June 19, 2021


Constructor: Brooke Husic

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
TENT DRESSES (19A: Billowy garments)
TENNIS BALL (33A: Fuzzy target for a racket)
TENOR BANJO (41A: Four-string instrument)
TENSE MOMENT (54A: Agita-inducing situation)

Theme synopsis: Each of the theme answers begins with the letters T-E-N. Therefore, we have TEN FOUR times.

And now a word from our constructor:
Brooke: Happy Juneteenth, and thanks to Erik for writing the clue for that answer (and several other great ones)! My favorite puzzles to grid are ones with four theme answers of length 8-11, so I had a lot of fun constructing this one. Looking back on this puzzle in anticipation of its publication, I really like the clues for HE'S, OIL, and RIOT. See you in a couple days with a co-constructor I greatly admire!

Things I learned:
  • RIOT (39A: 1981 Brixton ___ ("Electric Avenue" subject)) "Electric Avenue" is a 1982 song by Eddy Grant. Electric Avenue is in the district of Brixton in South London, and is named for being the first market street to have electric lighting. Grant wrote the song in response to the 1981 Brixton RIOT. The Brixton RIOT was a confrontation between protestors and Metropolitan police in Brixton, a result of tensions over unemployment, racism (including racist policing), and poverty. I was familiar with the song, but not the story behind it.
  • DEE (53A: "Pariah" writer/director Rees) The 2011 movie, Pariah, was written and directed by DEE Rees. Pariah is the story of a 17-year-old Black girl coming to terms with her identity as a lesbian. The movie won an NAACP Award for Outstanding Independent Motion Picture.
  • NIA (34D: Gymnast Dennis) NIA Dennis is a retired gymnast. She was a member of the USA National Gymnastics Team from 2012-2016. While in college, she was a member of the UCLA Bruins women's gymnastics team.
  • JESMYN (44D: "Salvage the Bones" novelist Ward) JESMYN Ward's second published novel, Salvage the Bones, won the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction. The novel is based in Mississippi, and tells the story of a working-class Black family before and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • CATS (1A: Divine animals in ancient Egypt) and NEEDY
    (63A: Like an attention-demanding pet) My CAT, Willow, was delighted to see CATS feature as the first answer in the puzzle. And I was delighted by the clue for NEEDY, which describes her well. One of the ways she demands attention is by offering to help me while I'm working at my computer.
  • ESPY (15A: Best Upset, for example) The ESPY Awards - Excellence in Sports Performance Awards - have been presented annually since 1993 in a variety of categories. The Best Upset ESPY category was added in 2004, though it isn't awarded every year. In 2019, the Best Upset ESPY was won by boxer Andy Ruiz, Jr. for his knockout win against previously-undefeated Anthony Joshua.
  • HE'S (23A: "___ My Boy" ("Everybody's Talking About Jamie" song)) Everybody's Talking About Jamie is a musical inspired by the 2011 TV documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16. The song, "HE'S My Boy" is song by Jamie's mother.
  • OIL (38A: Scarce resource in the Hanukkah story) Hanukkah is a Jewish Festival also known as the Festival of Lights. Observed for eight nights and days, Hanukkah commemorates a small flask of OIL (enough to light a lamp for one night) keeping the Second Temple's Menorah alight for eight days. 
  • TENOR BANJO (41A: Four-string instrument) A standard BANJO (including the one in my house!) has five strings. A TENOR BANJO has a shortened neck relative to a standard BANJO, and only four strings.
  • SHE (51A: They/___ pronouns) and THEM (60D: They/___ pronouns) Did you attempt to fill in THEM the first time you encountered this clue, or was that just me? Easily corrected when I realized the answer only had three letters, and then when I reached the repeated clue I had an "aha!" moment. If you want to learn more about the use of pronoun pairs, I found this Twitter thread helpful. It includes the explanation, "Pronoun pairs can be used to communicate a number of nuanced things. Using she/they as an example, the most common and straightforward is, 'I identify as a woman, but also as non-binary.'"
  • ASEXUALITY (10D: Subject of the Angela Chen book "Ace") Angela Chen's book, Ace: What ASEXUALITY Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex, was named one of the Best Books of 2020 by NPR, Electric Literature, and Them
  • JUNETEENTH (28D: "A collective thank-you to a people who made a way out of no way," per Wanda Blake) Happy JUNETEENTH! A perfect answer for today. JUNETEENTH, celebrated on June 19, signifies the day in 1865 -more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation - when a Union general arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the end of slavery. Wanda Blake is a chef in California who celebrates JUNETEENTH with traditional and symbolic foods. As of two days ago, JUNETEENTH is now a Federal holiday. I was delighted to learn that President Biden invited Opal Lee to the White House for the signing of the JUNETEENTH National Independence Day Act. I learned about Opal Lee, who believes, "none of us are free till we're all free," from the October 12, 2020 puzzle
  • LOBO (35D: Hoops analyst Rebecca ) As I previously learned from the June 24, 2020 puzzle, Rebecca LOBO is a sports reporter for ESPN. She is also a former WNBA player, playing for the New York Liberty from 1997-2003.
Geography review:
  • KOREA (31A: Peninsula next to China) The countries North KOREA and South KOREA are located on the KOREAn peninsula. 
  • SERB (21D: Person from Belgrade, say) Belgrade is the capital and largest city of SERBia.
Although TENSE MOMENT was one of our TEN FOUR (or FOUR TEN...) theme answers today, it did not describe the solving experience. Only enjoyment today with this puzzle. Interesting cluing and lively answers made this puzzle a great way to begin my Saturday.