November 8, 2021


Constructor: Claire Rimkus

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
TEST DRIVE (16A: Car dealership trial)
HOME OFFICE (35A: Workplace with a very short commute)
LONG-WINDED (42A: Excessively wordy)
FUN-LOVING (64A: Playful)

Theme synopsis: The FIRST word of each theme answer can precede the word RUN. We have a TEST RUN, a HOME RUN, a LONG RUN, and a FUN RUN.

Things I learned:
  • EMMA (1A: "Shiva Baby" director Seligman) In addition to directing the 2020 movie, Shiva Baby, EMMA Seligman also wrote the screenplay. The movie details the events of one afternoon at a Jewish shiva (wake). 
  • THAI (19A: Like luk thung) Luk thung is a genre of music that emerged in Thailand after World War II. It is sometimes referred to as THAI country music. 
  • INTO (21D: "___ America" (Trymaine Lee podcast)) Trymaine Lee is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and a reporter for MSNBC. Since 2020, he has hosted INTO America, a podcast about being Black in America.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • POTS (5A: Shabu-shabu cookware) Shabu-shabu is a Japanese hotPOT dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables served with dipping sauces. Its onomatopoeic name is derived from the sound made when the ingredients are stirred in the cooking POTS.
  • MEG (34A: "A Wrinkle in Time" protagonist) The main characters of Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 novel, A Wrinkle in Time, are MEG Murry, Charles Wallace Murry, and Calvin O'Keefe. In the 2018 movie adaptation of the book, Storm Reid played the role of MEG.
  • HOME OFFICE (35A: Workplace with a very short commute) My HOME OFFICE used to be in our basement. When my son went to college, I converted his bedroom into an OFFICE and cut my commute in half. (My son likes to tease me about wasting no time in repurposing his bedroom, but in my defense, I left a bed in the room for him to sleep in when he came home!)
  • CAT (46A: Pet that can be polydactyl) A polydactyl CAT has extra toes on their paws as a result of a genetic mutation. Polydactyly does not affect a CAT's health, and in fact, the condition may help some CATs become better hunters. Interestingly, polydactyl CATs are more common in certain geographical regions: Western England, Wales, Canada, and the Eastern United States. It's hypothesized that polydactyl CATs were transported to North America as ship CATs, where they earned their way by keeping the ship's rat population in check. Another fun fact about polydactyl CATs is that Ernest Hemingway was a huge fan of these multi-toed critters, and owned many of them. In fact, polydactyl CATs are sometimes called Hemingway CATs. My CAT, Willow is not
    polydactyl. Here's a photo of her in her absolute favorite spot, on the CAT fleece blanket on my lap in front of the fireplace.
  • MOI (54A: Me, in French) This answer reminds me of the marvelous Miss Piggy. 
  • MASH (3D: What someone might do to potatoes or buttons) This is a fun clue, and it took me some time to figure it out. I was thinking of the buttons on my button-down shirt (that I would not MASH), rather than, say, elevator buttons. 
  • STEW (12D: Misir wot, for example) Misir wot is a lentil STEW. The key ingredients of this vegetarian dish are red lentils, garlic, onions, and spices.
  • MELON (28D: Large berry) Isn't it interesting that a MELON, such as a cantaloupe, a honeydew, or a waterMELON, is essentially a large berry? According to Wikipedia, a berry is defined botanically as "a fleshy fruit without a pit produced from a single flower containing one ovary." By this definition, tomatoes, cucumbers, and grapes are also berries.
  • DOWN (30D: Direction of this answer) I enjoy a puzzle with a self-referential clue.
  • MAD (36D: "why some people be ___ at me sometimes" (Lucille Clifton poem)) Lucille Clifton was a poet and educator. She was the Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1979 to 1985. Her poem, "why some people be MAD at me sometimes" is short and powerful: 
they ask me to remember 
but they want me to remember
their memories
and i keep on remembering
  • MAYO (49D: Month following abril) In Spanish, "abril" = "April," and "MAYO" = "May."

     Geography review:
    • NEW (22A: Word in four U.S State names) Time to test your geographical knowledge on this Monday morning! Geography quiz: Can you name the four U.S. states with NEW in their names? Answer at the end of this blog post.
    • ERIE (68A: People for whom a Great Lake is named) The ERIE people historically lived on the south shore of the lake that now bears their name. The ERIE nation was decimated in a five-year war with the Iroquois in the mid-17th century. Our crossword-friend ERIE is off to a strong start this month. It's only the 8th, and this is the third time we've seen ERIE this month.
    • OAHU (55D: Island where Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu was born) Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu (who I first learned about a year ago) is a Native Hawaiian māhū, a traditional third gender person. She is known for her work as a hula teacher (a kumu hula). The OAHU native is the subject of the 2014 documentary, Kumu Hina. Last year Wong-Kalu directed, produced, and narrated an animated short film titled Kapaemahu. The film discusses the history of four healing stones on Waikiki Beach, and the legendary māhū that brought healing arts from Tahiti to Hawai'i.
    A fun classic theme type to start off this week. Four solid theme answers here anchoring a delightfully smooth solve with many interesting entries. I enjoyed the EMIT/OMIT and SNAPS/SNIP crossings. I think it's fun when similarly spelled words appear close together in a grid. See also SNORE and SNARE. I also enjoyed the letter reversal in close proximity seen with MAD/DAM. In addition to the answers I've already highlighted, I liked IN ONE PIECE and GRR. The grid is fun today also, with those stairstep blocks in the middle. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Monday.

    Answer to Geography Quiz: NEW Hampshire, NEW Jersey, NEW Mexico, and NEW York.