January 19, 2021


Constructor: Mollie Cowger

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
BLACK LIGHT (3D: UV radiation source)
COFFEE FILTER (9D: Single-use item in a morning routine)
STRING THEORY (22D: Particle physics framework with 10+ dimensions)
JELLY DONUT (31D: Berliner or sufganiyah)

Theme synopsis: The theme answer are all SPILLing Down the puzzle.The first word of each theme answer is a type of BEAN. Today we are SPILLing THE BLACK BEANS, COFFEE BEANS, STRING BEANS, and JELLY BEANS.

And now a word from our constructor:
Mollie: Hello again! I'm back with my second USA Today puzzle; I hope it brought you some wholesome, bean-themed joy. In looking back at the puzzle for this write-up, I noticed and appreciated the little stack of ROOF RACKS and FOREST, which reminds me of camping trips. I'm also partial to DIET SODAS (as fill, not to drink, love and respect to diet soda drinkers but I think they taste gross), DON'T ASK, and GREAT JOB.
One thing I love about constructing crosswords is learning about new-to-me writers, artists, etc. I wasn't previously familiar with LEE Maracle (whom Erik suggested as a cluing angle), but her work has been lovely to explore. I'm especially struck by the imagery in her poem "Language," excerpted here: https://arcpoetry.ca/2017/01/07/words-lodged-in-muscle-and-bone-lee-maracles-talking-to-the-diaspora/
Lastly, I've *very* recently (i.e. yesterday) started a puzzle blog where I'll be posting a new puzzle every other Monday, and there are two puzzles already up to kick it off. Check it out at https://crosswordsfromouterspace.blogspot.com/

Things I learned:
  • AMBER (1A: Late-night host Ruffin) When AMBER Ruffin became a writer for Late Night with Seth Meyers in 2014, she was the first Black woman to write for an American late-night talk show. In September 2020, she became the host of her own late-night show, The Amber Ruffin Show.
  • THE WEST (26A: "Journey to ___" (Chinese novel with a directional name)) Journey to THE WEST was published during the Ming dynasty in the 16th century. It is one of the Four Great Classic Novels of Chinese Literature, works which are among the world's oldest novels. The other three works in this group are Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin, and Dream of the Red Chamber
  • LEE (42A: Author Maracle) LEE Maracle is a Canadian writer of Salish and Cree ancestry. Many of her writings address the treatment of indigenous people, especially women, by the Canadian government. Her most recent book of poetry, Hope Matters, was written with her daughters, Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter. I found these words from her poem "War" to be moving and challenging: "I am moved by my love for human life;/ by the firm conviction that all the world/ must stop the butchery, stop the slaughter." I also recommend reading the examples of her poetry that Mollie linked to above. 
  • WRLD (27D: "Lucid Dreams" rapper Juice ___) Rapper Juice WRLD's song "Lucid Dreams" has been played over one billion times on Spotify. 
  • RAI (37D: Bollywood star Aishwarya) Aishwarya RAI is one of the most popular celebrities in India. Her film appearances include Bride and Prejudice, The Last Legion, and The Mistress of Spices
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • INUIT (69A: Language group that includes Inupiaq and Inuktitut) The INUIT languages are a related group of indigenous languages traditionally spoken across the North American Arctic.
  • EID (4D: "___ Mubarak" (holiday greeting)) "EID Mubarak" is an Arabic term meaning "Blessed Feast," or "Blessed Festival." It is used as a greeting on the festivals of Eid al-Adha (holiday honoring Abraham's obedience to God) and Eid al-Fitr (holiday marking the end of Ramadan). 
  • SARAH (6D: Novelist Dessen) SARAH Dessen's novels include Along for the Ride, The Moon and More, and The Rest of the Story. The 2003 movie, How to Deal, was based on her book, That Summer
  • LACE (11D: Fabric for some judges' collars) The "Notorious" and amazing Ruth Bader Ginsburg was aware that as a woman on the Supreme Court, everything she did would be scrutinized, including her clothing choices. She decided to embrace that, and became well known for her LACE collars, which "signaled her positions before she even opened her mouth."
  • STRING THEORY (22D: Particle physics framework with 10+ dimensions) STRING THEORY is a physics theory used to describe how particles propagate through space and interact with each other. (Does it sound like I understand this? I do not.)
  • JELLY DONUT (31D: Berliner or sufganiyah) A Berliner is a traditional German pastry with a marmalade or jam filling. A sufganiyah is a round JELLY DONUT eaten traditionally on the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.
  • DOSA (Pancake served with chutney) Originating from South India, DOSA is a thin pancake made from a fermented batter of lentils and rice. 
  • DEA (64D: "Narcos" org.) Narcos is a TV series based on Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, and his interactions with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). 
Now that I've solved this puzzle, I'm sitting here under a BLACK LIGHT, drinking COFFEE (I put the COFFEE FILTER in the compost), eating a JELLY DONUT, and thinking about STRING THEORY. Although none of that is true - my light is from an LED bulb, I'm drinking tea (though I did put the tea bag in the compost), I had oatmeal for breakfast, and I'm thinking about the puzzle - those were delightful theme answers. A fun theme today featuring four quite different types of BEANS. As Mollie mentioned in her constructor's notes, one of the joys of crosswords, whether it's constructing, solving, or blogging about them, is discovering new things. I enjoyed learning new things from today's puzzle. GREAT JOB, Mollie! This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Tuesday.