July 27, 2020

Constructor: Mark McClain
Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers: 
COUNTRY SINGER (20A: Mickey Guyton, for example)
STATE UNIVERSITY (36A: Alabama A&M, for example)
LAND DEVELOPER (47A: Professional with a civil engineering degree, perhaps)

Theme synopsis: The first word of each of the theme answers is a synonym for NATION - COUNTRY, STATE, LAND. Taken as a whole, each theme answer describes someone or something that is an INTEREST of a NATION. I feel like I'm not explaining this well, and perhaps there is a layer of theme I am missing. Feel free to comment or contact me and share your thoughts on the theme!

Things I learned:
  • ALIA (14A: Actress Bhatt) ALIA Bhatt works in Hindi-language films, and launched her own production company, Eternal Sunshine Productions, in 2019. She starred in Gully Boy, a musical inspired by the life of street rappers Divine and Naezy.
  • COUNTRY SINGER (20A: Mickey Guyton, for example) Mickey Guyton is the only Black female artist signed to a major country music label. In June of this year she released a song she co-wrote titled, "Black Like Me." The song's chorus includes the lines: "If you think we live in the land of the free/You should try to be Black like me." Here's your reminder: Black lives matter.
  • ALEC (2D: Brother of Izzy and Max in "The Mortal Instruments") The Mortal Instruments is a series of six fantasy novels written by Cassandra Clare. The first book in the series is titled, City of Bones. This is the third series in the author's Shadowhunter Chronicles.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • SARA (5A: Tegan's twin) Tegan and SARA Quin are identical twins and are also singer songwriters performing as an indie pop duo. Tegan and SARA are both openly gay and have been active in advocating for LGBTQ equality. The duo won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Music Artist in 2014 and 2017.
  • PBJ (30A: Sandwich akin to a fluffernutter) A fluffernutter is a peanut butter and marshmallow creme sandwich. When I first read sandwich in the clue and saw it was a 3-letter answer, BLT popped into my head, immediately followed by the thought, "That's not related to a fluffernutter!" My train of thought quickly switched to the correct track.
  • STATE UNIVERSITY (36A: Alabama A&M, for example) Alabama A&M is a historically black, land-grant STATE UNIVERSITY in Normal, Alabama. Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are colleges that were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with the intention of primarily serving Black communities.
  • MISTY (44A: "A Ballerina's Tale" star Copeland) A Ballerina's Tale is a documentary about the career challenges MISTY Copeland has faced as a Black woman in the ballet world. In 2015, MISTY Copeland was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
  • CAN'T (55A: "___ relate") I wrote in I CAN at first. I guess I'm relatable.
  • SOFT (63A: Toilet paper label word) This clue made me laugh. A fun way to clue SOFT.
Geography review:
  • RICO (3D: Puerto ___) Puerto RICO is an unincorporated territory of the United States. It is group of islands in the Caribbean Sea.
  • OAHU (4D: Iolani Palace Island) OAHU is the third-largest of the Hawaiian islands. The capital of Hawaii, Honolulu, is on OAHU.
As mentioned above, I feel like I might be missing a layer of the theme here. Even so, the puzzle was an enjoyable solve, with lots of the inclusive cluing and answers that the USA Today crossword is becoming known for. A delightful start to the week.