February 12, 2022


Constructor: Erik Agard

Editor: Erik Agard

Guest Blogger: Shannon Rapp

Theme Answers:

DOUBLEKNOT (18A: Shoelace-securing method)

BESTFRIENDS (30A: They might have matching tattoos)

SHARPTURN (37A: Sudden feature of a road)

SMALLBUDGET (48A: Hindrance for an event planner)

BODYCONDRESS (62A: Slinky garment)

Theme synopsis: Each of the FIVE theme answers is something that is or can be TIGHT.

Things I learned:

  • SIS (29A: "Go off, ___" (podcast)) Refinery29 series that confronts the hard truths around being a Black woman in America; championing dialogues and creating a community that celebrates Black Voices. I enjoy this kind of clue - one that makes use of a common word like SIS to bring into the puzzle something important or interesting.
  • TINASHE (11D: Singer with the album "333") Often when I encounter a musician that is new to me in a puzzle I'll take a moment to play the song or album referenced. From "333" I especially enjoyed "Bouncin" and "Angels." 
  • DEE (34A: "My One Good Nerve" author Ruby) While I am familiar with Ruby Dee as an actress and activist, I was not aware of this specific book. Subtitled Rhythms, Rhymes, Reasons, it is somewhat of a memoir told through a blend of poetry and short stories. Going on my TBR list.

Random thoughts and interesting things:

  • While all five theme answers are things that can be TIGHT, each relies on a different use of the meaning of TIGHT, which I find really interesting and elegant. 
  • RAUL (41D: Actor Julia) Raul Julia was a theater and film mainstay throughout the 1970s and 80s but I am most familiar with his appearances as Gomez in The Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993).
  • COLLAB (1D: Work together) As someone who absolutely loves making puzzles with friends, I so like seeing COLLAB here.
  • RAVIOLI (42D: Filled pasta) This direct clue reminded me of this Medium piece, "Ethnoculinology -- Every Culture has its Dumpling." Filling inside dough is food of the gods.
  • LEECH (56A: Parasitic creature) Leeches were approved as a medical device by the FDA in 2004. Not sure how I feel about that.
  • I'm delighted that this puzzle is music-heavy - in addition to the aforementioned TINASHE, we get ISAIAH Rashad (44A), ALANIS Morisette (66A), ERMA Franklin (26D), "HES the Greatest Dancer" (38D), "It Ain't Over TIL It's Over" (39D), and NSYNC (54D).

Geography Review:

  • ERIE (59D: Shallowest Great Lake) If it's a lake, it's four letters, and it's in a crossword, it's gotta be ERIE. According to Wikipedia, its deepest point is only 210 feet. This also means it's the warmest of the Great Lakes.

Hi readers! I'm Shannon Rapp, and I'm happy to have my first guest blog for Sally's Take today and lucky to have this fun puzzle to review. Of course, I admire the direction that Erik has led the USA Today crossword. I especially appreciate his willingness to publish asymmetric grids like this one that allow the constructor to choose and grid a themeset where the quality of the entries is a more important factor than whether they would fit in a symmetric grid. 

Sally, thanks for letting me fill in today, and enjoy your day off! 

Readers, please consider supporting Sally's Take if you are able. (See the yellow Donate button to the side or below) 


  1. Will tomorrow’s puzzle be six-themed haha.

    1. I wondered that as well! I guess the sequence had to stop at some point...


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