June 18, 2022


Constructor: Stella Zawistowski

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
BLING EMPIRE (22A: Reality show often compared to "Crazy Rich Asians")
ORANGE MARMALADE (36A: Citrusy spread that Paddington loves)
DON'T JUDGE ME (47A: Sheepish plea)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer contains the word GEM HIDDEN among its letters.

Things I learned:
  • DITA (5A: Burlesque dancer Von Teese) DITA Von Teese has earned the moniker, "Queen of Burlesque" for her part in making burlesque popular again. On her Twitter bio, DITA Von Teese describes herself as a "Glamour Evangelist." One of her signature acts is "The Martini Glass," which she performed on an episode of CSI where she played a femme fatale version of herself.
  • BLING EMPIRE (22A: Reality show often compared to "Crazy Rich Asians") The reality TV series, BLING EMPIRE, premiered on Netflix in January 2021. The show focuses on the lives of wealthy East Asian and East Asian-American socialites that live in the United States.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • SOUP (19A: Minestrone or menudo) Minestrone is a vegetable SOUP of Italian origin that often includes pasta and/or rice. Menudo is a SOUP in Mexican cuisine that is made with tripe (the stomach lining from cattle, pigs, or sheep).
  • BASIE (28A: Jazz pianist Count) Count BASIE (1904-1984) was a jazz pianist, bandleader, and composer. In 1936 he formed the Count BASIE Orchestra, a band that became one of the most prominent performing groups of the swing era. I felt like I had written about Count BASIE before, and I have, but it's always been in the context of people that performed with him. Today he gets his own entry!
  • PIP (34A: Spot on a domino) I feel like PIP is a word I've learned from solving crosswords. The word PIP can also be used to refer to the dots on dice or the symbols on playing cards. The seeds of some fruits, such as an orange, are known as PIPs. And that usage reminds me that I actually learned the word PIP from reading Sherlock Holmes, as one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short stories is titled, "The Five Orange PIPs."
  • IMAC (55A: Colorful computer) This clue/answer led me to Apple's IMAC page, which features a mesmerizing graphic of spinning computers under the tagline, "Seven vibrant colors. You do hue."
  • I TRY (65A: 1999 Macy Gray hit) "I TRY" was the second single from Tracy Gray's debut album. The song won a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
  • ARE (8D: "Our Lips ___ Sealed" (Go-Go's song)) The Go-Go's released "Our Lips ARE Sealed" in 1981. The song was covered by Hilary and Haylie Duff for the 2004 movie, A Cinderella Story. As you know if you're a regular reader of the blog, I appreciate clues such as this that use song titles to add interest to common words.
  • HORNE (14D: "Stormy Weather" singer Lena) Lena HORNE sang "Stormy Weather" for the 1943 musical film of the same name. It was recently announced that this fall one of Broadway's theaters will be renamed for Lena HORNE. This is a well-deserved honor.
  • EMAIL (51A: "This meeting could've been an ___") This clue made me laugh! In my experience, most meetings could be replaced by an EMAIL.

    Geography review:

    • URDU (31A: An official language of Pakistan) Pakistan is a country in South Asia. The capital of Pakistan is Islamabad, and its official languages are URDU and English.
    • SAHARA (9D: Desert that spans 10 countries) The SAHARA Desert, located on the African continent, is the world's largest hot desert. The ten countries spanned by the SAHARA are: Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Sudan, and Tunisia.
    • RIO (21D: Where Simone Biles and Simone Manuel won Olympic gold) The 2016 Summer Olympics were held in RIO de Janeiro, Brazil. At those Olympics, Simone Biles won four gold medals in gymnastics, and Simone Manuel won two gold and two silver medals in swimming.
    • ERIE (53D: Great Lake bordering Ohio) Time for a Geography Quiz! In addition to Ohio, what other three U.S. states and which Canadian province border Lake ERIE. (I thought about asking you to come up with the ten countries spanned by the SAHARA Desert, but opted for this instead.) Answer to this Geography Quiz is at the end of this blog post.
    Three fabulous theme answers today making up this classic theme type. Interestingly, we've seen a USA Today puzzle with the title, HIDDEN GEMS, before. That puzzle featured different HIDDEN GEMS, and therefore a completely different theme set. That's fun. In my opinion, this puzzle contains HIDDEN GEMS in addition to the theme, and that's the plethora of music-related clues and answers. We have Foxy Brown with some RAP, DITA Von Teese with burlesque, as well as Count BASIE, and India.ARIE and references to the songs, "I TRY," "Our Lips ARE Sealed," and Lena HORNE's "Stormy Weather." Thank you, Stella, for a GEM of a puzzle to begin my Saturday.
    It's a day of crosswords for me, as I'm writing this from St. Louis where the first ever STL Crossword Puzzle Tournament will take place this afternoon. I'm looking forward to the tournament and the opportunity to be with some crossword folks in person!

    Answer to Geography Quiz: Lake ERIE is bordered by the U.S. states of Ohio (as stated in the clue), Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York, and the Canadian province of Ontario.