October 9, 2021

Title: Do Makeup

Constructor: Brooke Husic

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Guest Blogger: Matthew Stock

Theme Answers: 

SHADOWBOX (15A: Spar with an imaginary opponents)

FOUNDATION STONE (24A: Building part often laid with public ceremony)

TONER CARTRIDGES (40A: Printer refills)

BLUSH WINE (54A: Rose, by another name)

Theme Synopsis:

The first words of each theme answer are all different makeup products — SHADOW, FOUNDATION, TONER, and BLUSH.

A word from Brooke!

If I recall correctly I had a tough time gridding this one, but I'm happy with how it turned out and super grateful to Amanda for her fabulous edit and to Matthew for what I know will be a fabulous writeup! I think it's funny how the USAT's lack of diacritics assisted an unusually tricky clue for 54A, and I'm glad to have the opportunity to highlight Timnit Gebru. Til we meet again! 😘

Things I learned:

  • BENET (39A: Drag queen Bebe Zahara) Bebe Zahara Benet won the first season of RuPaul's Drag Race in 2009. She placed fourth in Season 3 of RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars, and is also a musician (check out his latest EP here).
  • BIAS (3D: Subject of Timnit Gebru's research) Timnit Gebru is an award-winning computer scientist who specializes in algorithmic bias. You can learn more about her work by watching her TED Talk, "How To Stop Artificial Intelligence From Marginalizing Communities?".
  • GOURDS (12D: Fruits in a balafon) I was expecting a balafon to be a food term, but it's actually a kind of West African xylophone! The GOURDS are secured underneath the keys to amplify the instrument's sound.
  • TOLEDO (28D: "The Glass City" of Ohio) Toledo is home to the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art, and is also the home to the manufacturing company Owens-Corning, which invented Fiberglas in the 1930s.

Random thoughts and interesting things:

  • DUNES (29A: Hills of sand) I was recently reading about U.S. National Parks, since Gateway Arch National Park (estd. 2018) is beautiful and less than a mile from where I live in Downtown St. Louis. I figured Gateway Arch had to be the newest recognized National Park, but I was wrong! Three National Parks have been established since, and two of them — Indiana Dunes (estd. Feb. 2019) and White Sands (NM, estd. Dec. 2019) — are both dune-centric! Glad DUNES are getting the love they deserve in this puzzle and beyond.
  • SAMUS (59A: Metroid protagonist Aran) I'm most familiar with SAMUS from Super Smash Bros., which my friends and I played way too much of in college. I would only ever play as Kirby, and I'm not sure what that says about me — let me know if you have opinions on this front.
  • CUBIST (5D: Artist who creates abstract, angular figures) I was expecting a specific artist here, but it's fun to just have CUBIST featured too! Link your favorite CUBIST works in the chat — I'd love to see them!
  • WNBA (16D: Brittney Griner's org.) Phenomenally timely clue here, as Brittney Griner just led the Phoenix Mercury to a series-clinching win in the WNBA semifinals last night! Watch her seal the deal here ... and then watch it again. The Mercury will face the Chicago Sky in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals tomorrow afternoon, which you should definitely join me in watching.
  • I can rave more about Brooke's fill in the commentary section, but I also loved NO SHOW, TWINGE, ONE ONE, and OAXACA as fill. Such exciting use of 6-letter spots!
Geography review:
  • UNI (19A: Place of higher ed, in Britain) Oxford UNIversity in the U.K., which was started around 1096, is older than the Aztec Empire. 
  • RICO (31A: The "R" of P.R.) You can donate to support high-need communities in Puerto Rico here.
  • NATION (9D: Navajo ___) The Navajo NATION co-manages the Bears Ears National Monument, which was restored to over 1.36 million acres of land by the Biden Administration just yesterday. For a deeper dive into the politics of Native land and the broader history of tribal sovereignty, I recommend the podcast "This Land," which you can listen to here.
  • OAXACA (41D: Mexican state known for its seven moles) Mole is a sauce used in Mexican cuisine, and Oaxaca boasts seven different varieties, including a "coloradito" mole made with mashed plantain. I used to enjoy lots of mole while living in Dallas, but haven't tried this kind yet!
  • USA (13A: St. Louis's country) Stellar clue, no notes.

Hi friends! It's been a minute, but I'm so excited to be back on the Take — and to blog a puzzle by my good friend and hero as well! Brooke is all over the place in the puzzle world these days, and we're all so lucky that we're around to enjoy all of her incredible contributions. The USA Today roster is truly an all-bangers-no-skips rotation, but I'm nevertheless grateful for the opportunity to talk about Brooke's work in particular.

Unsurprisingly, I loved today's puzzle! The theme phrases are all interesting, the grid layout is super nice to look at (even with the two 15s in rows 6 and 10, the middle still felt so smooth and open), and the clues are inspired. In addition to all the pluses mentioned above, I particularly liked the clues on PENNE, NET, INNER, and TENURES — they're all so fresh and evocative! Thank you, Brooke, for an enjoyable start to my long weekend :)