Title: 'TIS THE SEASON
Constructor: Erik Agard
Editor: Erik Agard
THE OTHER AMERICA (26D: Read the first letter in each clue to get a quote from this '67 speech)
Theme synopsis: Half of this puzzle is fairly straightforward, while the other half is much more challenging, and might be described as ALL OVER THE MAP (10D: At sixes and sevens).
And now a word from our constructor:
Erik: Not to flatter myself by comparing my own puzzle to one of the best puzzles of 2022, but looking back on this one it reminded me of this Brooke Husic puzzle - which is a good excuse to tell you to check out These Puzzles Fund Abortion (you can still get last year's pack, and they're dropping a new one in March!)
Back to me:
Although I appreciate receiving constructor notes, they're definitely always optional. And though Erik has sent notes before, it's a rare occasion. In fact, his email with these notes said, "surprisingly enough, i have a constructor note..." After reading the note, I anticipated today's puzzle with some trepidation. You see, I'm familiar with the amazing puzzle of Brooke's that Erik referenced. You can check it out now if you're not; I'll wait... The thing about Brooke's puzzle that makes it impactful is that it is basically unsolvable. And so, I wondered what Erik had in store for us.
Before I even began solving, I was struck by this grid. I noticed that this puzzle is essentially broken into two halves, connected only by that one white square in the center of the puzzle. This observation would turn out to be true, but I didn't know that yet. (I also noticed that the black squares on the bottom edge of the puzzle seem to be giving us the finger - ha!)
Once I began solving, it quickly became apparent that there are two distinct halves in this puzzle. At one point I had the entire upper left section of the puzzle, and only one answer in the bottom right. When I filled in ALL OVER THE MAP, extending into the bottom of the puzzle, it revealed that the one answer I had was in fact, incorrect. Well, there you go. This puzzle is making a point, and it does so brilliantly.
I've grouped all my comments about specific answers today under "Random thoughts and interesting things," although I could have just as easily put the majority of them under "Things I learned!"
Random thoughts and interesting things:
- THE OTHER AMERICA (26D: Read the first letter in each clue to get a quote from this '67 speech) Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) first delivered a speech titled, "THE OTHER AMERICA," at Stanford University on April 14, 1967. He gave variations on this speech multiple times over the course of the next year, including just a few weeks before he was assassinated. Today as we observe MLK day, I encourage you to take time to read "THE OTHER AMERICA." Some lines from this speech may be familiar, such as the one spelled out by the first letters of the clues in today's puzzle: "Our nation's summer's riots are caused by our nation's winters of delay," and "A riot is the language of the unheard." It's likely that taking the time to read the whole speech will give you many things to think about, such as, "Even though it may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, it can restrain him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important also." You'll also discover the words, "We're all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny." After you read "THE OTHER AMERICA," you might be interested in this article that discusses it.
- MDP (16A: Nasheed's Maldivian party) Mohamed Nasheed is a founding member of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
- JARRE (23A: Musician Jean-Michel) Jean-Michel JARRE is a French composer.
- HARVEY (31A: Supermodel Lori) Lori HARVEY is a model and the founder and CEO of SKN by LH.
- TRAD (32A: Orthodox, for short) TRAD, as in short for traditional.
- THERE IS A (34A: ___ river..." (Psalm 46:4)) I'm glad three-word fill-in-the-blank answers are not the norm!
- PLECOPTERA (39A: Order of insects also known as stoneflies) I'm also thankful scientific names do not make regular appearances in crosswords! There are approximately 3,500 species of stoneflies in the order PLECOPTERA. These insects are found on every continent except Antarctica.
- DOULAS (44A: Reproductive health experts) This was the clue that I confidently filled in as "obgyns." When ALL OVER THE MAP revealed my error, I was able to figure out DOULAS. These professionals are definitely reproductive health experts.
