January 22, 2022


Constructor: Amanda Rafkin

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
WINE AND CHEESE (19A: Popular soiree offering)
WINDING TO A CLOSE (37A: Wrapping up)
WIRELESS MOUSE (54A: Cord-free computer accessory)

Theme synopsis: Each of the theme answers CRACKS the word WISE, with the WI- appearing at the beginning of the answer, and the -SE at the end.

Things I learned:
  • ANNA (41A: ___ J. Cooper (author and educator)) ANNA J. Cooper's 1892 book, A Voice from the South, is a collection of essays discussing racialized sexism and the importance of education for Black women. The book is considered one of the first articulations of Black feminism. ANNA J. Cooper received her Ph.D. from the University of Paris in 1925, at the age of 67. She was the fourth Black woman to receive a Ph.D. From 1930 to 1950, ANNA J. Cooper was the president of Frelinghuysen University, a school for Black adults. Dr. ANNA J. Cooper died in 1964 at the age of 105. I was not previously familiar with Dr. ANNA J. Cooper, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about her. Did you know she is quoted in the U.S. Passport?
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • RED (13A: Taylor Swift album containing the longest No. 1 hit of all time) That would be the song "All Too Well (10 minute version)" from the re-recorded 2021 album RED (Taylor's Version). We've recently seen "All Too Well," in the puzzle a couple of times. (Have you listened to it? I like it.) The song broke the Guinness World Record for the longest song to hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Pop Quiz: Do you know what song previously held this record? Answer at the end of this blog post. 
  • ALEXA (14A: Fashion designer Chung) ALEXA Chung is the founder, creative director, and eponym of the fashion label ALEXAchung. According to the ALEXAchung website, the label prides itself on a unique approach to making clothes, resulting in an "alluring combination of prim, racy and rock 'n' roll, where frivolous party pieces interact with grown-up tailoring and classic silhouettes." I enjoyed this fun, quirky interview with ALEXA Chung that is on her website. I learned about ALEXA Chung from the October 14, 2020 puzzle. (However, I did need a few letters from crossing answers to job my memory!)
  • CELLO (15A: Yo-Yo Ma's instrument) In addition to being an exceptional CELLO player, Yo-Yo Ma has always impressed me because he is a genuinely likable person. If you need something uplifting to listen to today, I recommend this clip from when Yo-Yo Ma appeared on the NPR podcast, Ask Me Another in April 2021. (And now I'm going to need a minute to continue to grieve the cancellation of the Ask Me Another podcast. Sigh.)
  • ADELE (60A: Singer with the album "30") ADELE released 30, her fourth studio album in November 2021. If you haven't yet listened to this album (or even if you have!), I recommend it. (Apparently I'm into making listening recommendations today.)
  • FOR (64A: "Fight ___ Love" (Andrea Gibson poem)) Well, I might as well keep the listening recommendations going. I highly recommend taking four minutes to listen to Andrea Gibson's poem, "Fight FOR Love."
  • ALAN (5D: Name hidden in "Angela Lansbury") Well, this was a fun way to work the amazing Dame Angela Lansbury into a puzzle. 
  • SASHA (8D: ___ Fierce aka Beyonce) SASHA Fierce is BeyoncĂ©'s alter ego.
  • ASH (39D: Cigar schmutz) This clue made me smile, as it reminded me of a clue from Amanda Rafkin's last puzzle on January 14. In that puzzle (that I enjoyed for so many reasons!), we saw the clue [Dryer schmutz].

    Geography review:

    • IRAQ (36A: Baghdad's country) Baghdad is the capital of IRAQ. The Tigris River runs through the city, essentially splitting Baghdad in half. Baghdad has a hot desert climate with maximum temperatures in the summer sometimes reaching 111 °F. In winter, the daily high temperatures average 61-66 °F. In contrast, I was excited to see the outside temperature where I live was 15 °F when I woke up this morning, which is 25 degrees warmer than when I woke up yesterday!
    Well, this puzzle was a delight to solve! (I don't even mean that as a WISE CRACK...) In addition to the fun theme with three solid theme answers, it features a powerful trio of musical women: Taylor Swift, ADELE, and BeyoncĂ©. But wait, there's more: Angela Lansbury, ROSA Parks, Andrea Gibson, ALEXA Chung, ANNA J. Cooper...so much to enjoy. I also liked the series of black square "stair steps" in the grid - a silly thing to notice, maybe, but aesthetically pleasing. This puzzle was a great way to begin my Saturday. 
    As an aside, following up on my observation yesterday, it appears the title of yesterday's puzzle being in ALL CAPS on the USA Today app was an anomaly, as the usual formatting is back today.

    Answer to the Pop Quiz: Prior to Taylor Swift's "All Too Well (10 minute version)," the longest number one hit had been Don McLean's "American Pie," which is 8 minutes and 37 seconds long, and topped the charts in 1972.