February 28, 2022


Constructor: Enrique Henestroza Anguiano

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
PORTMANTEAU (20A: "Frenemy" or "frankenfood")
MAID IN MANHATTAN (39A: Jennifer Lopez rom-com set in a posh New York hotel)
READ EM AND WEEP (53A: Phrase said while revealing a royal flush)

Theme synopsis: The word MAN is found in the exact MIDDLE of each theme answer.

Things I learned:
  • JUAN (58A: Singer Gabriel known as "El Divo de Juarez") JUAN Gabriel's flamboyant style earned him the nickname "El Divo de Juarez." He was also known as "Juanga" to his fans. JUAN Gabriel was one of the most prolific Mexican singers and songwriters of all time, and the best-selling artist in Mexican history. JUAN Gabriel died in 2016 at the age of 66. 
  • ELISA (22D: Poet Gabbert) Poet and essayist ELISA Gabbert is the poetry columnist for the New York Times. She is the author of six books; the most recent is a collection of essays published in 2020 titled, The Unreality of Memory
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • STAFF (5A: "Cats don't have owners, they have ___") Willow gives her pawprint of
    approval to this clue. I asked her for a comment, and she said, "Meow." (Translation: I'm glad the crossword finally recognizes the context of our relationship.")
  • PORTMANTEAU (20A: "Frenemy" or "frankenfood") A PORTMANTEAU is made from combining parts of words into a new word. A PORTMANTEAU differs from a compound word. In a compound word, such as afternoon, the two original words are both kept intact in the new word. "Frenemy" (someone you are friendly to although you dislike them) is a PORTMANTEAU of "friend" and "enemy." "Frankenfood" (a term used to refer to genetically modified food) is a PORTMANTEAU of "Frankenstein" and "food."
  • IMO (34A: Abbreviation aptly found in "testimonial") IMO (in my opinion) this is a stellar hidden word clue.
  • OCT (35A: National Coming Out Day mo.) National Coming Out Day is OCT. 11. 
  • MAID IN MANHATTAN (39A: Jennifer Lopez rom-com set in a posh New York hotel) MAID IN MANHATTAN is a 2002 movie starring Jennifer Lopez as the title MAID.
  • ANNE (42A: Gothic fiction writer Rice) ANNE Rice was the author of The Vampire Chronicles series of books. The first book in the series, Interview with the Vampire (1976) was adapted into a 1994 movie of the same name starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. ANNE Rice died in December 2021 at the age of 80.
  • ANYA (67A: "Emma" star Taylor-Joy) ANYA Taylor-Joy plays the title role of Emma Woodhouse in the 2020 movie, Emma, based on Jane Austen's 1815 novel.
  • MFA (1D: Iowa Writers' Workshop degree) The Iowa Writers' Workshop is a graduate level Program in Creative Writing at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. (Hello from Iowa City!) Pulitzer Prize winners Jane Smiley and Rita Dove are among two of the many writers that have received an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
  • SHUT (5D: "___ up and take my money!") This seems like a good time to remind you of the fundraiser, These Puzzles Fund Abortion Too. "Wait, by making a donation you can support reproductive rights and receive crossword puzzles made by amazing constructors (including the constructor of today's puzzle, Enrique Henestroza Anguiano)? SHUT up and take my money!"
  • ALBA (7D: Sue Storm actress Jessica) Sue Storm is the alter ego of the Invisible Woman, a Marvel Comics superhero. Jessica ALBA plays Sue Storm / Invisible Woman in the movies Fantastic Four (2005) and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007).
  • FUTURISTIC (11D: Like flying cars and robot butlers) This clue reminds me of my favorite animated movie, Meet the Robinsons. This 2007 movie features both of the FUTURISTIC items mentioned in the clue, flying cars and robot butlers. My husband and I recently rewatched Meet the Robinsons, and I was a little bit worried that the movie wouldn't be as good as I remembered it, but it definitely was. 
  • CORNER (27D: "Nobody puts Baby in a ___") "Nobody puts Baby in a CORNER," is an iconic quote from the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing. It is said by the character Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) about Frances "Baby" Houseman (Jennifer Grey).
  • AMOR (55D: Selena album "___ Prohibido") AMOR Prohibido (Forbidden Love) was Selena's fourth studio album, released in 1994. The title track was the most successful U.S. Latin single of 1994.
  • PLAY (57D: "Angels in America" started as one) Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes is a PLAY by Tony Kushner. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony Award for Best Play. It has been adapted into an HBO miniseries and an opera.

    Geography review:

    • CALI (60A: Nickname for the Golden State) The Golden State is a nickname for CALI, which is a nickname for California. CALI got its nickname of "The Golden State" from the Gold Rush of 1849.
    Not only is MAN in the MIDDLE of each theme answer, the use of left-right mirror symmetry results in MAN being in the exact MIDDLE of the puzzle in each row in which it appears. There's so much to enjoy here. In addition to the answers I've already highlighted, SERPENTINE and DEMEANOR are great long bonuses. The puzzle gives shoutouts to my birth state (CALI) and my current state (Iowa). Had it included a reference to my growing-up-state (Missouri), it would have achieved a TRIFECTA. I especially enjoyed the clues for READ 'EM AND WEEP, and, of course, STAFF. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Monday.