January 11, 2022


Constructors: Adesina O. Koiki & Brooke Husic

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
FADE FROM VIEW (3D: Disappear into the distance)
CAESAR SALAD (6D: Romaine-based dish)
AFROFUTURISM (9D: Genre of Octavia E. Butler books)

Theme synopsis: The first part of each theme answer - the part ABOVE the rest, since the answers are vertical - is a type of hairCUT.

And now a word from our constructors:
Brooke: We have a game for you! Of Adesina, Brooke, and Erik, guess who wrote which sports-related clues in today's puzzle:

18A Olympic thrower Alex : ROSE
30A Try to score a goal : SHOOT
41A Something in play, in sports : LIVE BALL
48A Symbols in Kansas City Royals logos : CROWNS
56A Negro League icon Paige who started an MLB game at age 59 : SATCHEL
65A Part of a basketball hoop : NET
13D Number of NBA championships won by Sam Jones : TEN
47D Soccer score word : NIL

Games aside, we're so happy to be back in the USAT and are grateful to Erik for his fabulous editing! Answers at the bottom of the page. :)
Adesina: First off, love the game!! Brooke and I talked after our first collaboration about how enough solvers who know the both of us would be surprised if they knew that the majority of clues that ended up having sports references were created by her and not me. Then we thought, “shoot, this could be a trend!” Now you’re all in on the secret…at least for this grid.
Not too much else to add, other than I was glad that I could take you into the barber shop with the one theme answer that is nearest to my heart, CAESAR SALAD, since a (dark) caesar is my regular haircut. Was a little worried that that entry might not make the cut (for real, pun not intended) since I believe that popular haircuts that Black people sport, outside of fades and afros, were going to be unknown to enough solvers. But once Erik gave it the green light, both Brooke and I were pumped!
Last note: I usually stay quiet about crosswords on my social media pages and let the many wonderful constructors in our ever-diversifying community talk about their crosswords as well as encourage other constructors’ endeavors. The last time I did a collab for a USA Today grid, and then dared to say the words “I speak for everyone” when talking about how great it was working with my co-constructor, that was met with disdain by at least one fellow constructor who decided it was not worth hearing my takes on crosswords (or anything for that matter). If any of you come across people like that, please do me a favor: ENCOURAGE THE HELL OUT OF YOUR FELLOW CONSTRUCTOR AND MAKE YOURSELVES HEARD EVEN LOUDER! Love the positivity many constructors bring to social media, and don’t let anyone interrupt your peace because they themselves don’t have peace.

