Title: MIDTERM EXAM
Constructors: Erik Agard & Brooke Husic
Editor: Erik Agard
PEYOTE STITCH (20A: Beading technique with a plant in its name)
CLIMATE STRIKE (39A: Fridays for Future demonstration)
GRANITE STATE (58A: Rocky nickname for New Hampshire)
Theme synopsis: Hidden in each theme answer - in the MIDdle of the two TERMs in each answer - we find the word TEST.
And now a word from one of our constructors:
Brooke: We built this puzzle around CLIMATE STRIKE and the title came later, after a lot of riffing — I think it's perfect! I honestly can't pinpoint what fill and clues I like best because I love it all. I also love that it's running on a Friday given the central clue! I can't believe this is my 50th USAT puzzle. I'm so privileged to be seeing you several more times this month, and ecstatic to start it off with this puzzle — xoxo 😘
Things I learned:
- PIMA (45A: People also known as the Akimel O'odham) The Akimel O'odham, or PIMA, are a group of indigenous people living in what is now Arizona and in Mexico.
- ANA (51A: "El Internado" actress de Armas) El Internado (The Boarding School) was a Spanish telenovela that originally aired from 2007-2010. The TV series was available on Netflix from 2015-2017. ANA de Armas played the role of Carolina Leal Solis. A reboot of the series, The Boarding School: Las Cumbres (El Internado: Las Cumbres) premiered on Amazon Prime in February of this year. I knew ANA de Armas, who played Marta Cabreara in the 2019 movie, Knives Out, but was not familiar with her earlier work.
- AFROBEAT (6D: Lijadu Sisters genre) The Lijadu Sisters, identical twins, Taiwo and Kehinde, were a Nigerian music duo whose music was a blend of AFROBEAT, jazz, and disco. Most active during the 1960s to 1980s, their music often had political messages, reflecting the political turmoil of their home country during that time. You can listen to their song, "Come on Home" here. Kehinde Lijadu died in 2019 at the age of 71.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
- BART (5A: CA transport system that's also a first name) BART is the Bay Area Rapid Transit serving the San Francisco Bay area.
- PEYOTE STITCH (20A: Beading technique with a plant in its name) PEYOTE STITCH is also known as gourd STITCH, which interestingly would also fit this clue. The bead weaving technique is done without a loom, and results in beads woven together in flat strips or as a tube. Used to make pouches or to fashion coverings to decorate objects, PEYOTE STITCH derived its name from being used to decorate objects used in PEYOTE ceremonies.
- FAT (28A: Your ___ Friend (Aubrey Gordon blog)) For many years, Aubrey Gordon wrote anonymously as Your FAT Friend, both on her blog of that name, and in other venues. Last year she shed her anonymity, and also published a book, What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Fat.
- NAS (31A: "MONTERO" singer Lil ___ X) The song "MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)" previewed in February 2021 in a commercial aired during Super Bowl LV. It is the title track from Lil NAS X's upcoming album. Lil NAS X is the stage name of Montero Lamar Hill.
- CLIMATE STRIKE (39A: Fridays for Future demonstration) Fridays for Future, also known as School STRIKE for CLIMATE, is an international movement. Students skip school on Fridays to participate in demonstrations demanding political leaders take action to prevent CLIMATE change. Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg staged her first CLIMATE STRIKE protest in August 2018, drawing attention to this important issue. As Brooke mentioned in her notes, it's a nice touch that this puzzle is running on Friday.
- TIO (44A: Padre de una prima) "Padre de una prima" = "Father of a cousin" and that would be your uncle, or your TIO.
- ABBY (63A: News anchor Phillip) I have previously written about ABBY Phillip, senior political correspondent and weekend anchor for CNN.
- HIPPO (4D: Land animal whose closest living relative is the whale) Isn't this a fun fact? I have previously mentioned this in the blog, but it was last August, so it's okay if you don't remember. My favorite HIPPO (yes, I have one!) is Fiona the HIPPO who lives at the Cincinnati Zoo and is aware that she is related to whales.
- RAITA (7D: Yogurt condiment sometimes made with cucumber) With its yogurt base, RAITA has a cooling effect that makes it a nice contrast and pairing with spicy curries.
- TREES (8D: Pines and firs) Yesterday we learned about banyans and sequoias. Today's TREES are pines and firs. A pine is any TREE in the Pinaceae family, to which fir trees belong. Therefore fir TREES are pine TREES, but not all pine TREES are fir trees.
- VIBRANIUM (34D: Wakandan resource) The fictional metal in the Marvel Comics Universe is only found on Wakanda, and is known for its ability to absorb, store, and release kinetic energy.
- SKIRT (38D: Garment that can be made from ti leaves) The ti plant is an evergreen plant also known as a palm lily or cabbage palm. It's large leaves are used to make SKIRTs.
- MAUI (14A: Kaanapali Beach's island) Kaanapali Beach is located on MAUI, the second largest of the Hawaiian islands.
- UTAH (53A: Arizona's neighbor to the north) UTAH is also a neighbor to Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado, and it touches a corner of New Mexico.
- GRANITE STATE (58A: Rocky nickname for New Hampshire) New Hampshire's GRANITE STATE nickname refers to the extensive GRANITE formations and quarries found in the STATE.
How about a pop quiz on Friday? This type of surprise TEST is an enjoyable version fortunately. A nice set of theme answers here. I also liked the non-theme answers of LET IT SLIP and STAY PUT. A fun clue for SIGHTING (41D: Source of excitement for a ufologist). And congrats to Brooke Husic on her 50th USA Today puzzle! You can reminisce over most of Brooke's previous puzzles here. (Her first seven USA Today puzzles preceded Sally's Take.) Brooke also co-constructed today's New York Times puzzle with Adam Nicolle, so check that out for a little more of a challenging solve. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Friday.