January 25, 2022


Constructor: Erik Agard

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
NICE ONE (16A: "Good joke!")
FANTASTIC FOUR (29A: Superhero team that fights Doctor Doom)
DIVINE NINE (42A: Nickname for the National Pan-Hellenic Council)
SWEET SIXTEEN (53A: "Super" birthday party in a long-running MTV show)

Theme synopsis: The first word of each theme answer can substitute for "PERFECT!" - NICE, FANTASTIC, DIVINE, SWEET. The second word of each theme answer is a SQUARE number - ONE, FOUR, NINE, SIXTEEN.

Things I learned:
  • FINNPOE (1A: "Star Wars" ship) You probably figured this out sooner than I did, but the word "ship" here is used as short for "relationship," not in reference to a vessel such as the U.S.S. Enterprise...oh wait, that's Star Trek, not Star Wars. Anyway, I know this usage of the word ship, but I'm not sure it will ever easily come to mind when I see the word. (Too many years of using the word to mean other things, maybe!) Ship is particularly used to refer to relationships fans would like to see between characters. Fan fiction is often produced about these ships. Such is the case with FINNPOE, a ship of the characters FINN (played by John Boyega) and POE Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac. If you'd like to know more about this Star Wars ship, here's an article covering the basics.
  • DIVINE NINE (42A: Nickname for the National Pan-Hellenic Council) The National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) is a collaborative group of historically Black fraternities and sororities formed to "foster cooperative actions of its members in dealing with matters of mutual concern." NPHC was founded at Howard University in 1929. As one can guess from the nickname, DIVINE NINE, the NHPC currently has NINE member organizations.
  • SWEET SIXTEEN (53A: "Super" birthday party in a long-running MTV show) My Super SWEET SIXTEEN is a reality TV series that originally aired on MTV from 2005-2017. The show documented teenagers whose parents gave them lavish and expensive birthday parties. Although this was a long-running show, its existence somehow escaped my knowledge. (Possibly a result of not having a TV...) Fortunately, at this point in the puzzle, I had figured out I was looking for a theme answer ending in SIXTEEN, and "SWEET SIXTEEN," is a well-known phrase, so not knowing the reference did not prevent me from arriving at the correct answer.
  • ANN (22D: Civil rights activist Jo ___ Robinson) Jo ANN Robinson was instrumental in organizing and maintaining the Montgomery bus boycott after the arrest of Rosa Parks in 1955. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • STAY (20A: "Don't go!") and PLEA (28A: "Don't go," for example) This was a fun pair of clues.
  • NEALE (23A: Zora ___ Hurston) Coincidentally, I happened to mention Zora NEALE Hurston in yesterday's write-up (as one of the writers in Alain Locke's 1925 book of essays by Black writers). Zora NEALE Hurston is the author of the 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • FANTASTIC FOUR (29A: Superhero team that fights Doctor Doom) The FANTASTIC FOUR are a Marvel Comics team of superheroes. The original FANTASTIC FOUR are Mister FANTASTIC, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, and Thing.
  • ALEXA (35A: Actress Demie) ALEXA Demie plays the role of Maddy Perez on the TV series Euphoria. Loosely based on an Israeli miniseries of the same name, Euphoria is centered on a group of high school students and their various experiences.
  • OGRES (38A: "___ are like onions" ("Shrek" quote) This is a delightful way to clue the word OGRES, and the pertinent clip from Shrek is also delightful.
  • NBD (3D: "Don't worry about it," for short) This answer is no big deal (NBD).
  • LOCS (8D: They might be palm-rolled) Dread LOCS may be palm-rolled.
  • ANOTHER (10D: "The Brother From ___ Planet") The Brother From ANOTHER Planet is a 1984 movie starring Joe Morton as an extraterrestrial.
  • TEA (21D: Word after "cheese" or "chamomile") I had never heard of cheese TEA (cold TEA topped with a layer of milk and cream cheese), but the chamomile option allowed me to deduce the answer.
  • ON POINT (38D: Very good) This clue/answer pair is very good; not quite PERFECT, but ON POINT.
  • TEENSY (44D: First part of a rhyming synonym for "small") and ITSY (50D: First part of a rhyming synonym for "small") A pair of small - i.e. TEENSY weensy or ITSY bitty - rhyming clues.
  • CECE (52D: Track star Telfer) CECÉ Telfer is a sprinter, and the first openly transgender woman to win an NCAA title. I first learned about CECÉ Telfer from the May 22, 2021 puzzle. Since then, she has appeared in a Michelob Ultra ad campaign for gender equity in sports. 

    Geography review:

    • EVEREST (37D: Mountain known as Qomolangma in Tibetan) At an elevation of 29,031.7 feet, Mount EVEREST is the highest mountain above sea level. It is located on the China-Nepal border in the Himalayas. As the clue tells us, the Tibetan name for EVEREST IS Qomolangma, which means "Holy Mother."
    • WHEEL (47D: Symbol on India's flag) The flag of India features three horizontal stripes of India saffron (yellow-orange), white, and India green. In the center of the flag, on the white stripe, is a 24-spoke, navy blue WHEEL. The WHEEL is the Ashoka Chakra, used to represent the eternal WHEEL of law.
    At first I noticed the SQUARES, yes, the PERFECT SQUARE of black squares in the lower right of the grid, but also the numbers in the theme answers. It was only after I finished the puzzle and was admiring the answer NICE ONE, that I thought, "NICE ONE!...oh, FANTASTIC, DIVINE, SWEET...SWEET!" This extra twist to the theme was such a lovely, yes, one could say PERFECT, addition to elevate an already fun theme. In addition to the entries I've highlighted above, I also liked ORGANISM, DE NADA, and ON BOARD. This puzzle was a PERFECT start to my Tuesday. (It actually is Tuesday today. I originally posted yesterday's write-up denoting it was Tuesday. Apologies to the few people that read my post before I realized what day it was!)