November 30, 2021


Constructors: Brooke Husic  & Doug Peterson

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
SECRET BALLOT (19A: Voting method that preserves anonymity)
HIDDEN FIGURES (38A: 2016 film about NASA mathematicians)
INVISIBLE JET (55A: Wonder Woman's undetectable airplane)

Theme synopsis: The first word of each theme answer is a descriptor for something that is OUTTA SIGHT: SECRET, HIDDEN, or INVISIBLE.

And now a word from our constructors:
Doug: As a giant DC Comics nerd, I'm very excited about getting 55-Across into a puzzle as a theme entry. Thanks to Brooke (and Erik) for indulging me. 38-Across is another fantastic theme entry, and I'm thrilled with how the whole thing turned out. And I know I say this every time, but it was a total blast to work with Brooke. :)
One of my favorite parts of a Sally write-up is the "Things I Learned" section, so I thought I'd share something I learned when making the puzzle, and that is 17-Across's efforts to preserve Mixtec, Zapotec, and other indigenous languages of Mexico. Amazing and important work.
Brooke: Doug originally pitched INVISIBLE JET as a possible theme answer for our "Side Issues" puzzle. While we ultimately went with a set of three 15's in that one, we didn't want to let this awesome theme answer go, so we built a different theme set around it! I love all our theme answers here, and as always it was so amazing to team up with Doug. My favorite clues are 32A PERIOD and 60A CROC.
Also! I was super honored to contribute the year-end themeless puzzle (which dropped today!) to Crosswords Club Digital, a 21x puzzle subscription edited by the peerless Patti Varol (and test-solved by Doug!). The subscription is for six 21x21 puzzles each month, usually themed. It's a really amazing subscription from a super amazing woman editor, and I highly recommend checking out the sample puzzle on the link and subscribing if you're looking for consistently great big themed puzzles!

Things I learned:
  • LILA (17A: Singer and language preservationist Downs) Lila Downs is a Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter. She was born in Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca, Mexico. As Doug mentioned in his notes, LILA Downs incorporates indigenous Mexican influences in her work, and often records songs in indigenous languages, including Mixtec, Zapotec, Mayan, Nahuatl, and Pur├ępecha. She also uses her music to address social issues, particularly those pertaining to the treatment of indigenous people. For example, her song "Dark Eyes" is about the invisible labor of indigenous workers. (Sadly appropriate for today's theme.) If LILA Downs is new to you like she was to me, or if you are a long-time fan, you might enjoy the "Tiny Desk Concert" she did for NPR Music. 
  • INEZ (63A: "Mockingbird" singer Foxx) INEZ Foxx and her brother Charlie wrote and recorded the song "Mockingbird" (based on the lullaby "Hush Little Baby") in 1963. The song has been covered by Dusty Springfield (who we saw in yesterday's puzzle) and Aretha Franklin. A remake of the song was recorded by Carly Simon and James Taylor. 
  • RAE (11D: Actress ___ Dawn Chong) RAE Dawn Chong's film credits include the role of Squeak in the 1995 movie, The Color Purple, and acting alongside her father, Tommy Chong, as she played a gypsy storyteller in the 1984 movie, Cheech & Chong's The Corsican Brothers
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ESTE (14A: Haim member who plays bass) and SIS (51A: 14-Across to Danielle and Alana) SISters Alana, Danielle, and ESTE are the pop rock band Haim. I have previously written about the collaboration of the Haim SISters on the Taylor Swift song, "no body, no crime," which is about a woman named ESTE.
  • SECRET BALLOT (19A: Voting method that preserves anonymity) The use of the SECRET BALLOT, allowing a voter to remain anonymous and avoid influence by intimidation, has been around in various forms since ancient times. The modern SECRET BALLOT, in which voters mark their choices on preprinted BALLOTs distributed by the government was first used in Australia. Therefore, the SECRET BALLOT is sometimes referred to as the Australian BALLOT. Did you know that prior to the use of the SECRET BALLOT in the United States, some newspapers would print filled out BALLOTs for party workers to distribute on election day? 
  • PERIOD (32A: ___ underwear (absorbent bottoms)) PERIOD underwear is exactly what it sounds like, absorbent underwear designed to be alternatives to pads or tampons. 
  • HIDDEN FIGURES (38A: 2016 film about NASA mathematicians) The 2016 movie, HIDDEN FIGURES, tells the story of NASA mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. 
  • INVISIBLE JET (55A: Wonder Woman's undetectable airplane) Although in the current DC Universe, Wonder Woman has been gifted the ability to fly, she hasn't always been able to do so. Therefore, having access to an INVISIBLE JET came in handy. I could write an entire blog article on the characteristics, history, and appearances (so to speak...) of Wonder Woman's INVISIBLE JET, but since there are plenty of other things to write about today, I'll refer you to this blogpost and this DC fandom page that provide a lot of interesting information on the topic. 
  • CROC (60A Holey shoe sometimes decorated with charms) It was probably inevitable for a shoe designed with holes to inspire people to fill the holes with decorations. If you're interested in CROC charms, there are a lot of options. 
  • ASMR (3D: Whispery YouTube genre) I have previously written about ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, the tingling scalp sensation some people experience in response to certain stimuli.
  • PIG (32D: "If You Give a ___ a Pancake" (kids' book)) If You Give a PIG a Pancake, she'll ask for some syrup to go with it, according to the children's book by Laura Numeroff. I enjoyed reading all of the books in this chain-reaction series to my children. The first book in the series is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
  • CDS (60D: Discman inserts) In the age of unlimited music available on our cell phones, the Discman seems archaic. Since I remember when the Discman came out (in 1984), and what a big deal it was to listen to CDS on the go, I'm telling myself it hasn't been that long ago that they were popular. I knew I had talked about the Discman recently, and it turns out it was on the post for Brooke and Doug's October 1 puzzle (for which INVISIBLE JET could have been a theme answer). 
  • ROE (61D: Fish eggs) and OVA (62D: Human eggs) A nice pair of eggs clues, particularly coming together in the puzzle as they did. 

    Geography review:
    • ORE (53A: State south of Washington) OREgon is indeed south of Washington, and north of California. 
    • MELBOURNE (5D: Southeastern Australian city) MELBOURNE is the second most-populous city in Australia. It is also a UNESCO City of Literature. This particular fact caught my attention because I live in the first city in the United States (and one of only two U.S. cities currently) to have received this designation. In fact, MELBOURNE and Iowa City both received this designation in 2008.
    • ASIA (6D: Laos' continent) Laos is a landlocked country in Southeast ASIA. It is bordered by Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. The capital of Laos is Vientiane.
    • ERIE (59 D: Lake near Detroit) Warning: The following entry is brought to you by the data lover in me. A special treat today to see our crossword friends, ASIA and ERIE in the same puzzle. Each of them makes frequent puzzle appearances. In fact, in November, this is the fifth time we've seen ASIA, and the seventh time we've seen ERIE. However, joint puzzle appearances only happen a few times a year. The last time we saw ASIA and ERIE in the same puzzle was September 19. Speaking of those seven appearances of ERIE this month, that sets a new record for monthly appearances since I have been blogging.
    Did you have trouble seeing today's puzzle? Did it seem OUTTA SIGHT (or perhaps SECRET, HIDDEN, or INVISIBLE) at first? I enjoy when constructors make it easy for me to make such corny jokes in my write-ups! If you figured out today's theme, in the words of the puzzle, "You DID a good job." This was a fun, playful theme, and the rest of the puzzle was just as enjoyable. Beautiful long downs in SPECIALIZED, BITE-SIZED, SIDE PROJECT, and MELBOURNE. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Tuesday.