February 16, 2024

Title: SKY-HIGH (Freestyle)

Constructor: Jared Goudsmit

Editor: Jared Goudsmit

Freestyle: This is a themeless puzzle. SKY-HIGH is a nod to STAR SYSTEM (17A: Set of celestial objects gravitationally bound to one another) and ON TOP OF THE WORLD (7D: Really happy).

Things I learned:
  • LARA (4D: "Love by Grace" singer Fabian) "Love by Grace" is a song by LARA Fabian, who is one of the best-selling Belgian artists of all time. The song was released in 2000, and was part of the soundtrack of a popular Brazilian soap opera, La├žos de Familia.
  • ELM (9D: Tree with "branches like breath" in a Grace Marie Grafton poem) Grace Marie Grafton is an award-winning poet who has published multiple volumes of poetry. Her poem, "Dear ELM TREE," begins "Your branches like breath / lifting, sighing with the breeze / up and sway, your leaves speak / words like oval, green, edged, flutter."
  • SITARIST (21D: Musician such as Reenat Fauzia) Reenat Fauzia is a SITARIST from Bangladesh. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ALMA (18A: Name that's an anagram of "lama") and ETTA (19A: R&B singer James) and LEON (20A: Name that's 52-Down backward) Often when names are in a puzzle, constructors try to make sure the crossings are fair, so that solvers not familiar with the person can still be successful. This generally means that constructors try to not have a lot of names in the same section of the puzzle. Here we have three consecutive clues whose answers are names. However, because of the way the answers fall in the grid, none of these names are in the same section. Still, I appreciated the choice to make two of the clues wordplay clues. The one reference to an actual person here is the Grammy-award winning R&B singer ETTA James. Thanks to her crossword-friendly name, we see ETTA James in the puzzle frequently.
  • AGO (33A: "A long, long time ___ / I can still remember...") Thanks for the earworm puzzle! This clue gives us the opening lines to Don McLean's 1971 song, "American Pie." I'm a fan of using song lyrics to add interest to the clues for common three-letter words. "A long, long time AGO / I can still remember how that music / use to make me smile..."
  • REV (38A: MLK's title) The REV. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozer Theological Seminary and a PhD from Boston University. The abbreviation of his name in the clue – MLK – lets us know the answer will be an abbreviation. REV. is an abbreviation for the title Reverend.
  • ORE (41A: Rock such as sphalerite) Sphalerite is the primary ORE of zinc, It is also an ORE of the rare metals cadmium, gallium, germanium, and indium. 
  • HAMM (54A: Soccer great Mia) I wrote about Mia HAMM a couple of weeks ago.
  • USAIN (10D: Olympic runner Bolt) USAIN BOLT is a retired Jamaican sprinter that is widely considered to be the greatest sprinter of all time. He is an eight-time Olympic gold medalist, and an eleven-time World Champion. He holds the world record in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4 x 100 meters relay.
  • TRON (34D: "___: Legacy" (sci-fi film)) TRON: Legacy is a 2010 sci-fi movie. It is a sequel to the 1982 movie TRON. Garret Hedlund, Jeff Bridges, and Olivia Wilde star in TRON: Legacy.
  • DAMES (45D: Kelly Holmes and Angela Lansbury, e.g.) Kelly Holmes is a retired British runner. She won gold medals in the 800 and 1,500 meter events at the 2004 Olympics. She was appointed DAME Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2005. Angela Lansbury (1925-2022) was a British and American actress and singer with an extensive filmography. She was made a DAME Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2014. 
  • TEENS (50D: Many "Daria" characters, age-wise) The animated TV show Daria is a spin-off from the series Beavis and Butt-HeadDaria revolves around two TEENS, the title character, and her best friend, Jane Lane.

    Geography review:

    • MOTTO (2D: "Dirigo," for Maine) Maine is the easternmost state in the U.S. Its capital is Augusta. The state MOTTO of Maine, as the clue informs us, is "Dirigo," which is Latin for "I direct," or "I lead."
    I really enjoyed all the conversational phrases in today's puzzle: "THAT CAN'T BE RIGHT", "WORKS FOR ME!", "I SEE," "HELLO AGAIN!", and "HAVE WE MET?" (which pairs nicely with "WHO?"). There's an entire conversation going on in this puzzle. Thank you, Jared, for this enjoyable puzzle.