December 20, 2023


Constructor: Will Eisenberg

Editor: Jared Goudsmit

Theme Answers:
SHEET MUSIC (17A: Musician's papers)
BLANKET STITCH (35A: Sewing technique with interlocking loops)
COAT OF ARMS (57A: Design that might represent a family)

Theme synopsis: The first word of each theme answer is something that might COVER YOU: a SHEET, a BLANKET, and a COAT.

Things I learned:
  • SOY (67A: What thua nao is made of) Thua nao is a fermented SOYbean product that is used in Burmese and Thai cuisines. Thua nao is often sold as dried flat disks that may be eaten on their own, or ground and added to other dishes.
  • CONCERTS (38D: The Linda Lindas performances) The Linda Lindas is a rock band. Its members are Bela Salazar, Eloise Wang, Lucia de la Garza, and Mila de la Garza. The Linda Lindas didn't set out to form a band and begin performing CONCERTS; it just sort of happened, as detailed in this article
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • AGE GAP (4A: Feature of a May-December romance) We saw this clue earlier this year, and in that puzzle the answer was GENERATION GAP. As I wrote then, the term "May-December romance" is used to describe a relationship between two people of different ages, but there isn't agreement on how big the AGE GAP needs to be for a relationship to be classified as such. (I don't remember every clue in every puzzle! I just happened to remember this one because I wrote about my own May-December relationship.)
  • SHEET MUSIC (17A: Musician's papers) I enjoy solving all puzzles, but it's especially fun when I happen to be friends with the constructor, as is the case today. Because I know Will, it was especially fun to see SHEET MUSIC and think, "Perfect answer for a Will puzzle!" Will is a musician and a music teacher. 
  • ADAM (19A: "Marriage Story" actor Driver) Marriage Story is a 2019 movie about a married couple navigating a divorce. That couple, Charlie and Nicole Barber, were portrayed by ADAM Driver and Scarlett Johansson.
  • OSCARS (23A: Awards for "Nomadland" and "CODA") Nomadland  and CODA both won Best Picture OSCARS.
  • FLO (29A: Progressive insurance character) Since 2008, ads for Progressive insurance have featured Stephanie Courtney playing the role of a saleswoman named FLO. The New York Times recently did an in-depth article about Stephanie Courtney and the career she's made portraying FLO.
  • BLANKET STITCH (35A: Sewing technique with interlocking loops) The BLANKET STITCH is so named because it is often used to finish the unhemmed edges of a BLANKET.
  • WOMEN (43A: "Little ___" (2019 Greta Gerwig film)) Greta Gerwig's 2019 version of Little Women is the seventh movie adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's 1868 book. The Writer's Guild of America includes Greta Gerwig's version of Little WOMEN on their list of the Greatest Screenplays of the 21st Century (so far, at least!).
  • ORA (49A: "Your Song" singer Rita) "Your Song" is a 2017 song from Rita ORA's studio album, Phoenix.
  • TESS (65A: Joel's partner in "The Last of Us") The Last of Us is a TV series based on a 2013 video game of the same name. Joel (Pedro Pascal) is a smuggler tasked with escorting a teenager (Ellie, portrayed by Bella Ramsey) across the country. Joel's partner, TESS, is played by Anna Torv.
  • GAMES (5D: Wingspan and Ticket to Ride, for two) I'm always happy to see board GAMES mentioned in a crossword. I have previously written about Wingspan and Ticket to Ride, which are both enjoyable GAMES.
  • ALI (8D: Soccer star Krieger) I learned about ALI Krieger from the July 22, 2023 puzzle
  • COMETS (13D: Icy objects in space) Two days ago we saw COMETS clued as [Space objects with tails].
  • ERAS (18A: "Taylor Swift: The ___ Tour" (concert film)) Unless you've been purposely avoiding news of Taylor Swift this year, I'm sure you've heard that she's been on tour. Taylor Swift: The ERAS Tour is a movie filmed during some of those concerts. Time magazine recently named Taylor Swift their "2023 Person of the Year." 
  • OCT (23D: Canadian Thanksgiving mo.) In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October (OCT).
  • FEED ME (29D: What a bark or meow might mean) Willow was especially delighted
    A calico cat sitting on a piece of paper.

    to see this clue today, because it's been six days since we've seen a cat reference in the puzzle! Willow uses her FEED ME meow anytime she senses I am cooking with ham, turkey, or tuna. In this photo, Willow is appropriately sitting on a printout of today's puzzle. She's GOT it COVERED!
  • SKA (33D: Reel Big Fish genre) Reel Big Fish formed as a SKA band in 1991. I learned about Reel Big Fish from the October 21, 2021 puzzle.
  • WOMBAT (43D: Australian marsupial) Unlike their marsupial cousins, kangaroos and wallabies, WOMBATs are quadrupedal, meaning they walk on four legs. A group of WOMBATs is called a wisdom. Anytime I see mention of a WOMBAT, I am reminded of my favorite fun fact about them: A WOMBAT's poop is cube-shaped. There's a fun fact you can share with your friends at your next dinner party!

    Geography review:

    • ETNA (25A: Volcano in Sicily) The Italian island of Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. If you look at a map, Sicily is the island that appears to be being "kicked" by the boot shape of the Italian mainland. Mount ETNA is an active volcano located on the east coast of Sicily. 
    • STATE (55A: Morelos or Minnesota) Morelos is one of Mexico's 32 STATEs. Minnesota is one of 50 U.S. STATEs, and it is the STATE that today's constructor lives in. (Hey, Will!)
    I did not guess today's theme from the title, leading to a nice "Aha!" moment after I had uncovered SHEET MUSIC and BLANKET STITCH. In addition to the answers I've highlighted above, I also enjoyed KEEP COOL, ELATION, TAMALE, HERO, and ENCORE. Congratulations to Will Eisenberg making his USA Today debut! Thank you, Will, for this puzzle that was a wonderful way to start my Wednesday.