Title: TART SHELLS
Constructor: Malaika Handa
Editor: Erik Agard
TATTOO ART (17A: Skin designs)
TALIA HIBBERT (35A: Romance novelist known for "Get a Life, Chloe Brown")
TABLE SKIRT (59A: Covering that hides legs but isn't a garment)
Theme synopsis: The theme answers are in TART SHELLS, in that each one begins with TA- and ends with -RT.
And now a word from our constructor:
Malaika: This puzzle started as a way for me to highlight the central entry, whose (warning: sexy!) romance novels I am kind of obsessed with. (The best imo is "Take a Hint, Dani Brown!") I am also glad I got to include 13-across, the city where my dad was raised. And, of course, 10-down and 39-down ;)
Things I learned:
- GIRL (21A: "Not a ___" (frequent correction from Janet on "The Good Place")) The Good Place is a TV series about a heaven-like utopia where righteous humans spend the afterlife following their death. The character Janet, played by D'Arcy Carden, is a programmed artificial intelligence guide that can provide residents of "The Good Place" with whatever they desire. Janet is "not a robot," and "not a GIRL," but even D'Arcy Carden isn't sure how to exactly describe what Janet is.
- MALAIKA (39D: Journalist Jabali) MALAIKA Jabali is currently the Senior News and Politics Editor at Essence magazine. Her writings on race, culture, and politics have appeared in many publications, including Teen Vogue, The New Republic, and The Guardian. (Side note: MALAIKA Jabali has a B.A. degree from Emory University, which caught my attention because my dad was also an Emory alum. She also has an M.S. from the Columbia University of Social Work, and a law degree from the Columbia Law School.) I'm happy to learn about MALAIKA Jabali, but my thought when I realized this answer was, "Oh, clever MALAIKA to work her own name into the grid!"
Random thoughts and interesting things:
- REI (34A: Fashion designer Kawakubo) REI Kawakubo is the founder of the Japanese fashion label Comme des Garçons, and the London-based retailer, Dover Street Market. The Metropolitan Museum of Art featured the works of REI Kawakubo in their 2017 Costume Institute Exhibition.
- TALIA HIBBERT (35A: Romance novelist known for "Get a Life, Chloe Brown") New York Times bestselling author, TALIA HIBBERT, writes contemporary romance novels, and is known for her diverse and engaging characters. The diversity of her characters spans race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, body type, and life experience. The protagonist and title character of Get a Life, Chloe Brown is a computer geek who lives with chronic pain. In this Entertainment Weekly interview, TALIA HIBBERT talks about her inspiration for the character. I second MALAIKA's recommendation of TALIA HIBBERT's books; I enjoy the delightful characters in them. (And yes, the books can get a bit steamy!)
- SARI (55A: Shaadi garment) Shaadi is a term for an Indian or Pakistani wedding.
- TABLE SKIRT (59A: Covering that hides legs but isn't a garment) Ha! I really like this clue. I was quite confused when I first read it, and I ended up uncovering the -SKIRT part of the answer first, which added to my bewilderment. Such fun when the answer was revealed. (The legs were not revealed, however, they were covered by the TABLE SKIRT...)
- READS (65A: Works through a TBR list) My "To Be Read" (TBR) list is always long! It's a good problem to have, right? That's what I keep telling myself - so much to look forward to.
- AMTRAK (3D: Better-known name for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation) The National Railroad Passenger Corporation - aka AMTRAK - is a quasi-public corporation that formed after the enactment of the Rail Passenger Service Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1971.
- ENGINEER (10D: Angie Jones or Hedy Lamarr) Angie Jones is a software ENGINEER, an IBM Master Inventor (an honor bestowed by IBM on employees that have exhibited sustained invention activity), and the CEO of Diva Chix (an online fashion game). Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) had an acting career that resulted in being honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She was also an ENGINEER and inventor and was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014. This is a lovely clue.
- HOT DOG (41D: A Chicago-style one is served on a poppy seed bun) A Chicago-style HOT DOG is an all-beef frankfurter served on a poppy seed bun, and topped with mustard, sweet pickle relish, onion, tomato, a dill pickle spear, pickled peppers, and a dash of celery salt. You'll notice there's no ketchup on a Chicago-style HOT DOG.
- ASTRAL (47D: ___ projection (out-of-body travel)) Here's an Oprah Daily article that talks about ASTRAL projection if you'd like to read more about this experience Merriam-Webster defines as "the ability of a person's spirit to travel to distant places."
- TEMA (13A: Ghana's "Harbour City") TEMA is Ghana's largest seaport, earning it the nickname of "Harbour City." Located on Ghana's Atlantic coast, TEMA is about 16 miles east of Accra, the country's capital.
A classic USA Today theme type, and the title let me know just what to expect. Such a fun solve! AGE LIMIT, TELEGRAM, OPTICS, and PESTLE were enjoyable entries in addition to those I've already mentioned. I liked the clue for HEARTS (2D: These: <3 <3 <3). This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Thursday.