Title: ALL SQUARE
Constructor: Wendy L. Brandes
Editor: Erik Agard
JAWBREAKER (16A: Very hard candy)
MEALS ON WHEELS (23A: Organization delivering food and support)
DANCE PARTNERS (45A: The two that it takes to tango)
DEAL MAKERS (55A: Skilled negotiators)
Theme synopsis: The first word of ALL of the theme answers can follow the word SQUARE to form a new phrase. We have SQUARE JAW, SQUARE MEALS, SQUARE DANCE, and SQUARE DEAL.
Things I learned:
- SHUMAI (42A: Dim sum dumpling) SHUMAI is a type of traditional Chinese dumpling originating from Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia in China. The dumplings are often steamed, though fried variations exist. Shumai is a popular dim sum offering. Dim sum is a variety of small dishes served in restaurants, commonly for breakfast and lunch.
- POET (Khadijah Queen, for one) Khadijah Queen has written six books, including several collections of poetry. Anodyne, released last year, won the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. Khadijah Queen is an Associate Professor of creative writing at Virginia Tech.
- ENOS (24D: Actress Mireille) Mireille ENOS plays the role of CIA operative, Marissa Wiegler, in the TV series, Hanna. I wrote about Hanna last month when Esme Creed-Miles, who plays the role of Hanna, appeared in the puzzle. Mireille ENOS also played the role of war correspondent Carmine "Red" Zingiber (aka War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) in Good Omens, the 2019 TV miniseries created and written by Neil Gaiman, based on the 1990 book of the same name by Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. This reminded me I have been meaning to reread Good Omens, and watch the series.
- CHEN (40D: Figure skater Karen) Karen CHEN represented Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics, placing 11th overall. Earlier this year she was part of the USA team that won a silver medal at the 2021 World Team Trophy competition. Since I was not familiar with either SHUMAI or Karen CHEN, I almost got stuck at this crossing. The letter H seemed the most likely, though, and I was happy to learn it was correct.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
- HINDI (1A: One of India's official languages) HINDI is the official language of the Indian government. English is classified as a "subsidiary official language," and is used widely in business and education. The constitution of India recognizes 22 "scheduled languages" that are spoken in various regions of the country.
- MEALS ON WHEELS (23A: Organization delivering food and support) Versions of a MEALS ON WHEELS program exist in Australia, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. MEALS ON WHEELS America, with headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, supports community-based nutrition programs across the United States. The name MEALS ON WHEELS is sometimes used generically to refer to programs that deliver MEALS, even if the programs have a different official name.
- REESE (44A: Peanut butter cup inventor) I, for one, am grateful to H.B. REESE for inventing peanut butter cups in 1928.
- OVEN (54A: Tandoor, for example) If you read yesterday's write-up, you might have remembered that a tandoor is a cylindrical OVEN made of clay or metal, and that roti is sometime baked in a tandoor.
- RIDE (59A: Sally ___, first American woman in space) Always happy to see Sally RIDE mentioned in the puzzle. She was an amazing person, and has a fabulous first name! In addition to being the first American woman in space, Sally RIDE wrote children's books about space, aimed at encouraging children to study science.
- UGLI (60A: Citrus fruit named for its appearance) UGLI fruit, also known as the Jamaican tangelo, is a natural hybrid of a tangerine and a grapefruit (also known as a pomelo). The hybrid arose spontaneously in Jamaica, and was discovered growing wild in the early 1900s. UGLI is a trade name for the Jamaican tangelo used by Cabel Hall Citrus Limited. UGLI fruit has rough, wrinkled, greenish-yellow rind.
- HOJO (1D: Orange-roofed restaurant, for short) When I figured out this answer, I wondered, "Are HOJOs (short for Howard Johnsons) still in existence? The answer appears to be no (although there is a Howard Johnson Inn in Bangor, Maine). The last two HOJOs in existence were located in Lake George, New York and Lake Placid, New York. If you're interested in HOJO history, the website, HOJOLand has you covered.
- CELESTE NG (32D: Author of "Little Fires Everywhere") Little Fires Everywhere by CELESTE NG was published in 2017. It was adapted into a miniseries starring Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon in 2020. Little Fires Everywhere is set in Shaker Heights, Ohio, where CELESTE NG grew up.
- NOM (48A: French for "name") As in "NOM de plume."
- ESOS (Counterpart of estos) ESOS and estos are the Spanish terms for these (estos) and those (ESOS).
- IRAN (18A: Kiarostami's country) Abbas Kiarostami was a film director, screenwriter, and producer. His movie credits include Close-Up, Taste of Cherry, and The Wind Will Carry Us. Kiarostami was born in Tehran, IRAN.
- NOVA (26D: ___ Scotia) NOVA Scotia is one of the thirteen Canadian provinces and territories. The capital and largest city of NOVA Scotia is Halifax. I have a soft spot for NOVA Scotia, as I have previously noted.
Is there a more perfect title for a crossword puzzle than ALL SQUARE? Lots of SQUAREs here, the usual black and white SQUARES, as well as the newly formed theme phrases. MEALS ON WHEELS was my favorite theme answer. I also enjoyed SOUPED UP and ARROW KEY. This is Wendy L. Brandes's first USA Today crossword, so welcome and congrats! This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Monday.
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