August 2, 2021


Constructor: Rafael Musa

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
IT TAKES A VILLAGE (16A: "We couldn't have done this without everyone's help!")
GOING TO TOWN (33A: Doing something enthusiastically)
SEX AND THE CITY (52A: HBO show discussed on the podcast "Couldn't Help but Wonder")

Theme synopsis: The last word of each theme answer is a type of community. URBANIZATION is seen as we move down the puzzle and the settlements become larger, from VILLAGE to TOWN to CITY.

Things I learned:
  • IPANEMA (20A: Helo Pinheiro, aka "The Girl From ___") The song, "The Girl From IPANEMA" achieved worldwide success in the 1960s, winning a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1965. The song was inducted into the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001, and is believed to be the second most recorded pop song of all time (surpassed only by "Yesterday" by the Beatles). In 1962, a girl named Heloisa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto, who is now known as Helô Pinheiro, was a 17-year-old girl living in IPANEMA. Everyday she walked past the Veloso bar-café. One day Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes were in the bar when Helô Pinheiro walked by, and they were inspired to write a song about her. When the song became famous, Helô Pinheiro became a celebrity. I knew of the song, "The Girl From IPANEMA," but I did not know the interesting story behind it.
  • SEX AND THE CITY (52A: HBO show discussed on the podcast "Couldn't Help but Wonder") SEX AND THE CITY is a TV show that originally aired from 1998 to 2004. Adapted from a Candace Bushnell book of the same name, and set in New York City, the show follows the lives of Carrie, Kim, Charlotte, and Miranda. I knew this much. I did not know about the podcast, Couldn't Help But Wonder. On Couldn't Help But Wonder, comedians and friends, Jamie Lee and Rose Surnow analyze each episode of SEX AND THE CITY, sharing their personal experiences along the way. I discovered there is also a podcast called We Couldn't Help But Wonder - A Journey Through SEX AND THE CITY. That podcast is hosted by Mike Jensen, who has been a SEX AND THE CITY fan from the beginning, and Elise Castle, who has never seen an episode of the show (prior to doing the podcast).
  • TRIO (54D: SWV or 702) The TRIO SWV (Sisters With Voices) first formed in 1988. They disbanded in 1998, and then reunited in 2005. Their 1992 song, "Weak," was a number one hit. 702, named after the area code of Las Vegas, is a TRIO that has also disbanded and reformed. Originally formed in 1993, 702 disbanded in 2006, and then reunited in 2017. Their 1999 song, "Where My Girls At?" topped Billboard's US Rhythmic chart. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • IT TAKES A VILLAGE (16A: "We couldn't have done this without everyone's help!") I was delighted to see this answer in today's puzzle! IT TAKES A VILLAGE is a saying I have used more than once, usually following it up with gratitude for those in my "VILLAGE." IT TAKES A VILLAGE is a shortened form of a proverb," IT TAKE A VILLAGE to raise a child." The proverb has been described as an African proverb, though as NPR discovered, it's difficult to track down the origins of "an African proverb." Hillary Clinton used the saying as a title of a book published in 1996, IT TAKES A VILLAGE: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us
  • GATO (32A: Spanish for "cat") As you know, my cat (mi GATO),
    Willow, is a fan of any and all cat content in crosswords. This holds true for cat content in any language. 
  • DEBUT (45A: The album "Taylor Swift," for Taylor Swift) Taylor Swift's self-titled DEBUT album was released almost 15 years ago, in October 2006. The album included the songs, "Our Song," and "Teardrops on My Guitar."
  • HORA (60A: Sesenta minutos) Sesenta minutos (sixty minutes) = una HORA (one hour) It's a nice added touch that the number of this clue is sesenta (60). 
  • A LIST (1D: Upper echelon of Hollywood) We saw A LIST in yesterday's puzzle as well. 
  • ILANA (6D: Comedian Glazer) ILANA Glazer plays a fictionalized version of herself in the web series Broad City. She has a stand-up comedy special titled, The Planet is Burning
  • REESE (11D: Actress Witherspoon) In addition to her acting career, for which she has won numerous awards, REESE Witherspoon owns a clothing company, Draper James
  • KIMCHI(17D: Jjigae ingredient) Jjigae is a Korean stew made with meat, seafood, or vegetables, and KIMCHI. There are multiple varieties of jjigae, including budae-jjigae, which we have seen mentioned in clues three times (since I have been blogging the puzzle).
  • ATE (41D: Enjoyed an arepa, say) Arepa is made of ground maize dough. Associated with the cuisines of Columbia, Venezuela, and Bolivia, arepa may be served with cheese and meats, and can be split to make sandwiches. 
Geography review:
  • CHAD (36A: Nation south of Libya) CHAD is a land-locked country in north-central Africa. The capital of CHAD is N'Djamena.
  • SFO (49A: Bay Area airport code) SFO is the airport code for San Francisco International Airport, serving the San Francisco Bay Area in California.
  • ORE (51A: Portland's state (Abbr.)) North of California, we find OREgon, with its most populous city, Portland. The capital of OREgon is Salem. Portland is also the name of the largest city in Maine.
  • ISLE (55D: Landmass in an archipelago) This one is a review of geographical terminology. An archipelago is a group of islands.
This is a fun theme, with a delightful set of theme answers. I appreciated the URBANIZATION aspect of the theme, with the settlement size increasing as we move through the puzzle. Plenty of other enjoyable answers today, as well - A GOOD DEAL of them, in fact, including NO BOTHER, HOT SPOT, and GAP YEARS. Today is the USA Today crossword DEBUT for Rafael Musa, so congratulations! This puzzle was a fabulous way to begin my Monday.


  1. I forgot to mention that this puzzle has left-right mirror symmetry.


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