December 17, 2020

Title: IT'S FINE!

Constructors: Brooke Husic & Matthew Stock

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
LINE DANCES (16A: The Wobble and the Electric Slide)
POINT GUARD (30A: Position played by Courtney Vandersloot)
PRINT MEDIA (49A: Papers and magazines)
DINING HALL (64A: College cafeteria)

Theme synopsis: The first word of each theme answer can follow the word FINE, giving us FINE LINE, FINE POINT, FINE PRINT, and FINE DINING.

And now a word from our constructors:
Brooke: There's a type of playful clue seen in indie puzzles and some publications that uses an exclamation point to indicate it should be interpreted differently than a straightforward clue. Matthew introduced me to this kind of clue back when we started collaborating last spring, and he's amazing at writing them. For example, one Matthew wrote that I love is the clue [Pick me!] for the answer NIT. To anyone keeping tabs on our collaborations for the USA Today, we've clearly followed a trend, with this puzzle completing the trifecta that started with It's Lit! and was followed by It's Magic! (admittedly, they're not totally consistent, as the former theme was based around objects that can be lit on fire, whereas the latter theme and today's involve words that can precede the openings to the theme entries). It's an absolute joy to work with Matthew and to learn from him, and it's 100x more of a joy to be his friend. I hope you're on the edge of your seat for how we'll handle the title of our next USA Today collaboration.
Matthew: Making puzzles with Brooke is always more fun than making puzzles solo, and this most recent installment in the “It’s ___!” USA Today series was certainly no exception. Truly, the “!” at the end of each of our USA Today titles doesn’t do justice to how HYPE we get for these puzzles, and how much we enjoy putting them together (though it’s a good place to start!). Brooke’s fierce thoughtfulness makes her such an amazing friend in addition to a brilliant puzzle constructor, and I’m always so thankful to get to talk to her about crosswords or anything else. Hope you enjoy our “fine” effort here!

Things I learned:
  • PEAS (37A: Mame gohan veggies) Mame gohan, a dish in Japanese cuisine, is also known as "green PEAS rice." Not surprisingly then, the dish's main ingredients are PEAS and rice.
  • ERG (62A: Use a rowing machine) An indoor rowing machine is sometimes referred to as an ergometer, or ERG. The word ERG is also used to refer to using a rowing machine. This answer completely threw me. Even after I had completed the puzzle I didn't understand why it was correct. Now I know. Obviously, I am not familiar with indoor exercise equipment!
  • TENG (71A: Pianist Vienna) Pianist and singer-songwriter Vienna TENG's musical style incorporates folk, pop, and classical piano. You can check out TENG's music on her website.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • POINT GUARD (30A: Position played by Courtney Vandersloot) Courtney Vandersloot is a POINT GUARD for WNBA's Chicago Sky. She holds several WNBA records: most assists in a season (300), highest assists-per-game in a season (9.1), and highest career assists-per-game (6.2).
  • USAIN (35A: Fast Bolt) USAIN Bolt is an eight-time Olympic gold medalist, and an eleven-time World Champion. He holds the world record in the 100 metres, 200 metres, and 4 x 100 metres relay.
  • NAP (41A: Word after "cat" or "power") and CLAWS (13D: Cats' "fingernails") My cat, Willow, would like you to know she approves of the use of the word cat in multiple clues in today's puzzle. She is now off to take a catNAP.
  • RENEE (54A: Actress ___ Elise Goldsberry) RENÉE Elise Goldsberry originated the role of Angelica Schuyler on Broadway in the musical, Hamilton. "Satisfied" is my favorite song from Hamilton, and watching RENÉE Elise Goldsberry perform it is a treat.
  • ROE (61A: Ingredient in some maki) Maki is what many people think of when they think of sushi. It is a rice cylinder with nori, with additional ingredients in the middle. Some types of maki are topped with ROE.
  • SOUL (67A: Curtis Mayfield genre) Curtis Mayfield is one of the few artists to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. Mayfield was a member of the group, The Impressions, who were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991. In 1999, Mayfield was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a solo artist.
  • AUDIE (69A: Journalist Cornish) and NPR (41D: 69-Across network) AUDIE Cornish is a co-host of NPR's All Things Considered. She is also a panelist on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour
  • MAGNET (22D: Fridge decoration) Do you have magnets on your refrigerator, or are you a "clean fridge" person? We have quite a few fridge magnets. If a Princess Bride clue shows up in the puzzle I will definitely include a picture of our Princess Bride fridge magnet collection in that blog post. 
  • TSA (63D: ___ Bae) (uniformed "Insecure" character)) On the TV series Insecure, Issa's neighbor, Calvin (aka TSA Bae), is played by stand-up comedian Reggie Conquest.
Geography review:
  • CAIRO (13A: Capital on the Nile) CAIRO is the capital and largest city of Egypt.
  • TELUGU (9D: South Indian language) TELUGU is the official language in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Yanam district of Puducherry. 
This puzzle is fine - no, really, IT'S FINE! It's actually more than fine - it's delightful! As you can tell from their notes, Brooke and Matthew obviously enjoy constructing together, and it shows through in their puzzles. There are many benefits to solving crossword puzzles, including exercising your brain, and increasing your knowledge. But basically, most of us solve puzzles because they're fun! I am grateful to Brooke and Matthew (as I am to all constructors who share notes on the blog as its obviously optional!) for giving us a peek into the fun they have while constructing. As Brooke mentioned in her notes, their first co-constructed puzzle was titled IT'S LIT! When their second puzzle was titled, IT'S MAGIC! I told Matthew and Brooke via Twitter that I expected all of their future collaborations to feature exclamation points in the titles. Although I take no credit for inspiring today's title (I'm aware it was probably already in production at the time of my tweet) how fun to not be disappointed! Matthew even provided me with a delightful graphic to include in the blog about their first three collaborations: 
In addition to the solid theme answers and enjoyable cluing, I liked the answers ARE WE ON? and CAN'T YOU SEE! Also, when I was listing the theme answers above, I had the thought that PRINT MEDIA often contains FINE PRINT, but a DINING HALL is not always an example of FINE DINING. This puzzle was a lovely way to start my Thursday morning.


  1. Nice review but I don't understand the graphic at all

  2. Neither do I, but rest assured it's the most brilliant tweet to have ever been tweeted.

  3. The graphic is just a bit of light-hearted, Venn diagram fun with the themes of Brooke and Matthew's first three USA Today puzzle collaborations.

    1. Yeah, but what does "Fire Wallet", "Stick of incense" and "Wearing a tuxedo" mean in this context and why are they in the intersections of the themes ??

    2. Those terms should ideally be inside the Venn diagram in the sections where two of the circles overlap, but I'm guessing there wasn't room (or placing them there required impossibly small type). Those things are not related to the puzzles or the themes, but are simply examples of things that fit in two of the categories. For example, a "fire wallet" is a magic trick where a wallet is set on fire, so a fire wallet is "lit" and "magic."

    3. Wearing a Tuxedo might be Fine but it's not magical in nature and a stick of incense may be lit but it certainly isn't fine

    4. Well, I think a case could be made. But it's Matthew's graphic, and I'm not going to argue his choices. I simply included it because I thought it was fun. :-)


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