Things I learned:
  • ROSE (18A: Olympic thrower Alex) Alex ROSE's main event is the discus throw, though he has also competed in the shot put and hammer throw. Born in Michigan, Alex ROSE holds dual citizenship with Samoa because his father was born there. He represented Samoa at the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics.
  • ADUT (2: Supermodel Akech) I was not familiar with ADUT Akech, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about her. I particularly enjoyed reading this Guardian article. ADUT Akech was born in South Sudan, and lived in a refugee camp in Kenya until the age of seven, when her family emigrated to Australia. She has appeared on numerous magazine covers and modeled for Saint Laurent, Valentino, Zara, Prada, and many other fashion houses. Here's a fun thing: At the end of 2020, ADUT Akech teamed up with Mercedes Benz to produce a short comedy sketch to finish the year off on a bright note. 
  • MRS. (8D: ___ Kipling (Ravi Ross' pet lizard)) The Disney TV show Jessie originally aired from 2011-2015. The title character of the show (played by Debby Ryan) is a recent high school graduate that moved to New York City from Texas and becomes a nanny for the Ross children. One of the children is Ravi (played by Karan Brar), who lived in West Bengal, India for ten and a half years before joining the Ross family. MRS. Kipling is Ravi's pet lizard that he brought with him from India. (The lizard was previously named Mr. Kipling until it was discovered to be a female.)
  • TEN (13D: Number of NBA championships won by Sam Jones) Sam Jones played basketball for NBA's Boston Celtics from 1957-1969. His TEN NBA championships is the second most of any player (behind Bill Russell, who was his teammate and won 11). Sam Jones died on December 30, 2021 at the age of 88.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • TODAY (13A: Yesterday, it was tomorrow) This clue made my brain hurt for a minute, and I love it!
  • EELS (17A: Fish that use magnetoreception) Magnetoreception allows organisms to detect magnetic fields, using this information to figure out direction and location. European EELS have been found to use magnetoreception to navigate. Exhibit "too-many-too-count" that nature is amazing and science is fascinating.
  • FRIDA (22A: Kahlo known for her self-portraits) FRIDA Kahlo painted 55 self-portraits, representing about a third of her work. She said, "I paint self-portraits because I am the person I know best."
  • OPERATOR (25A: "Smooth ___" (Sade hit)) Thank you, puzzle, for this earworm. "Smooth OPERATOR" is from Sade's 1984 debut album.
  • OLIVE (37A: Green food from Castelvetrano) Castelvetrano is a town in Italy on the island of Sicily. The area's economy is based predominantly on OLIVE cultivation. Castelvetrano OLIVEs (also known as Nocellara del Belice) are large, green OLIVEs with a mild flavor.
  • ALL (39A: "___ Too Well (10 Minute Version)) "ALL Too Well (10 Minute Version)" is one of two versions of the song, "ALL Too Well" on Taylor Swift's 2021 re-recorded album Red (Taylor's Version). This is the unabridged version of the song, with original versions and melodies. There is also a short film based on the song, appropriately titled ALL Too Well: The Short Film.
  • CROWNS (48A: Symbols in Kansas City Royals logos) The Kansas City Royals logo features a CROWN atop a banner featuring the initials "KC" with the word "Royals" in script below the banner. This is a sports clue I know! Growing up in Missouri gave me an edge here.
  • SATCHEL (56A: Negro League icon Paige who started an MLB game at age 59) SATCHEL Paige's baseball career spanned an amazing five decades. He began playing in the Negro Minor Leagues in 1926. In 1965, the owner of the Kansas City Athletics (the precursor to the Oakland A's) signed SATCHEL Paige to pitch once game, which he did on September 25, at the age of 59. 
  • ELI (62A: Name hidden in "read between the lines") ELI likes to hide. It was just two days ago that we found ELI hidden in "make a beeline."
  • CAESAR SALAD (6D: Romaine-based dish) A CAESAR SALAD features romaine lettuce and croutons, topped with a lemon juice and olive oil-based dressing. The SALAD is generally attributed to and named for restaurateur CAESAR Cardini. A CAESAR CUT is named for Roman emperor, Julius CAESAR. The haircut is a classic short haircut that features bangs brushed forward.
  • AFROFUTURISM (9D: Genre of Octavia E. Butler books) I have previously written both about AFROFUTURISM (an artistic movement combining elements of science-fiction, history, and fantasy) and Octavia E. Butler (sci-fi author whose writings include the Patternist series, the Xenogenesis series, and the Parable series).
  • HILL (31D: Singer Faith) and EVANS (38D: Singer Faith) A fun pair of singing Faith clues. Faith HILL's song, "Breathe," won a 2001 Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. Faith EVANS's song, "I'll Be Missing You,"  (with Puff Daddy) won a 1998 Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
  • ESSAYS (42D: Roxane Gay pieces) Roxane Gay is the author of multiple books and collections of ESSAYS. She is also a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times.
  • RIRI (49D: "Anti" artist's nickname) Anti is the 2016 studio album by Rihanna, whose nickname is RIRI.

    Between Brooke and Adesina's notes, and my write-up, this is turning out to be a long post! I hope you're still with us! I had to laugh at the sports quiz today. (In case you're wondering, constructors are good about letting me know when their notes contain spoilers, so I know not to read them until after I solve.) Whenever I see Adesina's name on a puzzle, as a solo constructor or collaborator, I know to expect some sports content. Adesina is one of Crossword Fiend's team of bloggers, has a sports website, and his catchphrase is "Sports will make you smarter." I, on the other hand, am fond of saying that "(Almost) everything I know about sports I've learned from crossword puzzles!" I was pleased to actually know most of the sports content in today's puzzle. Joking aside, I think what this quiz nicely illustrates is that crosswords - at their best - are a collaborative effort between constructors and editors. I remember when I first started constructing, I was sad when my clues were changed by an editor, with no input from me. Since then I've had the rewarding experience of working with editors that provide feedback and encourage conversation about clue changes. This process results in a better puzzle. Anyway, I digress! I enjoyed today's puzzle with it's three solid theme answers featuring a variety of CUTs. I also liked the answers ANIMATE, PUFFY, PESKY, BAIL FUNDS, and LIVE BALL. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Tuesday - thank you, Ade, Brooke, and Erik!

    Answers to the constructors' quiz:
    18A Olympic thrower Alex : ROSE - Brooke
    30A Try to score a goal : SHOOT - Brooke
    41A Something in play, in sports : LIVE BALL - Team effort!
    48A Symbols in Kansas City Royals logos : CROWNS - Erik
    56A Negro League icon Paige who started an MLB game at age 59 : SATCHEL - Adesina
    65A Part of a basketball hoop : NET - Erik
    13D Number of NBA championships won by Sam Jones : TEN - Brooke
    47D Soccer score word : NIL - Adesina