March 2, 2024


Constructor: Li Ding

Editor: Jared Goudsmit

Theme Answers:
DROPPING THE BALL (3D: Making a mess of things)
WE'RE DEAD MEAT (5D: "This spells trouble for us!")
VANDERPUMP RULES (11D: "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" spinoff)
TAKE THE FLOOR (21D: Begin speaking to a group)

Theme synopsis: The last word – the one UNDER the other words in each vertical theme answer  – can follow the word GROUND, giving us GROUND BALL, GROUND MEAT, GROUND RULES, and GROUND FLOOR.

Things I learned:
  • BOAT (54A: "Fresh Off the ___" (ABC sitcom)) Fresh Off the BOAT is an ABC sitcom that originally aired from 2015-2020. It is narrated by chef and food personality Eddie Huang, and is loosely inspired by his 2013 autobiography of the same name. The show centers on the life of a Taiwanese American family living in Florida in the late 1990s. 
  • VANDERPUMP RULES (11D: "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" spinoff) The reality TV series VANDERPUMP RULES is currently in its 11th season. As the clue informs us, the show is a spinoff of the reality TV series The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. VANDERPUMP RULES focuses on Lisa VANDERPUMP and the staff at her restaurants. Lisa VANDERPUMP was a cast member on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills from 2010-2019. The show VANDERPUMP RULES has itself resulted in a couple of spinoffs: VANDERPUMP RULES After Show and VANDERPUMP RULES: Jax & Brittany Take Kentucky.
  • APR (36D: Thingyan's month (Abbr.)) Thingyan is a Buddhist festival celebrated over four to five days in mid-April (APR.). Thingyan is celebrated in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar (known as Burma until 1989). The dates of Thingyan are calculated using the Burmese calendar; the festival marks the Burmese New Year. Thingyan, also referred to as the Water Festival, is celebrated with water splashing games.
  • ACHE (56D: Feeling after a kajukenbo class) Kajukenbo is a hybrid martial art that takes its name from the beginnings of the names of the arts from which its style has been derived: karate, judo (and jujutsu), kenpo, and boxing. Kajukenbo originated in Hawaii in the late 1940s. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • WOKE (5A: "If You Are Over Staying ___" (Morgan Parker poem)) Morgan Parker is a poet, novelist, and editor. Her debut poetry collection, published in 2015, is titled Other People's Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night. Her poem "If You Are Over Staying WOKE," can be read on the Poetry Foundation website. 
  • WES (28A: "The Darjeeling Limited" director Anderson) The Darjeeling Limited is a 2007 movie directed by WES Anderson. The movie tells the story of three estranged brothers that agree to meet aboard a luxury train a year after their father's death.
  • FEAR (52A: The "F" of FOMO) FOMO = FEAR of missing out
  • HALIBUT (55A: World's largest flatfish) Many species of flatfish have both of their eyes on one side of the head. (Fascinating fact: They are born with one eye on each side of their head. One of the eyes migrates to the other side of the head when they are about six months old!) In some cases, these fish can lay on one side and camouflage themselves on the ocean floor. Three species of flatfish are known by the common name HALIBUT: Atlantic HALIBUT, Pacific HALIBUT, and Greenland HALIBUT. The Atlantic HALIBUT is the largest flatfish in the world. HALIBUT can grow up to eight feet long and weigh over 500 pounds. 
  • IMHO ("the way it seems 2 me") IMHO stands for "in my humble opinion."
  • TERI (64A: "Spy Kids" actress Hatcher) The 2001 movie Spy Kids, is the first film in the Spy Kids franchise that also includes three sequels and an animated series. The movie revolves around the Cortez family. The parents are spies, a fact which is unknown to their two children until the parents are in danger and the kids must come to their rescue. In the original Spy Kids movie, TERI Hatcher portrays Ms. Gradenko, one of the movie's villains. 
  • NOVELS (9D: Books such as "White Teeth" and "Beloved") White Teeth (2000), which I have written about previously, is the debut NOVEL of Zadie Smith. Beloved is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winning NOVEL by Toni Morrison. (I have also written about it previously.)
  • ARIEL (10D: Disney princess who calls a fork a "dinglehopper") ARIEL is the protagonist of the Disney movie, The Little Mermaid. Here's the "dinglehopper" scene from the 1989 animated version of the movie.
  • MIRROR (27D: "I'll stare directly at the sun, but never in the ___" (Taylor Swift lyric)) "I'll stare directly at the sun, but never in the MIRROR," is a lyric from Taylor Swift's 2022 song, "Anti-Hero." 

    Geography review:

    • SEOUL (4D: City where Blackpink was formed) SEOUL is the capital of South Korea. Blackpink is a South Korean girl group. We saw Blackpink mentioned just a few days ago in a clue for BAND. 
    • SAO (37D: ___ Paulo, Brazil) The most populous city in Brazil, SAO Paolo, is making an encore appearance today, as we also saw this clue / answer in yesterday's puzzle
    I enjoyed today's journey into the UNDERGROUND puzzle world. In addition the to the answers I've highlighted above, I also liked MOROSE, PROOFREAD (something I do to each blog post, but not always 100% successfully!), and TACO SALAD. Thank you, Li, for this enjoyable puzzle.