August 11, 2021


Constructor: Hoang-Kim Vu

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
FINESSING (16A: Maneuvering delicately)
DECENTRALIZE (26A: Distribute more broadly)
OKLAHOMA CITY (44A: Home of the NBA's Thunder)
FAIRY TALE (58A: Story that ends with "happily ever after")

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer STARTS with a synonym for ALRIGHT. Things are, FINE, DECENT, OK, FAIR.

Things I learned:
  • ANNA (7D: YouTuber Akana) ANNA Akana's YouTube channel has over 2.8 million subscribers. She creates both comedy and documentary videos, and she often uses comedy to address serious issues. The story of how ANNA Akana began performing comedy is inspiring. In 2007, several months after her younger sister died by suicide, she discovered herself laughing while watching Margaret Cho on Comedy Central, and realized the value of comedy to help her cope with challenging situations. ANNA Akana has been open about her sister's death, and is a strong advocate for suicide prevention.
  • STOP (12D: "Last ___ on Market Street) Last STOP on Market Street is a 2015 children's book by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson. The book follows a young boy named CJ, and his grandmother as they ride the bus and discuss the things they see and experience. Last STOP on Market Street won a Newberry Medal, and is a Caldecott Honor Book and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. I am a fan of picture books, and this one looks delightful. I will definitely be checking it out.
  • ALLY (35D: Athlete ___ (activist group)) Athlete ALLY is an organization working on making athletic communities more inclusive and less discriminatory. Their stated mission is to "end the rampant homophobia and transphobia in sport and to activate the athletic community to exercise their leadership to champion LGBTQI+ equality."
  • PALE (51D: ___ Blue Dot) PALE Blue Dot is the name of a photograph taken by NASA's Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990. The photo was taken at a distance of 3.7 billion miles from the Sun, and in it, the Earth appears as a single blue pixel. An updated version of the photo was published last year to mark the 30th anniversary of the photo. This photo inspired the title of Carl Sagan's 1994 book, "PALE Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space." I imagine I've heard this phrase at some time, and likely looked at this photo. However, I couldn't recall it when I encountered this clue. I'm delighted to be reminded of it and to see the updated photo.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ON TO (13A: "___ the Next One" (Jay-Z/Swizz Beatz song) "ON TO The Next One" is a 2009 song from Jay-Z's album, The Blueprint 3.
  • RUSSO (18A: Rene of "Nightcrawler") I have previously written about the 2014 movie, Nightcrawler. The movie is about a freelance journalist who records violent events that happen at night in Los Angeles. Rene RUSSO plays the role of a news director. When the movie appeared in a clue for the May 4, 2021 puzzle, it was used to clue the word RENE.
  • MEME (32A: Doge or Smudge the Cat, e.g.) I enjoy when the word MEME is clued with specific
    examples, and these are two fun ones. Doge is a dog MEME, and Smudge the Cat is, of course, a cat MEME - equal MEME representation. A few months ago I happened to take a photo of Willow that reminded me of Smudge the Cat, so I put their photos together.
  • ELLE (61A: Singer King) I learned about ELLE King from the June 14, 2020 puzzle.
  • OVEN (62A: Appliance for making challah) Challah is a braided bread traditionally eaten on some Jewish holidays.
  • RIGHT LEG (8D: It might be bent in Warrior II pose) This was a creative way to clue the phrase RIGHT LEG. Warrior II pose is a lunging standing asana in yoga.
  • DIPS (26D: Nuoc cham and guacamole) Nuoc cham is the name for a variety of sauces used as DIPS in Vietnamese cuisine. Guacamole is an  avocado-based DIP.
  • EGOT (27D: Awards acronym completed twice by Robert Lopez) EGOT stands for Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards. In 2018, the songwriter Robert Lopez became the first person to double EGOT. Some of Lopez's works include The Book of Mormon, Avenue Q, and songs from Frozen and Frozen II
  • ONION (47D: Caramelized veggie in yassa) Yassa is a dish in West African cuisine prepared with caramelized ONIONs and either marinated poultry or fish.
Geography review:
  • STL (39A: Home to the Gateway Arch) I recently wrote about the increase in puzzle appearances of STL. Indeed, this is the third day in a row we've seen STL, as it was also in the puzzle yesterday and Monday. This isn't a bad thing; I just find data interesting.
  • OKLAHOMA CITY (44A: Home of the NBA's Thunder) NBA's OKLAHOMA CITY Thunder was originally the Seattle SuperSonics. The team relocated to OKLAHOMA CITY in 2008.
Regardless of its title, this puzzle started out more than ALRIGHT, and ended that way as well. I really enjoyed the theme today. I liked that the hidden words were only parts of words - it makes the discovery of the words feel like uncovering hidden treasure. Smooth fill and enjoyable cluing all around made this puzzle a delightful way to begin my Wednesday.
Be sure to visit the blog the next few days, as I have a treat for you. I am taking a few days off, and I have lined up a stellar group of guest bloggers to discuss the puzzles with you in my absence. One of the things I enjoy about having guest bloggers is reading someone else's take on the puzzle. I am looking forward to reading the blog along with you the next few days! (I love writing the blog - I hope you can always tell that - but I'm also looking forward to a few days off.)