September 30, 2021


Constructor: Rafael Musa

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
SECOND GENTLEMAN (18A: Title for a vice president's husband)
SECURITY DEPOSIT (37A: Expense you might get back after moving out)
SECRET HANDSHAKE (50A: Greeting known only to group members)

Theme synopsis: Each of the three theme answers begin with the letters S-E-C.

Things I learned:
  • DADDY (29D: ___ Yankee ("King of Reggaeton")) DADDY Yankee is a singer, songwriter, and rapper. In 1994, he coined the term "reggaeton" to describe the genre of music emerging from Puerto Rico. Reggaeton has elements of American hip hop, Latin Caribbean music, Jamaican reggae, and Spanish rapping and singing. I listened to a bit of DADDY Yankee's music this morning, and couldn't resist moving to the beat! I also want to talk about the crossing of DADDY with STEPDAD (26A: Parent in some blended families). I have a feeling this intersection (and even the appearance of both of these words in the same puzzle) may bother some solvers. The appearance of "dupes" always inspires lively conversation in the crossword community! This crossing didn't bother me while solving, and doesn't bother me upon looking back at the grid. I do appreciate that the words were clued in different ways, with STEPDAD referring to parenting, and DADDY as part of a person's name.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ALAN (12A: Computer scientist Turing) If you visit the United Kingdom (or are lucky enough to live there) and happen to get a 50 pound note, you might see ALAN Turing's face. I recently wrote about ALAN Turing when he appeared in the April 2, 2021 puzzle
  • SECOND GENTLEMAN (18A: Title for a vice president's husband) This entry made me so happy! The main reason, of course, is that it reminded me the U.S. finally has a woman Vice President. The second reason is that SECOND GENTLEMAN, Doug Emhoff seems to be a great person, and it has been a delight to witness his support of Vice President Kamala Harris.
  • NAAN (35A: Bread eaten with saag paneer) I have written about NAAN (a type of flatbread) and saag paneer (fresh cheese with leafy greens) previously.
  • DERN (36A: Laura of "Marriage Story") Marriage Story is a 2019 movie about a married couple navigating a divorce. Laura DERN played the role of Nora Fanshaw, the lawyer representing the wife (played by Scarlett Johansson). Laura DERN won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the role.
  • TRES (40A: ___ leches cake) The three milks in the appropriately-named TRES leches cake are evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream.
  • BOBA (10D: Beverage with tapioca pearls) BOBA, also known as bubble tea, is a DRINK that originated in Taiwan. The beverage consists of tea with chewy tapioca balls.
  • DRINK (31D: Enjoy some horchata, say) Horchata is a plant milk-based DRINK. There are many types of horchata, including varieties made with tiger nuts (Spain), rice (Mexico and Guatemala), and sesame seeds (Puerto Rico).
  • BUS (34D: Riding the struggle ___ (in a tough situation)) "Riding the struggle BUS," meaning dealing with a challenging or frustrating situation, is such a colorful phrase. I wondered about the origin of this phrase, but couldn't find a good answer. There does appear to be consensus that the phrase first appeared in the early 2000s.

    Geography review:
    • OSLO (15A: City with a Viking Ship Museum) The Viking Ship Museum in OSLO, Norway houses three Viking era ships. This is a timely puzzle appearance for this clue, because unless you happen to be reading this while in OSLO, you will have to wait at least four years to visit this museum. The Viking Ship Museum closes its doors today for a major renovation. It will reopen "no earlier than 2025," as the Museum of the Viking Age. Meanwhile, if you wish to visit a Viking Ship Museum before 2025, I suggest heading to Roskilde, Denmark. 
    • LAOS (1D: Vientiane's country) Vientiane is the capital and largest city of LAOS.
    • ASIA (54D: Bhutan's continent) Bhutan is a landlocked country in ASIA. Located in the Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is bordered by China and India. The capital of Bhutan is Thimphu. This is the fourth (and final!) crossword appearance of ASIA this month.
    True story - when I finished this puzzle, I said, "Well, that was lovely." A straightforward and enjoyable theme with solid and fun TRIPLE grid-spanning entries beginning with SEC. The fill was smooth all-around, as we expect from USA Today puzzles. I enjoyed the cluing a lot today: ALIBI (33A: "Couldn't have been me" story), PUN (47A: "Need an ark? I Noah guy!," e.g.), and LATEX (8D: Catwoman suit material, maybe) are just three stellar examples in addition to the entries I've highlighted above. This puzzle was definitely a delightful way to begin my Thursday.