March 9, 2021


Constructor: Matthew Stock

Editors: Erik Agard & Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
PRIME MERIDIAN (20A: Line at zero degrees longitude)
EXTREME MEASURES (36A: Drastic steps)
LIFETIME MEMBERS (59A: Permanent patrons)

Theme synopsis: The two words in each theme answer SHARE the word MEME.

And now a word from our constructor:
Matthew: I’ve been impressed in the past when other USA Today constructors have occasionally dipped into lower-word-count grids while maintaining the USA Today's high fill standards, so I figured I’d try it myself! This set of three themers (including two 15s) afforded me a lot of flexibility, as did the decision to use L/R mirror symmetry (that way, the themers could truly go in any row). I was so excited to get all the fun long non-theme entries in as a result! My favorite clues/entries are 10-Across, 53-Down — highly highly recommend the book! — and 43-Across, which was a great opportunity to learn something new and confront some ableist biases that I had previously harbored about that typeface. Thanks so much as always to Sally for her wonderful writeup. I hope you enjoyed the puzzle!

Things I learned:
  • NWSL (10A: North Carolina Courage org.) The North Carolina Courage is a professional soccer team in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL). The team was started in 2017, and plays their home games at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina. Here I am once again learning more about sports from crossword puzzles.
  • ANA (25A: Actress Martin) ANA Martin is a Mexican actress best known for her work in telenovelas, a type of limited run TV series produced primarily in Latin America. She was also Miss Mexico in 1963.
  • HUE (29A: Health in Her ___ (healthcare app for Black women)) According to their website, Health in Her HUE is a "digital platform that connects Black women and women of color to culturally competent and sensitive healthcare providers, and offers health information and content that centers Black women's lived experiences." Inequality presents in many forms. Black women have long faced disparities in health care. I enjoyed learning about this app that is doing what it can to help.
  • ADAM (55A: ___ Clayton Powell, Jr.) ADAM Clayton Powell, Jr. represented the Harlem neighborhood of New York City in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1945 to 1971. He was the first Black Representative to be elected from New York. In 1974, Seventh Avenue in Harlem was officially renamed ADAM Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • PRIME MERIDIAN (20A: Line at zero degrees longitude) What I learned this morning from reading up on the PRIME MERIDIAN is that the concept is complicated. Unlike the equator, which is determined by the axis of rotation, the determination of a PRIME MERIDIAN is arbitrary. Wikipedia has a list of 40 PRIME MERIDIANs. However, the meridian most often meant when one refers to the PRIME MERIDIAN is the one maintained by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS). This PRIME MERIDIAN is close to, but not exactly the same as, the PRIME MERIDIAN that passes through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England. (I told you it was complicated!) 
  • COMIC SANS (43A: Typeface recommended by the British Dyslexia Association) Ah, COMIC SANS! As I have previously written, many people have strong feelings about this typeface. Some people do not like it at all. It is a helpful font for students with dyslexia, partly because of wider spacing between letters than seen with other fonts. I personally have always enjoyed a little COMIC SANS in my life, so it's nice to have a positive reason to use it.
  • METEORS (62A: Shooting Stars) and SCIENCE (63A: Astronomy, for example) I'm always a fan of SCIENCE in my crossword puzzles! It was fun to see it as an answer today. Astronomy was a great choice to give as an example immediately following the METEORS clue. I also enjoy that the lower corner of the puzzle says "SCIENCE TODAY." A great motto.
  • MEM (38A: Palindromic Hebrew letter ) MEM is the thirteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and is believed to have derived from the Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol for water. 
  • MERCY (53A: "Just ___" (Bryan Stevenson book)) Bryan Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization providing legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, and to poor people without adequate legal support. It was just three days ago that I recommended the movie, Just MERCY, based on Bryan Stevenson's book of the same name. I haven't read the book, but it's on my "would like to read" list. 
  • TOE (60D: It might be stubbed on a coffee table) Ouch! Just reading this clue made me want to pull my toes back and protect them. Nice descriptive clue.
I like the concept of the words in the theme answer sharing the word MEME. MEMES are so eminently shareable - a fun theme idea! Great long theme answers. It's a nice touch that EXTREME MEASURES is grid-spanning and touches the EXTREME edges of the grid. (It just occurred to me that PRIME MERIDIAN would make a great vertical entry - you can't have everything...) As Matthew mentioned, this puzzle has left-right symmetry - it is symmetrical along a vertical line down the center of the puzzle. If you're intrigued by different types of symmetry, I recommend checking out a recent puzzle of Matthew's on his blog that has translational symmetry. Back to this puzzle - PUTS TO BED, POOR TASTE, and LET ME SEE were nice answers. I also liked the fun clue for POOR TASTE. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Tuesday.