December 9, 2021


Constructor: Enrique Henestroza Anguiano

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
SOOTHING SOUNDS (20A: Ocean waves and flowing rivers, for many)
SOMEDAY SOON (37A: "It'll happen before you know it")
SONIA SOTOMAYOR (56A: Supreme Court justice and Nuyorican)

Theme synopsis: Each word in the theme answers begins with the letters SO-, making each two word theme answer SO- SO- (GOOD).

And now a word from our constructor:
Enrique: I'm excited to see this puzzle out in the world, and not only because SONIA SOTOMAYOR makes an appearance—the grid was filled entirely with Spread the Word(list), a free, data-driven wordlist that Brooke Husic and I maintain to help newer constructors easily and cleanly fill crossword grids. I'm really happy with how the fill turned out, and I encourage anyone interested to take the wordlist for a spin!

Things I learned:
  • DENIM (18A: Gay Jeans Day fabric) Sometimes called Gay Blue Jeans Day, or National Gay Blue Jeans Day, Gay Jeans Day is a day sometimes celebrated on college campuses. There is no one particular date associated with Gay Jeans Day, but it is often observed in coordination with World Aids Day (December 1) or National Coming Out Day (October 11). On Gay Jeans Day, people are encouraged to wear DENIM jeans to show their support of the LGBTQ community. This press release (from Carnegie Mellon's celebration in previous years) gives a good overview of the idea of Gay Jeans Day. The answer here was easily inferable, but Gay Jeans Day is new to me. It looks like the celebration started in the late 1980s (Princeton's first Gay Jeans Day was held in 1989), so it was not widespread when I was an undergraduate.
  • DRESS (67A: Huipil or gomesi, e.g.) A huipil is a loose-fitting traditional DRESS worn by indigenous women of central Mexico and Central America. A gomesi is a floor-length DRESS of colorful fabric traditionally worn by women in Buganda and Busoga, kingdoms within Uganda.
  • KINGS (7D: "___ & Queens" (Ava Max song)) This was another inferable answer, but I was not familiar with the 2020 song, "KINGS & Queens" by Ava Max, the fifth single from her album, Heaven & Hell. The song includes the lyrics, "To all of the queens who are fighting alone / Baby, you're not dancin' on your own."
  • ELISE (8D: Actress Neal) ELISE Neal's film appearances include Rosewood (1997), Money Talks (1997), Mission to Mars (2000) and Hustle & Flow (2005). She also played the role of Yvonne Williams-Hughley in the TV series, The Hughleys.
  • UKE (29D: Jake Shimabukuro's instrument, for short) Jake Shimabukuro plays jazz, rock, blues, bluegrass, folk, and classical music - all on the ukulele (UKE, for short). His most recent album, Jake & Friends, includes collaborations with a range of artists, including Bette Midler, Willie Nelson, Kenny Loggins, and Amy Grant and Vince Gill. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ONLY (19A: Friends ___ (feed privacy option)) In spite of spending a fair amount of time on social media, when I read "feed privacy" I was trying to think of something related to food and eating with friends...hmm. Good clue for ONLY.
  • SOOTHING SOUNDS (20A: Ocean waves and flowing rivers, for many) I was able to fill in this answer immediately, without any help from crossing answers, but aided by my guess that the theme would feature words beginning with SO-. Ocean waves and flowing rivers are definitely SOOTHING SOUNDS for me, though I prefer listening to the actual, rather than recorded, SOUNDS.
  • ANG (25A: "Life of Pi" director Lee) The 2012 movie, Life of Pi, directed by ANG Lee, is based on  a 2001 novel of the same name. The movie is centered on a teenager named "Pi" Patel, who is telling about his survival of a shipwreck at the age of 16, adrift on the ocean with a Bengal tiger.
  • SYRUPS (42A: Grenadine and falernum, e.g.) Grenadine is a deep red nonalcoholic SYRUP traditionally made from pomegranate, but sometimes made from blackcurrant juice. Falernum is a SYRUP that may be nonalcoholic, or made as a liqueur, containing ginger, lime, almond, cloves, and allspice. Both of these SYRUPS are used in making cocktails. This is a favorite clue type of mind, giving two examples and therefore only requiring the solver to be familiar with one of the examples to be successful.
  • OPI (46A: Puttin' on the Glitz nail polish brand) OPI's Puttin' on the Glitz is a dark grey glitter nail polish, in case you were wondering. 
  • SONIA SOTOMAYOR (56A: Supreme Court justice and Nuyorican) SONIA SOTOMAYOR has been a Supreme Court Justice since 2009. She self-identifies as a Nuyorican, a member of the Puerto Rican diaspora in and around New York City. The term "Nuyorican" is a portmanteau of "New York" and "Puerto Rico."
  • JEDI (5D: Person wielding a non-red lightsaber) In the Star Wars canon, there are eight colors of lightsaber, helpfully explained in this article. The plasma blade of a lightsaber is powered by a Kyber crystal, giving the lightsabers their distinctive colors. Red lightsabers are associated with the Sith. As the Sith are not JEDI, they are unable to forge a bond with their lightsabers.
  • MANDARIN (11D: "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" language) Like Life of Pi, the 2000 film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, (based on a novel by the same name by Wang Dulu) was directed by ANG Lee. The film's dialogue is in MANDARIN Chinese, with subtitles for non-Chinese speakers.
  • USE (22D: "___ your words") This clue made me smile. I said, "USE your words," a countless number of times to my children when they were younger.
  • SEAHORSE (37D: Fish whose males give birth) When a female SEAHORSE mates with a male, she deposits up to 1,500 eggs in the male SEAHORSE's pouch. He then carries the eggs until the young SEAHORSEs are fully developed, from 9 to 45 days.

    Geography review:
    • HIKING (33A: Pacific Crest Trail activity) The Pacific Crest Trail closely follows the highest parts of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges. The HIKING trail is 2,653 miles long, reaching from near the U.S.-Mexico border, and extending north to the Canada-U.S. border. HIKING the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail, which passes through California, Oregon, and Washington takes four to six months.
    • GUYANA (47D: Country celebrated during Mash) GUYANA is a country located on the northern edge of South America, with coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. Its neighbors are Brazil, Venezuela, and Suriname. The capital of GUYANA is Georgetown. As we learned from the November 28 puzzle, the official language of GUYANA is English. GUYANA achieved independence from the United Kingdom in the 1960s, and became a republic on February 23, 1970. Mashramani - commonly referred to as Mash - is an annual celebration held on February 23 to commemorate the "Birth of the Republic." A parade, music, games, and cooking are part of the Mash festivities. The word "Mashramani" means "celebration after cooperative work." (Side note: February 23 happens to be my son's birthday, but he's not quite as old as GUYANA.)
     I'd say this puzzle was more than just SO-SO; in fact, it was SO SO GOOD. A delightful set of theme answers. It was especially nice to see SONIA SOTOMAYOR featured. If you are a constructor, I encourage you to check out Spread the Word(list), which Enrique mentioned in his notes. I've found the word list to be an extremely helpful resource. This puzzle was an enjoyable start to my Thursday.