Title: BLANK SLATE
Constructors: Brooke Husic & Erik Agard
Editor: Erik Agard
CANVAS SHOE (20A: Piece of casual footwear)
SPACE IS THE PLACE (38A: Sun Ra film with a rhyming title)
CHECK ME OUT (56A: Self-promotional phrase)
Theme synopsis: We have a SLATE of theme answers whose first words can follow the word BLANK. This gives us BLANK CANVAS, BLANK SPACE, and BLANK CHECK.
And now a word from our constructors:
Brooke & Erik: we're both honored to contribute to These Puzzles Fund Abortion 2 -- the campaign is now available here! now off to go listen to "Blank Space" on repeat all day...
Things I learned:
- PHIL (15A: "Rugrats" twins ___ and Lil DeVille) Rugrats is an animated TV series centered on the lives of a group of toddlers. This part I knew, but I've never actually seen the show, so I didn't know the names of the twins, PHIL and Lil DeVille. Fortunately, their rhyming names made the answer easily inferable.
- SPACE IS THE PLACE (38A: Sun Ra film with a rhyming title) Sun Ra was a jazz composer and the leader of a band called the Arkestra. I learned about Sun Ra from the November 21, 2020 puzzle, and wrote about him again six days later. Today I learned about the 85-minute Afrofuturist movie Sun Ra wrote that was released in 1974. SPACE IS THE PLACE features Sun Ra landing his spaceship in Oakland, California and recruiting Black youth to move to a new planet.
- PAST (69A: "American Sonnets for My ___ and Future Assassin" (Terrance Hayes collection)) The title of Terrance Hayes's 2018 collection of poems, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, is also the title of each of the seventy poems in the book. The poems were written following the 2016 U.S. elections, and are addressed to his potential assassin, a recognition of the racially motivated violence that occurs in the U.S.
- WABANAKI (5D: ___Confederacy (northeastern Indigenous group)) The WABANAKI Confederacy, an alliance of several Algonquian Nations, was first formed around the early 1680s. Forcibly disbanded in 1862, in present-day Canada, the WABANAKI Confederacy was re-established in 1993.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
- GETS (1A: The It ___ Better Project) The It GETS Better Project was founded in 2010 by Dan Savage and Terry Miller. Founded in response to LGBTQ+ youth dying by suicide, the project's mission is "to uplift, empower, and connect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) youth around the globe." The project has compiled more than 50,000 video messages from people of all sexual orientations and many celebrities to LGBTQ+ youth with the underlying message that "It GETS Better." When I filled in this clue, the song, "It GETS Better," popped into my head. This particular song (not to be confused with the 2021 song by the group Mafia) was recorded in 2010 by Broadway stars for The Trevor Project, another worthy organization.
- LAS (26A: ___ Vegas Aces) I just mentioned WNBA's LAS Vegas Aces a few days ago as one of three professional sports teams that call LAS Vegas, Nevada home.
- ASH (34A: ___ Wednesday) ASH Wednesday is the beginning of the Christian season of Lent, the period of time leading up to Easter. This year ASH Wednesday is March 2.
- TOM (56A: ___ yum) TOM yum is a hot and sour soup in Thai cuisine.
- TINA (3D: WNBA great ___ Thompson) TINA Thompson is the head coach of the Virginia Cavalier's women's basketball team. She is a former WNBA player, and was the first college draft pick in WNBA history. She was initially drafted by the Houston Comets, and also played for the Los Angeles Sparks, and Seattle Storm.
- WHEELCHAIR RUGBY (9D: Sport played by USAWR) WHEELCHAIR RUGBY was invented in the 1970s by a group of quadriplegic athletes in Canada, and was originally called "murderball" because of the intense physical nature of the game. WHEELCHAIR RUGBY is played in specially designed WHEELCHAIRs, and physical contact between WHEELCHAIRs is an essential component of the game. Game play includes elements from WHEELCHAIR basketball, ice hockey, handball, and RUGBY union. USAWR is USA WHEELCHAIR RUGBY.
- EIDGAH (10D: Open space for Salah) EIDGAH is an open-air enclosure used for Muslim prayers (Salah).
- WHAT'D I MISS (29D: "Did anything happen while I was gone?") This was the second earworm the puzzle provided me. "WHAT'D I MISS" is a song sung by Thomas Jefferson in the musical Hamilton. I have been fortunate enough to see Hamilton twice (so far!), and each time, Thomas Jefferson singing, "WHAT'D I MISS?" has made me chuckle a bit.
- STAR (36D: "Shining ___" (Earth, Wind & Fire hit) "Shining STAR" is a 1975 song by Earth, Wind & Fire, and was the group's first song to hit number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard Hot Soul Songs charts.
- SEDER (54D: ___ plate (Passover centerpiece)) The Passover SEDER plate contains symbolic foods that relate to the retelling of the story of Passover. This year Passover will begin on April 15.
- CONE (58D: "Cup or ___?" (ice cream shop question)) I always choose a cup. How about you?
- DST (62D: "Spring forward" letters) Daylight Saving Time (DST) will begin this year on March 13. At 2:00 a.m., areas observing DST will "spring forward" to 3:00 a.m.
- PASO (27D: El ___, Texas) El PASO is the most western city in Texas, located on the Rio Grande River which forms the U.S.-Mexico border. El PASO is also near the U.S. state of New Mexico.
- KOREA (52D: Seoul, South ___) Seoul is the capital of South KOREA.
- ERIE (57D: Great Lake near Detroit) Detroit, Michigan is named after the Detroit River on which it is located. The Detroit River flows into Lake ERIE. Our crossword-friend ERIE is making its fifth appearance this month. Will we see ERIE again before the end of February? Stay tuned...
All crossword puzzles are somewhat of a BLANK SLATE, waiting to be solved, but this one especially so. In addition to the enjoyable theme, the asymmetric grid allows the nice grid-spanning vertical bonus of WHEELCHAIR RUGBY. There's a lot to like in this puzzle, and it was an enjoyable way to begin my Saturday.