February 7, 2022


Constructor: Ada Nicolle

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
FOSTER PARENT (19A: Victor or Rosa Vasquez, to Billy Batson)
V FORMATION (35A: Flying geese travel in one)
CALL TO ACTION (54A: "Share this post," for example)

Theme synopsis: The word on the RIGHT in each theme answer can be preceded by the word TRANS, giving us TRANSPARENT, TRANSFORMATION, and TRANSACTION.

And now a word from our constructor:
Ada: I'm so excited to have my first USA Today puzzle published, especially with a theme so near and dear to my heart <3. If you're a trans person reading this who likes crossword puzzles and wants to be mutuals, find me on Twitter at @adanicklmao! Also, I have more (mostly themeless) puzzles on my blog Luckystreak Xwords (luckyxwords.blogspot.com) and my Patreon (patreon.com/luckyxwords).
Lastly, thank you to Erik Agard and Brooke Husic for the guidance! This puzzle couldn't have happened without them.

Things I learned:
  • FOSTER PARENT (19A: Victor or Rosa Vasquez, to Billy Batson) In the DC Comics world, Billy Batson is a boy whose alter ego is Captain Marvel. Billy Batson makes the TRANSFORMATION to Captain Marvel by saying, "Shazam! (Did you know "Shazam" is an acronym for Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury?) As the clue informs us, Victor and Rosa Vásquez are  Billy Batson's FOSTER PARENTS. I had an interesting interaction with this clue/answer pair. When I first read it, I had the FOS- from crossing answers. I filled in the answer immediately, but when I was reviewing the puzzle I thought, "How did I know this?" Intuitive guess, or nearly forgotten knowledge gained from reading comic books when I was a child?
  • ARI (22A: "Pardon My Icelandic" comedian Eldjarn) ARI Eldjárn is an Icelandic comedian. His comedy special, Pardon My Icelandic, is available on Netflix.
  • O'NEAL (37D: Volleyball star Asjia) Asjia O'NEAL plays volleyball for the University of Texas at Austin. She has quite a story, having had two heart surgeries in order to continue to play volleyball safely. Asjia is the daughter of former NBA player, Jermaine O'NEAL.
  • ADA (58D: Black Dresses member Rook) ADA Rook and Devi McCallion are the noise pop duo, Black Dresses. Noise pop is a subgenre of indie rock. The group disbanded in 2020, but released their fifth studio album, Forever in Your Heart, in 2021. When I filled in this answer, my immediate thought was, "Clever ADA, she put her own name in the grid!"
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • OLUO (13A: Writer Ijeoma) Self-described "writer, speaker, and internet yeller" Ijeoma OLUO is the author of the 2020 book, Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America, and the 2018 book, So You Want to Talk About Race.
  • IDOL (14A: "You can call me artist, you can call me ___" (BTS lyric)) These lyrics are from the 2018 song, "IDOL," by the South Korean boy band, BTS.
  • REDD (17A: Colorful-sounding surname) and NGO (31A: Surname hidden in "own goal") A nice pair of surname clues. 
  • CATNIP (47A: Source of feline euphoria) We have had cats that weren't
    at all interested in catnip, and cats that are definite fans. Willow is the latter. Here she is with two of her favorite CATNIP-filled toys, a CATNIP pop tart, and a CATNIP Q-tip. 
  • GSA (53A: Org. for LGBTQ+ students and allies) and OUT (26D: LGBTQ+ magazine) GSA = Gay Straight Alliance, student-run organizations aimed at building supportive community and organizing to work for social justice. OUT is a magazine of LGBTQ+ news, fashion, entertainment, and lifestyle. I would be happy to see either of these clues in a puzzle anytime, but they are particularly nice bonuses to today's theme.
  • CALL TO ACTION (54A: "Share this post," for example) It amuses me to think of "Share this post," as a CALL TO ACTION. It is, of course, but I usually associate a CALL TO ACTION as "write your senator," or "boycott this company." Fun clue.
  • WNBA (61A: A'ja Wilson's org.) A'ja Wilson plays basketball for WNBA's Las Vegas Aces. She was part of the Team USA that won an Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics (held in 2021).
  • GOYA (67A: "La Maja desnuda" painter Francisco) Francisco GOYA's painting, La Maja desnuda, depicts a nude woman reclining on pillows. The painting is at the Prado Museum in Madrid. 
  • TL;DR (8D: Acronym after a long paragraph) TL;DR = too long; didn't read. When appearing at the end of a long piece of writing, TL;DR is followed by a short summary.
  • EDU (10D: End of an academic URL) and GOV (29D: End of a state URL) Another nice pair of clues. As I've discussed a few times recently, the linking of answers by using clues with related words or a related format, as we see several times in this puzzle, can make the puzzle feel cohesive.
  • DOC (59D: ___ McStuffins (title role for Kiara Muhammad)) DOC McStuffins is an animated TV series about a girl (voiced by Kiara Muhammad for the first two seasons) who practices her dream of becoming a doctor by fixing toys and dolls. 

    Geography review:

    • OSLO (16A: World capital on a fjord) OSLO is the capital and most populous city of Norway. A fjord, to refresh our memories, is a long narrow inlet of water with steep sides (often cliffs). Fjords were created by glaciers. The specific fjord on which OSLO is located is known, appropriately, as the OSLOfjord
    • GUINEA (50A: Bembeya Jazz National's country) GUINEA is a country in West Africa. Its capital is Conakry. GUINEA is the home country of the musical group, Bembeya Jazz National. In the 1960s, the group became known for their Afropop rhythms)
    • PANAMA (49D: Biomuseo's country) Located at the southern entrance of the PANAMA Canal, the Biomuseo, which opened in 2014, is a museum highlighting biodiversity and the history of PANAMA. Designed by Frank Gehry, who also designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, Biomuseo is a striking, colorful building. After learning about Biomuseo, and seeing pictures of it, I know I would definitely like to visit the museum if I ever have a chance to go to PANAMA.
    Oftentimes when we see a title featuring a word paired with a direction, we find that particular word in the theme answers in a location indicated by the direction. Therefore, when I filled in FOSTER PARENT, I paused for a moment. I did not find TRANS to the RIGHT of the answer. A lovely "Aha!" as the theme clicked - became TRANSPARENT, one could say. Three great theme answers with fabulous TRANSFORMATIONs. Congratulations and welcome to ADA Nicolle, who is making her USA Today debut with this puzzle! I know of ADA's work from other spheres of the crossword world, and when I saw her name as constructor of today's puzzle, I knew I was in for a treat. It was as delightful as I expected; a fabulous way to begin my Monday.

    TL;DR: Delightful puzzle!