December 27, 2023


Constructor: Willa Angel Chen Miller

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
SOPHOMORE ALBUMS (16A: Bands' second releases)
I'M HERE ALL WEEK (36A: "Come back for more cheesy jokes!")
YOU'RE A LIFESAVER (53A: "That was so incredibly helpful, thanks!")

Theme synopsis: The word REAL is found hidden IN HERE (in each theme answer): SOPHOMORE ALBUMS, I'M HERE ALL WEEK, YOU'RE A LIFESAVER.

Things I learned:
  • SOPHOMORE ALBUMS (16A: Bands' second releases) The term SOPHOMORE ALBUMS is new to me, but the answer here was inferable once I had a few letters filled in.
  • RACES (41A: Dragonborn and Halfling, in D&D) In the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), Dragonborn are a RACE of humanoids that resemble dragons, with scales on their bodies and dragon-like heads. Halflings are a RACE of short, nimble humanoids, whose small size assists them in hiding from danger. Pretty much everything I know about D&D I've learned from crosswords!
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • FRECKLE (25A: One of six on Peppermint Patty's cheeks) This is a fun clue! Peppermint Patty is a character in the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz. Peppermint Patty has medium-brown chin-length hair, and three FRECKLEs on each cheek. Peppermint Patty made her first Peanuts appearance in 1966, sixteen years into the comic strip's 50 year run.
  • HERD (35A: ___ cats (organize a chaotic group)) Unsurprisingly, I adore the phrase "HERD cats." I am unable to HERD even one cat! As I write this, Willow is attempting to eat
    A calico cat sitting on a pile of papers
     random pieces of paper on my desk. Here she is attempting to look as if she's simply innocently sitting on the papers, and hasn't been trying to bite them.
  • I'M HERE ALL WEEK (36A: "Come back for more cheesy jokes!") This was my favorite of the theme answers. Especially appropriate since I shared a cheesy joke in yesterday's blog. I was going to take this opportunity to share my favorite joke with you, but a quick search reminded me that I shared it in 2020. Here's a joke that ties in with HERDing cats. Q: How many cats can you put in an empty box? A: Only one. After that the box isn't empty.
  • PSY (49A: "Gangnam Style" artist) Remember "Gangnam Style" by the South Korean artist, PSY? It was in 2012 that the music video for "Gangnam Style" went viral and became the first YouTube video to exceed one billion views. 
  • ELSA (60A: Disney's ice queen) I laughed when I saw this clue, because yesterday we saw the answer ANNA clued as ["Frozen" sister], and a reader commented "What!? It wasn't ELSA?" Here's the other Frozen sister, ELSA. Being 4-letter words with common letters, both ANNA and ELSA are frequently seen in crosswords. I think the difference is that ELSA is often clued in relation to the Disney movie Frozen, while there are a variety of cluing angles used for ANNA.
  • CHO (2D: "Fire Island" actress Margaret) Fire Island is a 2022 movie about a group of gay friends on vacation. I have previously written about Fire Island, which was inspired by Jane Austen's 1813 novel, Pride and Prejudice. Margaret CHO portrays Erin, the "house mother" of the vacation house. Her character is based on the Pride and Prejudice character Mr Bennet. I am a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice adaptations, and am thankful to be reminded of this movie, because I meant to watch it after I wrote about it last time, but haven't done so yet.
  • PHARRELL (8D: "Happy" artist Williams) The video for the 2013 song, "Happy" by PHARRELL Williams also has over a billion views on YouTube. "Happy" won a Grammy Award for Best Music Video. The song was the lead single for the soundtrack of the movie Despicable Me 2.
  • SMITH (14D: Bessie known as the "Empress of the Blues") Bessie SMITH (1894-1937) is regarded as one of the greatest female blues singers of the 1920s and 1930s. Her life was the subject of the 2015 HBO movie Bessie. Bessie SMITH was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
  • SPOILER (22D: "Darth Vader is Luke's father," e.g.) What?!?! Just kidding, of course I knew this, but this clue made me smile.
  • LORAX (47D: Kid-lit character who "speaks for the trees") The LORAX is a 1971 children's book by Dr. Seuss. 
  • A few other clues I especially enjoyed:
    • UBER (15A: App that lets drivers and passengers rate each other)
    • SHIPS (19A: Pieces in some nautical board games)
    • SPLASH (29A: A cannonball makes a big one)

    Geography review:

    • OHIO (13A: Michigan's neighbor) In addition to Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania are also neighbors of OHIO. LAKE Erie is along much of the northern border of OHIO.
    • IRELAND (46A: Country where red lemonade is sold) Red lemonade is a soft drink sold in IRELAND. Several Irish companies produce red lemonade, which is lemon-flavored and carbonated, but apparently has a distinctive taste from white lemonade. In addition to being drunk straight, red lemonade is also mixed with whisky.
    • LAKE (65A: Huron or Superior) LAKE Huron and LAKE Superior are two of the Great LAKEs. The other Great LAKEs are LAKE Ontario, LAKE MICHIGAN, and our crossword-friend LAKE Erie.
    • MIAMI (31D: Home to the Heat) The NBA team, the MIAMI Heat, plays their home games at Casey Center in MIAMI, Florida.
    This puzzle is a REAL delight! Three excellent theme answers, great fill, and enjoyable clueing all around. Thank you, Willa, for this puzzle that was a wonderful way to start my Wednesday.


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