July 14, 2021


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
STRIKE OIL (16A: Find a petroleum deposit)
MARCH MADNESS (27A: Basketball tournament since 1939)
PICKET FENCES (48A: Property line markers)
RALLY RACE (65A: Point-to-point auto competition)

Theme synopsis: The first word of each theme answer is a type of PROTEST. We have a STRIKE, a MARCH, PICKET, and a RALLY.

Things I learned:
  • OTIS (43A: Inventor Boykin) When OTIS Boykin died in 1982 at the age of 61, he had 28 patents to his name. Many of OTIS Boykin's inventions were types of electrical resistors, devices that adjust the flow of electricity. His inventions paved the way for advances in computing, and he invented a unit that was used in an early version of the artificial heart pacemaker. OTIS Boykin was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014. 
  • KIM (9D: Surname meaning "gold" in Korean) I did not know this fun fact, though it was easy to figure out with the K from Akita. 
  • CHIEF (28D: Caleen Sisk, for the Winnemem Wintu) The Winnemem Wintu is an indigenous tribe of northern California. "Winnemem Wintu" means "Middle Water People." The tribe was originally located along the McCloud River. Caleen Sisk has been the Spiritual Leader and Tribal CHIEF of the Winnemem Wintu since 2000. Since 2016, Caleen Sisk has helped organize an annual Run4Salmon, a "300-mile trek on foot, bicycle, canoe, and horse" over two weeks that follows the spawning journey of the salmon and is raising awareness of the effects of government policies on the salmon population and the importance of protecting waterways. 
  • SKA (44D: ___ Against Racism Tour (1998 concert series organized by Mike Park)) Mike Park is a Korean American musician and activist. He was the organizer of a series of concerts in the spring of 1998 known as the SKA Against Racism Tour. SKA is a genre of music that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s. The purpose of the tour was to bring awareness to racism in a nonviolent matter. From March 26 to May 9, 1998, several groups - Less Than Jake, Mustard Plug, The Toasters, Five Iron Frenzy, MU330, Blue Meanies, Kemuri, and Mike Park - toured the United States and performed concerts.
  • CHALK (50D: Medium that Tracy Lee Stum draws in) Tracy Lee Stum is an artist specializing in interactive 3D CHALK paintings, also known as street painting. I highly recommend checking out the photos on Tracy Lee Stum's website. Her work is amazing and delightful! On April 22 of this year, TILT: A Tracy Lee Stum Museum opened in East Rutherford, NJ. Putting this on my list of places to visit!
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • PITS (1A: Centers of pluots) Pluots are fruit hybrids of Japanese plums and apricots.
  • ADDRESS (20A: 1007 Mountain Drive, Gotham, for example) As you may have guessed, 1007 Mountain Drive, Gotham is the ADDRESS of Wayne Manor, the residence of Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) in the DC Comics. This is a clever way to elevate the answer of ADDRESS.
  • MARCH MADNESS (27A: Basketball tournament since 1939) Ever wonder why the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament is called MARCH MADNESS? The term was originally coined by Henry V. Porter to describe a statewide basketball tournament sponsored by the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). In 1982, Brent Musburger began referring to the NCAA tournament as MARCH MADNESS. The IHSA and the NCAA eventually agreed to share the name. In regards to the brackets that many people fill out to predict the winners of MARCH MADNESS - there's a one in 9.2 quintillion chance of perfectly predicting every winner. 
  • OCT (38A: National Taco Day mo.) National Taco Day is OCT. 4. It's on a Monday this year, so prepare to celebrate National Taco Day followed by Taco Tuesday.
  • ROBOT (63A: Nonhuman worker at the Henn na Hotel) The Henn Na Hotel (whose name means "strange hotel" in Japanese) opened in 2015 as the first ROBOT-staffed hotel in the world. The Henn Na is staffed by multilingual ROBOTs that will check you in and carry your luggage up to your room. In 2019, the hotel "fired" some of its ROBOTs and added some human-provided services. 
  • ACHE (69A: Feeling after a wushu class) Wushu is another name for Chinese martial arts, encompassing many different fighting styles that have developed over centuries.
  • CEDAR (14D: Moth-repelling wood) When I was growing up, we had a CEDAR chest that we used for storing blankets. I remember opening the chest and enjoying the scent. Not only good for repelling moths, CEDAR also smells pleasant.
  • MAYAN (30D: Language group that includes K'iche' and Tzeltal) MAYAN languages are a family of languages spoken by over 6 million people, primarily in Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras. 
Geography review:
  • SRI (4D: ___ Lankan rupee) The SRI Lankan rupee is the currency in the island country of SRI Lanka.
  • SOCHI (54D: Olympics host in 2014) SOCHI, Russia hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
When I saw the title of this puzzle, I wondered if it might feature words paired with PROTEST. I was close in my guess, as the theme answers provide us with forms of PROTEST. I appreciated that a couple of the non-theme answers also related to PROTESTing, the SKA Against Racism Tour, and CHIEF Caleen Sisk's efforts with Run4Salmon. The answer I'M ALL EARS is quite fun. I have a sudden longing for a STICKY BUN now, but other than that I have no reason to PROTEST this puzzle at all. It was a delightful way to begin my Wednesday.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that USA Today was in the process of updating the crossword app. That update is now available, so hopefully you've been able to switch to the new app. I've heard some people think the app is an improvement, while other users are not sure. Sadly, my old iPad (that I use to solve crosswords) does not support the new app, so I have only been able to see the app on my phone. If you have thoughts about the app, feel free to drop them in the comments. Also, if you have questions about the app, here's the address for USA Today tech support: support@amuniversal.com