February 15, 2022


Constructors: Doug Peterson & Brooke Husic

Editors: Mollie Cowger & Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
GLADYS KNIGHT (20A: "The Empress of Soul")
ELIZABETH BISHOP (37A: "In the Waiting Room" poet)
BILLIE JEAN KING (54A: Six-time Wimbledon singles champ in the '60s and '70s)

Theme synopsis: The last word in each theme answer is a piece found on a chess BOARD. Today's BOARD MEMBERS are KNIGHT, BISHOP, and KING.

And now a word from our constructors:
Doug & Brooke: We're so happy to be back in the USAT! Our favorite part of this grid is the cuddly vibe created by KOALAS + PANDA CUB + SNUGGLES. We're also super happy to clue ECHO as the superhero, played on "Hawkeye" by Alaqua Cox. Her performance is one of the highlights of the show.

Things I learned:
  • AM A (23A: "I ___ Black Woman" (Mari Evans poetry collection)) Mari Evans wrote poetry, children's books, and musicals. The focus of her writing was the African American experience. Her collection of poetry, I AM A Black Woman, was published in 1970. You can read several of Mari Evans's poems and watch a video of her reading "I Am a Black Woman," on the Furious Flower website. I also found this analysis of the references in "I Am a Black Woman" helpful. Mari Evans died in 2017 at the age of 97.
  • ELIZABETH BISHOP (37A: "In the Waiting Room" poet) ELIZABETH BISHOP was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 1949-1950, and the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1956. "In the Waiting Room," describes the experience of a 7-year-old girl looking at pictures in a National Geographic magazine. If you'd like to explore more poetry, here's one writer's list of her favorite ELIZABETH BISHOP poems.
  • HINDI (52D: Language that can be typed with a Devanagari keyboard) Devanagari is a script used for several languages, including HINDI, Sanskrit, Nepali, and Marathi.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • NABE (15A: Japanese hot pot) Nabemono, or NABE for short, is a style of cooking known as Japanese hot pot. Often used for cooking soups or stews, the pot may be kept at the table, kept hot by portable stoves.
  • GLADYS KNIGHT (20A: "The Empress of Soul") Seven-time Grammy Award winner, GLADYS KNIGHT was the lead singer of GLADYS KNIGHT & the Pips, and also had a successful solo career. The "Empress of Soul" has had many hit songs, including "Midnight Train to Georgia" and "That's What Friends Are For" (with Dionne Warwick, Elton John, & Stevie Wonder).
  • ECHO (35A: Superhero alias for Maya Lopez) Marvel Comics superhero ECHO, aka Maya Lopez, has the ability to perfectly copy other people's movements. I learned about ECHO, one of Marvel's few deaf characters, from the April 19, 2021 puzzle. As Doug and Brooke mentioned in their notes, Alaqua Cox plays the role of ECHO in the 2021 Disney TV miniseries, Hawkeye. Alaqua Cox will reprise the role in the planned spinoff featuring ECHO
  • BILLIE JEAN KING (54A: Six-time Wimbledon singles champ in the '60s and '70s) Hey, I knew this sports answer without the help of any crossing answers! I credit the biography of BILLIE JEAN KING I read when I was 11 years old. BILLIE JEAN KING, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987, is considered by many to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time. 
  • NOUN (62A: Part of speech of the word "crossword") This is a delightful self-referential clue. "Puzzle" is also a NOUN because, like "crossword," it is a thing, and "A NOUN Is A Person, Place or Thing."
  • INTO (63A: "___ the Unknown" (Frozen 2 song)) Ah, another earworm! "INTO the Unknown" is sung by Elsa (Idina Menzel) in Frozen 2.
  • LENS (7D: Camera "eye") and SMOKY (8D: Like some dark eye makeup) and LASH (10D: Great ___ (Maybelline mascara line)) Fun to see LENS clued in reference to "eye" to provide a trio of eye-related clues.
  • BELLE (25D: Disney princess who loves books) Voiced by Paige O'Hara in the 1991 animated movie Beauty and the Beast, and played by Emma Watson in the 2017 live-action remake, BELLE is known for being a bibliophile.

    Geography review:

    • OSLO (13A: Norwegian capital) Here's a "Geography Review" review. Just over a week ago, I told you the name of the fjord OSLO, Norway is located on. Do you remember it? You may check your answer here. 
    • YEMEN (67A: Sanaa's country) Sanaa is the largest city in YEMEN. According to the Yemeni constitution, Sanaa is the capital of YEMEN, but since 2015, the coastal city of Aden has served as YEMEN's temporary capital.
    • THAI (34D: Chiang Mai resident) Chiang Mai is a city in northern Thailand. In 2017, Chiang Mai was designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art. 
    • EURO (58D: Currency in Strasbourg) Strasbourg is a city in eastern France, where the currency is the EURO. Strasbourg is located on the France-Germany border, and is the meeting place for the European Parliament.
    As soon as I filled in GLADYS KNIGHT, I figured out what sort of BOARD MEMBERS we were looking for in today's puzzle. I know how to play chess, but haven't played in many years. However, as I've mentioned previously, my husband is an avid chess player, and plays every day. This puzzle was a fun nod to the game of chess, and I appreciated that our BOARD MEMBERS (the theme answers) were all women. I also liked the cuddly vibe Doug & Brooke mentioned in their note. This puzzle was an enjoyable way to begin my Tuesday.
    Side note: If you like Chess, or just like learning about things, you might enjoy Explained Chess, part of Vox's Explained series available on Netflix.