August 30, 2021


Constructors: Adesina O. Koiki & Brooke Husic

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
EXCUSE ME SINGLE (17A: Hit that's not squarely hit, in baseball)
OOPS!...I DID IT AGAIN (37A: Britney Spears song with the lyric "That is just so typically me")
PARDON MY FRENCH (55A: "Ignore that bad word I just said")

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer begins with a way to apologize: EXCUSE ME, OOPS! and PARDON.

And now a word from our constructors:
Brooke: So thrilled to be back in the USAT with Ade! I always enjoy our time hanging out, whether it involves crossword constructing or not, and always learn a lot and laugh a ton. This theme was inspired by Ade (which might not come as a surprise to those who know him) and he came through with the topmost theme answer to round out our theme set (also probably not a surprise to anyone). I love his angles on FLAT and DEL and I'm glad we got STAN Smiths in there in anticipation of the US Open. Much gratitude to Erik for his brilliant editing as always, particularly for writing a perfect clue for 17a. Two more notes: (1) if you're not solving Ade's weekly Wednesday Vox puzzles (and monthly Saturdays there too) what are you even doing?!? I look forward to Wednesday morning every week when I can solve another Ade puzzle. And (2) we promised each other we'd hang out before this puzzle ran, and with no apologies we've attached a photo! Can't wait to see you for our next one!
Ade: I can speak for everyone who has had a chance to correspond with Brooke that it is an absolute pleasure to be in the presence of someone who is as genuine as she is talented and innovative...and, my word, there is a whole lot of talent and innovation! As it pertains to this grid, she took my propensity for needlessly apologizing for things constantly and thought to make a theme out of it during one of our Zoom calls. Brilliant! I can hear the elevator pitch in my head: "Now you can turn your personality quirks into crossword puzzle themes in no time flat!" I am really pleased with the fill, and Brooke was an absolute demon with lots of the clues — with Erik just applying the perfect touches to it that Erik does without batting an eye. Also, I take very seriously that this collaboration is between two people who are from historically underrepresented groups in the crossword puzzle community: women and BIPOC, with a particular emphasis on Black people in crosswords. I know for a fact that there will be more women who will become wonderful members of the crossword puzzle community in the next five years, with a few becoming constructors. However, I fear that, in those same five years, the number of regular crossword constructors who are Black will be exceedingly close to the dearth of Black constructors at this very moment whom you can count on one hand (Erik, Kameron, Soleil, Yacob). If that is indeed the case, we got problems still. Brooke's puzzles, when they're out, are "can't miss" (as many of you experienced during Lollapuzzoola a couple of weeks back), and I'm so honored to be a part of this creation with her. Oh, and we'll make sure to hit up an NYC landmark for our next photo shoot!

