July 6, 2021


Constructor: Tracy Gray

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
ARTICHOKE HEARTS (16A: Tender centers of a prickly vegetable)
BAY BRIDGE (26A: Structure connecting San Francisco to Oakland)
NUMERO UNO (48A: Important person)
HUNDRED YEARS WAR (62A: Middle Ages conflict)

Theme synopsis: The last word of each theme answer is a game played with CARDS. These game are IN THE CARDS: HEARTS, BRIDGE, UNO, and WAR.

Things I learned:
  • SHO (70A: "Black Monday" network, for short) Black Monday is a TV show that premiered on Showtime (SHO) in 2019. The series follows the employees of a Wall Street trading firm in the time leading up to the day international stock markets crashed in 1987.
  • MAKO (6D: Fast-swimming shark) MAKO sharks are a genus of sharks of which there are two living species, the longfin MAKO shark, and the more common shortfin MAKO shark. Several extinct species of MAKO shark have been identified from fossil evidence. MAKO sharks can swim at speeds up to 20 miles per hour.
  • LYRA (57D: Constellation hidden in "Jolly Rancher") LYRA is one of 88 constellations recognized by the International Astronomical Union. In Greek mythology, LYRA represented the lyre of legendary musician and prophet, Orpheus. LYRA's brightest star is Vega.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • UMA (14A: Thurman who played Poison Ivy) UMA Thurman played the role of Poison Ivy, in the 1997 movie Batman & Robin. The supervillain Poison Ivy has supernatural control over plant life. If you'd like to learn more about Poison Ivy, check out what I've previously written about her. 
  • BAY BRIDGE (26A: Structure connecting San Francisco to Oakland) The San Francisco-Oakland BAY BRIDGE is part of Interstate 80 in California. The BAY BRIDGE has two sections: the western section connects San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island, and the eastern section connects Yerba Buena Island with Oakland. The Yerba Buena Tunnel connects the two sections of the BAY BRIDGE.
  • LOUD (38A: The second L in LOL) LOL = laughing out LOUD. Although I know this, for some reason my brain often interprets LOL as "lots of laughs." Same general effect, so this variance only causes difficulty when I'm trying to interpret LOL in a crossword clue.
  • PAGE (53A: Elliot of "The Umbrella Academy) The Umbrella Academy is a TV series based on the comic book series of the same name. The show is centered on a family of adopted sibling superheroes reunited to solve the mystery of their father's death, while also trying to prevent an impending apocalypse. Elliot PAGE plays the role of Vanya Hargreeves, a violinist who can unleash great force by focusing on sound.
  • HUNDRED YEARS WAR (62A: Middle Ages conflict) How long did the HUNDRED YEARS WAR last? The HUNDRED YEARS WAR was a series of conflicts between England and France over the succession to the French Throne during the Middle Ages. Though referred to by historians as the HUNDRED YEARS WAR, the conflict spanned from 1337 -1453, a period of 116 YEARS, and consisted of three periods of WAR (totaling 81 YEARS of WAR) interspersed with periods of peace.
  • DRAGON (65A: ___ dance (Chinese New Year performance) The DRAGON dance is performed by a team of dancers who use poles to maneuver a long flexible DRAGON figure. The dancers move the DRAGON in a wave-like pattern, and the dance can be choreographed to include specific patterns, such as "cloud cave" or "DRAGON chasing the pearl."
  • SHE (7D: "___ Had Some Horses" (Joy Harjo poem) Joy Harjo is the current U.S. Poet Laureate. She has been active in advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples and women. I encourage you to spend a few minutes reading Joy Harjo's poem, "She Had Some Horses." One section that particular resonated with me were the lines: "She had some horses she loved. / She had some horses she hated. / These were the same horses."
  • TEST (11D: Word after "aptitude" or "Bechdel") "Aptitude TEST" is a general term to describe assessments used to judge variety of abilities. The Bechdel TEST is a measure used to assess the representation of women in works of fiction. The Bechdel TEST asks whether a work contains at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The TEST, named for cartoonist Alison Bechdel, (who wrote the graphic novels Fun Home and Are You My Mother?) is used as an indicator of the active presence of women represented in movies and books.
  • EUGENE (18D: Actor Levy) EUGENE Levy and his son, Dan Levy, co-created the TV series, Schitt's Creek. On the show, EUGENE Levy plays the role of Johnny Rose, who bought the town of Schitt's Creek as a joke for his son. After the wealthy Rose family loses their fortune, they move to Schitt's Creek. Dan Levy plays the role of David, the son of Johnny Rose.
  • GINSU (29D: Knife brand in infomercials) GINSU knives were marketed widely in the 1970s. The infomercials for the knives popularized the catchphrase, "But wait! There's more!"
  • OREO (61A: Cookie with a "Chromatica" edition) Released in 2020, Chromatica is Lady Gaga's sixth studio album. OREO released a special edition cookie, known as Lady Gaga OREOs or Chromatica OREOs, with a pink cookie and green creme.
Geography review:
  • PESO (37D: Currency of Uruguay) Uruguay is a South American country that has an Atlantic Ocean coastline and borders Argentina and Brazil. Its capital is Montevideo, and its currency is the Uruguayan PESO.
Let's play CARDS! A nice collection of theme answers today. I especially liked the grid-spanning ARTICHOKE HEARTS. (Also, I like to eat ARTICHOKE HEARTS.) It occurred to me that three of the four featured card games are played with a standard deck of playing CARDS - HEARTS, BRIDGE, and WAR, while UNO requires a specialized deck. With two grid-spanning theme answers, there's not a lot of room for other long answers in the grid. I did appreciate the theme-related entry HIGH BID; though it wasn't clued as relating to CARDS, it certainly features in some CARD games. This puzzle was a fun game to begin my Tuesday.
I wanted to let you know that the folks over at Crossword Fiend have added the USA Today crossword to the list of puzzles they cover. Team Fiend blogs about a number of puzzles each day, and I always enjoy reading their insights. Looking forward to how their take compares to mine each day, and I'm happy to have the USA Today crossword receiving more attention.