December 14, 2021


Constructors: Hoang-Kim Vu & Kate Chin Park

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
OLD SPICE (20A: Deodorant brand with many absurd ads)
MODERN FANTASY (39A: Genre with magical elements in present-day settings)
UNDERWATER (60A: Submerged)

Theme synopsis: Each half of the theme answers can precede the word WORLD, giving us OLD WORLD, SPICE WORLD, MODERN WORLD, FANTASY WORLD, UNDERWORLD, and WATER WORLD.

And now a word from our constructors:
Kim: This theme was in crossword limbo for months while I struggled to come up with a set where each half was a valid, well-known, unproblematic phrase that didn't necessarily just stand in for "sphere of the preceding noun." So things like FREE SPIRIT, DREAM HOME, and DJ Khaled's favorite ANOTHER ONE all found their way to the dust bin. But! This is a great advertisement for the power of collabs and what a fresh, smart pair of eyes can do. I ran this one by Kate who produced some real cool stuff like OPEN SECRET and MISS PERFECT, before we settled on the final three asym themers here. As for the grid, once we needed to go asym for theme, it was nice to also be able to squeeze in some things that make you know it's a real Kim/Kate collab (come for the food words, stay for the Kate clues at 18-A or 54-A, revel in our combined glee at 39-D).
Kate: This was such a great theme to work on, because it involved thinking up a lot of fun phrases, most of which were colorful and evocative. Granted, though, like Kim said, it ended up being tough to settle on the right ones! The fact that SPICE World is a tangential part of this puzzle is, I believe, objectively delightful; I'm not sure how many solvers will be independently familiar with the MODERN FANTASY lit genre, but it's worth checking out if you like a good page-turner but aren't really into, say, medieval social conventions. And aside from the theme, I love Kim's asym grid, and we were both really happy with the fill (Kim mentioned it as well, but here's my verbatim response when he sent me the SE corner: "MOONCAKE!!!")

Things I learned:
  • PGA (48A: ___ Tour (org. for Collin Morikawa)) Collin Morikawa plays on the PGA (Professional Golfers Association) Tour and the European Tour. He is the winner of the 2020 PGA Championship and the 2021 Open Championship.
  • DIANA (65A: Swimmer Nyad) In addition to being a swimmer, DIANA Nyad is an author, journalist, and motivational speaker. Her 1978 book, Other Shores, discusses her long-distance swimming. In 1975, DIANA Nyad swam around Manhattan, swimming the 28 miles in just under 8 hours. She has also swum from Cuba to Florida. 
  • NINE (61A: The Little Rock ___) The Little Rock NINE were a group of Black students enrolled in the racially segregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. (This was after the 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, that declared segregated schools unconstitutional.) The governor of Arkansas initially prevented the students from entering the school. President Dwight D. Eisenhower intervened, issuing an executive order and instructing the Arkansas National Guard to support the integration of the school. Two TV movies have documented the story of the Little Rock NINE, Crisis at Central High (1981), and The Ernest Green Story (1993). I have heard of the Little Rock NINE, but did not know much about their story. Grateful for the nudge to learn more about this part of history.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • OLD SPICE (20A: Deodorant brand with many absurd ads) OLD SPICE has been making male grooming products, including deodorant, since 1937. OLD SPICE has made a name for itself not only for its products, but for its wacky ads, with slogans such as "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like," and "Smell Like a Man, Man." OLD SPICE ads have won many advertising awards for their creativity. Here's a sampling of six OLD SPICE ads - enjoy!
  • MODERN FANTASY (39A: Genre with magical elements in present-day settings) MODERN FANTASY, also known as contemporary FANTASY, is set in the time-period of its author. Examples include the Georgina Kincaid series by Richelle Mead, The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and the Percy Jackson & the Olympians trilogy by Rick Riordan.
  • MOLE (66A: Word from the Nahuatl word for "sauce") Nahuatl, also known as Aztec or Mexicano, is a language spoken by Nahua people in central Mexico and some parts of the United States. MOLE is a traditional sauce in Mexican cuisine. There are many varieties of MOLE, generally containing fruits, nuts, chili peppers, and spices.
  • SEATS (71A: They can be cheap or hot) I filled in "dates" before crossing answers revealed my error. Ha!
  • ENOS (4D: "Hanna" actress Mireille) Hanna is a TV series based on the 2011 movie of the same name. Mireille ENOS plays the role of CIA operative Marissa Wiegler. I have written about the TV series and about Mireille ENOS previously.
  • SELLS (9D: "She ___ seashells by the seashore) Easy for you to say!
  • PIMENTOS (11D: Peppers in a Southern cheese spread) It has been years since I have eaten pimento cheese spread, a staple in traditional Southern U.S. cuisine. The spread is made from cheese, mayonnaise, and PIMENTOS, and served in sandwiches or as a dip for crackers and vegetables.
  • TAPA (26D: Croquetas, for example) Yum! On our recent visit to Chicago, we ate at our daughter's favorite restaurant, a TAPAs bar called Lil' Ba-Ba-Reeba. Everything was delicious, including the two varieties of croquetas we tried, mushroom and ham. Croquetas are a type of fried dumpling made of a thick batter surrounding a filling.
  • EID (29D: ___ al-Fitr) EID-al-Fitr is a Muslim holiday marking the end of the observance of Ramadan.
  • MOONCAKE (39D: Mid-Autumn Festival treat) The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, or the MOONCAKE Festival, is celebrated in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Vietnam, and by Chinese and Vietnamese communities around the world. During the festival,  people light lanterns of all shapes and sizes, and eat MOONCAKE, a rich pastry filled with a thick filling made from red bean paste or lotus seed paste.
  • PAELLA (52D: Rice dish that Jose Andres makes) Here's an article to check out if you'd like to learn to cook PAELLA like chef and restaurateur José Andrés.

    Geography review:

    • FLA (24A: Ga. neighbor) Florida (FLA) is Georgia's (Ga.'s) neighbor to the south. Let's do a geography quiz. Do you remember the capitals of these two states? Answer at the end of this blog post.
    • SRI (35D: ___ Lanka) SRI Lanka is an island country in the Indian Ocean. It shares maritime borders with India and the Maldives. Do you remember the capitals of SRI Lanka? Answer below.
    I, for one, am happy to see these WORLDS COLLIDE in this puzzle, as it made for an enjoyable solve. A nice set of 8-, 13-, and 10- letter theme answers that necessitated an asymmetric grid. In addition to the theme answers, there's a ton of great fill; in addition to those answers highlighted above, shoutouts to OVER EASY, ODOMETER, SASSES, and LEG DAY. The cluing is lovely as well. I particularly enjoyed the clues for HAZEL (18A: Like greenish, brownish, goldfish eyes), ROOST (46A: What chickens come home to do), and UNMASK (54A: Expose like a Scooby-Doo villain). This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Tuesday.

    Answers to geography quiz: The capital of Florida is Tallahassee. The capital of Georgia is Atlanta. SRI Lanka has two capitals. The legislative capital of SRI Lanka is SRI Jayawardenepura Kotte, and the executive and judicial capital is Colombo.