March 5, 2022


Constructor: Amanda Rafkin

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Guest Blogger: Shannon Rapp

Theme Answers:

FIRSTIMPRESSION (3D: Initial judgment)

SECONDLANGUAGE (5D: English is the most common one)

THIRDTRIMESTER (14D: Final stage of fetal growth)

FOURTHDIMENSION (9D: Time, to a physicist)

Theme synopsis: "Set of Downs" refers to a system in American football in which a team is given four numbered opportunities to advance the ball ten yards before they must give up the ball, thus FIRST, SECOND, THIRD, and FOURTH are all at the beginning of down entries.

Things I learned:

  • OIL (25D: Liquid in a Hanukkah miracle) I found this NPR story from 2005 that details the miracle. The story goes: to rededicate the holy temple in Jerusalem after reclaiming it, Jewish rebels lit a menorah with what should have been enough oil for one night, but the oil lasted for eight days.
  • SECONDLANGUAGE (5D: English is the most common one) According to Wikipedia, over 1 billion people speak English as a second language, while only 372 million count it as their first. English is the third most common first language, behind Mandarin Chinese and Spanish.
  • ICARLY (22A: Miranda Cosgrove series about making a web show with friends) iCarly ran for six seasons on Nickelodeon and now has a revival series on Paramount+.  

Random thoughts and interesting things:

  • THIRD TRIMESTER (14D: Final stage of fetal growth) This is a great opportunity to mention These Puzzles Fund Abortion Too, a pack of crosswords with reproductive justice themes and content from an all-star group of puzzle makers, with proceeds to support The National Abortion Access Fund-a-Thon.
  • One effect of making a grid with four long down theme entries while keeping it clean and relatively easy to solve can be a lot of entries on the shorter side, and I'm glad that's what Amanda decided to do here, because this puzzle proves that short fill can be fun and interesting when clued well. ALI (12A: Prince ___ (Aladdin's royal alter ego)), TAR (16A: Paving goop), TEE (31D: Top at a merch table), TAG (42D: Word shouted before "You're It!"), and the aforementioned OIL are just a few examples of the many entries with fresh clues that increase the entertainment value for the solver.

Hi readers! I'm Shannon Rapp, and I'm back with my second guest blog for Sally's Take today and lucky to have this fun puzzle to review. I really enjoyed solving Amanda's puzzle this morning. While I admit that my lack of sports knowledge made me think hard about how this theme worked, I certainly appreciate its construction, especially the symmetry found in FIRSTIMPRESSION and FOURTHDIMENSION. Thank you Amanda!

Sally, thanks for letting me fill in today, and enjoy your day off! 

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