- ELSAS (45A: Einstein's second wife, and others) ELSA Einstein was the second wife of Albert Einstein. She was also Albert's cousin, and their marriage was also her second. This clue reminded me of a book that has been recommended to me twice in recent weeks, the historical fiction work, The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict, which is about Albert Einstein's first wife, Mileva.
- ESTOP (46A: Check in court) ESTOP is short for estoppel, a legal device prohibiting a person from making certain assertions. (I admit that I don't fully understand estoppel.)
- YOLO (47A: Acronymic equivalent of "man lebt nur einmal") "Man lebt nur eimal" is German for "you only live once" (YOLO). In 1855, Johann Strauss wrote a waltz titled "Man lebt nur eimal!"
- EEOC (48A: U.S. agency created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964) The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was established, as the clue informs us, by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC administers and enforces laws against workplace discrimination. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
- GALORE (2D: "Decor ___" (2021 home design book with a rhyming title) Décor GALORE: The Essential Guide to Styling Your Home is by Laura de Barra. I was grateful that this clue was in the upper half of the puzzle and came with a rhyming hint!
- LES (7D: ___ Revenants" (French TV show)) LES Revenants is a French supernatural TV series that originally aired from 2012 to 2015. The show won an International Emmy for Best Drama Series.
- DEE (44D: Kiki, e.g.) Kiki DEE is a pop singer. She was the first artist from the United Kingdom to sign with Motown's Tamla Records (Motown's R&B/soul division). In 1976, the Kiki DEE / Elton John duet, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" became a hit.
- MARTI (16D: One-peso coin figure in Cuba) José MARTÍ (1853-1895) was a Cuban nationalist, poet, and philosopher. A commemorative Cuban peso featuring MARTÍ was produced in 1953.
- DIRAC (17D: Nobel winner alongside Schrödinger) Paul DIRAC and Erwin Schrödinger shared the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory."
- PRESA (18D: S-shaped musical symbol) According to Wiktionary, a PRESA in musical notation, indicates when a voice is to begin singing in a canon or round. Interestingly (to me at least) PRESA appeared 12 times in the New York Times crossword from 1946-1992, but has not appeared since. (Thank goodness...)
- JOE DEPRE (23D: NBA Draft's 29th overall pick in 1970) I might have exclaimed, "Oh, for goodness sake!" after reading this clue. JOE DEPRE was drafted by the Phoenix Suns, but he never played for them. He did play for the New York Nets from 1970-1972.
- ARECAS (30D: Frond sources) ARECA is a genus of palm trees. Similar to my comment on PLECOPTERA, I'm grateful genus names aren't common crossword fodder.
- TLALOC (34D: Deity whose name means "He Who Makes Things Sprout") In Aztec religion, TLĀLOC is the supreme god of rain.
- ITALY (35D: Emilia's home) Emilia is a historical region of northern ITALY.
- SENSOR (36D: Language remover soundalike) SENSOR sounds like "censor."
- ARGALI (37D: Asian wild sheep) ARGALI are wild mountain sheep that roam the highlands of East Asia, the Himalayas, Tibet, and the Altai Mountains. In fact, ARGALI means "wild sheep" in Mongolian.
- PLUTO (39D: Yama counterpart) In Hinduism and Buddhism, Yama is a death and the underworld. In ancient Greek mythology, PLUTO was the ruler of the underworld.
I'm guessing many of us found today's puzzle a frustrating solve. Before you complain about some of these clues as unfair, I encourage you to take a step back and consider that that's the point. It's essentially a visual representation of what it's like to live in the two sides of AMERICA. Then perhaps reread THE OTHER AMERICA, and perhaps some other speeches of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Thank you, Erik, for this puzzle that challenged me and made me think, and was an interesting way to start my Monday.
P.S. I second Erik's encouragement to check out the reproductive-justice-themed puzzles in These Puzzles Fund Abortion. I will definitely let you know when the new puzzle pack is available in March.