February 18, 2024


Constructor: Matthew Stock

Editor: Jared Goudsmit

Theme Answers:
PUMPKIN COACH (20A: Cinderella's carriage to the ball)
BANANA BOAT (40A: Sunscreen brand with two blue-and-yellow leaves in its logo)
WEINERMOBILE (54A: Promotional Oscar Mayer vehicle)

Theme synopsis: The first part of each theme answer is a FOOD, and the second part of each theme answer is a vehicle (something you can DRIVE).

Things I learned:
  • GIN (18A: Vesper liquor) The Vesper is a cocktail made of GIN, vodka and Kina Lillet (a French wine-based apertif). The Vesper has an interesting origin story. It was invented by the fictional character James Bond in Ian Fleming's 1953 novel Casino Royale. (It was actually the invention of a friend of Ian Fleming's named Ivar Bryce.) In the novel, James Bond names his drink creation after another character in the book, Vesper Lynd.
  • THAI (44A: Mi krop cuisine) Mi krop is a THAI dish of deep-fried rice vermicelli noodles in a sweet and sour sauce.
  • UNCUT (2D: "___ Gems" (2019 film)) UNCUT Gems is a crime-thriller movie directed by Josh and Benny Safdie. Adam Sandler portrays Howard Ratner, a jeweler in New York City who has a gambling addiction.
  • HARP (4D: Ann Hobson Pilot's instrument) Ann Hobson Pilot is an internationally renowned classical HARPist. She is now retired, but was previously the principal HARPist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops. Ann Hobson Pilot has done a TEDx talk titled, "A Black Harpist's Story."
  • EAT (11D: Enjoy egusi soup, say) In West African cuisine, egusi seeds are the seeds of melons and gourds, which are dried and ground. Egusi seeds are used in making egusi soup. The seeds are used as a thickener in the soup, which may also contain leafy greens, vegetables, and meat.
  • OYSTER (28D: Shellfish in guljeon) In Korean cuisine, guljeon are fritters made with OYSTERs.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • MEG (5A: Actress ___ Ryan) MEG Ryan's most recent film is What Happens Later, released last year. In addition to starring in the movie, MEG Ryan directed it, and co-wrote the screenplay. The rom com focuses on two exes who bump into each other when a snowstorm delays their flights. 
  • INCAS (13A: Viracocha worshippers) In Incan mythology, Viracocha was considered the creator of all things. Viracocha, represented with the sun for a crown and holding thunderbolts, was worshipped as god of the sun and storms.
  • ARE (25A: "We ___ Family") "We ARE Family" was released in 1979 and became Sister Sledge's signature song. Thank you to this clue for the "We ARE Family" earworm. "We ARE family / I got all my sisters with me / We ARE family / Get up everybody and sing..."
  • ODE (45A: "___ to Teachers" (Pat Mora poem)) Pat Mora writes books for children, teens, and adults. Her poem "ODE to Teachers," was first published in the children's book, Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems About Love (2010).
  • WEINERMOBILE (54A: Promotional Oscar Mayer vehicle) The WEINERMOBILE is a vehicle shaped like a hot dog. The WEINERMOBILE debuted in 1936, created by Oscar Mayer's nephew. The WEINERMOBILE has evolved over the years, and there are now a fleet of six WEINERMOBILEs that tour the country, promoting Oscar Mayer products. The WEINERMOBILE's driver is called a Hotdogger. To be eligible to be a Hotdogger, you need to be a college senior about to graduate. The job of a Hotdogger is only for one year. 
  • ANIME (59A: "Howl's Moving Castle," e.g.) Howl's Moving Castle is a 2004 ANIME from Studio Ghibli. I learned about this movie when we saw a puzzle titled HOWLS MOVING CROSSWORD
  • BBS (10D: "_e _ack _oon!") This clue features a special type of fill-in-the-blank (FITB) clue. Normally, a FITB clue features one blank, which the answer fits into. Here, we have three blanks, each representing a single letter of the answer. BBS = Be Back Soon.
  • SYKES (14D: Comedian Wanda) Wanda SYKES is a comedian, actress, and writer. She has an extensive filmography, including two Netflix comedy specials: Wanda SYKES: Not Normal (2019) and Wanda SYKES: I'm an Entertainer (2023).
  • ARIANA (22D: "Into You" singer Grande) "Into You" is a 2016 song by Ariana Grande.
  • AIOLI (41D: Garlicky sauce served with bourride) Bourride is a dish made with fish, other seafood, and vegetables. The French dish is served with AIOLI and olive oil.

    Geography review:

    • GENOA (7D: Italian city known for salami) GENOA is a city located along the coast in northern Italy. GENOA salami takes its name from the city, where it is believed to have originated. The pork (and sometimes veal) sausage is seasoned with garlic, salt, peppercorns, and wine.
    • UTAH (9D: Provo's state) Provo, UTAH is located south of Salt Lake City, and is the home of Brigham Young University. 
    • STL (23D: Citygarden city (Abbr.)) Citygarden is a sculpture park in St. Louis (STL), Missouri. It is located in downtown St. Louis, near the Gateway Arch. 
    • IOWA (36D: State that's home to Effigy Mounds National Monument) Effigy Mounds National Monument is located in the northeastern corner of IOWA, along the Mississippi River. The park preserves mounds of earth formed in the shapes of animals. These mounds were formed by indigenous people that were part of a mound building culture. Multiple indigenous groups have ties to the people that constructed the mounds at Effigy Mounds. I have been to Effigy Mounds; it is an interesting and beautiful place. 
    • OUTER (49D: Word before "space" or "Banks") I almost missed the geography reference in this clue. I suppose OUTER space might be considered geography, in a loose sense of the word, but I am referring to the OUTER Banks. The OUTER Banks are a string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia. The OUTER Banks are known for their extensive beaches, and are a major tourist destination. My family went to the OUTER Banks one year for a spring break vacation. Highlights of that trip include collecting shells on the beach, seeing the wild horses, going hang gliding on the dunes, and visiting the site of Orville and Wilbur Wright's first flight. 
    This theme had me imagining a FOOD DRIVE parade featuring a PUMPKIN COACH, a BANANA BOAT, and a WEINERMOBILE. (I know BANANA BOAT was clued to the sunscreen brand, but I'm envisioning a BOAT shaped like a BANANA, akin to the WEINERMOBILE.) In addition to the theme answers, this grid is packed with FOOD-related clues and answers. In addition to the previously mentioned GIN, Mi krop, GENOA salami, egusi soup, guljeon, and AIOLI, we have SOY milk, OREO, NAAN, and Häagen Dazs ice cream. Thank you, Matthew, for this delicious puzzle.