July 20, 2020

Constructor: Tracy Gray
Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
CHINA CLOSET (21A: Dining room cabinet)
ON A CLEAR DAY (32A: "___ (You Can See Forever)" (Streisand song))
OH, BARNACLES! (42A:"SpongeBob SquarePants" exclamation)
PUT IN A CLAIM (55A: File paperwork for house damages, say)
NACL (69A: Salt, in chemistry class)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer contains the letter string N-A-C-L. As 69-Across reminds us, NACL is the chemical formula for salt. Therefore, each theme answer contains SALTY LANGUAGE.

Things I learned:
  • ANIME (61A: Crunchyroll offering) No, Crunchyroll is not a sushi order, that would be a "crunchy roll." Crunchyroll is a video streaming service that focuses on ANIME, manga, and dorama (which my autocorrect really wants to make drama!) ANIME is hand-drawn and computer animation originating from Japan. Colorful graphics, vibrant characters, and fantastical themes are characteristic of ANIME. In January 2017, Crunchyroll began awarding annual Crunchyroll ANIME Awards to recognize ANIME from the previous year.
  • MATT (63A: Archer Stutzman) MATT Stutzman holds a world record for the longest accurate shot in archery. You can watch a video of him achieving that record. MATT competed in the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics, winning a silver medal in 2012. I also learned that MATT lives in Fairfield, Iowa, so we're practically neighbors!
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ATTA (65A: Roti flour) ATTA is a wholemeal wheat flour used to make flatbreads such as roti, naan, and chapati. ATTA originated from the Indian subcontinent and is the most widely used flour in that area. Its high gluten content means that dough made with ATTA flour will be strong and elastic, and can be rolled into thin sheets.
  • RICE (24D: It may be dirty or sticky) This is a fun clue and made me smile.
  • HODA (43D: "Today" host Kotb) In addition to co-hosting the entertainment-focused hour of Today, HODA Kotb has published six books. One of her two children's books, I've Loved You Since Forever was adapted into a lullaby by Kelly Clarkson
  • NO CIGAR (44D: "Close, but ___") Meaning ALMOST (10D: "You're so close!"), the phrase, "Close, but NO CIGAR," traces its origins back to the time when carnivals used to give out cigars as prizes. (Can you imagine?!) This phrase would be said to those who didn't win a prize.
  • TINA (57D: "Wine Country" star Fey) TINA Fey is a former Saturday Night Live cast member and is known for her deadpan humor and delivery. In 2010, she was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, and is the youngest person to receive this honor. If you need a reason to laugh, and honestly, don't we all at the moment, I recommend listening to the audiobook of Bossypants, TINA Fey's autobiographical comedy book, which she narrates.
Geography review:
  • ERIE (66A: Spooky-sounding Pennsylvania city) ERIE, Pennsylvania is the county seat of ERIE County, and is situated on Lake ERIE. As you might expect, the city of ERIE is named for Lake ERIE and for the Native American ERIE people. 
  • CUBA (22D: Country west of Haiti) The country of CUBA is comprised of the island of CUBA, the Isla de la Juventud, and several minor island chains. The capital of CUBA is Havana.
Starting the week with a science-based puzzle makes me happy! Although I haven't actively worked in a science field for many years, I remain a scientist at heart (my Ph.D. is in pharmacology) and science references in crossword puzzles bring me joy. We don't usually see revealers in USA Today puzzles, as the puzzle title generally serves that function. Realizing that not everyone has a science background, it was a smart choice to include a revealer of sorts in this puzzle, perfectly placed as the last Across answer. 
Looking at the theme answers, CHINA CLOSET seems less familiar than CHINA CUPBOARD or CHINA CABINET. Likewise, PUT IN A CLAIM sounds more stilted to my ears than FILE A CLAIM. Even so, I don't have a problem with the less familiar phrases being used to make the theme work. Both phrases are in the language, even if less familiar than their counterparts. The meaning of each phrase is inferable such that it can be deduced, even if one was not familiar with it. I don't watch SpongeBob SquarePants, but I may start using the phrase, "OH, BARNACLES!" as it's delightful.


  1. Thanks, Sarah, for your detailed review. A fun puzzle. I just love salty language ;-). One minor question. Shouldn't 15 Across read "Cinco + tres" or "Cinco y tres" or "Cinco más tres?" It seems wrong with just a space between the two Spanish words.

    1. Hi, David ~ I solved the puzzle using the USA Today App, and there the clue for 15-Across appears as "Cinco + tres." I just looked up the puzzle online and indeed there is no "+" sign there! I can understand why you might have been confused. I wonder how it appeared in the paper?


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