July 11, 2020

Constructor: Evan Kalish
Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
WIDE AWAKE (15A: Nowhere close to drifting off)
SIDE AIRBAGS (28A: Protective car features)
PRIDE AND JOY (43A: Cherished child, e.g.)
RIDE-ALONG (59A: Trip that's an anagram of "reloading")

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer has the letters I-D-E-A and those letters span two of the words in each phrase. 

And now a word from our constructor:
Evan: This was a fun idea with several nice answers to work with. I do like 43-Across, even if it doesn’t abide by the “Berry rule”—the idea that, for maximum elegance, a thematic concealed letter string should span every word in an entry. I’m thrilled with some of the inclusive cluing in this puzzle (see 37-A, 42-Down, 54-D), and I enjoyed getting in another reference to one of my favorite radio shows (see 19-A).
Random fact: 27-D has never appeared in a [mainstream] crossword before (?!) and 33-D hasn’t appeared as an entry since 2003, at least according to Matt Ginsberg’s “cluer” database.
Easter egg-ish challenge: Two entries in one region of this puzzle are also the titles of two songs by the same singer. What are they, and who is the singer? (Answer below!)

Things I learned:
  • SIOUX (14A: Another name for the Oceti Sakowin) The Oceti Sakowin, or SIOUX, are groups of indigenous peoples in the United States and Canada. The SIOUX people refer to the Great SIOUX Nation as the Očhéthi Šakówin, which means "Seven Council Fires."
  • AMAL (37A: "___ Unbound" (Aisha Saeed novel)) AMAL Unbound is an award-winning novel and New York Times Best Seller. It explores themes of girls' eduction, indentured servitude, economic class, and family as it tells of Amal's life in her Pakistani village. Aisha Saeed's other books include Written in the Stars and Far From Agrabah.
  • SEA (48A: Olokun's domain) In the Yoruba religion, Olukun is an orisha spirit. The Yoruba religion refers to the traditional religious and spiritual practices of the Yoruba people in present-day Southwestern Nigeria. Orisha are spirits sent by Olodumare (Almighty) for the guidance of all creation, especially humanity. 
  • AVRIL (16D: Singer Lavigne) AVRIL Lavigne's sixth studio album, Head Above Water, was released in 2019. In addition to singing, AVRIL voiced the role of Heather (a Virginia opossum) in the animated film, Over the Hedge, and played the role of Alice in the film, Fast Food Nation.
  • SONIA (42D: Poet Sanchez) A 2015 documentary spotlighting Sanchez's work and life story is titled BaddDDD SONIA Sanchez. The title is a reference to Sanchez's second book, We a BaddDDD People, published in 1970, that focused on the everyday lives of Black men and women. 
  • ARIA (54D: Word aptly hidden in Marian Anderson's name) In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) denied permission for Marian Anderson to sing in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Later that year, with the aid of Eleanor Roosevelt, Anderson performed an open-air concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. In 1955, Marian Anderson was the first Black person to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Anderson was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • KYRA (8A: Actress Sedgwick) KYRA Sedgwick played the role of Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson on The Closer, and had a recurring role as Madeline Wuntch on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. More importantly, KYRA is my sister's name! I am grateful to Actress Sedgwick for making KYRA crossword-acceptable. (Hi, Seester!)
  • NPR (19A: "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!") Like Evan, I appreciate opportunities to highlight NPR and Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me. As I've mentioned before, Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me is the go-to podcast when my husband and I are on a road trip.
  • RIDE-ALONG (59A: Trip that's an anagram of "reloading") A RIDE-ALONG is an opportunity for a civilian to spend a shift observing the work day of a paramedic, firefighter, or police officer.
  • OLIVE (2D: Pizza fruit) Although I don't usually think about the fact that OLIVEs are fruit, OLIVEs are my pizza topping of choice. I like pineapple on pizza, too, though not with OLIVES. And, of course, tomatoes are technically fruits, too.
  • TAX DAY (27D: Filing deadline) Isn't it interesting that, as Evan noted, this is a [mainstream crossword] debut for TAX DAY? Timely, since this year's TAX DAY is July 15, extended from the usual April 15 date due to the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • JONES (45D: 1619 Project journalist Nikole Hannah-___) The 1619 Project is an ongoing New York Times project with the goal of re-examining the legacy of slavery in the United States. Nikole Hannah-JONES was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for the 1619 Project.
Geography review:
  • ASIA (64A: Bhutan's continent) Well, hello again, ASIA! The Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked country in South ASIA. It is South Asia's second-least populous nation. (The least populous South ASIA nation is Maldives.) The government of Bhutan is guided by the philosophy of Gross National Happiness, a concept that includes an index to measure the happiness of a population.
  • GENEVA (24D: Swiss city or lake) GENEVA, Switzerland hosts the highest number of international organizations in the world, including the headquarters of many United Nations agencies and the Red Cross. Lake GENEVA is the largest body of water in Switzerland.
I HAVE AN IDEA that this was a delightful puzzle. Many examples of inclusive clues and answers today, as has become a hallmark of the USA Today puzzle. This puzzle is a fine example of how inclusivity does not adversely affect solving experience - rather the opposite, in fact, as it enriches the solve. I especially enjoyed the theme answer PRIDE AND JOY, and the bonus of YOU GO, GIRL! 

And now, more from Evan:
Answer: 1- and 15-Across: “Roar” and “Wide Awake,” Katy Perry.