September 21, 2021


Constructors: Mark Valdez & Brooke Husic

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
GROUP PHOTO (19A: Pic of multiple people)
SQUAD GOALS (59A: Possible caption for a 19-Across)
CREW NECK (8D: Sweatshirt with a round opening)
POSSE CUT (38D: Hip-hop song with several contributors)

Theme synopsis: The first word of each theme answer (the LEADER) is a synonym for TEAM. We have a GROUP, a SQUAD, a CREW, and a POSSE.

And now a word from our constructors:
Brooke:  I love this puzzle! It's pretty rare that I go for a "pinwheel" arrangement of theme answers but Mark crushed it with gridding here complete with some very cool black square shapes. I super love how the SQUAD GOALS clue ties in with the GROUP PHOTO clue (thanks Erik!) and I'm always here for Mark infusing his pop culture fluency into clues in an easy-to-solve way; my favorites are KEKE Palmer, Billy Porter, Destiny's Child, ADORE Delano, to name a few!
Mark: I find this puzzle really fitting considering Brooke is the best teammate! She constantly pushes me to challenge myself in new ways in each puzzle we create together to make me a better constructor! I would have never thought of a pinwheel grid shape for our themers, and she rounded out the set with POSSE CUT. Erik Agard is also a huge part of this team behind the puzzle, editing and adding the awesome clues to link GROUP PHOTO and SQUAD GOALS. Until next time, you can probably find Brooke and me dancing to 71A in the West Village.

Things I learned:
  • ADORE (2D: "RuPaul's Drag Race" contestant Delano) ADORE Delano is the stage name of Daniel Noriega. ADORE competed on the sixth season of RuPaul's Drag Race, placing in the final three. ADORE also participated in season two of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars, and appeared as a guest in the premiere of season 11 of RuPaul's Drag Race. ADORE Delano has released three musical albums: Till Death Do Us Party (2014), After Party (2016) and Whatever (2017). In 2008, prior to competing on RuPaul's Drag Race, Daniel Noriega was a contestant on American Idol, making it to the semifinals. 
  • POSSE CUT (38D: Hip-hop song with several contributors) To be classified as a POSSE CUT, a hip-hop song needs to have at least four different contributors. Successive verses of a POSSE CUT are performed by different rappers. "Scenario" by A Tribe Called Quest is an example that Rolling Stone magazine described as "the ultimate POSSE CUT." This was a new term for me, but inferable once I had a few crossing letters filled in.
  • ELENA (56D: Roger who's played Edith Piaf and Eva Peron) ELENA Roger performed in many productions in her native Buenos Aires before making her London debut as Eva Perón in the West End revival of Evita in 2006. She reprised the role in 2012 for a Broadway revival of Evita. In 2008, ELENA Roger played the role of Édith Piaf in the West End production of Piaf, a performance for which she won a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • RIPA (14A: Morning talk sow host Kelly) Kelly RIPA has been the co-host of Live! with Kelly and Ryan since 2001. 
  • GROUP PHOTO (19A: Pic of multiple people) and SQUAD GOALS (59A: Possible caption for a 19-Across) As both Brooke and Mark mentioned in their notes, this is a delightful pairing of these two clues. Just for fun I searched for #SQUADGOALS on Twitter, where I found a variety of GROUP PHOTOs. 
  • ACTOR (33A: Billy Porter's profession) Billy Porter originated the role of Lola in the Broadway production of the musical Kinky Boots, for which he won a 2013 Tony Award for Best Leading ACTOR in a Musical. In the TV series, Pose, Billy Porter plays the role of Pray Tell. For this role he won a 2019 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead ACTOR in a Drama Series.
  • ASAP (37A: "I need it now!") and HURRY (64A: "Like, right now!") Can you feel the immediacy of this puzzle?!
  • KEKE (41A: "Turnt Up With the Taylors" star Palmer) The Facebook Watch series, Turnt Up With the Taylors is a satirical take on reality TV. The show follows a dysfunctional, wealthy family with a reality show. KEKE Palmer plays all five characters in the show - Chelsea, Lil Thad, Miranda, Rick, and Gammy Tay.
  • PET SPA (51A: Place where fur babies are pampered) My cat, Willow,
    gives her approval of today's grid for mentioning fur babies, even though she has never been to a PET SPA. Coincidentally, Willow is headed to the vet today for her annual visit, but I think she would agree that is not the same as a PET SPA. 
  • ACLU (66A: Org. hidden in "Sierra Club") I'm a fan of hidden word clues, particularly when the hidden word and the word or phrase it is found in are connected. The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Sierra Club in February 2019. Here's an update about that case.
  • MIST (67A: Sierra ___ (pop brand)) Nice use of Sierra in back-to-back clues. Sierra MIST is a lemon-lime soda introduced by Pepsi in 1999. 
  • SAY (71A: "___ My Name" (Destiny's Child hit)) Hey, thanks for this earworm! The catchy song, "SAY My Name" is a single from Destiny Child's 1999 album, The Writing's on the Wall. 
  • HAM (30D: Croque monsieur meat) Croque monsieur is a fancy name for a hot HAM and cheese sandwich. 
  • TESLA (53D: Electricity pioneer Nikola) One of Nikola TESLA's inventions, that I have previously written about, is known as the TESLA coil.

    Geography review:
    • ARCH (4D: St. Louis landmark) The first sighting of the St. Louis Gateway ARCH is always an exciting moment when driving to or through St. Louis, Missouri. As I have previously noted, the ARCH and I are the same age. 
    • SOHO (5D: Rhyming NYC neighborhood) SOHO is a neighborhood in Manhattan in New York City. Its name, coined by urban planner Chester Rapkin in 1962, derives from the area being "SOuth of HOuston Street."
    A nice collection of theme answers today promoting TEAMwork. It's quite appropriate that this puzzle is a collaborative effort. The pinwheel layout - with two theme answers horizontal and two theme answers vertical - works in this situation because the theme consists of a pair of 8-letter and a pair of 10-letter theme answers. The advantage to this type of layout, from a constructing standpoint, is that each theme answer is essentially in its own part of the grid, allowing lots of breathing room. Although it's not related to the theme, I really liked the positioning of the word TOPIC in the exact center of the grid. The TOPIC of today's puzzle is TEAM LEADERS... This puzzle was a delightful start to my Tuesday.