March 15, 2022


Constructors: Mikkel Snyder & Brooke Husic

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers: 
SINGLES NIGHT (18A: Evening event for romantic hopefuls)
COSPLAY CONTEST (36A: Competition where you might be graded on your Superbly costume)
TANTRA WORKSHOP (51A: Spiritual session involving intimate exercises)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer begins with an abbreviation of a TRIGonometric FUNCTION. The leading TRIG FUNCTIONS are SIN (sine), COS (cosine), and TAN (tangent).

And now a word from our constructors:
Mikkel: Brooke and I have known each since 2010 after meeting during a fiction writing class, and since then our interests have diverged and converged with language in various ways, most recently converging in the form of crosswords. After she explained her journey with solving and construction and expressed an interest in collaboration, all it took was finding a good anchor (or rather seed) to start with.
Flashback to January 7th's USAT puzzle Power Series, I mused how I thought power series theme meant that there was gonna be some mathematical functions involved, and then after some back and forth over how to get a coherent theme for Trig Functions, Brooke was kind enough to grid and help guide me
through my first USAT cluing experience. And I was more than happy to inject some references to some of my favorite video games amongst other things.
Brooke: I'm beyond happy to have co-created this with my very dear friend Mikkel -- it feels like a natural extension of all the writing we've done together since we met in college. I love his cluing angles for 1A/9D, 18A, 30A, 36A, 41A, and 50A especially, and I'm glad we got to show some appreciation to his CATs and we're also happy to shout out some friends over at BLAVITY. For another Mikkel puzzle (that also mentions Destiny 2), see here :)

Things I learned:
  • MOM (1A: Persephone, to Zagreus, in "Hades") and SON (9D: Zagreus, to Persephone, in "Hades") Hades is a video game featuring characters and stories from Greek mythology. In the game, players control Zagreus, the SON of Hades and Persephone, as he tries to escape from the underworld in order to find his MOM. 
  • RESSA (7A: Maria ___, Filipino American winner of the Nobel Peace Prize) Maria RESSA is a journalist and author, and the cofounder and CEO of the Philippine online news site, Rappler. In 2021, Maria RESSA and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace." Maria RESSA is the first Filipino recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • ELSIE (50A: Name of the Exo Stranger in "Destiny 2: Beyond Light") Destiny 2: Beyond Light is an expansion of the online multiplayer video game Destiny 2. In the game, the Exo Stranger is Elisabeth "ELSIE" Bray, the granddaughter of Clovis Bay, and sister of Ana Bray. I'm sure my son would have known this answer, but I needed assistance from crossing answers.
  • BLAVITY (33D: Media site for Black millennials) BLAVITY is a media company and website created for Black millennials by Black millennials Morgan DeBaun and Aaron Samuels.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • COSPLAY CONTEST (36A: Competition where you might be graded on your Superbly costume) I had "costume CONTEST" at first, and since COSPLAY is a portmanteau of "costume" and "play," I was close. COSPLAY CONTESTs evolved out of the practice of fans donning costumes at science fiction conventions. The term COSPLAY was first coined in 1984.
  • AALIYAH (41A: Pop star who starred in "Queen of the Damned") Queen of the Damned is a 2002 vampire movie loosely based on a book in Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles series. AALIYAH played the role of vampire, Akasha. The movie was dedicated to AALIYAH, as the singer and actress died in a plane crash six months before the movie's release.
  • REVS (45A: MLK and Ralph Abernathy, for two (Abbr.)) The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) and The Reverend Ralph Abernathy were both civil rights activists. The two friends were also both Baptist ministers. I needed the R from the crossing answer EARLS to come up with REVS, short for Reverends. MLK and Ralph Abernathy are in good company; my dad was also a REV. 
  • DND (61A: Game with a 56-Across character class, for short) and ROGUE (56A: Shady Sort) In the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons (DND, for short), a character's capabilities are defined by their character class. ROGUE is one of the standard character classes in most editions of DND.
  • SHE (62A: They/___/he pronouns) As noted in this NPR article, using someone's correct pronouns is a sign of acceptance and respect comparable to pronouncing their name correctly.
  • CAT (38D: Pet that purrs) Always happy to see a CAT clue, and delighted today to feature a photo of Mikkel's CATs, Metronome and Bellchime! (Note to all USA Today constructors: I'm happy to give your pet photos a place on the blog, particularly if said pet is featured in the grid!)
  • WOAH (52D: "Dang, that's impressive!") I have accepted that WOAH is a spelling of "whoa" that is widely used. No word yet on when this spelling will begin to not look like a typo to me. Merriam-Webster has not yet added WOAH to its dictionary, but they're considering it, and they magnanimously affirm one's right to say it. 

    Geography review:

    • SLC (10D: Capital of Utah, for short) Salt Lake City (SLC) is Utah's most populous city, in addition to being its capital. Its nickname is "The Crossroads of the West."
    Today's puzzle has a fun math theme that does not require a solver to enjoy math (though I do) to be successful. In addition to the theme answers, MAIN QUEST was a nice bonus entry. CRUSHES HARD is not a phrase I've encountered, but it was inferable. Although I'm not a gamer, I love people that are, so I've picked up some gaming knowledge through the years. I feel like this puzzle added to my knowledge base in that area. Congratulations to Mikkel Snyder on the USA Today crossword debut! This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Tuesday.