September 20, 2021


Constructor: Christina Iverson

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
BORN TO BE WILD (20A:1968 Steppenwolf hit)
AUTOGRAPHED COPY (38A: Book signed by the author)
PLAYED IT COOL (56A: Tried to act casual) 

Theme synopsis: The last word (TAIL end) of each theme answer can be placed in front of the word CAT, giving us a WILDCAT, a COPYCAT, and a COOL CAT.

Things I learned:
  • ROE DEER (32A: Short-antlered animal) ROE DEER are relatively small deer that are well-adapted to cold environments, and are widespread in Europe. Male ROE DEER grow antlers less than 10 inches long. It's possible I've heard of (and even seen) ROE DEER before, but I wasn't able to call it to mind without the help of crossing answers.
  • EMILY (69A: Critic VanDerWerff) EMILY VanDerWerff is the Critic at Large for Vox Media. When asked in an interview what she was most proud of in her career so far, she mentioned her review of season three of The Handmaid's TALE, in which she came out as a trans woman.
  • SHOT (71A: Ball for Raven Saunders) Raven Saunders won a silver medal in SHOT put for Team USA at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (held in 2021). During the Olympics medal ceremony, after receiving her medal, Raven Saunders raised her arms and crossed them over her head forming an "X," in a symbol she indicated was intended to symbolize support for oppressed people. 
  • GOALIE (9D: Alyssa Naeher's position) Alyssa Naeher is a GOALIE for the Chicago Red Stars in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL). She is also a GOALIE on the United States women's national team. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • LOGO (14A: Wikipedia's is a globe made of puzzle pieces) I'd like to just take a moment and give thanks for the wonder that is Wikipedia! Although it has its limitations, (and should always be used with caution lest someone has done some mischievous editing) it makes my job as a blogger much easier than it would be if Wikipedia did not exist. Though I always try to search for additional sources of information, Wikipedia is a great place to start. Also, Wikipedia has a cool LOGO.
  • TALE (18A: "The Handmaid's ___") The Handmaid's TALE is a TV series based on Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel of the same name. The TV show is set in a dystopian world (the former United States after a Civil War, now named Gilead) where women are subjugated, and fertile women - the handmaids - are enslaved and subjected to ritualized rape. Although I have read a lot about The Handmaid's TALE, I can't bring myself to watch it. It's a bit too realistically frightening.
  • BORN TO BE WILD (20A:1968 Steppenwolf hit) "BORN TO BE WILD" was a single from Steppenwolf's self-titled debut album. The song was featured in the 1969 movie Easy Rider. 
  • RPG (25A: D&D, for one) D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) is an RPG (Role-playing game).
  • OTIS (68A: "Try a Little Tenderness" singer Redding) "Try a Little Tenderness" was first recorded in 1932 by the Ray Noble Orchestra. The song was also recorded by Bing Crosby in 1933. OTIS Redding recorded his popular version of "Try a Little Tenderness" in 1966. 
  • EATS (70A: Has pad see ew, for example) Pad see ew is a stir-fried noodle dish in Thai cuisine. "Pad see ew" translates to "fried with soy sauce."
  • MAE (12D: "Parenthood" actress Whitman) The TV series Parenthood, based on the 1989 movie of the same name, is the story of the Braverman family - an older couple, their four children, and their families. MAE Whitman plays the role of Amber Holt. I first learned about MAE Whitman from the  November 23, 2020 puzzle
  • THING (21D: Noun, sometimes) and PEOPLE (26D: Nouns, sometimes) This is a fun pair of clues, and is a good excuse to link to the Schoolhouse Rock song about nouns.
  • GREYED (27D: Took on a silvery colour) Well, my hair definitely feels seen by this clue, as it seems to be taking on more of a silvery colour every day. I appreciate the attention to detail in this clue that has "colour" spelled with a "u" as is common in British English, indicating GREYED will be spelled with an "e," the preferred British English spelling.
  • MEADOW (28D: "Over in the ___" (children's song)) The counting rhyme Over in the MEADOW was written in 1870 by Olive A. Wadsworth. The rhyme has been used for multiple picture books, and has been set to music
  • EEYORE (49D: Pooh's gloomy pal) I have a soft spot for EEYORE.

    Geography review:
    • MIA (48D: Florida city, on scoreboards) MIAmi, Florida has five main sports teams: Inter MIAmi CF (Major League Soccer), the MIAmi Dolphins (National Football League), the MIAmi Heat (National Basketball Association), the MIAmi Marlins (Major League Baseball), and the Florida Panthers (National Hockey League).
    • OHIO (59D: State with a swallowtail flag) The OHIO flag is the only U.S. state flag that is not a rectangle. 
    • CHI (63D: Illinois city, on scoreboards) CHIcago, Illinois is home to two Major League Baseball teams - the Cubs and the White Sox, the CHIcago Bears (National Football League), the CHIcago Bulls (National Basketball Association), and the CHIcago Blackhawks (National Hockey League).
    Well, you've probably guessed that my CAT, Willow,
    was quite pleased to see CATTAILS as the title of this puzzle. Her favorite theme answer was PLAYED IT COOL, as she definitely thinks she's a COOL CAT. Smooth fill and interesting cluing all around today. I especially enjoyed the conversational clues for OHO (23A: "Well, well, well!"), HAHA (65A: "Very funny!") and NOT NOW (4D: "Maybe later"). Congratulations to Christina Iverson who is making her USA Today debut today! I have enjoyed solving Christina's puzzles in other venues, and so was familiar with her byline and happy to see it. In fact, today's Universal crossword was also constructed by Christina. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Monday.