February 2, 2023


Constructor: Nate Cardin

Editor: Anna Gundlach

Theme Answers: 
CAN I GET AN AMEN (19A: "Do you agree?" in church)
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH (39A: Focus of Ponce de Leon's quest)
BOTTLE EPISODE (58A: TV series installment with a limited set and cast)

Theme synopsis: The first word of each theme answer is a possible source of POP. You might get POP from a POP CAN, a POP FOUNTAIN, or a POP BOTTLE. 

Things I learned:
  • BOTTLE EPISODE (58A: TV series installment with a limited set and cast) This is a new term to me. A BOTTLE EPISODE is just as the clue describes, a segment produced with only a few regular cast members and a restricted set. BOTTLE EPISODEs are often filmed on sets built for other episodes, and are commonly used when a script has not worked out and another is needed at short notice. BOTTLE EPISODEs may also be used as a result of budget constraints. Here's The Ringer's opinion on "The 20 Best BOTTLE EPISODES, Ranked."
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • OBAMA (18A: "Becoming" author Michelle) Becoming is Michelle OBAMA's 2018 memoir. (Her most recent book, The Light We Carry, is sitting on my nightstand waiting to be read.) I thoroughly enjoyed reading Becoming, and I have a number of great memories attached to this book. When Becoming was released, I bought a copy to give my daughter for Christmas. I also bought a copy for myself, but I waited until after Christmas to read it, so my daughter and I could read it at the same time. It was while I was reading Becoming, that I received the email notifying me that the first crossword I had ever submitted for publication had been rejected. I was crying while I told my husband about the rejection, but as I told him, "I'm really okay. I'm crying because of this book!" Reading Becoming gave me an idea for a crossword theme, and that puzzle subsequently became my debut crossword publication. For multiple reasons, Becoming will always have a special place in my heart.
  • FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH (39A: Focus of Ponce de Leon's quest) The mythical FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH will allegedly restore YOUTH to those who drink from it or bathe in it. I was able to fill in this answer immediately, as the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH has become associated with Juan Ponce de León, a Spanish explorer and the first governor of Puerto Rico. Interestingly, I discovered when reading about Ponce de Leon today, that scholars now believe he never searched for the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH.  He never mentioned it in any of his writings, and his association with it only began years after his death. Apparently, it's a case of the game of telephone being played out as the story has been repeated through the years. 
  • BAKE (70A: Make cookies, for example) Mmmm, cookies. I did BAKE cookies just the other day. I let my husband choose what I should make, and he chose snickerdoodles. 
  • ISLAM (2D: Religion centered around Tawhid, the oneness of God) As the clue informs us, Tawhid is the core concept of ISLAM. Tawhid is a concept of monotheism, the belief in one God. 
  • DIANA (3D: "I'm Coming Out" singer Ross) "I'm Coming Out" is a 1980 song by DIANA Ross, which has been used as a gay anthem. 
  • GRAND TOUR (9D: Extensive sightseeing trip) This answer makes me want to take a trip! I'm a fan of doing the GRAND TOUR, and I also enjoy the planning of such trips. Over the course of the last week I've been in the midst of trip planning for a few trips coming up later this year, and so this answer made me smile.
  • I AM (10D: "___ Woman" (Helen Reddy song)) I wrote about the 1971 song, "I AM Woman," when we saw Helen Reddy as a theme answer.
  • TEA (28D: Matcha or sencha) Matcha green TEA is made by mixing tea powder in hot water. Sencha is a type of green TEA made by infusing processed whole tea leaves in hot water. 
  • LINUS (30D: "Peanuts" kid with a blanket) Mentions of LINUS remind me of my sister, as she is a tremendous Peanuts fan, and she was also a "kid with a blanket" when we were younger. I have previously written about LINUS.
  • YOSHI (42D: Mario's dinosaur friend) Mario's dinosaur friend, YOSHI, made his first appearance in the video game Super Mario World (1990), where he is Mario and Luigi's ally, and a rideable character. YOSHI has sense appeared in many of the Mario games, and also in his own series of games.
  • KLUTZ (53D: Clumsy person) Oof. It's me.

    Geography review:

    • NAPA (6D: Wine region near Sonoma) NAPA and Sonoma are two of the counties in California's Wine Country, a region north of San Francisco. Thanks to a combination of favorable climate, geography, and geology, the area is considered one of the premier wine regions in the world.
    • FLA (11D: Neighbor of Ala.) Florida (FLA.) is one of four states that border Alabama (Ala.). This seems like a good opportunity for a Geography Review Quiz: In addition to Florida, what other states border Alabama? Bonus question: In addition to Alabama, which one of those states also borders Florida? The answers will be at the end of this blog post. 
    You know you're in for an enjoyable solve when the first clue/answer is "Why DID the chicken cross the road?" I enjoyed the POP GROUP set of theme answers. Note: You may substitute the word "soda" in each of the resulting phrases if that is your preferred term for POP. (I used to call POP soda...) The L-shaped blocks of black squares at the bottom and top of the grid result in a grid configuration I refer to as "boots and antennas," as that's what it reminds me of.  Thank you, Nate, for this puzzle, that was a delightful way to start my Thursday.

    Answers to Geography Review Quiz: The four states that border Alabama are Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Georgia also borders Florida.