August 3, 2021


Constructors: Emily Sharp & Kunal Nabar

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
I'M INTERESTED (19A: "Ooh, tell me more!")
PARKED ILLEGALLY (35A: At risk of being towed)
HEALTHY MEALS (55A: Nutritionist's recs)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer contains the name of an HERB spanning the two words. In our HERB-STUFFED garden of theme answers we find MINT, DILL, and THYME.

Things I learned:
  • UCLA (62A: Alma mater of Juan Felipe Herrera) Juan Felipe Herrera was the United States Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017. Herrera has a B.A. from UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), and masters degrees from Stanford University and the University of Iowa. In 1990, Juan Felipe Herrera taught at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. 1990 was the year I began graduate school at the University of Iowa. However, I was in the pharmacology department, and to my knowledge, our paths never crossed. While Juan Felipe Herrera was the U.S. Poet Laureate, he launched a project called La Casa de Colores (the House of Colors). I started to explore the website for La Casa de Colores, but remembered I had a blog to finish writing. I've bookmarked it for later.
  • EAT (67A: Have some bunny chow, e.g.) Bunny chow is not food for your pet rabbit, nor does it contain rabbit. Bunny chow is a dish that consists of a hollowed out loaf of white bread filled with curry. The dish originated in Durban, South Africa, created by Indian South Africans living in Durban.
  • TAO (21D: Laozi principle) Laozi was an ancient Chinese philosopher, and is the traditionally credited author of the TAO Te Ching, a fundamental text for Taoism. In the TAO Te Ching, Laozi described TAO as the natural order of the universe.
  • MIA (44D: "Arsenic and Adobo" author ___ P. Manansala) MIA P. Manansala is a writer and book coach. On her website she explains that she "uses humor (and murder) to explore aspects of the Filipino diaspora, queerness, and her millennial love for pop culture." Arsenic and Adobo, published in May of this year, is MIA P. Manansala's debut novel. The book is described as the first in a "culinary cozy series." I am so excited to learn about MIA P. Manansala and Arsenic and Adobo! Cozy mysteries are my genre of choice, and I am always on the lookout for new authors and series. I look forward to checking this out.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • LAURA (7A: 100 gecs singer/producer ___ Les) LAURA Les and Dylan Brady are the duo 100 gecs. In July 2020, 100 gecs released a remix album titled 1000 gecs and the Tree of Clues, featuring versions of songs from their 2019 debut album, 1000 gecs. The cover of the remix album featured LAURA Les and Dylan Brady facing a pine tree. Someone figured out the location of the pine tree, and the tree has became a destination for 100 gec fans.
  • LASSI (22A: Drink that may be flavored with cardamom) LASSI is a blend of yogurt, water, and spices. It is associated with the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent.
  • GRITTY (45A: Philly Flyers mascot) In 2016, NHL's Philadelphia Flyers, also known as the Philly Flyers, realized they were the only NHL team without a mascot. They commissioned Bryan Allen to create a mascot for them, and in 2018, GRITTY was introduced. GRITTY, a 7-foot-tall furry orange creature,  is active on social media, and has a Twitter account.
  • BASIL (1D: Herb with Genovese and Thai varieties) Bonus theme content! I always appreciate when constructors work in some bonus answers that relate to the theme. Genovese and Thai are just two of the many varieties of BASIL
  • ELEVENTH (39D: ___ hour (last moment)) The phrase "ELEVENTH hour" appears in a parable in the Bible about workers hired at different times of the day - including the "ELEVENTH hour" - and receiving the same pay. Many people cite the Bible as the origin of this phrase, but the meaning has shifted from the Biblical use, where it literally referred to the ELEVENTH hour of the work day, to mean at the last moment. 
  • IBM (46D: Watson co.) Watson is the question-answering computer developed by IBM. Watson was originally designed to compete on Jeopardy
  • HINT (55D: "It starts with an H," for this answer) This is a delightful clue - it made me laugh out loud!
  • CAT (58D: Meower) I have tried to explain to my CAT, Willow,
    that the word CAT appears frequently in crosswords because it is a useful 3-letter word, not specifically as a tribute to her. She remains unconvinced.

Geography review: 

  • YEN (57D: Currency in Nara) Nara is a city in Japan, where the currency is the Japanese YEN.
This is a delicious puzzle - you can almost smell the AROMAS of MINT, DILL, and THYME (and BASIL!) as you're solving. (That might just be the result of the HERB garden on my patio...) I also liked that the theme answer HEALTHY MEALS not only contains a hidden HERB in its letters, but might actually contain HERBS. There are plenty of other enjoyable answers in addition to the theme, including LASER TAG, ANTS ON A LOG, and SLIP 'N SLIDE. This is the second USA Today puzzle from co-constructors Emily Sharp and Kunal Nabar, and it was a great way to begin my Tuesday.