June 4, 2021


Constructor: Kate Hawkins

Editor: Amanda Rafkin
******This puzzle is part of the USA Today Pride Puzzle Series******

Theme Answers:
QUEEN LATIFAH (20A: "Ladies First" rapper)
DUKE ELLINGTON (37A: Big-band leader of "Take the 'A' Train")
KING PRINCESS (56A: "1950" singer)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer is a musician with a ROYAL name. We have a KING, a QUEEN, a DUKE, and a PRINCESS in our ROYAL court.

And now a word from our constructor:
Kate: Happy Pride! Thanks to Amanda and Erik for boosting queer constructor voices this June, and for being such stellar editors. The hardest part of making this puzzle was figuring out how to clue QUEEN LATIFAH without using the entire character count for her clue alone. Come Into My House vs. Ladies First? Hairspray vs. Chicago? Musical royalty indeed. Hope you enjoy!

Things I learned:
  • LEE (11D: Actor Will Yun ___) Will Yun LEE's acting credits include the role of Dr. Alex Park in the TV series, The Good Doctor, the role of Detective Danny Woo in the TV series, Witchblade, and special agent Jae Kim on the TV series, Bionic Woman. He was one of the actors interviewed for the 2006 documentary, The Slanted Screen, which examined the portrayal of Asian and East Asian men in Hollywood. In 2007, People magazine named Will Yun LEE in their list of 15 Sexiest Men Alive.
  • SUMO (25D: Sport played in a dohyo) Dohyō is one of those words that looked familiar to me, but I couldn't quite remember what it was. It's the ring for SUMO wrestling bouts. In professional SUMO wrestling, a new dohyō is constructed prior to each tournament, a process that takes three days. A typical dohyō is a circle of rice-straw bales mounted on a square platform of clay. A roof resembling that of a Shinto shrine is suspended above the dohyō. After each tournament, the dohyō is removed. At some tournaments, the fans take pieces of the dohyō home. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • TAP (4A: Dances like Savion Glover) Savion Glover is a TAP dancer, actor, and choreographer. He won a Tony Award for his choreography of the 1996 Broadway musical, Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk.
  • QUEEN LATIFAH (20A: "Ladies First" rapper) "Ladies First," which also features British rapper Monie Love, is from QUEEN LATIFAH's 1989 album, All Hail the Queen. The feminist anthem, which is often considered her signature song, includes the lyrics, "Who said the ladies couldn't make it, you must be blind," and "A female rapper with the message to send the QUEEN LATIFAH is a perfect specimen." "Ladies First" was one of the songs featured on 2019 AMC docu-series, Songs That Shook America. Of course, as Kate mentioned in her notes, "Ladies First," is only one of QUEEN LATIFAH's many accomplishments!
  • DUKE ELLINGTON (37A: Big-band leader of "Take the 'A' Train") "Take the 'A' Train" was the signature tune of the DUKE ELLINGTON orchestra. DUKE ELLINGTON's career as the leader of his orchestra spanned six decades, from 1923 until he died in 1974. In 1999, commemorating the centennial of his birth, DUKE ELLINGTON was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for Music "in recognition of his musical genius."
  • CORI (41A: Missouri representative Bush) CORI Bush is a U.S. Representative for Missouri's 1st congressional district, a district that includes the city of St. Louis, and part of St. Louis County. She was featured in the 2019 documentary, Knock Down the House.
  • SUE (46A: Perkins of seasons 1-7 of "The Great British Bake-Off") It always delights me to see The Great British Bake-Off in the puzzle. SUE Perkins and Mel Giedroyc were the presenters, or hosts, of the cooking competition show for the first seven seasons.
  • KING PRINCESS (56A: "1950" singer) I first learned about KING PRINCESS and the 2018 song "1950" from the September 28, 2020 puzzle. Does KING PRINCESS count as two theme answers since both of her names are royal titles? Her debut studio album, released in 2019 is titled, Cheap QUEEN
  • ORCA (64A: "Blackfish" whale) Blackfish is a 2013 documentary about an ORCA named Tilikum, and the controversy of keeping ORCAs in captivity. 
  • BEN (27A: Jerry's ice cream making partner) BEN & Jerry's ice cream is delicious and its flavors have fun names - what's not to like? What's your favorite BEN & Jerry's ice cream flavor? I am a fan of Oat of this Swirled (Buttery Brown Sugar Ice Cream with Fudge Flakes & Oatmeal Cinnamon Cookie Swirls). The company occasionally renames their flavors to support or highlight specific causes. During the summer of 2015, their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (a surprisingly simple name) was renamed I Dough, I Dough, in celebration of the Supreme Court ruling in support of same-sex marriage.
  • PIPS (35D: "Gladys Knight & the ___") I know a knight isn't technically royalty, but I enjoyed seeing this additional musical clue/answer. Gladys Knight & the PIPS recorded "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" in 1967. The song was the biggest selling single for Motown Records. 
  • RACE (57D: "RuPaul's Drag ___ All Stars") RuPaul's Drag RACE All Stars first aired in 2012, and is a spinoff of the TV series, RuPaul's Drag RACE. RuPaul invites past queens that have had successful careers since appearing on RuPaul's Drag RACE to compete on RuPaul's Drag RACE All Stars
  • FAN (59D: Member of the BeyHive, e.g.) A reference to the QUEEN Bey could be a bonus theme answer, or at least an honorable mention.
Geography review:
  • ASIA (5D: Jakarta's continent) Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia, a country in Southeast ASIA. Indonesia is the world's largest island country, and consists of over 17,000 islands. That's a lot of islands.
  • UTAH (8D: State that's home to the "Mighty Five" national parks) Can you name the five National Parks in UTAH? I've written about them previously. The only one of UTAH's National Parks that hasn't been mentioned in a USA Today puzzle since I've been blogging the puzzle is Canyonlands National Park. The other four parks are Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Zion. 
Not only do the musicians featured as theme answers have royal names, they are all MUSICAL ROYALTY in terms of their contributions. I could have written an entire blog post about any one of them! In addition to the theme answers, I particularly enjoyed the answers TALL TALE, UMLAUT, and ELIXIR. I also liked that UTAH was an answer in the puzzle, and the puzzle featured a UTAH-shaped section of black squares in the lower right. This puzzle was a wonderful way to begin my Friday.
I hope you've been enjoying the USA Today Pride Puzzles Series. Have you noticed that RuPaul's Drag Race has been mentioned in every puzzle so far this month? It will be fun to see if that streak continues! I keep forgetting to mention that Universal is also doing a series of Pride Puzzles this month. Happy solving!