February 3, 2024

Title: OH, HI! (Freestyle)

Constructor: Rafael Musa

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Freestyle: This is a themeless puzzle. OH, HI! is a nod to WHAT A SMALL WORLD (52A: "Can't believe I'm running into you here!").

Things I learned:
  • ERIC (27D: South Korea-based singer Nam) Singer, songwriter, and TV personality ERIC Nam was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of South Korean immigrants. In 2012, ERIC Nam was invited to Seoul, Korea to participate in the TV reality-singing-competition show, Star Audition: Birth of a Great Star 2. He placed within the top five, jumpstarting his career in South Korea, where he is now based.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • SCAR (17A: Mark from a kitty cat claw) Ouch! Yes, I do have a few SCARs from kitty cat claws. Willow says she never means to scratch me. (And, of course, I forgive her.)
    Profile of the head and paw of a calico cat.
  • TITLE (19A: This crossword's is "Oh, Hi!") I always enjoy a self-referential clue. 
  • HE'S (23A: "___ so tall and handsome as hell" (Taylor Swift lyric)) "HE'S so tall and handsome as hell / HE'S so bad, but he does it so well..." These lyrics are from Taylor Swift's song, "Wildest Dreams," released in 2015. Today's constructor, Rafael Musa, attempts to put a Taylor Swift puzzle in each crossword he constructs. I think it's safe to say HE'S a fan.
  • DIA DE LOS MUERTOS (38A: Mexican holiday with ofrendas and calaveras) DIA DE LOS MUERTOS (Day of the Dead) is celebrated on November 1 and 2. The Mexican holiday is a time to pray for and remember family and friends that have died. As part of the celebration, many people make altars, or ofrendas, to honor those who have died. Calaveras are edible or decorative skulls used in many DIA DE LOS MUERTOS celebrations. Some calaveras are made of sugar. We have previously seen SUGAR SKULL and SUGAR SKULLS as theme answers.
  • RPI (50A: Sch. in upstate NY) Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is located in Troy, New York (NY). Founded in 1824, RPI was the first technological research university in the U.S.
  • WHAT A SMALL WORLD (52A: "Can't believe I'm running into you here!") This is such a fun answer! I imagine many of us have either said or heard these words before. "WHAT A SMALL WORLD!" perfectly sums up the experience of, say, being on vacation somewhere far from home and running into someone from your hometown.
  • DARTH VADER (4D: "Star Wars" supervillain) In the Star Wars franchise, DARTH VADER is the name assumed by Anakin Skywalker after he is lured over to the dark side of the force. Here's a fun fact: The sound effect associated with the respirator function of DARTH VADER's mask is trademarked. Known as Trademark #77419252, it is described as "the sound of rhythmic mechanical human breathing created by breathing through a scuba tank regulator."
  • LENT (7D: Period before Easter) LENT begins each year on Ash Wednesday, which this year is February 14. If you count the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, which falls on March 31 this year, you will get 47. That's because Sundays are not counted in the calculation of the period of 40 days that comprise LENT.
  • LAA-LAA (8D: Yellow Teletubby with a repetitive name) Teletubbies is a British children's television show featuring four characters with TV screens on their bellies. The four Teletubbies are Tinky Winky (purple), Dipsy (green), LAA-LAA (yellow), and Po (red).
  • HOT SAUCE (9D: Cholula, Tapatio or Tabasco) As a solver, you only have to recognize one of these brand names to successfully fill in HOT SAUCE as the answer here. I have previously written about each of these HOT SAUCEs: Cholula, Tapatío, and Tabasco.
  • LEAH (28D: Name that's an anagram of "heal") I'm always happy to see LEAH in a puzzle, as that's my daughter's name.

    Geography review:

    • LIMA (64A: Peru's capital) Peru is a country on the western edge of South America. LIMA is the capital of Peru, and its largest city. LIMA is located on the western coast of Peru, near the Pacific Ocean.
    • ELMS (65A: Massachusetts state trees) Massachusetts is located in the New England region of the United States. The capital of Massachusetts is Boston. The American ELM has been the state tree of Massachusetts since 1941. Sadly, the ELMS in Massachusetts, as in other parts of the U.S., have been affected by Dutch ELM disease. Many of the majestic old ELMS have died off as a result.
    • ARCH (2D: St. Louis monument) St. Louis, Missouri is the home of the Gateway ARCH, a monument designed by Eero Saarinen. The ARCH, which was completed in October 1965, is 630 feet wide, and 630 feet tall.
    • SAO (29D: ___ Luis, Brazil) The South American country of Brazil is divided into 26 states and one federal district. SÃO Luís is the capital of the Brazilian state of Maranhão. SÃO Luís is one of three Brazilian state capitals located on an island. 
    OH, HI! There's a ton of delightful fill in this freestyle puzzle. In addition to the answers I've already highlighted, I also especially enjoyed STRAW POLLS, EMERALDS, PITHY, and THAT SETTLES THAT. Thank you, Rafa, for this delightful puzzle.