Title: RUNNING THE GAUNTLET
Constructor: Amanda Rafkin
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
**Spoiler Alert!** Today's theme is related to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), specifically the movies in The INFINITY Saga. As such, Amanda's notes and my write-up may contain spoilers for these movies.
INFINITY STONE (40A: Any of six items sought by Thanos, represented in the starred answers)
TIME (1A: *"Hurry! We don't have much ___!")
MIND (16A: *"Do you ___?!")
REALITY (51A: *"Queer Eye" TV genre)
SPACE (70A: *"The final frontier")
SOUL (71A: *Heart and ___)
POWER (8D: *Telekinesis or invisibility, e.g.)
Theme synopsis: Having solved the puzzle, you have found the six INFINITY STONEs, and they may be placed in the GAUNTLET. (See Amanda's notes for further explanation.)
And now a word from our constructor:
Amanda: I really, really love Marvel and this puzzle is a love letter of sorts to one of my favorite films in the MCU (tune back in tomorrow -- the title of the Sunday puzzle is a direct reference to today's theme). For folks who aren't as into the Marvel stuff, I would love to take a moment to totally nerd out and explain today's theme. In "Avengers: Infinity War", Thanos (an alien warlord) is in search of the 6 Infinity stones, which are scattered throughout the universe -- each of which contains a specific power/ability. The 6 infinity stones are featured in this puzzle. An individual who wields all 6 is essentially all-powerful, and Thanos wishes to use them to randomly wipe out half of life in the universe in an effort to stabilize the effects of overpopulation. Because it's dangerous (or lethal!) to directly touch the Infinity stones, he has the Infinity Gauntlet (basically a glove that holds the stones) made for him. The stones essentially run, as in power, the gauntlet, hence the title of today's puzzle. Tune back in tomorrow for the inevitable conclusion to the Infinity Saga!
Things I learned:
- PEPE (57D: Nickname for Jose) This is one of those bits of information I may have known, but it was stored deeply in my brain, and I couldn't retrieve it without some assistance from crossing answers. As a nickname for José, PEPE is derived from the putative father of Jesus, Joseph (José). In Latin, putative father is pater putativus, abbreviated as p.p. This eventually led to the Spanish nickname of PEPE for José. The evolution of language can be fascinating.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
- Bonus Theme Material: As she did with her last superhero crossword, Amanda has included some Easter Eggs for us to find. Here are the ones I've found. Let me know if you find others.
- MUTATION (32A: Feature of each of the X-Men) Some of the superheroes in the Marvel Universe are humans born with a genetic trait called the X-gene. This MUTATION grants superhuman abilities. In X-Men #1, published in 1963, Professor Xavier (known as Professor X) explains that mutants "possess an extra power...one which ordinary humans do not!! That is why I call my students...X-Men, for EX-tra power!"
- ADS (36A: Interruptions in "WandaVision") WandaVision is a TV miniseries - and thus interrupted by ADS - featuring MCU characters, Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch and Vision. WandaVision is set after the events of the 2019 movie Avengers: Endgame. (As a side note: Endgame is my guess for the title of tomorrow's puzzle. Let's see if I'm right!)
- EARTH (54A: Planet often saved by superheroes) This was a fun clue and a great Easter Egg.
- MOM (3D: Wanda Maximoff, to Billy and Tommy) Billy and Tommy are the twin sons of Wanda Maximoff (who is therefore their MOM) and Vision.
- ROSIE (37A: Actress Perez) ROSIE Perez played the role of superhero Renee Montoya / Question in the 2020 DC Comics movie Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). I think we can count this as an Easter Egg even though it's DC Comics-related rather than MCU.
- INFINITY STONE (40A: Any of six items sought by Thanos, represented in the starred answers) If you are not familiar with the MCU, or only peripherally familiar (where I fall), and would like more background on the INFINITY STONEs than Amanda provided in her excellent notes, I found this article that delves into the topic pretty thoroughly. The INFINITY STONEs endow those that hold them with a variety of abilities. When brought together in the INFINITY GAUNTLET, the STONEs bestow the power to reshape reality.
- RODEO (55A: Gay ___ (queer cowboy shows)) As the name suggests, gay RODEOs are RODEO events specifically welcoming LGBTQ participants and spectators.
- ENYA (68A: Ireland's bestselling solo artist) The Irish singer, songwriter, and musician, ENYA, is regarded as the "Queen of New Age." My favorite ENYA fact is that she lives in a castle she named Manderley Castle after the house in Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. And she lives in that castle with her cats.
- PET STORES (23D: Places to buy leashes and litter) I imagine ENYA occasionally visits PET STORES (or perhaps orders from them online). I do not live in a castle, but (as you probably know by now!) I do have one cat. Her superpower is being adorably silly.
Willow giving my finger a bath
- MMA (24D: UFC sport) The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is a Las Vegas-based company promoting mixed martial arts (MMA).
- SCOT (9D: Person cooking haggis, perhaps) Haggis is a savory dish made of sheep's heart, liver, and lungs, combined with onion, oatmeal, suet, and spices. The mixture is encased in the animal's stomach (or in sausage casing). Haggis is of Scottish origin, so it's quite likely a person cooking haggis might be a SCOT.
- MAINE (24A: State northeast of New Hampshire) This clue had me visualizing a map of the United States. The trouble is I'm not sure I could identify New Hampshire on a map, as in my mind it is "one of those smaller states in the Northeast." It didn't take too much thinking, though, to deduce MAINE, as it is the northeasternmost of the contiguous states. Fun fact: Maine is the only state to border just one other state, and that state, as I now know, is New Hampshire.
- ESPANA (4D: Nación de Madrid) Madrid es la capital de ESPAÑA. (Madrid is the capital of Spain.)
- NAPLES (50D: Italian city that's an anagram of "planes") NAPLES is the third-largest city in Italy. (Rome and Milan are Italy's two largest cities.) The Greeks founded NAPLES in the first millennium BCE, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
- NYU (64D: Univ. in Greenwich Village) Greenwich Village is a neighborhood in Lower Manhattan in New York City, and the home of New York University (NYU).
Today we are treated to the latest in Amanda Rafkin's series of superhero puzzles. (See GOTHAM'S VILLAINS ARE GOING DOWN and COLORFUL CHARACTERS.) Although I am not an MCU superfan, I do enjoy the stories, and am aware of most of the characters and movies. As such, I appreciated Amanda's background information provided in her notes. In addition to the theme and Easter Eggs, there are a lot of other fantastic answers in this puzzle: IT'S NOT A RACE, YOU UP, CITY PLANNER, FEEL OUT, and AUDIBLE, for example. I'm already looking forward to Amanda's puzzle tomorrow! Thank you, Amanda, for this puzzle that was a terrific way to begin my Saturday.