January 21, 2024


Constructor: Emily Carroll

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
CREPES SUZETTE (19A: Flambeed dessert with French pancakes)
STEAK DIANE (37A: Pan-fried beef entree served with seasoned pan sauce)
PASTA ALLA NORMA (57A: Sicilian eggplant dish often made with rigatoni)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer is a food dish (that you might have for DINNER) whose name ends with a GIRL's name.

Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • IAGO (16A: "Othello" villain) The complete title of Othello, which William Shakespeare wrote around 1603, is The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. I read Othello in high school, but as that was a few years ago, I decided to use this clue as an opportunity to reacquaint myself with its plot. Othello is a military commander. He secretly married Desdemona against her father's wishes. IAGO serves under Othello, and although Othello trusts him, IAGO is jealous of Othello. IAGO connives to make Othello believe Desdemona has been unfaithful. ***Spoiler Alert*** As many of Shakespeare's tragedies do, Othello ends with the deaths of several of its characters, including Desdemona and Othello. IAGO, however, is still alive at the end of the play. This clue got me thinking that it's been over 400 years since William Shakespeare wrote Othello. What literary works of today will still be appearing in crosswords 400 years from now? Will crosswords be around 400 years from now?
  • CREPES SUZETTE (19A: Flambeed dessert with French pancakes) The French dessert CRÊPES SUZETTE consists of CRÊPES topped with a sauce of caramelized sugar and butter with orange juice and zest. Alcohol (Grand Marnier, triple sec, or orange Curaçao liqueur) is then spooned on top of the CRÊPES and sauce in the pan, and the dessert is flambéed table side. The origin of the dish's name is disputed. Some sources say it was named for a dinner guest of King Edward VII, and others say it was named in honor of a French actress, Suzanne Reichenberg.
  • STEAK DIANE (37A: Pan-fried beef entree served with seasoned pan sauce) At restaurants, STEAK DIANE is often prepared table side. Sometimes the sauce is flambéed. The dish takes its name from Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt.
  • SLEEP (51A: Koalas do this for up to 20 hours a day) I am a fan of a clue that incorporates a fun animal fact. Koalas are herbivorous marsupials, and are native to Australia. They spend their days in the trees, munching on eucalyptus leaves and SLEEPing. One of the reasons koalas SLEEP a lot is that their leaf-based diet doesn't provide a lot of energy. Another animal that spends a lot of their day SLEEPing is the cat. This clue made me wonder how the SLEEP time of koalas and cats compare. While koalas SLEEP 18-20 hours a day, cats SLEEP 12-20 hours a day. I found a lot of different ranges for a cat's SLEEP time, though all the sites seem to agree that the average is around 15 hours of SLEEP a day, with kittens and elderly cats spending more time each day asleep.
    A sleeping calico cat is shown in profile, with one paw outstretched.
    SLEEPing Willow
    Willow says, "While this is fascinating, I'm currently getting some SLEEP."
  • ICE (53A: Medium for some short-lived sculptures) This clue/answer pair took me to the Wikipedia entry for ICE sculpture, which features some photos of ICE sculptures, and, of course, lots of information about the art form. One particular sentence from the Wikipedia page made me chuckle. In discussing ICE sculpting events: "The largest events are, understandably, held in countries with cold winters."
  • PASTA ALLA NORMA (57A: Sicilian eggplant dish often made with rigatoni) PASTA ALLA NORMA consists of PASTA and eggplant in a tomato sauce topped with ricotta cheese. It is supposedly named in honor of Sicilian composer Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835), who composed the opera NORMA.
  • OLAY (62A: "Regenerist" skin care brand) When I read this clue, I wondered, "Do you suppose Regenerist contains retinol?" That may seem like a random thought (okay, granted, it was a random thought), but we just saw RETINOL in the puzzle two days ago clued as [Anti-aging vitamin used in eye creams]. The answer to my wondering is that some Regenerist products (there are a number of different ones) do contain retinol. Now we know.
  • WES (10D: "Asteroid City" director Anderson) Last month I wrote about the WES Anderson movie Asteroid City. In addition to directing, WES Anderson also wrote the screenplay and co-produced the movie.
  • BTS (13D: "Butter" K-pop band) "Butter" is a 2021 song by BTS. Several weeks before the song was released, BTS announced it with an hour-long animation of a stick of butter melting.
  • SHE (14D: Pronoun for a boat) Boats are traditionally referred to as "SHE." This tradition may stem from the fact that ships were once dedicated to goddesses that were thought to provide protection for the ship. This is a bit of a bonus answer in a puzzle titled GIRL DINNER.
  • SWIPE (31D: Make a choice on HER) HER is a social dating and networking app that does not allow cisgender men to create profiles. There are many apps that use SWIPE as a selection function. Choosing HER as the app to use as an example here is a nice touch for the GIRL DINNER puzzle.

    Geography review:

    • ESSEX (22A: County east of London) ESSEX is a county in the southeast part of England. As the clue informs us, ESSEX is east of London.
    • ALTA (63A: Utah ski resort) ALTA, Utah is located approximately 30 miles east of the state's capital, Salt Lake City. ALTA is located in the Wasatch Mountains, and its vertical gain of 2,538 feet combined with its annual snowfall of 545 inches makes it a good place for a ski resort.
    It's time for GIRL DINNER. The term "GIRL DINNER" originated when TikTok user Olivia Maher posted a video of her supper – a collection of bread, cheese, grapes, pickles, and red wine – and called it "GIRL DINNER." The video went viral, and led to many others showing their GIRL DINNERs. Today, GIRL DINNER serves (see what I did there...) as an appetizing crossword theme.  I especially enjoyed the bonus-like content, such as the aforementioned SHE and the clue for SWIPE, and DIGESTS (3D: Breaks down, like food) and GAL PALS (41D: Bachelorette party attendees, often). Thank you, Emily, for this delightful puzzle.