July 23, 2021


Constructor: Claire Rimkus

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
PUPPY DOG EYES (19A: Sad, innocent look)
KITTEN HEELS (38A: Appropriate footwear for the catwalk)
CUB REPORTERS (55A: Novice journalists)

Theme synopsis: The FIRST WORD of each theme answer is the name used for a BABY animal.

Things I learned:
  • STARZ (40A: "Run the World" channel) The TV series Run the World centers on a group of Black women living and working in Harlem. The STARZ show premiered in May of this year.
  • SKA (46A: Genre for Panteon Rococo) Panteón Rococó is a SKA band from Mexico City, Mexico. They have released nine records, and have toured worldwide.
  • AVA (11D: Title role for Jessica Chastain in 2020) The title character of the action movie AVA, played by Jessica Chastain as the clue tells us, is a recovering addict and former soldier working as an assassin. Although panned by critics (having a 17% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes), AVA became the top-streamed movie on Netflix when it was released on the site in December 2020. (This may have something to do with the timing of its release in the middle of a pandemic.)
  • YALITZA (20D: "Roma" star Aparicio) It was just a few days ago that I learned about the 2018 movie Roma. However, that clue referred to Marina de Tavira, who played the role of Sofía, and I did not remember learning about YALITZA Aparicio, who played the role of Cleo. Thankful for fair crossing answers on this one. 
  • KOREAN (47D: Cuisine with mandu and japchae) Mandu is a type of filled dumpling that may be steamed, boiled, pan-fried, or deep-fried. Japchae is a dish of stir-fired cellophane noodles (or glass noodles) and vegetables. I was not familiar with either of these dishes, but they sound delicious.
  • RAP (59D: Genre for Aja) Aja is a RAP artist and reality TV personality. They competed on Season 9 of RuPaul's Drag Race, and Season 3 of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • HAIM (4A: Band with the song "The Wire") "The Wire" is a 2013 song from the trio of sisters in the band HAIM. 
  • ELMO (14A: Creature hidden in "squirrel monkey") This clue made me chuckle because I hadn't really thought of the muppet ELMO as a "creature." 
  • LEO (29A: Lion constellation) Happy birthday, fellow LEOs! According to the Western Zodiac, people born between July 23 and August 22 are LEOs.
  • KITTEN HEELS (38A: Appropriate footwear for the catwalk) This is a fun clue. KITTEN HEELS are short stiletto heels. I know this clue is about shoes, not actual KITTENs,
    but I couldn't resist the opportunity to post a picture of a KITTEN. This is one of my son's cats, Mister, five years ago. (His name is a Dresden Files reference, and note the M on his forehead.) You can see a smoke alarm in the photo because he's sitting on my son's back, and my son is quite tall.
  • O'REE (63A: First Black player in the NHL) I learned about the fascinating Willie O'REE from the May 6, 2021 puzzle (also by Claire Rimkus), and I was delighted to see his name again today. 
  • ALOUD (64A: It might be confused with "allowed" when said 64-Across) I enjoyed this creative clue for ALOUD. It amuses me when clues cross-reference themselves, because I invariably go searching for the cross-referenced clue, only to discover... 
  • SON (69A: John David, to Denzel Washington) John David Washington is an actor and producer, like his father. He is the oldest of Denzel and Pauletta Washington's four children.
  • POT PIE (2D: Savory comfort food with a crust) Early on in our relationship, my husband and I decided that, in the interest of splitting up the chores, when one of us cooked, the other one would do dishes. It didn't take us long to discover we both preferred my cooking! As a result, for over 32 years, I have done 99% of the cooking and he has done 99% of the dishes, and everyone (including our children) has been happy with this arrangement. With this understanding of my husband's culinary skills, here's the story POT PIE reminded me of. When we decided to get married, my husband informed me, "I'm glad we're getting married...now I won't have to eat frozen POT PIEs every night." Isn't he romantic?! It's been a long-standing joke between us, and when I am out-of-town, I stock the freezer with POT PIEs.
  • PERSONALS (9D: Ads that inspired the app Lex) Lex is a text-based dating app with no profile photos. 
  • EID (39D: ___ al-Fitr) EID-al-Fitr, also called the "Festival of Breaking the Fast," is a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims to mark the end of fasting during the month of Ramadan.
Geography review:
  • PANAMA (32A: Neighbor of Costa Rica and Colombia) PANAMA is a transcontinental country, between Central America and South America. The capital of PANAMA is PANAMA City.
Lucky YOU! And lucky me, to get to solve this delightful puzzle. BABY animals are, of course, adorable. Today's puzzle utilize three great theme answers that begin with the names of BABY animals. PUPPY DOG EYES was the first theme answer I discovered, and the one that tipped me off to the theme. I, appropriately said, "Awww."  I enjoyed everything about this puzzle and it was a delightful way to begin my Friday.

I wanted to give you an update on some information I found out about the updated USA Today puzzle app. Someone had asked me whether the weekly tournament puzzle was available on the new app. I sent this question in to tech support, and discovered, as I mentioned the other day, there's a new email address for questions about the app (crossword@gannett.com). I did hear back (although it took a week), and the answer is no, the tournament puzzles are not available on the new app format. I was told the tournament puzzles may be available later this year. I am still using the old app, as my old iPad does not support the update. The tournament puzzles are still accessible on the old app, and there aren't many of us participating in the tournament anymore, which has increased my ranking in the standings! (I'm currently in 4th place...out of 4.)