March 4, 2024

Title: CUTTING EDGE ART (Freestyle)

Constructor: Dena Witkes

Editor: Anna Gundlach

Freestyle: This is a themeless puzzle. CUTTING EDGE ART is a nod to BONSAI TREE (11D: Miniature  Japanese plant).

Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • RASTA (18A: Believer in Jah) The religion known as Rastafari or Rastafarianism developed in the 1930s in Jamaica. Rastafari is based on a specific interpretation of the Bible. RASTA beliefs include monotheism, a belief in one God, who is referred to as Jah.
  • PET SPA (22A: Upscale pampering spots for kitties) and SWAT (32A: Hit, like a cat toy) I'm not sure my cat Willow would enjoy a visit to a PET SPA, but then again, she's pretty pampered here at home! Willow appreciated seeing two cat references in today's puzzle. She does like to SWAT things, not only cat toys, but also items on my desk in an attempt to knock them onto the floor.
    A calico cat is approaching a mug that has the words "Sally's Take" and a crossword graphic on it.
    Willow, mascot of Sally's Take
    I tried to get Willow to pose with my Sally's Take mug. If you've ever tried to get a cat to pose for a photo, you can imagine how that went! This is the best photo I got, which was pretty good considering my model.
  • AREA (26A: Base times height, for a rhombus) Time for some geometry review! A rhombus is a quadrilateral (a four-sided polygon) whose four sides all have the same length. A square is a special type of rhombus with four equal angles (each equal to 90°). 
  • APU (37A: "the Problem With ___" (2017 documentary)) The Problem with APU is Hari Kondabolu's documentary focusing on The Simpsons' character APU Nahasapeemapetilon. The film explores negative stereotypes of people of Indian and South Asian heritage.
  • RBG (40A: SCOTUS justice who said, "Women belong in all places where decisions are being made") It's been just a few days since we saw RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) in the puzzle with a clue that features a quote from here. I'm a fan of these clues. RBG shared a lot of wisdom during her lifetime.
  • WHALER (52A: Captain Ahab's occupation, or the kind of ship he captains) Captain Ahab is a WHALER featured in Herman Melville's 1851 book, Moby Dick.
  • SUSAN (59A: "Thelma & Louise" star Sarandon) Okay, which role did SUSAN Sarandon play in the 1991 movie Thelma & Louise? And who portrayed the other title character? If you said SUSAN Sarandon portrayed Louise and Geena Davis portrayed Thelma, you are correct.
  • BONSAI TREE (11D: Miniature  Japanese plant) BONSAI is a Japanese ART form utilizing cultivation techniques (including CUTTING EDGEs) to produce small TREEs in containers that mimic the shape and scale of full size trees. A BONSAI TREE can be created from nearly any perennial tree or shrub species. 
  • PAINTS (48D: Emulates Frida Kahlo) Frida Kahlo (1907-1947) has been described as one of the most instantly recognizable artists. This is partly due to the fact that many of her PAINTings are self-portraits. She PAINTed 55 self-portraits, which is about a third of her work. Frida Kahlo said, "I PAINT self-portraits because I am the person I know best." So, to emulate Frida Kahlo, perhaps one could PAINT a self-portrait.
  • SNL (49D: NBC sketch show) Saturday Night Live, familiarly know as SNL, is NBC's late night sketch comedy show, that first premiered in 1975. The abbreviation NBC (National Broadcasting Corporation) is a clue for the solver that the answer will be an abbreviation.
  • ELBA (55D: Actor Idris aka DJ Big Driis) Idris ELBA is an actor, writer, producer, rapper, songwriter, and DJ. When performing as a DJ, he uses the moniker DJ Big Driis.
  • SFO (61D: Airport with a BART stop) SFO is the code for the San Francisco International Airport. Located south of San Francisco in San Mateo County, SFO serves California's Bay Area. Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, is a rapid transit rail system serving the Bay Area. Once again in this clue, the abbreviation BART is a signal that the answer will be an abbreviation.

    Geography review:

    • ERIE (17A: The "E" of HOMES) HOMES is a mnemonic that is useful for remembering the names of the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, ERIE, and Superior. Of the five Great Lakes, ERIE is the one with the most crossword-friendly name, and therefore, the one that shows up in crosswords most often. This is the first appearance of ERIE this month, and its ninth appearance this year.
    • DANE (50A: Copenhagen resident) Copenhagen is the capital and most populous city of Denmark. Residents of Denmark are referred to as DANEs.
    • ASIA (3D: Largest continent) ASIA is nearly 1.5 times larger than Africa, the second largest continent. Like ERIE, ASIA is also crossword-friendly. This is the fifth appearance of ASIA this year. I think it's always fun when ERIE and ASIA appear together in a grid; we last saw them in the same grid on December 7, 2024. (A reminder that the only thing this means is that I like data!)
    • ETNA (13D: Active Sicilian volcano) Mount ETNA is an active volcano on the island of Sicily, Italy. ETNA has a height of just over 11,000 feet; its height varies with eruptions. ETNA is in an almost constant state of activity.
    How delightful to start off the week with this freestyle puzzle. HEAR ME OUT... There are so many lively and enjoyable answers here, I definitely did a little HAPPY DANCE. I enjoyed SNAIL MAIL, POWERS UP, TEA PARTY, and SHERBET. Congratulations to Dena Witkes making a USA Today debut! That's a BIG DEAL! Thank you, Dena, for this excellent puzzle.


    1. How can we get a Sally’s take mug?
      MA Pair

      1. Unfortunately, I only made two - one for me, and one as a contest giveaway. :(


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