February 1, 2024


Constructor: Chandi Deitmer

Editor: Jared Goudsmit 

Theme Answers:
THINKS BACK (17A: Recalls the past)
THROWING STICK (38A: Early hunting weapon)
THE BIG SICK (61A: 2017 Kumail Nanjiani film)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer is contained IN THE word THICK.
Things I learned:
  • ACTS (19A: The play "Everybody Black" has two) Everybody Black is a two-ACT play by Dave Harris. The play imagines what would happen if a Black historian that had never met another Black person wrote a "definitive version of The Black ExperienceTM."
  • AMI (29A: "Panda Love" photojournalist Vitale) AMI Vitale is a photojournalist and documentary filmmaker. She is the author of the 2018 book Panda Love: The Secret Lives of Pandas.
  • EACH (56A: "___ Tiny Spark" (Pablo Cartaya novel)) Pablo Cartaya is an author and educator. According to his website, "he calls Miami his home and Cuban-American his cultura," and he "was Ricky Martin's body double in a music video." Each Tiny Spark is Pablo Cartaya's 2019 middle grade novel about a daughter and father navigating their relationship. Here's an interview with Pablo Cartaya in which he talks about writing Each Tiny Spark.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • COMIC (5A: Funny performer such as Hannah Gadsby) Hannah Gadsby is an Australian COMIC whose Netflix special, Nanette, won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special.
  • PPE (30A: N95 mask, gloves, e.g.) PPE here stands for personal protective equipment.
  • TIS (34A: "Deck the Halls" contraction) "'TIS the season to be jolly / Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la."
  • THROWING STICK (38A: Early hunting weapon) A THROWING STICK is pretty much what it sounds like; it's a wooden STICK that has a spear or pointed tip on one end, and is designed for THROWING as a weapon. Early Egyptian wall paintings depict the THROWING STICK used to hunt waterfowl and small game. The weapon is also associated with the Aboriginal peoples of Australia and some indigenous people of North America.
  • SATIRE (46A: ClickHole genre) ClickHole is a SATIRE website. ClickHole articles parody clickbait articles from other websites, and poke fun at social media.
  • THE BIG SICK (61A: 2017 Kumail Nanjiani film) THE BIG SICK is a 2017 movie written by Emily V. Gordon and her husband, Kumail Nanjiani. The film is loosely based on their real-life courtship. Holly Hunter portrays the character Emily Gardner in the movie. Kumail Nanjiani portrays a fictionalized version of himself.
  • CHILDISH GAMBINO (3D: "This is America" rapper) "This is America" is 2018 song by rapper CHILDISH GAMBINO. The song debuted at number one on Billboard's Hot 100, and won four Grammy Awards.
  • MOANA (7D: Disney heroine who meets Te Fiti) In the 2016 Disney animated movie MOANA, Te Fiti is the goddess of nature. The title character of the movie is tasked with returning Te Fiti's heart, which had been stolen many years ago by the shape-shifting demigod, Maui.
  • UMA (10D: Thurman who played Poison Ivy) UMA Thurman played the role of Poison Ivy in the 1997 movie Batman & Robin. The supervillain Poison Ivy has supernatural control over plant life, and the power to transfer poison through touch.
  • ROCKET SCIENTIST (11D: Stereotypical genius) My son's degree is in aerospace engineering; yes, he's technically a ROCKET SCIENTIST.
  • ESSAY (13D: Many a Jhumpa Lahiri piece) Jhumpa Lahiri is a writer of novels short stories and ESSAYs. Her short story collection Interpreter of Maladies (1999) won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Jhumpa Lahiri's 2003 novel The Namesake was adapted into a 2006 movie of the same name.
  • LEVITATING (22D: Dua Lipa hit that she performed in midair at the 2020 AMAs) You can watch Dua Lipa's AMA performance of "LEVITATING" here. (Technically, she was only in midair for the last part of the song. Still fun and appropriate!)
  • NORI (28D: Furikake seaweed) Furikake is a seasoning made of sesame seeds, NORI (edible seaweed), herbs, fish flakes, and salt.
  • KATE (41D: McKinnon who played Weird Barbie) I adored KATE McKinnon as Weird Barbie in the 2023 movie Barbie! Weird Barbie represents a Barbie doll that has been modified, with say, a haircut, or the addition of crayon tattoos. It is entirely possible (read, "definitely true") that every Barbie I owned as a child was a Weird Barbie by this definition.
  • THEME (52D: Word aptly hidden in "The Met Gala") The Met Gala, an annual fundraiser for the New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, has a different THEME every year. The THEME for the first Met Gala in 1971 was "Fashion Plate." If you have some spare time, you can peruse the Met Gala's past THEMEs here.
  • NASA (54D: Eclipse-tracking org.) You might want to check out NASA's website to make plans to view the upcoming total solar eclipse, which will occur on April 8 of this year.
  • A few other clues I especially enjoyed:
    •  KIA (23A: Soul automaker based in Seoul)
    • COMET (50A: Reindeer with a celestial name)
    • SWEAT (69A: What a gym might smell like)

    Geography review:

    • KENYA (4D: Country that celebrates Jamhuri Day) In the East African country of KENYA, Jamhuri Day is celebrated as a national holiday each year on December 12. Jamhuri is the Swahili word for "republic," and the holiday celebrates the date KENYA became an independent country in 1963. 
    Well, we're certainly IN THE THICK OF IT today. This theme is enjoyable, and the long down answers today are excellent: CHILDISH GAMBINO, KRYPTONITE, LEVITATING, and ROCKET SCIENTIST. Thank you, Chandi, for this stellar puzzle.