June 23, 2020

Title: IF I MAY...
Constructor: Kate Hawkins
Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
FLY ON THE WALL (24A: One who hears and is not see)
FLOWER ARRANGING (38A: Stem discipline)
POLE VAULTING (51A: Event with a high bar)

Theme synopsis: The first word of each theme answer can follow the word MAY to create a new word: MAYFLY, MAYFLOWER, MAYPOLE.

Things I learned:
  • EDGAR (67A: "Normal People" star Daisy ___ Jones) Daisy EDGAR Jones plays the role of Marianne Sheridan on the TV series Normal People. Set in Ireland, the show follows the relationship of Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron (played by Paul Mescal) as they finish secondary school and attend Trinity College. This clue highlights one of the things I enjoy about the USA Today crossword. There are many ways to clue the word EDGAR, many of them involving either J. EDGAR Hoover or EDGAR Allan Poe. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that approach, I appreciate the choice to clue the word in a way that highlights a woman and introduces me to a person and a TV show that are new to me. Even though I was not previously familiar with Daisy EDGAR Jones, the word EDGAR is familiar enough to be easily attained by crosses and therefore does not interfere with the fun of solving the puzzle. Thank you Kate and Erik.
  • TINA (30D: Hoops legend Thompson) TINA Thompson is the head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers women's basketball team. She is a former WNBA player. From 1997 to 2013 she played for the Houston Comets, Los Angeles Sparks, and Seattle Storm.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • SMASH (5A: Super ___ Bros. (Nintendo game)) Please tell me I wasn't the only one to write in MARIO. Super SMASH Bros. is a series of fighting video games featuring characters from various Nintendo franchises (including MARIO, I assume). 
  • PARTY (15A: Word after "pizza" or "tea") My mind often goes blank when faced with this style of clue, but this one was in my wheelhouse. I am always up for a pizza PARTY or a tea PARTY. I'd even attend a tea PARTY serving pizza.
  • NEON (19A: Light gas) A clever clue - NEON is the second lightest inert gas, and, of course, is used in NEON lights.
  • FANTA (20A: Crush competitor) We're talking about the beverage company here, not your high school crush or Crush, the sea turtle in Finding Nemo.
  • FLOWER ARRANGING (38A: Stem discipline) This was my favorite clue in today's puzzle! When I first read the clue, my mind leapt (as I'm sure it was intended to do) to the STEM disciplines - science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. When crossing answers revealed that the stem discipline here was dealing with actual stems, I was delighted.
  • ILHAN (23D: Minnesota representative Omar) ILHAN Omar was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, representing Minnesota's 5th congressional district.  Along with Rashida Tlaib, she is one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress. 
Geography review:
  • ERIE (16A: One of the Great Lakes) HOMES is a useful mnemonic device for remembering the names of the five Great Lakes - Huron, Ontario, Michigan, ERIE, and Superior. Lake ERIE is the southernmost of the five Great Lakes. It borders the Canadian province of Ontario and the the U.S. states Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. Of the five Great Lakes, ERIE is by far the most frequent to appear in crossword puzzles, thanks to its four-letter name and crossword-friendly vowel-consonant pattern.
  • ASIA (65A: Home of India and Indonesia) ASIA is the largest and most populous continent. It is the  continent that appears most frequently in crosswords, again thanks to its four-letter length and crossword-friendly letters.
This was an enjoyable puzzle with several truly delightful clues. Although the theme is fairly straightforward, it took me a little while to figure it out, which is okay.