Title: LAST LAUGH
Constructor: Hannah Slovut
- DESI (44A: Musical theater actress Oakley) Sometimes when I'm reviewing a puzzle and choosing things to write about, I mark things that are new to me, and then when I start researching those things I discover I actually knew them. Such is the case with DESI Oakley. DESI Oakley has performed in multiple musical theatre shows, including Chicago, Wicked, and EVITA. She is best known, however, for playing the role of Jenna in the National Tour of Waitress. And this is when I realized that in December 2017, my husband and I saw DESI Oakley in Waitress when the show was in Des Moines, Iowa! I do remember she was fantastic in the role of Jenna, and now I will try to remember her name.
- SPY (73A: Strategy piece with an "S" on it) Stratego is a two-player game played on a 10x10 board that involves strategy, memory, and some luck. Each player has pieces that include army members of different ranks, bombs, and a flag. The goal of the game is to capture your opponent's flag. One of the army pieces is a SPY. I have never played Stratego, so I needed crossing answers to fill in SPY.
- MRS (1A: "The Marvelous ___ Maisel") The Marvelous MRS. Maisel is a TV series set in the 1950s and 1960s. Rachel Brosnahan plays the role of MRS. Maisel, who is pursuing a career in stand-up comedy.
- EVITA (14A: Musical with the song "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina") The musical EVITA, by Andrew Lloyd Weber (music) and Tim rice (lyrics) tells the story of Eva Péron, wife of Argentine president Juan Péron. The song "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" is sung by Eva in the musical. Madonna sang it in the 1996 movie adaptation. When DESI Oakley was in EVITA, she was the alternate for the title role, appearing twice a week as Eva Péron, and singing, "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina."
- LENA (20A: "Deed I Do" singer Horne) LENA Horne recorded the jazz standard, "Deed I Do," in 1948 with Luther Henderson's Orchestra.
- SIR (50A: Marcie's nickname for Peppermint Patty) I have previously written about Marcie's first appearance in the Peanuts comic strip, and her habit of addressing Peppermint Patty as SIR.
- GEN ALPHA (52A: Group born after Zoomers) Generation Z, also known as Zoomers, are those born between 1996 and 2010. GEN ALPHA is defined as those born in 2011 or later.
- OMAR (59A: "This Is What America Looks Like" author Ilhan) This is What America Looks Like: My Journey from Refugee to Congresswoman is the 2020 memoir of Representative Ilhan OMAR. The U.S. representative for Minnesota's 5th congressional district was born in Somalia, and immigrated to the United States with her family (via a refugee camp in Kenya) when Somalia was in the midst of civil war.
- MEI (1D: ___ fun (thin rice noodles) MEI fun, also known as rice vermicelli, may refer to the noodles and dishes made with the noodles.
- EGO (4D: Nwodim of "SNL") EGO Nwodim joined the Saturday Night Live cast in 2018. Before joining SNL, she performed a one-woman show at the Los Angeles UCB theater titled Great Black Women...and Then There's Me.
- MARSUPIAL (18D: "___ Sue" (children's book about a kangaroo)) MARSUPIAL Sue is a children's book by John Lithgow. (He also sings the book on a CD included with some versions of the book.) The title character of the book is a kangaroo that doesn't like being a kangaroo, and tries to find something better. Nice that the clue provided the "kangaroo" hint for those unfamiliar with the book.
- DIRT (30D: Juicy goss) Even after I filled this answer in, it took me a bit to figure out what it meant. "Is goss a type of soil?" No, "goss" is short for "gossip," and therefore juicy goss is DIRT. This was my "Aha!" moment today.
- HAYES (55D: "Will & Grace" actor Sean) Sean HAYES won a Primetime Emmy Award for the role of Jack McFarland in the TV series Will & Grace.
HA, HA, HA, HA, HA! This puzzle definitely has the LAST LAUGH. Fun to see five enjoyable theme answers. SRIRACHA and PIRANHA are always spelling challenges for me, so I was thankful for crossing answers. One of the subtle things I like about USA Today puzzles is when puzzles are run in sequences of related titles. We see this today with LAST LAUGH following yesterday's FAMILY FIRST. We also saw this recently with the SPRING FORWARD and FALL BACK puzzles that ran on consecutive days, and with the sequence of puzzles THREE WISHES, FOUR OF A KIND, and TIGHT FIVE. Even though each puzzle stands alone, it's a nice extra touch. Was this puzzle an enjoyable way to begin my Tuesday, and did it make me glad I didn't SLEEP LATE? YOU BETCHA!