February 3, 2023

Title: NONCONCENTRIC

Constructor: Erik Agard

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
NOT A PROBLEM (20A: "Sure, I can take care of that!")
HOME IMPROVEMENT (38A: Process that increases a house's value)
MISOPROSTOL (52A: Medication in abortion pills)

Theme synopsis: The word PRO is located at the center of each theme answer, meaning the theme answers are NON-CON (PRO being the opposite of CON) CENTRIC (having PRO in the center).

Things I Learned:
  • MAJORS (4D: Actor Jonathon) In the TV series, Loki, Jonathon MAJORS plays the role of He Who Remains, a scientist from the 31st century. In the Marvel Comics movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, scheduled for release this month, Jonathon  MAJORS plays Kang the Conqueror, an alternate-timeline variant of He Who Remains.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • SONG (6A: "Walk On By" or "Move On Up") "Walk On By" was originally released by Dionne Warwick in 1964. The SONG has been covered by a number of artists, including Isaac Hayes, Gloria Gaynor, and Cyndi Lauper. "Move On Up" is a SONG by Curtis Mayfield, released in 1971. The SONG, which is nine minutes long, was included in Rolling Stone's 2021 list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time." Either of these SONGs would make a fine earworm for the day.
  • EMOJI (17A: Heart Hands or Saluting Face) 🫶 or 🫡
  • MARS (25A: The Red Planet) This is a good opportunity to check in with Perseverance, NASA's Rover on MARS. Perseverance has been placing sample tubes on MARS. I found this video interesting; it explains how the MARS Rover takes a selfie.
  • HOME IMPROVEMENT (38A: Process that increases a house's value) In my experience, being a homeowner means constantly being in the process of HOME IMPROVEMENT. We have lived in our current house for 28 years (this month as a matter of fact!), and during that time we have done complete overhauls of every room except the kitchen. Guess what HOME IMPROVEMENT project we're in the middle of now? The kitchen update will be a years-long project, as my husband is building our new cabinets. I'm trying to be patient.
  • ABAYA (41A: Long Muslim robe) An ABAYA is a loose over-garment worn by some Muslim women. The robe covers the body except for the hands, feet, and head. It may be worn with a hijab which covers the hair and head.
  • MISOPROSTOL (52A: Medication in abortion pills) MISOPROSTOL is a synthetic prostaglandin analogue that is used for medical abortion, either by itself or (more commonly) in combination with mifepristone. I was able to fill in this answer without any help of crossing answers, but realizing not everyone has a background in pharmacy and pharmacology, I was glad to note that the crossings are fair, and hopefully enabled all solvers to be successful.
  • RUM (2D: Ingredient in black cake) In the Caribbean, black cake, also known as RUM cake is a traditional holiday dessert. To make black cake, dried fruit is soaked in RUM for months. The fruit is then added to a dough made with caramelized sugar. Here's a recipe (that only soaks the fruit for 5 days) if you'd like to try your hand at making black cake. 
  • IRON (3D: Element in stainless steel) Stainless steel is an alloy, a mix of chemical elements containing at least one metal. In addition to IRON, stainless steel contains chromium, as well as other elements. It is the chromium in stainless steel that makes it resistant to corrosion.
  • SIPPY CUPS (6D: Chalices for toddlers) This clue made me happy. "Chalices" is a wonderfully-fancy way to refer to SIPPY CUPS.
  • ATARI (51D: Video game company that made Pong) The classic arcade video game, Pong, was first released by ATARI in 1972. It had a table tennis theme, and featured simple two-dimensional graphics. Pong is notable as the first commercially successful video game.
  • EDU (59D: www.famu.___) Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, also referred to as Florida A&M or FAMU, is a historically black land grant university founded in 1887. Florida A&M is located in Tallahassee, and is the only HBCU (historically Black college and university) in Florida. 
When I read the title of today's puzzle, I didn't have any guess as to how the theme might play out. Fortunately, that was NOT A PROBLEM, as once I had the first two theme answers filled in I noticed both answers contained the word PRO. Returning to the title, I realized it required parsing into NON-CON CENTRIC instead of NONCONCENTRIC. A nice, "Aha!" moment. In addition to the theme, I enjoyed the trio of number-related clues today: PRIME (1A: Like the numbers 11, 13 and 17), ONE (13D: Number on a foam finger), and ROMAN (27D: Like the numerals V and X). Thank you, Erik, for this puzzle that was a fabulous way to start my Friday.

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