May 7, 2022


Constructor: Brooke Husic

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
TAKE YOUR PICK (14A: "Choose any!")
JUST THIS ONCE (33A: "I promise I won't ask again!")
COME BACK SOON (52A: "Please visit again!")

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer is a spoken three-word phrase composed of only FOUR LETTER WORDS. 

And now a word from our constructor:
Brooke: i'm so happy with how every part of this puzzle turned out! i love the three theme phrases, the square-y grid design, and too much of the fill and clues to name favorites. i hope you enjoy solving it as much as i enjoyed making it.

Things I learned:
  • KRIS (1A: Composer Bowers) KRIS Bowers has composed music for many movies, including Green Book (2018). He also taught Mahershala Ali, who stars in the movie, basic piano skills, and was the stand-in for Ali when closeups of hands playing the piano were needed. KRIS Bowers also composes music for TV shows, including Bridgerton and When They See Us. Music can add a lot to movies and TV shows, and we don't often hear about the composers of that music. I am happy to learn about KRIS Bowers.
  • BEET (28A: Root veggie in key sir alicha) Key sir alicha is an East African dish made with vegetables, ginger, and garlic. It is also known as Ethiopian BEETs and potatoes.
  • RNA (2D: Genetic substance in the game Eterna) Eterna is a computer game with a specific purpose created by scientists at Carnegie Mellon and Stanford Universities. In the game, players solve puzzles related to the folding of RNA molecules. The idea behind Eterna (and a related game about protein folding called foldit) is to utilize human problem-solving capabilities to come up with solutions that are laborious for computers. To date, Eterna players have tackled challenges relating to developing a diagnostic device for tuberculosis, designing RNA used in gene editing technology, and creating methods for stabilizing mRNA molecules such as those used in vaccines for COVID-19. "Eterna participants" have been listed as co-authors on several published scientific papers. Astute solvers will have noticed that, not only is RNA the focus of the game Eterna, it is also the genetic substance in the game EteRNA. The geeky scientist in me loves everything about the concept of involving citizen scientists through the use of a computer game. I wonder how Eterna has escaped my notice so far? I'm definitely happy to learn about it now! (Sorry, not sorry, for the extra-long informational entry!)
  • AFRO-MEXICAN (7D: Like son jarocho music) Son jarocho is a style of music from Veracruz, a Mexican state along the Gulf of Mexico. Son jarocho combines elements of Spanish and African music.
  • EPEE (20D: Sword for Curtis McDowald) Curtis McDowald is an ÉPÉE fencer. He represented Team USA at the 2020 Summer Olympics (held in 2021). Although I wasn't familiar with Curtis McDowald, the hint of "sword" allowed me to easily fill in ÉPÉE, as it's the most commonly seen sword in crosswords.
  • VAL JAMES (23D: Former NHL player who wrote "Black Ice") During his time playing hockey in the NHL, VAL JAMES played for the Buffalo Sabres and the Toronto Maple Leafs. VAL JAMES was the first Black American player in the NHL when he made his NHL debut playing for the Buffalo Sabres in the 1981-82 season. Black Ice: The Val James Story was published in 2015. 
  • TAL (35D: "Star Trek: Discovery" character Adira ___) The Star Trek: Discovery character, Adira TAL, was born on Earth (as Adira) in the year 3173. Following an asteroid collision, Adira became joined to the Trill symbiont, TAL. The non-binary character, Adira TAL, is played by Blu del Barrio.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • PISCES (32A: Rihanna's zodiac sign) Those born between February 18 and March 20 have the zodiac sign of PISCES, the twelfth and final astrological sign. Rihanna's birthday is February 20. 
  • LSAT (44A: Exam for Elle Woods) Elle Woods is the protagonist of the 2001 movie, Legally Blonde. In the movie, and the Amanda Brown novel of the same name on which it was based, Elle Woods is a college student and sorority sister that decides to go to law school.
  • WEK (10D: Supermodel Alek) Alek WEK has modeled for notable fashion houses, appeared on the covers of Elle, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour magazines, and been a guest judge on America's Next Top Model and Britain & Ireland's Next Top Model. She was born in an area of Sudan that is now South Sudan, and moved to Britain at the age of 14 to escape civil war. Her autobiography, released in 2007, is titled Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel
  • YES (15D: "___ I'm Ready" (Barbara Mason hit)) Barbara Mason's song, "YES, I'm Ready," was released in 1965. This clue is a good example of using song titles to add interest to short fill. 
  • SUCCESS STORY (19D: Cinderella team's tale, e.g.) Before I had this answer completely filled in, that -SSS- looked so odd that I was convinced I must have had something wrong. However, this answer turned out to be a SUCCESS STORY.
  • SKIS (34D: Pair used in some X Games events) The X Games are an annual ESPN event featuring extreme sports. Some of the current events for the Winter X Games are SKI Big Air, and Men's and Women's SKI Superpipe. 
  • GOMEZ (46D: "The Baby-Sitters Club" actor Xochitl) Xochitl GOMEZ plays the role of Dawn Schafer in the TV series, The Baby-Sitters Club. She also plays the role of America Chavez in the recently released movie, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
  • ECHO (51D: Superhero alter ego for Maya Lopez) and COX (52D: 51-Down portrayer Alaqua) This was a nice, consecutive pair of clues. I wrote about ECHO and Alaqua COX a few months ago.

    Geography review:

    • SRI (39A: ___ Lankan) SRI Lanka is an island country in South Asia with a long documented history. Archaelologists have found skeletal remains of hominins (known as Balangoda Man) in SRI Lankan caves that date to 30,000 BP. (BP is a term used in archaeological dating to mean Before Present.)
    In response to this puzzle, I say, "Very well done!" All three of the conversational theme answers are fun and interesting. I liked the consistency of all of the clues for the theme answers including exclamation points. In addition to the answers I've already highlighted, I enjoyed ACCURATE and SAVE FACE. The blocks of black squares in the grid, as well as the diagonal series of black squares almost-but-not-quite dividing the puzzle in half are quite delightful. The bottom row of the puzzle is striking, isn't it, with its XYZ and Y TU? Thanks, Brooke, for a puzzle that was a fabulous start to my Saturday.


    1. Small note on Val James - he was the first African-*American* NHL player, but there were a number of Afro-Canadian black players in the league before him.

      1. Ah, thanks for that clarification, Matt. Will edit the post. Always happy to have someone double-check my sports commentary!


    Post a Comment