February 15, 2024


Constructor: Stella Zawistowski

Editor: Anna Gundlach

Theme answers:
DMITRI MENDELEEV (17A: Chemist who pioneered the periodic table)
DANCE MOVES (25A: The floss and the moonwalk, for example)
DATA MINING (Extracting patterns from a large set of information)
DIACRITICAL MARK (56A: Umlaut or accent)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer has the INITIALs DM, which can also stand for direct message, a way to make CONTACT.

Things I learned:
  • TONI (38A: "The Staircase" actress Collette) The Staircase is a 2022 TV miniseries based on the 2004 true crime documentary series of the same. Both series tell the story of Michael Peterson, a crime novelist accused of killing his wife, Kathleen, who is found dead at the bottom of a staircase. TONI Collette portrays Kathleen Peterson in the 2022 miniseries.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • DMITRI MENDELEEV (17A: Chemist who pioneered the periodic table) DMITRI MENDELEEV (1834-1907) was a Russian chemist and inventor. He is best known for creating a version of the periodic table of elements. The periodic table arranges chemical elements into rows and columns (or groups) according to their atomic numbers. Elements in the same group show similar characteristics. Hooray for science in the crossword!
  • IT IS (21A: "___ what ___" ("Nothing I can do")) I enjoyed this double fill-in-the-blank clue. IT IS what IT IS.
  • DANCE MOVES (25A: The floss and the moonwalk, for example) The floss is a DANCE MOVE that is characterized by swinging the arms (with clenched fists) from the back of the body to the front. The origin of the floss is unclear, though it seems to have been around since 2013-2014. The moonwalk is a DANCE MOVE popularized by Michael Jackson in the 1980s. When doing the moonwalk, the dancer glides backward, but appears to be moving forward.
  • ANT (33A: "___-Man and the Wasp") ANT-Man and the Wasp is a 2018 Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie. It is a sequel to the movie ANT-Man (2015). The 2023 movie ANT-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a sequel to both of these movies. Paul Rudd portrays ANT-Man in all three movies.
  • DIACRITICAL MARK (56A: Umlaut or accent) A DIACRITICAL MARK, also called a diacritic, is a mark added to a letter to change the sound indicated by the letter. An umlaut is two dots over a letter, generally used over an ä, ö, or ü. An accent MARK may be acute (e.g. á), grave (e.g. à), or circumflex (e.g. â).
  • YALIE (61A: Ivy Leaguer in Connecticut) Yale University is an Ivy League research university located in New Haven, Connecticut. A Yale student is sometimes referred to as a YALIE.
  • EATS (63A: Has some ssam, say) In Korean cuisine, ssam is a bite-sized lettuce wrap. Lettuce is used to wrap a piece of meat and other fillings.
  • ARES (6D: Mars' Greek counterpart) Mars is a Roman god of war. ARES is a Greek god of war.
  • PODCASTS (8D: Shows like "The History Chicks") The History Chicks is a PODCAST about women in history. It is hosted by Beckett Graham and Susan Vollenweider. The two women began producing the PODCAST in 2011, when they couldn't find any PODCASTS that covered women's history exclusively.
  • NEEDY (27D: Like a pet cat who constantly needs scritches) This clue made me laugh. One of the nicknames my husband and I have for our cat, Willow, is NEEDY kitty! One way
    A woman sitting at a desk. A calico cat is behind her, leaning against her back and placing its head on her shoulder.
    NEEDY kitty
    Willow demands attention when she is feeling NEEDY is by climbing up behind me when I'm sitting at my desk, and flopping onto my back with her head on my shoulder. 
  • EMOJI (29D: "Cat with Tears of Joy" or "Clown Face") I appreciated the extra cat reference here. 😹 🤡

    Geography review:

    • DIJON (41A: French city known for mustard) DIJON is a city in northeastern France. It is famous for the mustard bearing its name. DIJON mustard originated in 1856 when Jean Naigeon substituted the acidic juice of not-quite-ripe grapes for vinegar in the traditional mustard recipe.
    • ERIE (54D: The "E" in HOMES) HOMES is a mnemonic used to remember the names of the five Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, ERIE, and Superior. This is the first appearance this month for our crossword-friend ERIE.
    I enjoyed the slightly-tricky theme of this puzzle. From the title, I suspected the theme might involve the starting (INITIAL) words of the theme answers, and that they might all be synonyms for CONTACT. When it became obvious that wasn't the case, it took me a little while to figure out what was happening, providing for a nice "Aha!" moment. Thank you, Stella, for this excellent puzzle.