December 28, 2023


Constructor: Adam Aaronson

Editor: Anna Gundlach

Theme Answers:
ANY QUESTIONS (21D: "Was that clear?")
POCKET SQUARE (23D: Pop of color in a suit jacket)
CUT CORNERS (28D: Save time by skipping important steps)
OFF SEASONS (31D: Times of year when tourists aren't visiting)

Theme synopsis: The last word of each of the FOUR vertical theme answers (i.e. the word ON THE FLOOR of the puzzle) can follow the word FOUR to make a new phrase. We have FOUR QUESTIONS, FOUR SQUARE, FOUR CORNERS, and FOUR SEASONS.

Things I learned:
  • ICE COLD (30A: "What's cooler than being cool," per Outkast) "What's cooler than being cool? (ICE COLD)," is a call and response lyric from Outkast's song, "Hey Ya!" 
  • T-SERIES (5D: Indian record label with the most subscribed YouTube channel) The record label and film production company, T-SERIES, was founded in Delhi, India in 1983. T-SERIES produces Indi-pop music and Hindi film soundtracks. The T-SERIES YouTube channel has over 256 million subscribers.
  • REAGAN (48D: Megan Fox's character on "New Girl") New Girl is a TV series that originally aired from 2011-2018. The show centers on the experiences of Jess Day (Zooey Deschanel), who lives in a Los Angeles loft with three male roommates. In season 5 of the show, the character of REAGAN Lucas was introduced, portrayed by Megan Fox. REAGAN is a pharmaceutical sales rep, and is bisexual.
  • EGO (55D: R&B singer ___ Ella May) EGO Ella May is a British-Nigerian singer-songwriter and musician from South London. Her music blends elements of R&B, neo-soul, and contemporary jazz. According to her Instagram account, EGO Ella May's first name is pronounced "eh-go." I enjoyed seeing this alternate clueing angle for EGO.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • HICKEYS (26A: Post-makeout marks) Two things about this answer: 1) It's been a long time since I've given any thought to HICKEYS!, and 2) I apparently don't know how to spell HICKEYS, as my first attempt was using an "ie."
  • SQUAWKS (35A: Parrot sounds) and SQUEAL (51A: Pig sound) Today's puzzle is providing us with a refresher on animal sounds, particularly animal sounds that begin with the letter pattern SQU-.
  • FOR (37A: "Like Water ___ Chocolate" (Common album)) Like Water FOR Chocolate, released in 2000, is the fourth studio album for rapper Common. This album is named after the 1989 novel by Lara Esquivel, which I have written about previously. I will always be a fan of using titles to add interest to clues for common words.
  • TRENTA (49A: Starbucks size larger than Venti) At Starbucks, the TRENTA size is 31 ounces. It's only available for certain iced drinks. For comparison, the Venti size at Starbucks is 20 ounces for hot drinks and 24 ounces for cold drinks.
  • GORE (58A: Slasher film feature) and EWW (60D: "That's nasty!")  I found it APT (38A: Suitable) that the answers GORE and "EWW!" crossed each other.
  • NSFW (66A: "Don't click this in the office" letters) NSFW = not safe for work.
  • ARES (11D: Greek god of war) and MARS (13D: Roman god of war) There are many similarities between the gods in Greek and Roman mythology. The Romans borrowed extensively from the Greek pantheon, and adapted the characteristics of the gods to fit their own beliefs. Gods that have similar attributes but different Greek and Roman names are therefore not uncommon. It was interesting to see this example. 
  • ANY QUESTIONS (21D: "Was that clear?") "ANY QUESTIONS?" This theme answer leads to the phrase FOUR QUESTIONS. During the Jewish feast known as the Passover Seder, children ask a series of QUESTIONS that serve as a means of explaining the ritual's significance. Each of the FOUR QUESTIONS is preceded by the question, "Why is this night different from all the other nights?"
  • NEOPET (46D: Virtual animal of the early 2000s) I have previously written about the NEOPET.
  • SAMIN (51D: "Salt Fat Acid Heat" author Nosrat) SALT FAT ACID HEAT: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking is a 2017 cookbook by SAMIN Nosrat. The book was a New York Times bestseller and won the James Beard Award. A four-part Netflix series of the same name, starring SAMIN Nosrat, premiered in 2018. In the cookbook and on the show, Samin Nosrat proposes that SALT, FAT, ACID, and HEAT are the four elements of successful cooking.

    Geography review:

    • EMU (34A: Bird on Australia's coat of arms) The Australian coat of arms features a shield depicting symbols of Australia's six states. The shield is held up by a kangaroo and an EMU, two animals that are native to Australia.
    • PISA (1D: Galileo's Italian city of birth) PISA is a city in Tuscany, a region in central Italy. We have seen PISA clued multiple times in reference to its famous leaning tower, so it was fun to see a different clueing angle today. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), often referred to simply as Galileo, was an astronomer, physicist, and engineer. As the clue informs us, he was born in PISA. He moved to Florence, Italy with his family when he was ten years old. Galileo is considered the "father of modern science," for his systematic development of a scientific method. His contributions to astronomy, physics, and mathematics are too numerous to list here.
    I enjoyed discovering the FOUR words that were both ON THE FLOOR and could be paired with FOUR. Congratulations to Adam Aaronson making his USA Today debut today! Thank you, Adam, for this puzzle that was a delightful way to start my Thursday.