March 5, 2024


Constructor: Jake Halperin

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
LIP PLUMPER (17A: Pout-enhancing product)
SOUP PLATE (37A: Deep dish for eating minestrone, maybe)
BACKUP PLAN (60A: "Just in case" strategy)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer contains the letter string PPL across the word break.
Things I learned:
  • BOSCO (29A: Chocolate syrup brand) BOSCO chocolate syrup was invented in 1928 by a physician in Camden, New Jersey. In the 1950s and 1960s, BOSCO advertised during children's programming. One such ad featured Dick Van Dyke. BOSCO used to be packaged in a glass jar, but now comes in a plastic bottle. BOSCO is also now available in flavors other than chocolate. I needed the help of crossing answers to uncover this answer. After I had the answer, BOSCO did sound familiar.
  • SIS (43A: Lux, to Pedro Pascal, for short) Pedro Pascal is an actor whose credits include the title role of the Star Wars TV series, The Mandalorian, and the role of Joel Miller in the TV series, The Last of Us. Lux Pascal is his younger sister, or SIS, for short. Lux Pascal has an acting career and is a transgender activist.
  • CHRIS (49A: "Pretty Baby" author Belcher) CHRIS Belcher is a writer and an assistant professor of writing and gender studies at the University of Southern California. Pretty Baby is her memoir, published in 2022. The book tells about the time she spent as a sex worker. 
  • KAT (62D: Barbie's "Euphoria" role) Loosely based on an Israeli miniseries of the same name, the TV series, Euphoria, tells the various experiences of a group of high school students. Barbie Ferreira plays the role of Katherine "KAT" Hernandez. The use of Barbie Ferreira's first name in the clue, is a hint that the answer is the first name of the character she plays.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • LIP PLUMPER (17A: Pout-enhancing product) A LIP PLUMPER is a cosmetic product that is used to make one's LIPs look fuller. LIP PLUMPERs work by irritating the skin of the LIPs, causing them to temporarily swell and appear bigger. 
  • AGE (32A: The "17" in NC-17) I'm going to take advantage of the mention of AGE here to wish my younger sister, Kyra, a happy birthday!
  • SOUP PLATE (37A: Deep dish for eating minestrone, maybe) As the name suggests, a SOUP PLATE is essentially a cross between a SOUP bowl and a PLATE. It is shallower than a SOUP bowl, but deeper than a PLATE. At our house, we call this dish a PLATE bowl – same idea, different terminology.
  • ABE (53A: Mount Rushmore prez) Mount Rushmore is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was designed by Gutzon Borglum. The four presidents whose images are displayed on Mount Rushmore are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. The use of the word "prez" in the clue, a shortened form of "president," lets us know the answer is a shortened form. Therefore, the answer is ABE, for Abraham Lincoln. 
  • OMAR (58A: "3 Boys" singer Apollo) "3 Boys" is a 2023 single by OMAR Apollo. I learned about OMAR Apollo and his song "Ugotme," from the June 25, 2021 puzzle. We saw OMAR APOLLO as a theme answer just over a year ago.
  • PUMA (65A: Brand with a big cat logo) PUMA is a brand of footwear and apparel. The brand was formed in 1948 when two brothers, Rudolf and Adi Dassler, split a company they had formed together into two companies. Rudolf Dassler eventually named his company PUMA, while Adi Dassler's company became Adidas. Willow is always happy to see a mention of her big cat cousin in the grid. You can tell that in this photo she's truly excited about it.
    A calico cat curled into a ball (but sticking a paw out).

  • APES (68A: Primates like Koko) Koko (1971-2018) was a western lowland gorilla. Gorillas are great APES. Koko was born in captivity at the San Francisco Zoo. When Koko was a baby, a Stanford grad student named Penny Patterson began teaching her sign language. Koko was the subject of many studies for her ability to communicate. In 1985, Koko used sign language to ask for a cat for Christmas. She named her kitten "All Ball." Willow is a fan of this answer, too.
  • YEN (12D: Money spent at a konbini) I learned from the September 27, 2021 puzzle that a konbini is a Japanese convenience store. YEN is the currency of Japan.
  • LENO (18D: "JayWalking" comedian) "JayWalking" was a prerecorded segment that was used on The Tonight Show with Jay LENO. In the segment, Jay LENO would walk around public areas in Los Angeles and ask people questions about current events and other topics. 
  • BUSH BABY (34D: Small nocturnal primate) A BUSH BABY, also known as a galago, is a primate native to sub-Sahara Africa. These nocturnal animals spend most of their time up in trees (thus the name).
  • OSCAR (38D: "Hair Love" won one) Anytime the animated short, "Hair Love," is mentioned in the puzzle, I like to link to it, because it's wonderful. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend taking seven minutes of your day to do so. "Hair Love" won an OSCAR for Best Animated Short Film.
  • EDU (47D: End of a Berkeley or Berklee address) The University of California, Berkeley is located in Berkeley, California. Berklee College of Music is located in Boston, Massachusetts. EDU is the url ending used for schools.
  • LOUSE (55D: Scalp bug) We generally see these scalp bugs referred to in the plural, as head lice. The singular of lice is LOUSE. Did anyone else's head start itching after filling in this answer?
  • A couple of other clues I especially liked:
    • MOO (48A: Cow's "Ciao!")
    • TEAS (57D: Drinks used in some Chinese medicine)

    Geography review:

    • OAHU (1A: Island home to Honolulu) Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii. Located on the island of OAHU, Honolulu is the westernmost and southernmost major U.S. city.
    • LAO (27A: Language spoken in Vientiane) LAO is the official language of Laos, a landlocked country in Southeast Asia. Vientiane is the capital and largest city of Laos.
    We're not actually TEXTING PPL in today's puzzle; rather, we're discovering PPL hidden in the theme answers. I enjoyed this clever theme. Congratulations to Jake Halperin making a USA Today debut! Thank you, Jake, for this excellent puzzle.