July 21, 2020

Title: OK Then
Constructor: Evan Kalish
Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
OLGA KORBUT (17A: Gymnast nicknamed the "Sparrow from Minsk)
OYSTER KNIFE (28A: "what I mean when I say I'm sharpening my ___" (Ewing poem))
OMAR KHAYYAM (44A: Persian poet/astronomer/mathematician)
ONSIDE KICK (58A: Risky football play)

Theme synopsis: Each two word theme answer consists of one word beginning with the letter O, and a second word beginning with the letter K - OK THEN.

And now a word from our constructor:
Evan: Ah, yes, initial puzzles. This set played reasonably nicely with the grid, despite some tricky letters. I worked to be extra sure that the crosses for the names were fair. My favorite entry in the grid is 9-Down, which I believe is a crossword debut!
Easter egg-ish challenge: Two adjacent entries in this puzzle comprise 2/3 of a famous song title. What are they? (Answer below!)

Things I learned:
  • OYSTER KNIFE (28A: "what I mean when I say I'm sharpening my ___" (Ewing poem)) Eve Ewing is a sociologist, author, poet, and visual artist, and an assistant professor at the University of Chicago. Her poem, "what I mean when I say I'm sharpening my OYSTER KNIFE," was inspired by a quote from Zora Neale Hurston, "No, I do not weep at the world - I am too busy sharpening my OYSTER KNIFE."
  • OMAR KHAYYAM (44A: Persian poet/astronomer/mathematician) OMAR KHAYYAM lived from 1048 to 1131. In the area of mathematics, OMAR KHAYYAM is most well-known for his work on the classification of cubic equations (e.g. ax3 + bx2 + cx + d = 0). In the area of astronomy, OMAR KHAYYAM designed a solar calendar known as the Jalali calendar. His calendar fixed the first day of the year at the time of the vernal equinox, or Norwuz. Remember Norwuz, the Iranian New Year that we learned about two days ago?
  • LEAH (10D: "The Half of It" star Lewis) The Half of It is a coming-of-age movie starring LEAH Lewis as Ellie Chu. It was released on Netflix on May 1, 2020. LEAH Lewis said of the movie, "It is a love story, it's just not a 'romance' story." LEAH also plays the role of George in The CW Television Network adaptation of Nancy Drew. Although not previously familiar with LEAH Lewis, I'm partial to this answer because LEAH is my daughter's name. (My sister's name appeared in the July 11 puzzle that was also constructed by Evan. A fun coincidence, and now I'm wondering which of my family member's will be the next to appear in an Evan puzzle!)
  • STREAK (29D: Feature of Rogue's hair) Rogue is a Marvel comics superhero. Interestingly, she initially debuted as a villain, but later joined the X-Men. Rogue has the ability to absorb the memories, physical strength, and superpowers of anyone she touches. She has a white STREAK in her hair.
  • RICE (55D: Jollof grain) Jollof RICE is a one-pot dish popular in many West African countries. The name Jollof is derived from the name of the Wolof people, an ethnic group found in parts of Senegal, the Gambia, and Mauritania.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • OLGA KORBUT (17A: Gymnast nicknamed the "Sparrow from Minsk) In 1988, OLGA KORBUT was the first inductee to the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame. OLGA KORBUT competed for the Soviet team in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics, winning four gold and two silver medals. OLGA KORBUT's 1972 Olympic performances are credited with increasing the popularity of gymnastics as a sport. 
  • ONSIDE KICK (58A: Risky football play) An ONSIDE KICK is a kickoff deliberately kicked short in the hope that the kicking team can regain possession of the ball before the receiving team can control it.
  • LENA (16A: Best friend of Carmen, Bridget and Tibby) Carmen, Bridget, Tibby, and LENA are the main characters in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, a series of books by Ann Brashares that were later adapted into movies.
  • TRES (36A: Siete minus cuatro) For the second day in a row, we're asked to do math in Spanish! 
  • LEAK (48A: Homophone of one vegetable; anagram of another) Indeed, LEAK sounds like leek, and is an anagram of kale.
  • UDON (57A: Yaki ___ (noodle dish)) Yaki UDON is a Japanese stir fry dish of UDON noodles, meat, and vegetables.
  • ALL GENDER (9D: Like some restrooms) I have felt for some time that all public restrooms should be ALL GENDER. After all, our restrooms at home are. Nice crossword debut for this answer.
  • EDIE (52D: "Nurse Jackie" star Falco) You may remember from the July 18 puzzle that EDIE Falco also played the role of Carmela Soprano.
Geography review:
  • GUAM (13A: Island where many Chamorros live) The Chamorro people are the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands. GUAM is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean.
  • LIBYA (14A: Tripoli's country) Tripoli is the capital of LIBYA. Tripoli is on the coast of LIBYA, on a point of rocky land projecting into the Mediterranean Sea.
  • TAMPA (27D: Florida city on a bay) TAMPA, Florida is on TAMPA Bay, near the Gulf of Mexico.
  • IOWAN (31D: Person from Des Moines, e.g.) Or, say, "the writer of a daily blog about the USA Today crossword puzzle."
  • DAKAR (50D: Capital of Senegal) DAKAR is a port city on the Atlantic Ocean and is the westernmost city on the African mainland.
O and K are not the most common letters, meaning that a few of the theme answers might be unfamiliar to some solvers. I appreciated that Evan tried to make sure the crosses were fair. I felt like he succeeded. An enjoyable solve. KUDOS (18D: "Great job!") - I thought this puzzle was more than OK! 

And now, more from Evan:
Answer: 30- and 24-Down: “ Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden.


  1. More than OK indeed, but also slightly trickier than I'd expected. I was born in 1989 and have never been able to remember how to spell KHAYYAM, so the theme required more work than usual.


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