October 25, 2023

Title: DMs

Constructors: Mark Valdez & Matthew Stock

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
DOUBLE MAJOR (17A: Pursue two main courses of study)
DIRTY MARTINI (38A: Cocktail with olive brine and gin)
DISNEY MOVIE (63A: "High School Musical" or "The Lion King")

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer is a DM in that the first word begins with D, and the second word begins with M.

Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • CATS (5A: Musical with the song "Memory") CATS is an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on T.S. Eliot's poetry collection, Old Possum's Book of Practical CATS (1939). The song "Memory" is sung by the character Grizabella. Sometimes the appearance of words or topics in crosswords seems to go in waves. For example, we'll see references to a certain musical multiple times over the course of a short period of time, and then not see any such references for many months. This was my thought when I saw CATS clued as the musical. In the first six months that I wrote this blog, there were multiple clues referencing either the CATS musical or the 2019 movie based on the musical. The references were so frequent, that I began to keep track of the specific CATS characters we had seen mentioned. Although we've continued to see CATS in the puzzle (thank goodness!), it feels like it has been clued in reference to things other than the musical. This is neither a good or bad thing, merely an observation. At any rate, Willow is
    A cat standing with its front paws on a mirror and looking at its reflection
    Willow looking at herself in the mirror
    always delighted to see CATS in the puzzle. Here's a fun photo I took of her last night while she was checking herself out in a mirror.
  • IGA (9A: Tennis champ Swiatek) IGA Świątek  is a professional tennis player from Poland. She won the French Open in 2020, 2022, and 2023, and the U.S. Open in 2022.
  • OHANA (14A: Hawaiian term for "family") The Hawaiian term OHANA means "family" in an extended sense of the word, and includes blood-related, adoptive, and intentional family.
  • STEP (30A: Dance Dance Revolution action) Dance Dance Revolution is a series of video games based on dancing to music videos. Players perform a series of dance STEPs in time to music as instructions appear on the screen. Performances are judged on timing.
  • DIRTY MARTINI (38A: Cocktail with olive brine and gin) A classic MARTINI is made with gin and vermouth, and generally served with an olive garnish. Add some olive brine to the cocktail, and the result is a DIRTY MARTINI.
  • DISNEY MOVIE (63A: "High School Musical" or "The Lion King") It's fun to see High School Musical as one of the DISNEY MOVIE examples here, since Matthew Stock, one of today's constructors, has recently been treating us to a series of High School Musical-themed puzzles. 
  • ARM (70A: Spot for a vaccine injection, usually) This is a great opportunity for a reminder that it's the time of year to get annual flu and Covid vaccines. If you haven't gotten your vaccines yet this fall, consider making an appointment today.
  • NEXT (71A: "Thank U, ___" (2018 song)) Ariana Grande's song, "thank u, NEXT" was released in 2018, and is the lead single from the album of the same name.
  • TOBY (4D: Old-fashioned "Thomas & Friends" train) Thomas & Friends is a British TV series for children that follows the adventures of anthropomorphic trains. The title character, Thomas, is a blue steam locomotive. The character of TOBY is based on a tram engine from the Great Eastern Railway. He is brown, bears the number 7 on his side, and has cowcatchers and side plates.
  • INDIGO (9D: The "I" in ROYGBIV) ROYGBIV is a mnemonic used to remember the colors of the rainbow in order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, INDIGO, and violet.
  • EGO (18D: "SNL" star Nwodim) EGO Nwodim joined the SNL cast in 2018. Before joining SNL, she performed a one-woman show at the Los Angeles UCB theater titled Great Black Women...and Then There's Me.
  • PUTS (31D: "Nobody ___ Baby in a corner" ("Dirty Dancing" line)) "Nobody PUTS Baby in a corner," is an iconic quote from the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing. It is said by the character Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) about Frances "Baby" Houseman (Jennifer Grey).
  • DESIGNER (38D: Vera Wang or Thierry Mugler) Vera Wang is a fashion DESIGNER well-known for designing evening wear  and wedding dresses for public figures. She also has a line of ready-to-wear clothing, Simply Vera. Thierry Mugler (1948-2022) was a French fashion DESIGNER who launched his eponymous fashion house in the 1970s. He is known for the signature designs he created for a number of celebrities, including Madonna and Demi Moore. Thierry Mugler designed the outfits for Beyoncé's 2009 I Am ... World Tour.
  • USA (62D: "Party in the ___" (Miley Cyrus hit)) "Party in the U.S.A." is a 2009 song by Miley Cyrus. The music video for "Party in the U.S.A." pays homage to the movie, Grease, and also contains details that pay homage to Miley Cyrus' parents.
  • SIX (64D: "Daisy Jones & the ___" (2019 novel)) Daisy Jones & the SIX is a 2019 novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid. The book tells the story of a 1970s rock band, following their rise to success, and their eventual split. The book was adapted into a TV miniseries of the same name.

    Geography review:

    • SAUDI (36A: ___ Arabia) The West Asian country of SAUDI Arabia is located on the Arabian Peninsula. The capital of SAUDI Arabia is Riyadh.
    • SEA (67A: The Adriatic or Mediterranean) The Mediterranean is a large SEA, which borders on parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Mediterranean is connected to the Atlantic Ocean by the Strait of Gibraltar. The Adriatic SEA is an arm of the Mediterranean. The Adriatic SEA extends northward, and is bordered by Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Albania.
    • ARAB (15D: The "A" of UAE) UAE = United ARAB Emirates
    This puzzle features a straightforward, classic USA Today theme type, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Three solid theme answers today, and plenty of enjoyable entries such as ARGYLE, ICE CREAM, THUMPS, and IT'S A LOT. Thank you, Mark and Matthew, for this puzzle that was a wonderful way to start my Wednesday.