Things I learned:
  • EXCUSE ME SINGLE (17A: Hit that's not squarely hit, in baseball) The clue does an excellent job of defining an EXCUSE ME SINGLE. This can occur when a player is trying to check his swing, or if the bat breaks, or if the ball is hit with the handle of the bat. Here's an example of an EXCUSE ME SINGLE from a checked swing. Perhaps not surprisingly, I was not familiar with this term. Ade and I are probably at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to sports knowledge! However, I am learning more about sports all the time, thanks to crossword puzzles.
  • STAN (41A: ___ Smiths (tennis shoes) STAN Smiths are tennis shoes made by Adidas. (Prior to 1978, the shoes were known as Adidas Robert Haillet.) The shoes have a relatively simple design, and are usually white. Three rows of ventilation holes are on each side of the shoe, and some STAN Smiths feature a sketched picture of STAN Smith on the tongue of the shoe. In 1990, the shoes were listed in the Guinness World Records for the most pairs of shoes sold. STAN Smith was a tennis player who won the US Open in 1971, and Wimbledon in 1972. His contract with Adidas ranks among the top 15 most influential sneaker sponsorships in sports history. This is another sports-related thing I learned from today's puzzle.
  • DEL (68A: ___ the Funky Homosapien) DEL the Funky Homosapien is the professional name of rapper, singer, and songwriter Teren Delvon Jones.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • EAT (8A: Enjoy some tibs, for example) I first learned about tibs, a dish in Ethiopian cuisine consisting of sautéed meat and vegetables, from the March 4, 2021 puzzle
  • ESTE (29A: Direction opposite oeste) and EGGS (33A: Huevos, in English) The puzzle is giving us a mini-Spanish refresher course today. Oeste = west; ESTE = east; Huevos = EGGS
  • OOPS!...I DID IT AGAIN (37A: Britney Spears song with the lyric "That is just so typically me") This song from the 2000 album of the same name is a perfect theme answer for an APOLOGY TOUR puzzle. We have previously seen this Britney Spears song used to clue the word OOPS, and the word DID, but this is the first time we've seen "OOPS!...I DID IT AGAIN" in the puzzle in its entirety. 
  • OCT (49A: LGBT History Month (Abbr.)) Started by a history teacher named Rodney Wilson, LGBT History Month is observed in OCTober to coincide with National Coming Out Day on OCTober 11.
  • REE (51A: "You Gotta Be" singer Des'___) "You Gotta Be" is a 1994 song from Des'REE's album, I Ain't Movin'. It may also now be my earworm for the day. The song was used in the 2019 movie, Captain Marvel
  • PIE (53A: Mar. 14 dessert) and APPLE (9D: Orchard fruit) Mmm...PIE! Not only for
    Pi Day (Mar. 14), of course, PIE is delicious year round. I recently made APPLE PIE - in fact four mini-APPLE PIEs from APPLESs we picked from our local orchard. We enjoyed one of them, and future me is happy to have three APPLE PIEs in the freezer for times like these when the crossword makes me hungry for PIE.
  • PARDON MY FRENCH (55A: "Ignore that bad word I just said") I immediately filled in this APOLOGY, and then I wondered how this phrase came to be used for apologizing for swearing. I found an interesting explanation; It has to do with historical relations between England and France. 
  • TREES (61A: Sequoias and redwoods) Sequoias and redwoods are not just TREES; they are big TREES. Sequoias are the largest TREES by volume. I previously posted a picture of my husband and I standing next to the largest tree in Sequoia National Park. Redwood TREES are the tallest TREES in the world, reaching heights of over 300 feet.
  • EVAN (65A: Actor ___ Ross) EVAN Ross's film and TV credits include the roles of Messalia in the 2014 movie The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, and Charlie Selby in the TV series 90210.
  • USA (18D: Olympic team for 19-Down) and SUE (19D: Basketball legend Bird) SUE Bird plays basketball for WNBA's Seattle Storm, and for Team USA. Hey, a sports thing I knew! Appropriately, I learned about SUE Bird from a crossword puzzle
  • NPR (40D: "Code Switch" network) Code Switch is a weekly NPR podcast hosted by journalists of color who have fearless conversations about the effects of race on every part of society. 
  • COME (59D: With 60-Down, get back from vacation) and HOME (60D: See 59-Down) A nice pairing of clues. I enjoy traveling, but it is always lovely to COME HOME.

    Geography review:
    • OGDEN (28D: Utah city home to Weber State) Weber State University is located in OGDEN, Utah, and was founded in 1889 by the LDS Church. It was named after John Henry Weber, an early fur trader. OGDEN is located about 40 miles north of Salt Lake City, Utah. 
    If you didn't like this puzzle, I'm sure it would say, "Sorry! My bad! So sorry!" However, there's so much to like here, I'm sure that's not the case! A fun idea for a theme, and three great theme answers. I liked that OOPS!...I DID IT AGAIN and PARDON MY FRENCH not only begin with APOLOGY words, but the entire answer is an APOLOGY. I also appreciated that the three theme answers come from different areas of knowledge - baseball, music, and an idiom. I enjoy when constructors send me notes, (I tell constructors it's "always optional - always appreciated!") because I enjoy getting the background information about a puzzle - a peek behind the scenes, so to speak. Fun to have a bonus photo included today! This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Monday.