March 7, 2022


Constructor: Zaineb Akbar

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
NORMAL PEOPLE (25A: Sally Rooney novel-turned-series about a complex relationship)
SOCIAL BUTTERFLY (41A: One who "flits" in well with everyone)
SITE SPECIFIC (53A: Like Maya Lin's earthwork "The Wave Field")

Theme synopsis: The first word of each theme answer can be preceded by PARA, giving us PARANORMAL, PARASOCIAL, and PARASITE.

And now a word from our constructor:
Zaneb: this puzzle came from me studying the parasympathetic nervous system for my final and my mind wandering to think of other words that start with para. "SYMPATHETIC EAR" did not make it to the final grid but im happy with how it turned out ...
the idea of a " parasocial butterfly " is interesting to me
i enjoyed learning about cradleboards, mocha, & chinese puzzle balls
also liked looking at lynxes
thank you to erik for his guidance along the reworking process and his edits !!!

Things I learned:
  • NORMAL PEOPLE (25A: Sally Rooney novel-turned-series about a complex relationship) Sally Rooney's 2018 novel, NORMAL PEOPLE, follows the relationship of Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron as they finish secondary school in Ireland, and attend Trinity College. Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal star in the TV series based on the novel. It turns out that NORMAL PEOPLE isn't completely new to me, as I wrote about the TV series during my second week of blogging the USA Today crossword. I did not, however, remember that today, and needed the help of crossing answers.
  • AAVE (69A: Dialect created by Black people in the U.S.) African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is a dialect of English spoken by many Black people in urban U.S. communities. I found this Lingua Obscura article about AAVE interesting and informative. 
  • SCENE (71A: Subculture related to emo) The SCENE subculture emerged during the early 2000s.
  • ERICA (56D: Activist Garner) ERICA Garner became an advocate for police reform following the 2014 murder of her father, Eric Garner, who was placed in a lethal chokehold by a New York City police officer during an arrest. During the year after her father's death, ERICA Garner led twice-weekly marches to the scene of her father's death. She also set up the Garner Way Foundation "dedicate to eradicating racism and injustice in all of its forms." ERICA Garner died of a heart attack in 2017 at the age of 27.
  • LEOS (29D: Fixed fire signs) The term "fixed" as used in astrology is new to me. There are four fixed signs, one for each element. As the clue tells us, LEOS are the fixed fire signs. Although I don't study astrology, I do find it interesting to read. (I am interested in all types of personality's part of my personality.) As a LEO, I chuckled a bit to read that the upside of being a fixed sign is that we are marvels at getting things done; the downside is we are not known for our flexibility and have a hard time with change.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • BABY (1A: One carried in a cradleboard) A cradleboard is a protective BABY carrier used by indigenous peoples in North America, and also in northern Scandinavia.
  • SITE SPECIFIC (53A: Like Maya Lin's earthwork "The Wave Field") The Wave Field is an art installation by Maya Lin completed in 1995 for the University of Michigan. It occupies a 10,000-square-foot space, and features fifty grassy waves. The University of Michigan project is one of three Wave Field installations by Maya Lin, each of them SITE SPECIFIC. I have previously written about Maya Lin's Ghost Forest art installation.
  • TIARA (7D: Accessory for Princess Mia) That would be Mia aka Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis, Princess of Genovia, the protagonist of The Princess Diaries, a series of young adult novels by Meg Cabot that have also been adapted into movies. Anne Hathaway played the TIARA-wearing Princess Mia in the movies.
  • EOS (21D: Maker of egg-shaped balms) EOS, which I just learned stands for "Evolution of Smooth," is a beauty and skin-care company. Their lip balm is known for its colorful, egg-shaped packaging.
  • LYNX (40D: Wild cat with tufted ears) A LYNX is a medium-sized wild cat that has a short tail, tufts of black hair on the tips of their ears, large, padded paws, and long whiskers. There are four species of LYNX: Canada, Eurasian, Iberian, and bobcat. Willow is
    definitely not a wild cat, but she appreciated seeing this reference to her relative in the puzzle. 
  • IVORY (54D: Material that was once carved to make Chinese puzzle balls) A Chinese puzzle ball features twenty or more concentric hollow spheres carved from a single piece of IVORY. These carvings are amazingly intricate.

    Geography review:

    • LOS (35A: ___ Angeles) LOS Angeles is the largest city in California, and the second largest city in the U.S., following New York City.
    • EURO (60A: Austrian coin) Austria is a landlocked country in Central Europe, and its currency is the EURO. Austria's neighbors are Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. The capital of Austria is Vienna.
    • YEMEN (4D: Where mocha beans come from) YEMEN is a country in Asia, on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. Mocha beans are a variety of coffee bean native to YEMEN. The name "mocha" comes from the port city of Mocha, YEMEN.
    • SAMOA (53D: Apia's country) SAMOA is a Polynesian island country, and Apia is its capital.
    Congratulations to Zaneb Akbar on her USA Today crossword debut! Three fabulous theme answers today, making a TROUPE of interesting PARA- words. As I was reviewing the puzzle after solving, I began marking clues I liked, and there were a lot. Here are just a few of the clues I particularly enjoyed: DATA (5A: Fodder for a graph), SOFA (9A: Safe spot when "the floor is lava"), TEAM (17A: There's no "i" in it), and DRUMROLL (5D: Suspenseful percussion). This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Monday.


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