July 27, 2021


Constructors: Claire Rimkus & Brooke Husic

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
BANANA SPLIT (16A: Fruit-and-ice-cream dessert)
SIZZLING HOT (34A: How fajitas are often served)
QUANTUM LEAP (53A: Big sudden improvement)

Theme synopsis: The RIGHT-most word of each theme answer can precede the word SECOND, giving us SPLIT SECOND, HOT SECOND, and LEAP SECOND.

And now a word from our constructors:
Claire & Brooke: We appreciate that our puzzle got to run directly after Tracy's great puzzle yesterday! We had a lot of fun filling this grid especially with all its long "bonus" answers ... and we are always happy to bring you more cat content!
Brooke: Today is the 27th so I also have a new puzzle on my blog! This month I also provided a "gentle" version of the clues (which I write in a way that's similar to the clues I write for the USA Today), if you want to give it a try!

Things I learned:
  • I'M A (10A: "So ___ Spider, So What?" (Okina Baba series)) So I'M A Spider, So What? is a series of young adult novels written by Okina Baba. The premise of the books is the misfiring of a space-time spell that hits a Japanese high school on Earth, resulting in the reincarnation of the students into another world. One girl finds herself reincarnated as a three-foot long spider. She must quickly adapt to her new environment in order to survive. The series has been adapted into manga (graphic novels) and anime (animated TV series) versions.
  • DUA (58A: "smut" singer Saleh) DUA Saleh began writing poetry when they were four years old, and has been writing and producing music for the last few years. Their second EP, Rosetta, released in 2020, includes the song "smut." Some of the song's lyrics are in Arabic, which was DUA Saleh's first language. DUA Saleh was born in Kassala, Sudan, moving to the United States at the age of five when their family became refugees of the Second Sudanese Civil War.
  • MADISON (25D: Hockey player Packer) MADISON Packer is a professional ice hockey player. She is the captain of the National Women's Hockey League's (NWHL's) Metropolitan Riveters. With her team, MADISON Packer won the Isobel Cup in 2018. The Isobel Cup is the NWHL championship trophy, named after Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy, one of the first women to play hockey. Fun fact: MADISON Packer has a moustache tattoo on one of her index fingers
  • NIA (54D: Hurdler Ali) NIA Ali is a track and field athlete. She won a silver medal in the 100-meter hurdles for Team USA at the 2016 Olympics. NIA Ali is not competing at the Tokyo Olympics because she is home with her newborn son, her third child. I enjoyed reading this article about how balancing motherhood and her track career is important to NIA Ali, even though not everyone has been supportive. (No surprise there.)
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • EN VOGUE (20A: "Free Your Mind" group) "Free Your Mind" is 1992 song by EN VOGUE, from their album, Funky Divas. The song begins with the lyrics, "Prejudice, wrote a song about it. Like to hear it? Here it go."
  • COAT (28A: Cat's fur) and CHESHIRE CAT (24D: Grinning feline in Wonderland)
    You know Willow and I are always happy to see cat content in the puzzle. Here's a photo of Willow looking smug (though not exactly grinning, thank goodness) about plunking herself on top of our piano, appropriately among the Willow Tree figurines. Although the CHESHIRE CAT became popular from Alice's Adventure in Wonderland, it is also a character in one of my favorite series, the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde.
  • UNDO (32A: Computer command for a mistake) As I've mentioned before, UNDO is my favorite computer command, having saved me many a time. 
  • CHOI (37A: LGBT activist Dan) Dan CHOI served in the United States Army from 1999-2010, serving in combat in the Iraq War. In March 2009, he publicly came out as gay on The Rachel Maddow Show. As a result, he was discharged from the army for violating the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Dan CHOI was active in protesting the policy, and was present when President Obama signed the bill repealing the policy in 2010.
  • Y'ALL (63A: Second-person pronoun) Did Y'ALL know that Y'ALL has its own Wikipedia page?
  • AVA (2D: ARRAY founder DuVernay) ARRAY is a company founded in 2010 (originally as AFFRM) by AVA DuVernay to distribute films made by or focusing on Black people and women.
  • MEN (3D: The M in MiB) MiB = MEN in Black, the media franchise about the fictional MEN in Black government organization that monitors alien activity on Earth. 
  • ONE WOMAN PLAY (21D: "Fleabag" or "The Vagina Monologues," originally) Fleabag is a ONE WOMAN PLAY by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. It has been adapted to a TV series of the same name. The Vagina Monologues is a ONE WOMAN PLAY by Eve Ensler. 
  • CUZ (28D: Member of the fam) Often we see "sis" clued in this way. Fun to see another member of the fam today
  • SPEEDO (42D: Swimsuit company that sponsors Nathan Adrian) Nathan Adrian is a competitive swimmer and five-time Olympic gold medalist. 

Geography review: 

  • STL (18A: Missouri city, for short) It seemed to me like we've seen the answer STL (for St. Louis, Missouri) more frequently recently. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but because I like data, I looked it up. In my first year of blogging (from June 9, 2020-June 8, 2021) we saw STL five times. Today marks the fourth puzzle occurrence of STL since June 9, 2021. 
I do appreciate when life (and puzzles) are orderly, so it was gratifying to see this RIGHT THIS SECOND puzzle follow yesterday's FIRST THINGS FIRST. A nice set of theme answers and newly created phrases today. A LEAP SECOND is the term for the one-second adjustment occasionally made to account for the difference between time measured by atomic clocks and observed solar time. Quite a few long vertical entries today, providing some sparkly fill: IT'S GAME TIME, MILESTONES, ONE WOMAN PLAY, ONLINE DATE, PRACTITIONER, and CHESHIRE CAT are all enjoyable. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Tuesday.