December 27, 2021

Title: SOUTHERN CROSS

Constructor: Enrique Henestroza Anguiano

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
TAKES A RAIN CHECK (4D: Postpones for another day)
WORD ON THE STREET (7D: What everyone's saying)
LILO AND STITCH (14D: Titular Disney pair who learn that "ohana" means family)

Theme synopsis: The SOUTHERN (bottom) word of each vertical theme answer can be preceded by the word CROSS. We have CROSS CHECK, CROSS STREET, and CROSS STITCH.

Things I learned:
  • CHA (12A: ___ gio (Vietnamese fried spring rolls)) CHA gio - ground meat, wrapped in rice paper and then deep-fried - is a popular dish in Vietnamese cuisine.
  • OREOS (25A: "Twist, lick, dunk" cookies) At first glance, this clue may simply seem like a description of a way to eat crossword's favorite cookies. And it is, as seen in this adorable OREOS ad. However, this answer is in the "Things I learned," section, because I discovered that "Twist, lick, dunk," is also the name of a mobile app game. It is not a surprise that the goal of the game - which according to this review, resembles the game "Fruit Ninja - is to "twist," "lick," and "dunk" as many OREOS as you can in the 60-second time limit. 
  • ODE (40A: "___ to the Head Nod" (Elizabeth Acevedo poem) I enjoy clues like this one that are easily inferable, but introduce me to something new. I recommend taking a minute to read Elizabeth Acevedo's short poem, "ODE to the Head Nod."
  • ACTS (56D: There are three in "Fire Shut Up in My Bones) Fire Shut Up in My Bones is an opera in three ACTS based on a 2014 memoir of the same name by Charles M. Blow. Terence Blanchard composed the opera's music, and has described it as an "opera in jazz. Kasi Lemmons wrote the libretto (lyrics). Fire Shut Up in My Bones premiered at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2019. In September of this year, the opera was the 2021-2022 season opening performance for the Metropolitan Opera. It was the first opera by a Black composer performed at the Metropolitan Opera.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • TOMATO (15A: Red fruit in shakshouka) Shakshouka is a dish of poached eggs in a sauce of TOMATOes, peppers, onions, garlic, and spices. It took me a moment to remember that a TOMATO is technically a fruit; it is botanically classified as a berry.
  • COX (16A: "Scream" actress Courteney) Courtney COX plays the role of reporter Gale Weathers in the 1996 slasher movie, Scream.
  • UNICEF (19A: Youth-assisting org.) UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, provides humanitarian aid to children, including providing immunizations, educating for disease prevention, improving sanitation, and providing emergency relief in response to disasters. UNICEF has a presence in 192 countries and territories. 
  • SALSAS (27A: Chancho en piedra and pico de gallo, e.g.) Chancho en piedra is a Chilean SALSA prepared using a mortar and pestle to achieve the right texture. Pico de gallo is fresh tomato SALSA with a chunky texture.
  • NAMES (29A: Roll call listings) and HERE (67A: "Present!") I enjoyed this subtly-linked pair of clues.
  • RYAN (36A: "French Kiss" actress Meg) In the 1995 romantic comedy, French Kiss, Meg RYAN plays the role of Kate, a woman who, in the process of traveling to France to confront her former fiancé, has a stolen diamond necklace hidden in her handbag by her seat mate on the plane.
  • VIOLA (38A: "Fences" actress Davis) Fences is a 2016 movie based on August Wilson's 1985 Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name. VIOLA Davis won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Rose Lee Maxson.
  • SAGE (44A: Herb in saltimbocca) Saltimbocca is an Italian dish consisting of veal wrapped in prosciutto and SAGE and then marinated.
  • SCI-FI (50A: Broken Earth trilogy genre) The Broken Earth series is a SCI-FI trilogy written by
    N.K. Jemison. All three books in the series - The Fifth Season (2015), The Obelisk Gate (2016), and The Stone Sky (2017) - won Hugo Awards for Best Novel, making N.K. Jemison the first author to win the award in three consecutive years. My son gave me the first book in this series for my birthday this year (along with six other books, so it's still on my to-be-read pile!) Today I learned that N.K. Jemison was born in Iowa City, Iowa (18 years before I moved here).
  • ETTA (10D: Blues guitarist Baker) I learned about ETTA Baker from the July 16, 2021 puzzle
  • LILO AND STITCH (14D: Titular Disney pair who learn that "ohana" means family) LILO is a six-year-old girl that lives in Hawaii. STITCH is an illegally-made extraterrestrial animal-like creature that is called Experiment 626 until it is adopted by LILO and renamed. LILO AND STITCH is the 2002 animated movie in which we first met these characters. They also appeared in a sequel and a TV series.
  • SEA (49D: Place for blobfish) I have previously written about the blobfish's non-blobby appearance in its natural habitat deep in the SEA. This knowledge is on my mental list of "science is cool" facts.
  • EVERY (53D: "Lift ___ Voice and Sing") "Lift Every Voice and Sing," has been referred to by the NAACP as the Black National Anthem. The hymn's lyrics and music were written by brothers James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson in 1900 for the 91st anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's birthday.
  • HOPE (58D: "I ___ you're happy!) This phrase always reminds me of the song, "Defying Gravity," from the musical, Wicked

    Geography review:

    • YEN (46A: Kyoto currency) Kyoto is a city in Japan, where the currency is the Japanese YEN.
    • SAO (28D: ___ Paulo, Brazil) This is the second day in a row that the first part of SÃO Paulo, Brazil is making a puzzle appearance.
    • SFO (48D: Bay Area hub (Abbr.)) The San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is a hub for United Airlines and Alaska Airlines.
    It took me a little bit longer than usual to catch on to today's theme, partly because I couldn't decide if "CROSS RAINCHECK" was a thing. Once I spotted CROSS CHECK, it all made sense. Three great theme answers today. WORD ON THE STREET is my favorite, followed closely by TAKES A RAIN CHECK. I also liked seeing the answer ENNUI; it's just a fun, unusual word. This puzzle was an enjoyable way to begin my Monday.

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