Title: UP AHEAD
Constructor: Rafael Musa
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
URBAN PLANNING (19A: Field concerned with city design)
US PASSPORT (31A: Travel document for American citizens)
USB PORTS (43A: Plug-in points on some computers)
UTTAR PRADESH (55A: Indian state that's home to the Taj Mahal)
Theme synopsis: Each theme answer begins with the letter U, and the last word in the theme answer begins with the letter P.
Things I learned:
- MEG (15D: Comedian Stalter) MEG Stalter is a comedian whose online character sketches went viral during the COVID-19 lockdown. She currently plays the role of Kayla on the HBO Max TV series, Hacks.
- TOFU (28D: Dubu jorim ingredient) Dubu jorim is a Korean dish of TOFU simmered in diluted soy sauce, sesame oil, minced garlic, and chopped green onion.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
- ANNIE (18A: 2014 musical film starring Quvenzhane Wallis) The 2014 musical movie, ANNIE, is a contemporary adaptation of the 1977 Broadway musical of the same name. Quvenzhané Wallis played the title role. Quvenzhané Wallis is also the author of a series of children's books about third-grade best friends, Shai and Emmie. The first book in the series is Shai & Emmie Star in Break an Egg!
- SKI (23A: Compete like Mikaela Shiffrin) Mikaela Shiffrin is the most decorated World Championship American alpine skier, having won 11 medals, six of them gold. She has also won two Olympic gold medals for alpine skiing.
- ROE (1D: Eggs in a chirashi bowl) The word "chirashi" means "scattered" in Japanese. A chirashi bowl is a dish featuring elements commonly used in sushi, served in a bowl - sushi rice topped with ingredients such as raw fish, nori, vegetables, and ROE.
- EDNA (41D: Name hidden in "named names") With the repeated variations of "name," this was a fun hidden word clue.
- KARATE (46A: Martial art that made its Olympic debut in 2021) KARATE was one of five new Olympic sports at the 2020 Summer Olympics held in 2021 in Beijing. The other new sports were baseball (reappearing after being removed following the 2008 Olympics), softball (also making its first appearance since 2008), skateboarding, and surfing. KARATE, baseball, and softball will likely not be included in the 2024 Olympics, although skateboarding and surfing have been approved for that event.
- ATONE (50D: Observe Yom Kippur) Yom Kippur is a Jewish holy day known as the Day of ATONEment. It is observed by fasting and prayer.
- O'HARE (38A: Busiest airport in the midwest) O'HARE International Airport is located in Chicago, Illinois.
- UTTAR PRADESH (55A: Indian state that's home to the Taj Mahal) Located in northern India, UTTAR PRADESH is the country's most populous state. UTTER PRADESH has a population of over 200 million. For comparison, the U.S. state of California, which is over one and a half times the size of UTTER PRADESH, has a population of just under 40 million. As the clue informs us, UTTAR PRADESH is the home of the Taj Mahal, which is in the city of Agra.
- IOWAN (60A: Person from Council Bluffs) Council Bluffs, Iowa is located on the western edge of the state, across the Missouri River from Omaha, Nebraska.
- OAHU (3D: Hanauma Bay's Island) Hanauma Bay is a Nature Preserve and Marine Life Conservation District on the southeast coast of the Hawaiian island of OAHU. It is home to green sea turtles, and about 400 species of fish. The coral reefs in the bay have suffered as a result of over tourism, leading to current restrictions on the number of daily visitors. Here's an interesting tidbit: In the Hawaiian language, the prefix "hana" means "bay." Therefore, the name Hanauma Bay is redundant.
- FLORIDA (4D: U.S. state that's home to over 1 million Cuban Americans) Cuba is about 100 miles south of FLORIDA, across the FLORIDA Strait.
- JAPAN (5D: Okinawa's country) Okinawa is the southernmost of JAPAN's 47 prefectures. Okinawa is also the name of the second largest city in Okinawa Prefecture.
- GUAM (24D: Island territory that's home to the CHamoru people) The CHamoru are the indigenous people of GUAM and the Northern Mariana Islands. Although formerly spelled "Chamorro," "CHamoru" is the preferred standardized spelling of the people and their language, as the CHamoru language does not have double "R" or the letter "C."
- OSLO (25D: Largest city in Norway) In addition to being its largest city, OSLO is the capital of Norway.
From the puzzle's title, I was expecting vertical theme answers. However, as so often happens, the puzzle surprised me with a different variation on the theme. I particularly enjoyed seeing UTTER PRADESH as a theme answer. There was a lot of geography in today's puzzle...good thing I've been reviewing my geography skills for almost two years now! I liked the combination of JEST (5A: Joke around) near the beginning of the puzzle, and NOT (63D: "Just joking!") at the end. I'm NOT joking when I say this puzzle was a delightful start to my Tuesday.