March 19, 2023


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
KEANU REEVES (17A: "The Matrix" star)
EMMYLOU HARRIS (26A: "Beneath Still Waters" singer)
BEAU BRIDGES (61A: "The Fabulous Baker Boys" actor)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer is a person whose first name ends in the letter U, and second name ends in the letter S, making them THE LAST OF US.

Things I learned:
  • WTA (11A: Sports org. with an ACES Award) The Diamond ACES Award is an honor given by the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) to a player who promotes the game of tennis on and off the court. The award is named for Jerry Diamond (1928-1996), who was the WTA executive director from 1974-1985. The 2022 winner of the ACES Award was Maria Sakkari, a professional tennis player from Greece.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • BASIL (1A: Herb on a margherita pizza) Margherita pizza is topped with tomatoes, BASIL, and mozzarella cheese. Margherita pizza happens to be my favorite type of pizza. Yum! (Although, let's be honest, I just generally like pizza!)
  • KEANU REEVES (17A: "The Matrix" star) In The Matrix movies - of which there have been four to date - KEANU REEVES portrays computer programmer Thomas Anderson, who operates as a hacker using the name Neo.
  • EMMYLOU HARRIS (26A: "Beneath Still Waters" singer) In 1980, "Beneath Still Waters" became a number one hit for EMMYLOU HARRIS on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. The song was originally recorded by George Jones in 1967. EMMYLOU HARRIS has won 14 Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008. 
  • A LA (41A: Arroz ___ cubana) Arroz A LA cubana is a rice dish that originated in Cuba, and typically consists of white rice, tomato sauce, and a fried egg. The dish often includes a fried plantain as well.
  • DOORMAT (45A: It might say "Welcome" or "Cute shoes! Take them off!") A DOORMAT might also say "Welcome to my home. The humans just live here with me." I enjoyed this fun clue.
    Willow with her DOORMAT
  • BEAU BRIDGES (61A: "The Fabulous Baker Boys" actor) The Fabulous Baker Boys is a 1989 movie that starred BEAU BRIDGES, his brother Jeff BRIDGES, and Michelle Pfeiffer. In the movie, BEAU and Jeff BRIDGES portray the title characters, brothers who perform as a piano duo. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the role of a singer hired by the brothers to revive their act.
  • ARES (2D: War god associated with vultures) In Greek mythology, ARES is the god of war and courage. Vultures are associated with ARES for the depressing reason that the birds haunted battlefields after war.
  • SEAL (3D: Marine mammal with a leopard variety) Leopard SEALs, so named for their distinctive spotted coloration pattern, are ice-loving creatures that live in the Antarctic. Leopard SEALs vocalize, or "sing," underwater.
  • ARBYS (52D: Chain founded by the Raffel Brothers) The Raffel Brothers, Forrest and Leroy, founded their restaurant in Ohio in 1964. The name ARBY'S is based on the initials R.B., which stands for Raffel Brothers, though those are also appropriately the initials of the restaurants main offering, roast beef.
  • IRL (62D: Nonvirtual, for short) IRL = In Real Life

    Geography review:

    • LIBYA (15A: Country north of Chad) LIBYA is a country in North Africa. As the clue informs us, LIBYA's neighbor to the south is Chad. LIBYA also borders Egypt , Sudan, Niger, Algeria, and Tunisia, and has coastline along the Mediterranean Sea. The capital of LIBYA is Tripoli.
    • TETON (22A: Grand ___ National Park) Grand TETON National Park is located in northwestern Wyoming. The TETONs are a mountain range of the Rocky Mountains, and most of the east side of the range is within the Grand TETON National Park. I have previously posted photos of Grand TETON National Park. Here's another photo taken when my husband and I visited Grand TETON last September. 
      Grand TETON National Park
    • DES (67A: ___ Moines, Iowa) DES Moines is the capital of IOWA. My husband and I are headed to DES Moines today. We are going to see the musical 1776. This particular revival of 1776 has cast  female, transgender, and non-binary performers of various ethnic and racial backgrounds in roles traditionally portrayed by white males. I am looking forward to this take.
    • WEST (38D: Mongolia-to-Kazakhstan direction) Mongolia is a landlocked country in East Asia, bordered by Russia (to the north) and China (to the south). Kazakhstan is also landlocked and bordered by Russia (to the north and WEST) and China (to the east). Kazakhstan, which lies mostly in Central Asia, but partly in Eastern Europe, also borders Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan (to the south). Kazakhstan lies WEST of Mongolia, and although the two countries do not share a border, the westernmost point of Mongolia and the easternmost point of Kazakhstan are less than 25 miles apart. We might as well review some world capitals. The capital of Mongolia is Ulaanbaatar, and the capital of Kazakhstan is Astana.
    THE LAST OF US is a TV series that premiered in January of this year, which is based on a 2013 video game of the same name. Today, however, it's the theme of this puzzle featuring the names of three people, none of whom star in the TV show, but all of whom have names ending with the letters US. WHAT A SHAME, MOCK DEBATE, and MORE OR LESS are nice long answers. Thank you, Zhouqin, for this puzzle that was an enjoyable way to start my Sunday.