October 20, 2022

Title: TOPDOG/UNDERDOG

Constructor: Amanda Rafkin

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
BOXER BRIEFS (3D: Hybrid underwear type)
COMPUTER LAB (23D: Room that might be used for printing)
POODLE SKIRT (9D: Popular piece of '50s fashion)
TREND SETTER (27D: Person who popularizes things)

Theme synopsis: Each vertical theme answer features the name of a DOG. Moving from left to right through the puzzle, the DOG names alternate between being on TOP of the answer, or being UNDERneath.

Things I learned:
  • PEA (10A: Crunchy snap ___ popcorn salad) The Midwestern United States - where I have lived for 99% of my life - is known for its tendency to combine any number of ingredients with either mayo or Cool Whip and call it salad. And yet, crunchy snap PEA popcorn salad is a new one to me! Molly Yeh is a cookbook author and blogger, and the host of the Food Network show, Girl Meets Farm. In a 2021 episode of Girl Meets Farm, Molly Yeh made Crunchy Snap PEA Popcorn Salad, which includes popcorn and snap PEAS, of course, but also mayonnaise and sour cream. She described the salad as "so Midwestern, so quirky, and so delicious." The salad recipe hit the Internet, went viral, and people developed strong opinions about it. I don't think I'll be trying this recipe.
  • CAME (55D: "Apologies That Never ___" (Pierre Alex Jeanty book)) Apologies That Never CAME is the sixth book of poetry by Haitian-American author Pierre Alex Jeanty.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • IN IT TO WIN IT (17A: Ready to compete for a victory) I think IN IT TO WIN IT is a fabulous and appropriate long bonus for a puzzle titled TOPDOG/UNDERDOG. 
  • ARI (36A: "Side to Side" singer, to fans) "Side to Side" is a 2016 song from Ariana Grande, known as ARI to her fans. The song is from the album, Dangerous Woman, and features Nicki Minaj.
  • TWO (63A: Number of acts in "Company") Company is a musical written by Stephen Sondheim. Company, which debuted on Broadway in 1970, deals with the topics of dating, marriage, divorce, and friendship through a series of vignettes that focus on the celebration of the main character,
    Playbill for Company in Times Square
    Robert's 35th birthday. There have been a number of revivals of the musical. The most recent Broadway revival changed the gender of the lead character (Bobby became Bobbie). Originally scheduled to open on Broadway on Stephen Sondheim's birthday (March 22, 2020), the musical's schedule was affected (as all of Broadway was) by the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, Company did not open until late in 2021. Stephen Sondheim attended a performance shortly before his death. My husband and I saw Company on Broadway in June of this year. I had not seen it before, and it was fabulous. 
  • FETCH (1D: Command after throwing a stick) We have plenty of DOGs available to FETCH this stick. My money's on the LAB to get to it first.
  • ANI (6D: Alex and ___ (jewelry brand)) The founder of Alex and ANI jewelry, Carolyn Rafaelian, named the brand after her daughters. 
  • POODLE SKIRT (9D: Popular piece of '50s fashion) Juli Lynne Charlot designed a Christmas SKIRT for herself in 1947. She used felt, because it was wide enough to make a full circle skirt without seams (and Judith couldn't sew). She added some Christmas appliqu├ęs, and, liking the result, she made three more SKIRTs and took them to a boutique to sell. This was the beginning of the popular fashion that became known as the POODLE SKIRT. Fun fact: The first of Juli Lynne's SKIRTs that featured a dog design had dachshunds rather than POODLEs. I guess you could say Juli Lynne Charlot was a TREND SETTER.
  • CAJUN (24D: Cuisine whose "holy trinity" is green bell pepper, onion, and celery) CAJUN cuisine originated in Louisiana. It was developed by CAJUNs (an ethnic group who are descendants of Acadian exiles), and incorporates West African, French, and Spanish cooking techniques. As the clue tells us, CAJUN cooking typically uses a "holy trinity" of aromatic vegetables - green pepper, onion, and celery.
  • BORGE (34D: Pianist and comedian Victor) Victor BORGE (1909-2000) was an accomplished pianist. He began playing piano at the age of 2, and gave his first concert when he was eight years old. Eventually he began adding comedy to his performances, earning him the nicknames "The Clown Prince of Denmark," "The Unmelancholy Dane," and (appropriate for this puzzle!) "The Great Dane." When I was in high school, my parents took me to see Victor BORGE in concert. What a treat! Here are a couple of links to Victor BORGE performances to add joy to your day: an appearance on The Muppet Show, and a demonstration of phonetic punctuation.
  • NEVE (45D: "Wild Things" star Campbell) Wild Things is a 1998 movie in which NEVE Campbell plays a high school girl who accuses her guidance counselor of rape. Film critic, Roger Ebert described Wild Things as "lurid trash, with a plot so twisted they're still explaining it during the closing titles. It's like a three-way collision between a software sex film, a soap opera and a B-grade noir. I liked it." 
  • OWL (58D: Bird whose babies sleep on their stomachs) If this fact isn't adorable enough as it is, the reason OWL babies sleep on their stomachs is because their heads are too heavy for them to support. Awwww!

    This is a fun theme with a solid set of theme answers. TOPDOG/UNDERDOG is a play by Suzan-Lori Parks, a revival of which opens on Broadway today! liked that the TOPDOGs touched the very top of the grid and the UNDERDOGs sank all the way to the bottom edge. Some great bonuses in the Across answers: DON'T BLAME ME, DREAM JOBS, and UNFRIENDS. Thank you, Amanda, for this puzzle that was a delightful way to start my Thursday.

    One more thing: I have a follow up to last Friday's post. From that puzzle I learned about Pai Chongchitnant's YouTube Channel, Pailin's Kitchen, and her website, Hot Thai Kitchen. I commented that I had bookmarked the recipe for Thai Pineapple Fried Rice. Last night I made this recipe, complete with pineapple boats! It was a big hit, and I'll definitely make it again (though I'll probably skip the pineapple boats unless I'm entertaining). 

    Thai Pineapple Fried Rice

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