April 21, 2022


Constructor: Malaika Handa

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
COMIC STRIP (3D: "Calvin and Hobbes," e.g.)
DETROIT MICHIGAN (7D: Motown's home)
DYNAMIC DUO (32D: Pair of people who work well together)

Theme synopsis: Each vertical theme answer contains the word MIC. Visually, the MIC DROPs as you move through the puzzle from left to right.

And now a word from our constructor:
Malaika: I really jam-packed this puzzle with things I am excited about: Alsarah and the Nubatones, Calvin and Hobbes, Motown, "Dreamgirls," (so, more Motown, I guess), Nubian Skin, American AUTO (so, uh.... *more* Motown, in a sense??), and Black Girls Code.
Had I clued this puzzle a month later, the spanner would have been clued as [Setting of "The Big Leap"]. Go watch "The Big Leap," everyone!!
Here is some suggested listening.

Things I learned:
  • USER (20A: The "U" in UX engineer) In this usage, the abbreviation UX stands for USER experience. I feel like perhaps I should have known this, but I didn't. I guessed "uber" at first, which made for some interesting times trying to figure out (21D: Just OK). I stared at "BOS_" for quite a bit before realizing my mistake. 
  • EARL (46A: Rapper ___ Sweatshirt) EARL Sweatshirt is the stage name of rapper, songwriter, and record producer, Thebe Neruda Kgositsile. EARL Sweatshirt's fourth studio album, titled Sick!, was released in January of this year. 
  • AUTO (56D: "American ___" (NBC comedy)) American AUTO is a TV series that premiered in December 2021. The show revolves around employees of Payne Motors (based in DETROIT, MICHIGAN), and the struggles they face after a new CEO is hired who knows little about cars.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • LEGO MOVIE (15A: "The ___" (animated film with the song "Everything Is Awesome")) "Everything is Awesome!!!" is the theme song from the 2014 film, The LEGO MOVIE. There are a couple of versions of the song used in the movie. The one featured in the end credits is performed by the pop duo Tegan and Sara, in collaboration with the comedy trio, the Lonely Island.
  • STONEWALL (18A: The ___ Inn (gay rights landmark)) The STONEWALL Inn,
    pictured here in 2019, is located in Greenwich Village in New York City. The inn was the site of the Stonewall riots of 1969. 
  • ISSA (57A: "The Photograph" actress Rae) In the 2020 movie, The Photograph, ISSA Rae plays the role of Mae, the estranged daughter of a famous photographer. 
  • COMIC STRIP (3D: "Calvin and Hobbes," e.g.) It was fun to see Calvin and Hobbes featured as the COMIC STRIP example. Our family are longtime fans of Bill Waterson's COMIC STRIP about mischievous six-year-old Calvin and his tiger companion, Hobbes.
  • UBE (4D: Flavor of some purple ice cream) UBE is a species of yam that is a vivid purple color. UBE has a mellower taste than its orange counterpart, and is often used in desserts in Filipino cuisine.
  • NON (9D: The "N" in NGO) NGO = NON-governmental organization
  • ANIKA (29D: "Dreamgirls" actress ___ Noni Rose) Dreamgirls is a 2006 movie adapted from the 1981 Broadway musical of the same name. Dreamgirls is a fictional story inspired by the Supremes. The movie starred ANIKA Noni Rose, BeyoncĂ©, and Jennifer Hudson.
  • BRA (44D: Nubian Skin purchase) Nubian Skin is a lingerie and hosiery brand founded by Ade Hassan in 2014. The company specializes in "nude" undergarments for women of color.
  • EID (46D: Holiday also known as Small Sallah) and FEASTS (50D: 46-Down dinners) This is a nice pair of consecutive clues. In Nigeria, EID is popularly known as Small Salah. "EID Mubarak," the Muslim greeting used for EID al-Fitr (a festival marking the end of Ramadan), and EID al-Adha (a holiday honoring Abraham's obedience to God), means "Blessed FEAST" in Arabic.
  • URL (66D: www.blackgirlscode.com, for one) Black Girls Code is an organization working to provide opportunities for young women of color to excel in the tech marketplace.

    Geography review:

    • SRI (19A: ___ Lanka) SRI Lanka is an island country in South ASIA, located in the Indian Ocean. The legislative capital of SRI Lanka is SRI Jayawardenepura Kotte, and the executive and judicial capital is Colombo.
    • SUDAN (65A: Country where Alsarah & the Nubatones are from) Alsarah, the lead singer of Alsarah & the Nubatones, was born in Khartoum, SUDAN. When she was eight years old, her family left SUDAN amidst political unrest in the country, living in Yemen for several years, before seeking political asylum in the United States. Alsarah has a degree in ethnomusicology (the cultural and social aspects of music) from Wesleyan University. In 2010, she formed Alsarah & the Nubatones. Her sister, Nahid, sings backup vocals. In addition to the link Malaika shared in her notes, you can also check out the Tiny Desk Concert Alsarah & the Nubatones performed for NPR. 
    • DANE (71A: Person from Copenhagen) Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark, and its most populous city.
    • DETROIT MICHIGAN (7D: Motown's home) Motown, a portmanteau of "motor" and "town" is the name of a record company founded in DETROIT, MICHIGAN in 1959. The term "Motown" is also used to describe the rhythm and blues music produced by the record company in the 1960s and 1970s. As Malaika mentioned in her notes, DETROIT, MICHIGAN is also the setting of the TV show, The Big Leap. The show centers on a diverse group of people competing in a reality dance show competition.
    • ASIA (54D: Pakistan's continent) Pakistan is a country in South ASIA. Its neighbors are India, Afghanistan, Iran, and China, and it has coastline on the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. The capital of Pakistan is Islamabad.
    Today the puzzle's title let me know just what to expect, and the theme delivered. Moving from left to right in the grid, the MIC DROPs through a delightful set of theme answers. This puzzle is asymmetric, but only by one black square - the kind of asymmetry that subtly allows for smoother fill. In addition to the answers I've already highlighted, I enjoyed the theme answer of DYNAMIC DUO, as well as PACKRAT, IF I MAY, and HOW IS IT. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Thursday.