May 21, 2021


Constructors: Claire Rimkus & Brooke Husic

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
FRESH PAIR OF EYES (17A: What might help with reviewing a draft you've read 10,000 times)
REPAIR JOB (33A: Bike chain replacement, e.g.)
BAD HAIR DAYS (53A: Occasions for tress-related stress)

Theme synopsis: The word AIR is found in the exact MIDdle of each theme answer, and in the MIDdle of the puzzle.

And now a word from our constructors:
Claire & Brooke: We love this puzzle and hope you do too! We loled at our clue for 17A when we saw it with 17A.

Things I learned:
  • ALLIE (39A: Brosh who wrote "Hyperbole and a Half") Have you ever had the experience of not thinking you know something, and then researching it and discovering you did know it at one time, but had forgotten? (This actually happens more times than I care to dwell on, but today I'm admitting it.) Turns out I already knew about ALLIE Brosh. Her first book, published in 2013, is titled Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened. Her blog is also titled Hyperbole and a Half. ALLIE's blog is a mixture of text and webcomic that tells stories from her life. Her post about living with depression resonated with many readers and has been viewed millions of times. ALLIE Brosh has written a second book. It was published last year, and is titled Solutions and Other Problems. I bought Solutions and Other Problems, and gave it to my son for Christmas last year, so I've not only heard of ALLIE Brosh before (and read her webcomics!), but have also purchased one of her books. 
  • ALI (7D: Actor Mohammad-___ Keshavarz) Mohammad-ALI Keshavarz was a prominent Iranian actor. He appeared in many Iranian movies, as well as the 1978 Iranian-American movie, Caravans. He died last year at the age of 90.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ATTA (14A: Flour that's a palindrome) ATTA is a wholemeal wheat flour. ATTA flour is used to make flatbreads such as roti, naan, and chapati. Because of the high gluten content of ATTA flour, dough made with it is strong and elastic, and can be rolled into thin sheets.
  • FRESH PAIR OF EYES (17A: What might help with reviewing a draft you've read 10,000 times) This is a fun clue/answer, and also true! It is extremely difficult to edit your own work. (That's why I'm always grateful to readers who kindly make me aware of mistakes so I can fix them.)
  • MAYA (36A: Athlete and activist Moore) This clue makes me feel better for not remembering ALLIE Brosh; I remembered MAYA Moore, who I wrote about last December. MAYA Moore is a professional basketball player for WNBA's Minnesota Lynx. She is currently taking a break from playing professional basketball to focus on her criminal justice reform efforts. MAYA Moore was instrumental in the effort that resulted in Jonathon Irons being freed from prison after 23 years of being wrongfully incarcerated
  • BAD HAIR DAYS (53A: Occasions for tress-related stress) This was another fun clue. I like the rhyming combination of tress/stress.
  • HALLE (18D: Singer Bailey) HALLE Bailey is half of the R&B duo, Chloe x Halle, which I learned about from the August 20, 2020 puzzle. The other half of the duo is HALLE's sister, Chloe. Their latest album, titled Ungodly Hour, was released in June, 2020.
  • ALOO (55A: 55D: Another word for "potato") ALOO is a South Asian term for potatoes, and is used in the names of a number of dishes, including some I have written about previously, such as ALOO gobi and ALOO puri.
This puzzle features left-right mirror symmetry; it is symmetrical along a vertical axis down the center of the puzzle. Mirror symmetry is a useful construction tool when the theme answers are not paired in length, such as the 15-letter, 9-letter, and 11-letter theme answers today. The use of mirror symmetry today allowed the theme answers to be center, so that AIR is found in the MIDdle of the puzzle. This grid is a fun design. I am amused that the TOT appears to be wearing a hat. BAD HAIR DAYS is similarly trying to hide under a hat, a useful strategy! In addition to the theme, there are many other great answers here, including MOBILITY AID, PARAPHRASED, MAYHEM, YOGA BALL, and MADE SURE. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Friday.
You can solve more puzzles by both of today's constructors on their respective puzzle sites. Find Brooke's puzzles at words by a ladee, where she also posts about puzzles she has published elsewhere. Claire has a brand new puzzle blog with another of the USA Today constructors, Rachel Fabi. Their site is just gridding!


  1. thanks so much for the great writeup (as always) and for including links to our blogs :)

  2. A lovely puzzle from Claire and Brooke. The clue for 15 Across was wonderfully indirect. I kept trying to squeeze in "cross-examination" as I kept thinking of a courtroom. One lone tater tot? So sad.

  3. STORM, STARE, STEEP, and both STEP and STEPPE. That's almost more of a theme than AIR!

  4. I often forgot I knew things too, and don't know why I know things.


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