August 21, 2021


Constructor: Erik Agard

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
SPAR WITH (4D: Debate against, perhaps)
SPARE TIME (20D: Something a very busy person doesn't have a lot of)
PARALLEL PARKING (9D: Struggle for many drivers)

Theme synopsis: Each vertical theme answer contains the word PAR. 

Things I learned:
  • ALOK (52A: "Beyond the Gender Binary" author Vaid-Menon) ALOK Vaid-Menon is a gender non-conforming writer, performer, and public speaker. Beyond the Gender Binary, published in 2020, is their second book, following Femme in Public published in 2017. Earlier this year, several clips of an interview with ALOK Vaid-Menon from the Man Enough podcast went viral on social media. Although I didn't have time to listen to the podcast before I wrote this blog post, but having read some of ALOK Vaid-Menon's remarks in this NBC News article, I have bookmarked it to listen to later. 
  • MARY (25D: Pioneering nurse Seacole) MARY Seacole was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1805. Her mother was Jamaican and her father was a Scottish soldier. MARY took an interest in nursing and medicine, learning from her mother, who was a healer and nurse, and from army doctors who stayed at the boarding house for sick or injured soldiers that she helped her mother run. During the Crimean War (1853-1856), MARY applied to the War Office in London, and asked to be sent to the Crimea to care for wounded soldiers. Undeterred, MARY Seacole went to the Crimea and opened a "British Hotel" near the battlefields - a hut where soldiers could rest and buy food. MARY treated and cared for the wounded soldiers. In 1857, MARY Seacole published an autobiography titled The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • MARSHA (1A: The ___ P. Johnson Institute) The MARSHA P. Johnson Institute "protects and defends the human rights of Black transgender people." Earlier this year I learned about Elle Hearns, the founder and executive director of the MARSHA P. Johnson Institute. The organization is named for MARSHA P. Johnson, a self-identified drag queen, performer, and activist who was a prominent figure in the Stonewall Uprising of 1969. The "P" in MARSHA P. Johnson stood for "Pay It No Mind," which was MARSHA'S response when people would ask questions about her gender. 
  • ARETHA (34A: "Respect" singer Franklin) and OTIS (10D: "Respect" singer Redding) It was fun to see double "Respect" clues today! The song "Respect" was originally recorded by OTIS Redding in 1965. ARETHA Franklin's cover of the song in 1967 - with different music and a few changes to the lyrics - became a hit, and eventually became ARETHA Franklin's signature song. 
  • ROSETTA (58A: The ___ Stone (Egyptian artifact held in the British Museum) As I wrote in October of last year, the ROSETTA Stone is a stone slab inscribed with three versions of a decree issued on behalf of King Ptolemy V Epiphanes in 196 B.C.E. Because the same decree is written in different versions, the ROSETTA Stone has played a role in deciphering Egyptian scripts. 
  • SURNAME (64A: Knowles, for Beyonce) Although she is most well known mononymously, or as her alter ego, Sasha Fierce, Beyoncé's SURNAME is Knowles. Beyoncé's website includes a Directory of Black Owned Businesses

    Geography review:
    • PASO (28A: El ___, Texas) El PASO, Texas is one of three cities making up the international metropolitan area of PASO del Norte. In addition to El PASO, the region includes the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and the nearby U.S. city Las Cruces, New Mexico.
    • CANADA (47A: Country where Nuu-chah-nulth is spoken) Nuu-chah-nulth is a language spoken by the Nuu-chah-nulth, one of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest in CANADA.
    • ROME (3D: Italy's capital) As I wrote a few days ago, ROME is the only city with a country within its borders. 
    • IRAN (55D: Tehran's country) Tehran is the capital of IRAN, and the most populous city in Western Asia.
    • ARI (62D: The Grand Canyon State, on scoreboards) The Grand Canyon, carved by the Colorado River, is located in ARIzona. The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long. At some points the canyon is 18 miles wide. It's an impressive sight. My family has a trip to the Grand Canyon planned for April 2020, but we all know what happened to so many 2020 plans.
    What's PAR for this puzzle? Four. There are four PARs hidden in this puzzle, which I would certainly not describe as SUBPAR except for the theme. (This is one of those days where I'm wondering if there's an extra layer of theme I'm missing, so if you see something I haven't, please let me know!) The grid spanning entry PARALLEL PARKING, with its double PAR, is particularly nice. One striking thing about this puzzle is that it is asymmetrical. We don't see asymmetry in puzzles often, and I would guess this is perhaps the first time a USA Today crossword has featured asymmetry. I'm fine with asymmetry; it makes for an interesting grid with different lengths of theme answers. (I did hurt my brain a little bit trying to figure out if it was symmetrical, though!) I appreciated learning about ALOK Vaid-Menon and  MARY Seacole today. This puzzle was an enjoyable way to begin my Saturday.
    Good luck to those participating in Lollapuzzoola today! I look forward to working the puzzles later.