December 31, 2021


Constructor: David Steinberg

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
NELLY FURTADO (20A: "I'm Like a Bird" singer)
EXTINCT ANIMAL (38A: Woolly mammoth or dodo, e.g.)
WHAT HAPPENED (55A: "Can you catch me up?")

Theme synopsis: The last letters of the theme answers in order, spell the word OLD, and the first letters spell the word NEW.

Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • MAMBA (1A: Snake that can slither 12 mph) The image of an 8 to 12-foot long snake slithering at 12 mph is slightly terrifying. There are four species of MAMBA; three are green in color, and one is black. All four species of MAMBA are native to sub-Saharan Africa. MAMBAs are venomous, with untreated bites often being fatal. 
  • HERE (6A: "Not ___" (sarcastic roll call answer)) Ha! This clue made me laugh.
  • NELLY FURTADO (20A: "I'm Like a Bird" singer) I learned about NELLY FURTADO from the August 18, 2020 puzzle. "I'm Like a Bird" won NELLY FURTADO a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
  • NAP (29A: A cranky person might need one) I liked this clue. I know this is often true for me when I am feeling cranky. Also, I really like NAPs, whether I'm feeling cranky or not.
  • ALTO (49A: Alphabetically first vocal range) and ACE (50A: Alphabetically first playing card) This is a nice pair of clues with the "Alphabetically first..." echo.
  • NERD (68A: Member of a Stanford "Nation") It's no secret that students attending Stanford are smart. The school has embraced the slogan of "NERD Nation." Here's a 2014 video titled "N-E-R-D-S" featuring many Stanford student-athletes (including Chiney Ogwumike who now plays for WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks).
  • MAE (23D: Rita ___ Brown ("Rubyfruit Jungle" author)) Rubyfruit Jungle is a 1973 novel by Rita MAE Brown. The term "rubyfruit jungle" is used in the book to refer to female genitals. The book is autobiographical, and is notable for being an early literary lesbian novel.
  • NAME (36D: "Alma and How She Got Her ___") Alma and How She Got Her NAME is a picture book by Juana Martinez-Neal. In the book, a young girl thinks she has too many names, until her father tells her the story about each of her names. 
  • ETSY (58D: Website with handmade plush alpacas) I've never searched on ETSY for "handmade plush alpacas" - there are so many choices!
  • EYE (64D: "The Bluest ___") The Bluest EYE was Toni Morrison's first novel, and was published in 1977.

    Geography review:

    • OSLO (19A: Norway's largest city) In addition to being its largest city, OSLO is the capital of Norway. The city of OSLO was founded in 1040 A.D. Its original name was Ánslo. It has also been named Christiania (also spelled Kristiana). 
    • SPAIN (32A: Country where tapas originated) Thank you to SPAIN for originating tapas. Consisting of both hot and cold dishes, tapas may be served as a snack or appetizer, or combined to make a full meal. It's our tradition to make a meal out of appetizers on New Year's Eve, so it was fun to see tapas to get a mention today. 
    • SWEDE (70A: Stockholm native) The city of Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is located across 14 islands in the Baltic Sea. Stockholm is not quite as old as OSLO; it was founded as a city in 1252.
    • RIYADH (35D: Capital of Saudi Arabia) RIYADH is the located in the center of the an-Nafud desert, and is the largest city on the Arabian peninsula.
    It took me a few moments of looking at the completed puzzle to figure out today's theme. Such a lovely "Aha!" moment when I saw it. I enjoyed this creative and timely theme today. David Steinberg is the editor of the Universal crossword puzzle, and it's always a treat to see his name as constructor. IT'S A MIRACLE and IMAX THEATER were great bonuses today. This puzzle was an enjoyable way to begin my Friday and the last day of 2021. I will see you next year!