August 7, 2021


Constructor: Hoang Kim Vu

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
ILL-EQUIPPED (16A: Lacking the right tools)
IESSENCE (27A: Basically)
IDRIS ELBA (43A: Actor in "Beasts of No Nation") 
INFLATED EGO (55A: Too-large sense of self-importance)

Theme synopsis: In each theme answer, the first word begins with the letter I, and the second word begins with the letter E.

Things I learned:
  • CHASE (1A: Activist Strangio) CHASE Strangio is an attorney, and the deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union. (ACLU). He was one of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case, Bostock v. Clayton County, in which the court ruled in June 2020 that it is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of transgender identity or sexual orientation. Time magazine named CHASE Strangio as one of "The 100 Most Influential People of 2020." CHASE has spoken about the importance of his presence, as a transgender person, in the courtroom, saying that "otherwise, these conversations about trans people are taking place without trans people there: conversations in depositions, in court rooms, in legislatures."
  • IDRIS ELBA (43A: Actor in "Beasts of No Nation") Beasts of No Nation is a 2015 movie about a young boy who is a child soldier in his country's civil war. The movie was filmed in Ghana, and stars IDRIS ELBA in the role of Commandant, the leader of the boy's battalion. I was not familiar with this movie, but know IDRIS ELBA, so was able to figure out the answer with a few letters filled in from crossing answers, and realizing his name fit the theme. Today's constructor, Kim, tweeted this morning about including IDRIS ELBA in today's puzzle. 
  • AFRO (52D: Hairstyle protected by the CROWN Act) The CROWN Act is a California law enacted in July 2019 that prohibits discrimination based on hair style and hair texture. CROWN stands for "Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair." Work is ongoing to expand the places that the CROWN Act is law.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • IT'S (10A: "___ Your Thing" (Isley Brothers hit)) "IT'S Your Thing" was recorded by The Isley Brothers in 1969. Fun fact: The song appears in the 1999 movie, Muppets from Space as Gonzo is blown out of a cannon.
  • TEAM (51A: Tottenham Hotspur F.C., for example) Tottenham Hotspur F.C., also known as the Tottenham Spurs, is a football TEAM based in Tottenham, London, that competes in the Premier League of English football. (That's the game Americans call soccer.) 
  • URL (60A:, for example) I like when specific examples are used to clue URL. It's a nice way to promote worthy websites. The goal of 81cents is to help women and other underrepresented minorities negotiate for fair compensation. The name of the organization is a reminder that on average women still earn only 81 cents for every dollar men earn.
  • HAL (2D: Name that's one of the halves of a word in this clue) I had to read this clue a couple of times, but when I figured it out, I appreciated that the word HAL takes half of is "halves." 
  • PAPA (6D: "___, Can You Hear Me?") "PAPA, Can You Hear Me?" was sung by Barbara Streisand in her title role in the 1983 movie, Yentl. I saw Yentl when it first came out (the year I graduated from high school!), and when I read this clue, this song leapt into my head and became today's earworm.
  • EVE (8D: "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" artist) "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" is a 2001 song by EVE, featuring Gwen Stefani.
  • CAT (21D: Feline) In case you need a calming photo of a CAT
    today, Willow is here for you.
  • LET GO (25D: Release a grip) Interestingly, I originally filled in LET GO as the answer for (14A: Relinquish). Crossing answers quickly revealed that error, and I eventually filled in WAIVE, only to discover LET GO as an answer later.
  • DERN (38D: "Big Little Lies" actress Laura) Big Little Lies is a TV series based on Liane Moriarty's novel of the same name. Laura DERN plays the role of Renata Klein, one of five women involved in a murder investigation.
Geography review:
  • TULANE (11D: New Orleans university) TULANE University in New Orleans, Louisiana, was originally founded in 1834 as a medical college. TULANE became a comprehensive university in 1847.
  • MESA (23D: City near Tempe) MESA and Tempe, Arizona are both part of the Phoenix metropolitan area.
  • ASU (24D: College in Tempe, for short) Two Tempe clues today! Arizona State University (ASU) was founded in 1885, and has an enrollment of over 52,000 students.
When I hear the "I BEFORE E except after C" spelling rule, I always think of the word "weird," since it is one of the many words that breaks this rule. There is nothing weird about this enjoyable I BEFORE E puzzle, however! Some fun theme answers here, especially INFLATED EGO. SEES PAST and LION'S DEN were nice non-theme answers. The puzzle did make me hungry, with its mention of pie ALA mode and a hot fudge SUNDAE. I liked the multiple musical references today as well. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Saturday.


  1. This one gave me pause when I read the title - i before e vs e before i words often trip me up. I, obviously, didn't have to fret about that, as i before e meant something entirely different. This puzzle was fun, but it also took me a bit longer to solve. There were a lot of answers I simply didn't know and/or clues I didn't get. It took me much more process of elimination than usual.

  2. I agree this puzzle was a bit challenging. I had many more blanks after my first pass through than usual. A challenging brain workout for a Saturday!


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