July 31, 2021


Constructor: Erik Agard

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
WIVES-TO-BE (23A: Pair in engagement photo)
PROTECTIVE STYLE (38A: Box braids, for example)
SAVES TIME (51A: Is efficient schedulewikse)
NATIVE STUDIES (10D: Academic field dealing with indigeneity)
LIVE STREAMING (18D: Broadcasting online)
VEST (26A: Layer found within five other answers in this puzzle)

Theme synopsis: Inside each theme answer, the word VEST is found.

Things I learned:
  • PROTECTIVE STYLE (38A: Box braids, for example) Box braids are a hair style characterized by square-shaped hair divisions. With box braids, the length of the braids are not attached to the scalp, making them distinctive from cornrows. Hair extensions are often used with box braids. This is a style predominantly used by Black people, and is considered a PROTECTIVE STYLE because the braids can be left in for a long period of time (6 to 8 weeks), protecting the ends of the hair and allowing for natural hair growth. Although I knew what box braids were, I was not familiar with the term PROTECTIVE STYLE. I'm happy to have learned this term. 
  • LAURA (42A: Movie star Harrier) LAURA Harrier played the role of Patrice Dumas in the 2018 movie BlacKkKlansman. She also played the role of Liz in the 2017 movie Spider-Man: Homecoming.
  • THIGHS (68A: Body parts that might be rescued by Megababe) I'm feeling a bit out of it this morning because I'd never heard of the company Megababe. Why haven't I heard of this company? This is news I could use, unlike many of the items marketed to me on social media! Megababe Beauty was founded in 2017 by Katie Sturino, who introduces herself on the company's website with the words, "My THIGHS rub together. My boobs sweat. And my B.O. is the worst!" Not being able to find products to adequately address these situations, she started Megababe, and the company's first product was THIGH Rescue, an anti-friction product to protect against chafing. I enjoyed reading about Katie Sturino ignoring comments that her idea for a company was "too niche," and proving the naysayers wrong. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • STILETTO (17A: Sharp shape for nails) I enjoyed this take on cluing STILETTO. Not being a particularly graceful person, I would definitely hurt myself if I had STILETTO nails
  • VEST (26A: Layer found within five other answers in this puzzle) Although a VEST can be worn without a jacket, it is often worn as an INNER LAYER of a three-piece suit, under a suit coat. We don't often see revealers (answers giving insight to the puzzle's theme) in USA Today puzzles, but I think including one was a wise choice today. When I saw the puzzle's title, I guessed the puzzle would be of the "hidden word inside the theme answers" variety, but wasn't sure what the LAYER might be. I filled in the answer VEST before completing any of the theme answers, and that was helpful.
  • ENYA (30A: One-named Irish singer) Do you have a favorite ENYA song? Mine is "Orinoco Flow." This is partly because when I played in a handbell choir, we performed a beautiful arrangement of this song, so hearing it reminds me of that experience. Sadly (or perhaps fortunately...),I don't have a video of our handbell choir performing this piece, but I did find a video of another handbell group performing the arrangement
  • MASA (50A: Tamal ingredient) MASA is a dough made from maize (corn). MASA is used to make many dishes in Mesoamerican cuisine. (Mesoamerica is a region encompassing central Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica.) A tamal (or tamale) is made of MASA dough steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. 
  • LUPITA (59A: "Sulwe" author Nyong'o) I have previously written about Sulwe, a children's book by LUPITA Nyong'o about learning to love yourself.
  • GOAT (69A: Letters for Simone Biles) and USA (64D: Letters for Simone Biles) I enjoyed the crossing of these two answers. Appropriately, VYING (52D: Competing) is also in this corner. GOAT here stands for "Greatest of All Time," a term often used in sports to refer to those at the top of their sport. I am amazed each time I watch Simone Biles perform, and as I mentioned on Wednesday, I have immense respect for her actions at the Olympics this year, reminding all of us that health and wellbeing are more important than winning.
  • LET (5D: "___ us march on till victory is won") This is a lyric from the fabulous song, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," often referred to as the Black National Anthem.
  • MASON (53D: Name associated with jars) Fun clue! MASON jars are named after John Landis Mason, who patented the jars in 1858.
  • LAT (59D: California newspaper, for short) LAT = Los Angeles Times, which took me longer than it should have to fill in. 
  • PEI (61D: Shar-___ (dog breed)) The Shar-PEI dog breed is known for its wrinkly skin and its blue-black tongue.
Geography review:
  • UNH (14A: Granite State School, for short) New Hampshire is known at "The Granite State" because of its extensive granite formations and quarries. The University of New Hampshire (UNH) is located in Durham, New Hampshire. 
  • SWEDEN (4D: Stockholm's country) SWEDEN is the largest country in Northern Europe. It borders Norway and Finland, and is connected to Denmark by the Ă–resund Bridge. Stockholm is the capital and most populous city in SWEDEN. 
  • CST (12D: OKC time zone) OKC stands for Oklahoma City, the capital and largest city in Oklahoma, which is on Central Standard Time (CST).
Lots of theme material today, with five theme answers and a revealer. It's always impressive to me when theme answers interlock, and today we see both NATIVE STUDIES and LIVE STREAMING cross PROTECTIVE STYLE. And NATIVE STUDIES and LIVE STREAMING each intersect with an additional theme answer. I also liked that some WIVES-TO-BE may wear VESTS. Even with all the theme interlock, the fill was smooth, and we had some fun non-theme answers such as LUPITA, AT BEST, THIGHS, UTTERED, and I GUESS SO. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Saturday.