructor:
Rachel: This puzzle is dedicated to Buffy and Faith. I tried to build it with mirror symmetry, for reasons I leave to the solver to determine, and although I couldn't figure out how to do it, I'm still pretty happy with how it turned out. Happy almost-Halloween!

Things I learned:
  • ARIA (53A: "Hard Damage" author Aber) ARIA Aber is a poet and writer whose poems have appeared in The New Yorker, New Republic, and Kenyon Review. Her book, Hard Damage, "explores the historical and personal implications of Afghan American relations." ARIA Aber was raised in Germany; her parents were Afghan refugees.
  • ARE (12D: "We ___ Lady Parts" (sitcom)) We ARE Lady Parts is a punk rock Muslim comedy. Yes, you read that right. The British sitcom premiered in May of this year, and centers on an all-female Muslim punk band called "Lady Parts." 
  • PHIL (32D: Thin Lizzy singer Lynott) Thin Lizzy is a rock band formed in 1969 in Dublin, Ireland. PHIL Lynott, one of the band's founding members, was the lead vocalist and bassist, and wrote many of the band's songs. He died in 1986 at the age of 36. If you're ever in Dublin, Ireland, you can see a bronze statue of PHIL Lynott. I knew of Thin Lizzy, but did not know PHIL Lynott's name.
  • TACO (52D: ___ de birria) In Mexican cuisine, birria is slow-cooked meat (goat, beef, or lamb) with chili peppers, garlic, cumin, bay leaves, and thyme. TACO de birria is a U.S. adaptation of birria, using slow-cooked beef to make TACOs. The TACOs are served with a side of broth to be used as dipping sauce. Also known as "red TACOs," or "quesabirria," Wikipedia credits the popularity of this dish to its "Instagram-friendliness."
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • RCA (10A: Record label for Jazmine Sullivan) Singer-songwriter Jazmine Sullivan released her 2015 album, Reality Show, under the RCA Records label.
  • POOL (20A: Place for a Katie Ledecky meet) Katie Ledecky is a competitive swimmer who has won seven Olympic gold medals, and 15 world championship gold medals. She was the most decorated female athlete at the 2016 Summer Olympics, where she won four gold medals and one silver medal. Katie Ledecky once again earned the title of most-decorated female athlete at the 2020 Summer Olympics (held in 2021 in Tokyo), earning two gold medals and two silver medals.
  • SUNSHINE LAW (35A: Regulation requiring government transparency) In the United States, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) - also called the SUNSHINE LAW or SUNSHINE Act - was initially signed into law in 1966 by Lyndon B. Johnson. The law has been modified and amended multiple times. The basic gist of the SUNSHINE LAW is that government documents and information must be disclosed upon request. According to a 2017 study, businesses make the most FOIA requests, followed by law firms, and then the news media.
  • NOUN (37A: What an adjective modifies) Why, yes, there is a Schoolhouse Rock song about adjectives!
  • POE (54A: "Star Wars" pilot Dameron) The X-wing fighter pilot, POE Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac, was introduced in the 2015 movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • TUT (58A: Pharaoh ___ankhamun) The pharaoh Tutankhamun is commonly referred to as King TUT. Ruling in the 1300s B.C.E., King TUT was eight or nine years old when he assumed his reign.  The tomb of King TUT was discovered in 1922 near Thebes, Egypt. 
  • LOONS (60A: Red-eyed aquatic birds) Why, you might ask, do LOONS have red eyes? It may be an adaptation to help them see underwater. The red eyes may also be a way to attract mates. If you'd like to learn more about LOONS, including the fun fact that the eyes of LOONS are not red year-round, I recommend this Mental Floss article.
  • REARVIEW (10D: Mirror useful for glaring at a backseat driver) Unless, of course, your backseat driver is a vampire, since a vampire's reflection does not show in a REARVIEW mirror, or any other kind of mirror. Or does it? The fun thing about fictional characters (Vampires are fictional, in case you were wondering...) is that the characteristics assigned to them depend on who is writing about them. Apparently the lack of a reflection is one trait writers can't quite agree on. Still, if you can't see your backseat driver in your REARVIEW mirror, I'd watch your neck.
  • PAPER (25D: It beats rock) This is a reference to the game rock PAPER scissors, in which PAPER does indeed beat rock. This clue reminded me of the February 11, 2021 puzzle
  • OLD (57D: Past its prime) Today is my husband's birthday, and Rachel so nicely set me up for so many possible jokes. However, I will mostly refrain, and simply dedicate this appropriate song to him, as he is my favorite Beatles' fan.
Today's puzzle features a fun, playful, and seasonally-appropriate theme. In addition to the theme, I enjoyed the answers SURE BETS, ONEROUS, and TSUNAMI. I would never say, "I'LL PASS," to this puzzle. It was a delightful way to begin my Friday.