January 26, 2023


Constructor: May Huang

Editor: Anna Gundlach

Theme Answers:
FACULTY LOUNGE (4D: Room for teachers on lunch break)
BENT THE RULES (7D: Helped out by doing something not normally allowed)
GIFT EXCHANGES (10D: Occasions for swapping presents)

Theme synopsis: The TOP word of each vertical theme answer is a synonym for TALENT: FACULTY, BENT, and GIFT.

Things I learned:
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • CHEF (1A: "Yes, ___!" (phrase often heard in FX's "The Bear") I have previously written about The Bear, a TV series that tells the story of a New York City CHEF returning to his hometown of Chicago to run his family's Italian beef sandwich shop. As the clue tells us, the phrase, "Yes, CHEF!" is oft-repeated on The Bear. So of course, someone has made a "Yes, CHEF!" compilation video for our viewing pleasure. 
  • IRENE (15A: "Fame" singer-actress Cara) I made a typo when I first entered this clue, and it read ["Fave" singer-actress Cara] - well, it could be IRENE Cara is your fave! IRENE Cara, who died last November at the age of 63, sang "Fame," the theme song for the movie and TV series of the same name. ("...Remember my name, fame / I'm gonna live forever/ I'm gonna learn how to fly, high...") IRENE Cara also co-wrote and sang the song "Flashdance ... What a Feeling." 
  • IDES (16A: The ___ of March) In the Roman calendar, IDES referred to a day near the middle of the month - the 15th of March, May, July, or October, and the 13th of any other month. The IDES of March coincided with several Roman religious observances. In 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated on the IDES of March, making the date notorious. Any mention of the IDES of March makes me think of my ninth grade English teacher, Mrs. Horton, as it was in her class that I first read Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar (and memorized Marc Antony's soliloquy).
  • DANCE (18A: Tango or Lindy Hop) The tango is a partner DANCE that originated from Argentina and Uruguay. In 2009, the tango was added to UNESCO's "List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity." The Lindy Hop is a DANCE that originated in Black communities of Harlem, New York City in the 1920s. 
  • FLAT (19A: A semitone lower in pitch) A semitone, or half step, is a musical interval halfway between adjacent notes. This clue forced me to recall my music theory and remember that a semitone lower in pitch is referred to as FLAT, while a semitone higher in pitch is referred to as sharp. (It gets more complicated than that, but I never excelled at music theory, so that's about as far as I'm able to take the explanation.)
  • HELIX (28A: DNA shape) Not just one HELIX, but two. The shape of DNA is described as a double HELIX. Hooray for science in crosswords!
  • ANCHOR (34A: Stereotypical tattoo on a sailor's arm) and PIED (21D: Threw a dessert at someone's face) These two clues are related by the fact that they brought me joy and put a smile on my face. 
  • ROLL (38A: Lumpia shape) Lumpia are spring ROLLs made by wrapping a thin crepe-like wrapper around sweet or savory fillings. Lumpia are commonly found in Indonesian and Filipino cuisine. I learned about lumpia from the May 18, 2021 puzzle. 
  • NERD (48A: ___ bar (place for trivia nights or retro gaming)) Let's hear it for NERD bars! I hadn't actually heard this term used before, but it was inferable, and I like it. 
  • ANAGRAMS (53A: "Silent" and "listen," for example) Speaking of NERDs, that might be an apt description of those of us that enjoy ANAGRAMS. This clue reminded me of a tweet I saw yesterday.
  • TEAMS (12D: Sparks, Storm and Mystics) The Los Angeles Sparks, Seattle Storm, and Washington Mystics are WNBA TEAMS. 
  • ESTE (13D: Eldest Haim sister) ESTE, Danielle, and Alana are the Haim sisters, and the members of the pop rock band, Haim
  • ARLO (53D: British singer-songwriter Parks) I learned about ARLO Parks from the December 27, 2022 puzzle. 

    Geography review:

    • ALTA (32D: Utah ski town) ALTA, Utah is located approximately 30 miles east of the state's capital, Salt Lake City. ALTA is located in the Wasatch Mountains, and its vertical gain of 2,538 feet combined with its annual snowfall of 545 inches makes it a good place for a ski resort. The ALTA ski resort is one of only three ski areas in the United States that do not allow snowboarding. Here's an article about that from a snowboarder's point of view

    Today May Huang exhibits her TALENT (FACULTY/BENT/GIFT) and treats us to a synonym-themed puzzle which DELIGHTS. This grid is asymmetric, but nearly has left-right mirror symmetry. It is almost symmetrical around a vertical line down the center of the puzzle. This is my favorite type of asymmetry. Just asymmetric enough to allow the grid to work, but you have to look closely to see it. The use of mirror symmetry allows the TALENT synonyms to be placed at the very TOP of the grid, which is a nice touch. Thank you, May, for this puzzle that was an enjoyable way to start my Thursday.