January 5, 2021


Constructor: Hoang-Kim Vu

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
JOB SECURITY (18A: What tenure provides, typically)
JOINT CUSTODY (27A: Parental sharing)
JOURNAL ENTRY (47A: Excerpt from a diary)
JOY DIVISION (61A: Band represented by 18-, 27- and 47-across)

Theme synopsis: The first three theme answers begin with the letters JO- and end with the letter -Y. The word JOY is SPREAD by the answers - therefore, we have JOY DIVISION.

Things I learned:
  • JOY DIVISION (61A: Band represented by 18-, 27- and 47-across) JOY DIVISION was a post-punk English band active from 1976 to 1980. JOY DIVISION is also the name of a 2007 documentary about the band. The band dissolved after its lead vocalist died by suicide. The remaining band members regrouped under the name New Order. The band's name is a perfect revealer for today's theme. It didn't matter that I wasn't familiar with the band, since their name was inferable based on what was happening in the puzzle.
  • ROBYN (19D: "Dancing on My Own") ROBYN is a Swedish singer and songwriter. Her song "Dancing on My Own," was a hit when it was released in 2010, and has since been covered by other artists and used in several TV shows, including RuPaul's Drag Race and Orange is the New Black
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • BCE (39A: Modern opposite of A.D.) BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era) are alternatives to the designations BC (Before Christ) and AD (anno Domini),
  • EVE (42A: Sociologist and author Ewing) EVE Ewing is an assistant professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. Ewing's 2018 book, Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago's South Side, looks at the demise of public schools in areas of Chicago following the demolition of public housing. In December 2020, Ewing announced on Twitter that her book for young readers, Maya and the Robot, will be available in July 2021. I first learned about EVE Ewing from the July 21, 2020 puzzle, which used the title of one of her poems to clue OYSTER KNIFE. 
  • LISA (7D: Member of Blackpink) Blackpink is a South Korean girl group which I first learned about from the November 9, 2020 puzzle. (They also made an appearance in the November 27, 2020 puzzle.) In addition to LISA, Blackpink's members are Jisoo, Jennie, and Rosé.
  • CAN (29D: Container of corn) Fun, slightly misleading clue. My first thought was "cob," which is occasionally clued as "corn holder."
  • I, TOO (40D: Langston Hughes Poem) First published in 1925, "I, TOO," is still relevant today. Black Lives Matter.  
  • FJORD (44D: Norwegian inlet) A FJORD is a long narrow inlet with steep cliffs. Oslo, the capital of Norway, is situated on one of the country's nearly 1,200 FJORDs. Here's some trivia I wrote about January 1, that I think is interesting enough to repeat: The coastline of Norway is approximately 1,600 miles if FJORDs are excluded, but is estimated to be 18,000 miles if FJORDs are included in the measurement.
  • ROYAL (51D: Kansas City baseball) Although I often say everything I know about sports I learned from crossword puzzles, I actually knew this answer! I spent part of my growing up years in Columbia, Missouri, equidistant from the Kansas City ROYALS and the St. Louis Cardinals. Therefore, I know the ROYALs, although I remain a Cardinals fan. 
Geography review:
  • ATL (52A: OutKast's city, for short) The hip hop duo, OutKast, originated in ATLanta, Georgia in 1992.
  • NOTRE (12D: ___ Dame) NOTRE Dame most commonly refers to the cathedral in Paris France, or the University of NOTRE Dame in NOTRE Dame, Indiana. There are many other churches named NOTRE Dame, including ones in Cambodia, Guadaloupe, and Luxembourg. There are also other cities and colleges named NOTRE Dame. The name "NOTRE Dame" translates to "Our Lady."
  • TONGA (32D: Country represented by Pita Taufatofua) TONGA is a Polynesian country comprised of 169 islands in the Pacific Ocean. Pita Taufatofua is a taekwondo practitioner and skier who was the flag bearer for TONGA at the 2016 Olympics and 2018 Winter Olympics. He gained recognition after appearing in the 2016 Olympic opening ceremonies with an oiled torso wearing the traditional costume of TONGA. 
This was a JOYful puzzle, and it was also JOY-full! Filling in JOB SECURITY clued me in to the theme early on. "Ah, SPREADING HAPPINESS, nice," I thought. When I came across JOY DIVISION, it was a delightful added bonus. USA Today puzzles don't often have revealers, using the title to serve the function of giving a clue to the theme. Therefore, I wasn't expecting the revealer today, making it a fun (dare I say JOYful?) surprise, and elevating the puzzle to the NEXT LEVEL. This theme was a GREAT IDEA, and well-executed, with smooth fill all around. This is Hoang-Kim Vu's first USA Today puzzle. Solving this puzzle was a JOYful way to start my Tuesday.
It's been said we are living in a golden age of crosswords, and I believe that to be true. There are many crosswords available right now. Whether your preference is for easy or challenging puzzles, themed or themeless crosswords, and whether you like a lot of references to popular culture, or none at all, you can hopefully find puzzles you enjoy solving. I want to let you know about a couple of new crossword opportunities. 
The folks at Boswords are having a Winter Wondersolve on Sunday, January 31 from 2:00-5:00 p.m. (That's Eastern time - adjust accordingly.) During that time there will be four puzzles to solve - three themed puzzles, and one themeless. Andrew Kingsley and John Lieb, the directors of Bosword, do a great job with these events. I participated in the Boswords Fall League event and thoroughly enjoyed it. I should note that although these events are designed as tournaments, it doesn't matter if you are not a speed solver. I am not a competitive solver at all! I was delighted to finish in the top 70% of the Choppy (medium) division in the Fall League. (Yes, that could also be described as the bottom 30%.) What I enjoyed about the experience, in addition to the puzzles, was spending time hanging out with the crossword community. There were interviews with constructors, solvers, and editors, and it was great to hear their perspectives and insights. It's also fun to watch the chat during the event, whether you contribute to the conversation or not. I expect the Winter Wondersolve to be more of the same. The cost to register is $20 - quite reasonable for an afternoon of entertainment. I encourage you to check it out.
Another opportunity is a new project by Malaika Handa at the website 7xwords.com. The project began on January 1. A new 7x7 crossword, constructed by Malaika or a guest constructor (some of the guest constructors are USA Today constructors), is posted on the site six days a week (no new puzzle on Mondays). Each 7x7 puzzle will have a unique grid, such that by the end of this year, all possible 7x7 grid configurations will be used. You can see all of the upcoming grids on the website, as well as read more about the project. I have enjoyed the puzzles so far, and look forward to solving these throughout the upcoming year.
Although I like to tell you about various puzzle opportunities as I become aware of them, I know I miss some. However, if you'd like to know where to find crossword puzzles, Matt Gritzmacher can tell you! Matt publishes a daily newsletter of crossword puzzle links. It's a great source for finding puzzles and learning about new puzzle blogs or special puzzles. You can subscribe to receive Matt's list as a daily email. Matt does a fabulous job of keeping track of the many puzzle opportunities, and I am grateful.
Happy solving!


  1. Is it Hoang-Kim Vu's debut on USA Today ? If so congrats ! There really seems to be a lot of opportunities to solve puzzles. I've started making puzzles on Crosshare as well ! (Link to people that may be interested - https://crosshare.org/saswat ). The puzzles are decent if I do say so myself, though I do need to get better at cluing. I've also reached out to Malaika Handa to see if I could make a 7x7. So far, no response :( Oh well XD. Great review as always !

    1. Yes, it's Hoang-Kim Vu's debut. Glad you've been constructing - I'll check out your puzzles!


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