September 23, 2021


Constructor: Erik Agard

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
CROSSWORDTOK (20A: Hashtag for Katie Grogg's clue explanation videos)
CORNER BROOK (37A: Newfoundland city)
CRACKED A BOOK (52A: Started to study)

Theme synopsis: The word CROOK (presumably a lying CROOK) is found on the OUTside edges of each theme answer.

Things I learned:
  • CROSSWORDTOK (20A: Hashtag for Katie Grogg's clue explanation videos) Katie Grogg is a singer and an actor, and also a CROSSWORD enthusiast. Using #CROSSWORDTOK, she answers people's questions and explains CROSSWORD clues on TikTok, where she has over 148,000 followers. I haven't done a lot of TikTok exploration, so wasn't familiar with this account. However, I enjoyed the videos I watched this morning. It looks like her videos focus on The New York Times crossword. Maybe we could convince her to branch out to include the USA Today puzzle?
  • PLAN B (61A: 2021 comedy directed by Natalie Morales) The movie, PLAN B, was released on Hulu in May of this year. Victoria Moroles and Kuhoo Verma star as teenagers Lupe and Sunny, who have a variety of adventures together in an attempt to obtain a PLAN B pill for Sunny.
  • MOESHA (36D: Sitcom title character with a diary) Singer, songwriter, and actress Brandy played the title role in the TV series, MOESHA, which aired for six seasons beginning in 2001. MOESHA was a high school student living with her family in Los Angeles. Each episode of the show (in the first five seasons) began with MOESHA speaking her thoughts into her diary.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • CRY (4A: Unapt rhyme for "dry") and SWEAT (7A: Apt rhyme for "wet") This is the first of several fun clue pairs in this puzzle. 
  • ACAI (18A: Berry served na tigela) AÇAI na tigela is essentially a smoothie in a bowl. Originating in Brazil, the dish consists of frozen and mashed fruit of the AÇAI palm, and may be topped with granola, banana, and other fruits.
  • BELT (42A: Sing really loud) and SHH (45A: "Not so loud!") Another enjoyable clue pair. I can imagine "SHH!" might be the reaction to someone BELTing out a song.
  • PSA (49A: Ad in an awareness campaign) My PSA (public service announcement) for you today is it's time to get your flu vaccine. I trust you have already received your Covid vaccine, but if you haven't, get that vaccine, too, please. 
  • PALEO (56A: ___ diet) and KETO (59A: ___ diet) These clues are not only paired, but identical, which is particularly effective since they are consecutive clues. 
  • PAN (65A: Attracted to people of any gender, for short) PAN, here, is short for pansexual, and refers to someone whose romantic, sexual, or emotional attraction to others is not determined by a person's gender.
  • APACHE (1D: Chi'chil Bildagoteel people) Chi'chil Bildagoteel (also known as Oak Flat) is in Arizona, and is part of the Tonto National Forest east of Phoenix. The land is sacred to the APACHE and other indigenous peoples who have worked to protect the area against proposed mining. In 2016, Chi'chil Bildagoteel was added to the National Register of Historic Places in Arizona.
  • CLAW (4D: Cat's scratcher) Most cat owners are painfully aware that cats have CLAWs.
  • STARRY (21D: Like the night in an 1889 Van Gogh painting) This was a delightful way to clue the word STARRY. Van Gogh painted, The STARRY Night, after voluntarily admitting himself to the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum. The painting depicts the view from his window just before sunrise, with the addition of an imaginary village. The STARRY Night is part of the collection at New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).
  • PET (27D: Animal with its own Instagram, perhaps) This clue made me smile!
    Willow does not have her own Instagram, but after all, she has this blog to address her adoring fans.
  • VANESSA (30A: "Candyman" actress Williams) VANESSA Williams plays the role of Anne-Marie McCoy, estranged mother of Anthony, in the 2021 horror movie, Candyman. Anthony, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is a visual artist obsessed with the legend of the Candyman. Coincidentally, just before I solved the puzzle this morning, I read a Facebook friend's recommendation of Candyman. I will never willingly watch a horror movie, because I tend to have nightmares from such things, but if this is a genre you enjoy, apparently (at least according to one person I know) Candyman is well done.
  • I'VE (31D: "To All the Boys ___ Loved Before") Guest blogger, Sid Sivakumar, and I have previously written about Jenny Han's novel, To All the Boys I'VE Loved Before, and its movie adaptation. 
  • PPL (56D: Individuals, for short) Although I haven't used PPL as an abbreviation for people, it was easy to figure out. I had fun discovering the other things PPL could be an abbreviation for, including Phonographic Performance Limited (a British organization), Pokhara Premier League (a Nepali cricket league), Polymorphic Programming Language, and Private pilot license.

    Geography review:
    • TONGA (16A: Country that uses the pa'anga) TONGA is a Polynesian country located in the southern Pacific Ocean. TONGA is an archipelago (an island group) made up of 169 islands. The capital of TONGA is Nuku'alofa, and its currency is the pa'anga.
    • CORNER BROOK (37A: Newfoundland city) Newfoundland is the island portion of Canada's easternmost province, Newfoundland and Labrador. CORNER BROOK is located on the west coast of Newfoundland. CORNER BROOK is the northernmost city in eastern Canada.
    • STL (48A: Angelou's birth city, for short) Maya Angelou was born in ST Louis, Missouri, and lived there until she was three years old, when she and her brother were sent to Arkansas to live with their grandmother. 
    • HANOI (50A: Vietnam's capital) It's been less than a week since we last saw HANOI in the puzzle, so hopefully you were able to quickly recall that it is Vietnam's capital. 
    • RICO (5D: Puerto ___) Puerto RICO is a Caribbean island. The capital of Puerto RICO is San Juan.
    I enjoyed the title of today's puzzle, with the variant spelling of "outliers" tipping us off to the theme. A nice set of theme answers, with the word CROOK being broken differently in each answer. There was a lot to like in the puzzle in addition to the theme, including the fun paired clues I mentioned above. I was happy to learn about Katie Grogg and #CROSSWORDTOK. The trio of vertical 6-letter entries in the upper left and lower right corners were especially nice. Also, this is a silly thing, but I like the L-shaped blocks of black squares at the bottom and top of the puzzle. This particular configuration always makes me think the puzzle has boots and antennae. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Thursday.


    1. I feel a need to mention that anyone getting a flu shot and a vaccine or booster shot should ask their doctor how far apart these should be taken. I have read that there needs to be a certain number of months between shots.
      Hooray for vaccines! They have made me feel so much safer.

      1. That's a good thing to note, Pat. It is recommended to space out some vaccines, and I'm not sure what the particular recommendation is in this case.


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