December 25, 2021


Constructor: Erik Agard

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
TRUTH HURTS (17A: Lizzo song that asks, "Why men great 'til they gotta be great?")
CRUNCH 'N MUNCH (27A: Cracker Jack alternative)
SURPLUS FUNDS (48A: Extra money)
BUSS UP SHUT (63A: Trini roti)

Theme synopsis: ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS...U as the only vowel in each theme answer.

Things I learned:
  • ERMA (14A: Saycon Sengbloh's role in the Aretha Franklin biopic "Respect") In the 2021 movie, Respect, Jennifer Hudson plays the title role, and Saycon Sengbloh plays the role of ERMA Franklin, Aretha's older sister. 
  • CHOLI (15A: Ghagra ___) A CHOLI is a fitted bodice worn with a sari. Ghagra CHOLI is a combination of a ghagra (long embroidered and pleated skirt) and a CHOLI, and is a type of ethnic clothing worn by women from the Indian subcontinent.
  • EAGLE (34A: Chief David Beautiful Bald ___) Chief David Beautiful Bald EAGLE was a member of the Lakota tribe. He had a number of occupations during his lifetime, including soldier and actor. He received a Purple Heart after being wounded in World War II. For the 1990 movie, Dances with Wolves, he was a technical advisor and an extra. Chief David Beautiful Bald EAGLE died in 2016 at the age of 97. I liked that this answer was inferable, and then I learned something new.
  • SHE (72A: "___ Memes Well (Quinta Brunson book) Quinta Brunson is one of the stars of the HBO TV series, A Black Lady Sketch Show. She first gained widespread attention for a series of Instagram videos she created called "The Girl Who's Never Been on a Nice Date." She then got a job with BuzzFeed, producing video content designed to go viral. Her first book, She Memes Well, was published in June of this year, and is a collection of essays about her life and career.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • TRUTH HURTS (17A: Lizzo song that asks, "Why men great 'til they gotta be great?") Lizzo's 2017 single, "TRUTH HURTS," is one of those songs that frequently pops into my head and becomes my earworm of the moment. Occasionally I have walked into a room singing the opening lyric, "Why men great 'til they gotta be great?" and earned myself a questioning look from my husband. 
  • RISERS (26A: Night owls and early ___) My husband is a night owl. I am an early RISER. I have a theory that this has been an asset in our relationship, because it has guaranteed we each have some alone time.
  • CRUNCH 'N MUNCH (27A: Cracker Jack alternative) CRUNCH N' MUNCH, a snack of caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts, has been around since 1966, and is available in several flavors. 
  • BUSS UP SHUT (63A: Trini roti) I have previously written about the version of roti (unleavened flatbread) known as BUSS UP SHUT that is served at special occasions in Trinidad and Tobago. It's name derives from the bread's resemblance to a "busted-up shirt."
  • HORNE (10D: "Stormy Weather" star Lena) Stormy Weather is a 1943 musical film. It was notable at the time for being one of the few musical films with a Black cast. Lena HORNE played the role of Selina Rogers.
  • GOWN (35D: Cinderella wears one) and SHOE (58D: Cinderella loses one) This is a fun pair of clues.
  • ALBUM (51D: "Butterfly" or "Rainbow" or "Glitter") Butterfly (1997), Rainbow (1999), and Glitter (2001) are all albums by Mariah Carey. Yes, the same Mariah Carey that recorded the 1994 song, "All I Want for Christmas is You."

    Geography review:

    • RICO (23A: Puerto ___) and RICH (20D: Translation of 23-Across) Puerto Rico, whose name means "RICH Port," is an island in the Caribbean. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, meaning its residents are U.S. citizens. The capital and largest city of Puerto RICO is San Juan.
    Definitely an appropriate theme for today. When I opened the puzzle, I immediately began singing the title. A creative theme with a nice set of theme answers, and I liked the bonus mention of the Mariah Carey albums. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Christmas Day. It's another year when many people's holiday plans have needed to be adjusted. Whatever your plans for today are, Willow and I hope you have a joyous day.