February 5, 2022


Constructor: Christina Iverson

Editors: Mollie Cowger & Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
NERDED OUT (17A: Had a passionate discussion about numbers, e.g.)
NUDIST RESORT (28A: Place for a vacation in the buff)
NUMBER ONE HI(49A: Chart-topper)
NICELY PUT (64A: "Well said!")

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer is IN A NUTSHELL, in the sense that the letters of the word NUT appear at the outside edges of the answers.

Things I learned: 
  • OCD (56A: Condition in "The Weight of Our Sky") The Weight of Our Sky is a young adult book by Hanna Alkaf, published in 2019. The book centers on Melati, a Beatles-loving teenager who becomes separated from her mother during the Malaysian race riots on May 13, 1969. Melati has OCD, which she experiences as a djinn inside her threatening horrible things unless she sticks to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping. I found this Electric Lit interview with Hanna Alkaf interesting and informative.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • EST (23A: Suffix jokingly added to "best") For example, "This is the bestEST clue."
  • EARTH (26A: "The Blue Planet") The Blue Planet is a BBC documentary series narrated by David Attenborough. Each episode of the series examines an aspect of marine life. EARTH has been called   "The Blue Planet" because of its abundant oceans.
  • NUMBER ONE HIT (49A: Chart-topper) In case you were wondering, the current NUMBER ONE HIT on Billboard's Hot 100 chart is "We Don't Talk About Bruno," from the movie Encanto. If you haven't seen Encanto yet, I recommend it; it's lovely.
  • EDNA (71A: "The Country Girls" author O'Brien) The 1960 novel, The Country Girls, was the first book in a trilogy by Irish author EDNA O'Brien. The book tells the story of two Irish country girls that move to the city in search of love and adventure. During a time when women in Ireland did not have many rights, EDNA O'Brien wrote about sexual matters and social issues facing women. All three books of the trilogy were banned by the Irish censorship board when they were published.
  • CABARET (9D: 1966 musical set in Berlin) The musical CABARET (music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb) was based on a 1951 play, I Am a Camera, by Joe Druten. The play, in turn, was adapted from a semi-autobiographical 1939 novel, Goodbye to Berlin. CABARET is set in 1929-1930 Berlin, as the Nazis are ascending to power. The musical centers on a relationship between an American writer, Clifford Bradshaw, and a CABARET singer, Sally Bowles. Overseeing the musical's action is the "Emcee," the Master of Ceremonies at the seedy Kit Kat Club.
  • ADA (10D: Programmer Lovelace) ADA Lovelace is often regarded as the first computer programmer. Just over a week ago, we saw ADA clued in reference to the children's book ADA Twist, Scientist. The main character of that children's book was named in honor of ADA Lovelace (and Marie Curie).
  • STEIN (30D: "Three Lives" author Gertrude) Gertrude STEIN's 1909 book, Three Lives, features three separate stories, independent of each other, but all set in a fictional town based on Baltimore, Maryland. The Three Lives are "The Good Anna," "Melanctha," and "The Gentle Lena." 
  • ORANGE (50D: The "O" in ROY G BIV) ROY G BIV, is the mnemonic useful for remembering the colors of the rainbow in order: red, ORANGE, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. This clue reminded me of a phone app game my son just introduced me to last night. It's called I Love Hue (so clever), and it involves arranging tiles in colorful mosaics. My son knew I would enjoy it, as I adore color and order. So far, I find the game calming, relaxing, and also occasionally challenging.
  • CHOW (57D: Dog with a blue tongue) The CHOW CHOW (or simply CHOW) and the Shar Pei are the only dog breeds that have a blue-black or purple tongue.
A classic USA Today theme today, executed with a fine set of theme answers. I enjoyed the cluing a lot today. Some examples: NERDED OUT (17A: Had a passionate discussion about numbers, e.g.), HOW'RE (67A: Contraction that rhymes with "sour"), and TON (1D: Unit of weight for a brachiosaurus). This puzzle was a satisfying way to begin my Saturday.