February 5, 2024


Constructor: Stella Zawistowski

Editor: Jared Goudsmit

Theme Answers:
PERFECT PITCH (19A: Ability to identify a musical note just by hearing it)
TWO BUCK CHUCK (35A: Rhyming nickname for a certain bargain-priced wine)
ENSEMBLE CAST (53A: Group with many principal actors)

Theme synopsis: The word on the right SIDE of each theme answer is a synonym for THROW. We have PITCH, CHUCK, and CAST.

Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • PERFECT PITCH (19A: Ability to identify a musical note just by hearing it) PERFECT PITCH, also known as absolute PITCH, is estimated to occur in approximately 1 out of every 10,000 people. The incidence in musicians is higher, perhaps up to 1,100 out of every 10,000, explainable by the likelihood that those with PERFECT PITCH are drawn to careers involving music. There is thought to be a genetic component to PERFECT PITCH, though it has been shown that some people can attain PERFECT PITCH through training. When I think about PERFECT PITCH, I am reminded of a story about volunteering in my kids' elementary school many years ago. One day I was in the staff workroom cutting some paper for one of the teachers. I was using a rather ancient, old-style paper cutter – with a handle that lifts up and then cuts the paper as you bring it down. Every time the handle was lifted it creaked. While I was cutting the paper, the orchestra teacher came into the room, and after a few moments she said, "That paper cutter creaks in a G sharp, in case you were wondering." 
  • BET (22A: "Being Mary Jane" channel) Being Mary Jane is a TV series that originally aired on BET from 2013-2019. The show followed the professional and personal life of a TV news anchor, Mary Jane Paul, played by Gabrielle Union.
  • TWO BUCK CHUCK (35A: Rhyming nickname for a certain bargain-priced wine) TWO BUCK CHUCK is a nickname for Charles Shaw wines. This wine brand was first sold at Trader Joe's grocery stores in California in 2002. The wine was priced at $1.99 a bottle, leading to its nickname. The price has increased a little bit over the years, and generally costs more outside of California due to shipping costs, but it's still relatively affordable, at less than $4 a bottle
  • ENSEMBLE CAST (53A: Group with many principal actors) The term ENSEMBLE CAST is generally used to refer to a production that doesn't have a single main character, but instead a group of actors that have approximately the same amount of screen time. The 2019 movie Knives Out is a good example of the use of an ENSEMBLE CAST.
  • TESS (66A: Model Holliday) TESS Holliday is a model, author, and self-described "body-positive activist." She originated the hashtag #EffYourBeautyStandards after strangers left cruel comments on her Instagram account.
  • AMTRAK (5D: Operator of Crescent trains) the Crescent train is an AMTRAK passenger train that runs between New York City, New York and New Orleans, Louisiana. The Crescent train's journey lasts approximately 31 to 33 hours. The AMTRAK train gets its name from one of the nicknames of New Orleans, "The Crescent City."
  • AC/DC (8D: "Rising Power" band) "Rising Power" is the first track on AC/DC's 1983 album, Flick of the Switch.
  • GRITTY (10D: Orange mascot from Philly) GRITTY is a 7-foot-tall furry orange creature, and the mascot of the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers. GRITTY was introduced as the team's mascot in 2018. You can follow GRITTY on Instagram.
  • ACACIA (11D: Tree that's often thorny) There are over 1,000 species of ACACIA trees and shrubs. The genus is sometimes referred to by the common name wattle. 
  • OK MOM (36D: Possible response to "Go do the dishes!") This clue definitely made me laugh! Possible response, perhaps, but maybe not probable.
  • KERI (39D: "Felicity" actress Russell) Felicity is a TV series about the college experiences of the title character, Felicity Porter, portrayed by KERI Russell. The show is set at the fictitious University of New York (based on New York University). The show ran for four seasons (from 1998-2002), corresponding to Felicity's freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years. 
  • ORNATE (44D: Like rococo architecture) Rococo architecture, also known as Late Baroque, is a style of architecture associated with the Rococo period, which began in France in the 1730s, and roughly aligned with the reign of Louis XV. It is known as an ORNATE and dramatic style of architecture, that incorporates scrolling curves and sculpted moulding. It also features light pastel colors.
  • ELSE (55D: "What ___ Can I Do?" ("Encanto" song)) Like all eight of the songs on the Encanto soundtrack, "What ELSE Can I Do?" was written by Lin Manuel Miranda. The song is sung by Stephanie Beatriz and Dianne Guerrero, who voiced the characters of Mirabel Madrigal and Isabela Madrigal.
  • TAPS (56D: Dances like Gregory Hines) Gregory Hines (1946-2003) was a dancer, actor, choreographer, and singer. He is one of the most-celebrated TAP dancers of all time. He was an advocate for promoting TAP dancing in America, and petitioned Congress to create National TAP Dance Day, which they did in 1989. (National TAP Dance Day is May 25.) His 1989 TV special, TAP Dance in America, won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Program. Enjoy this video of Gregory Hines TAP dancing
  • CAT (60D: Purr-fect pet) My CAT, Willow, has nothing to add here.
    A calico cat in a regal pose.
    She feels this clue is "purr-fect."
  • A trio of workout-related clues:
    • LIFT (1A: Pump some iron)
    • OIL UP (58A: Prepare for a bodybuilding competition)
    • LEG (42D: "You can't spell legendary without ___ day")
Today's title gave me a good idea of the theme mechanism to look for, and I quite enjoyed uncovering the synonyms for THROW in today's theme answers. I also liked seeing the word RHYTHMIC in the grid; I always need to pause and think about how to spell the word "rhythm" and its variants. Thank you, Stella, for this excellent puzzle.