May 2, 2022


Constructors: Madeline Kaplan & Brooke Husic

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
POWER CHAIR (17A: Electric mobility aid)
EDITH HEAD (35A: Costume designer with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame)
LOSS LEADER (56A: Product designed to attract new customers rather than to be profitable)

Theme synopsis: The FINAL word of each theme answer is a synonym for BOSS: CHAIR, HEAD, LEADER.

And now a word from our constructors:
Madeline: I'm so glad to have worked on this puzzle with Brooke, and psyched for it to be published. I'd been playing with variations on this theme for a while and she helped refine it -- 35A and 56A were on my original list of themers, and she suggested 17A. We worked on a few grid possibilities over Zoom and then took turns finishing the corners. I think my favorite entry/clue is 39D; I'm also partial to 2D, 7D and the clue for 57D.
Brooke: So honored to have teamed up with Madeline on this puzzle! This grid was a lot of effort to wrangle and I'm super happy with what we came up with after many discarded options. I love Madeline's stack in the SW and my favorite of her clues are 1A and 6D.

Things I learned:
  • ELI (49A: "Slugterra" protagonist ___ Shane) Slugterra is an animated TV series about a vast underground world deep inside Earth which is named for the tiny slugs that live there. The protagonist of Slugterra is 15-year-old ELI Shane, who, with the help of the slugs, must protect Slugterra from those seeking to destroy it.
  • INUIT (6D: Like Inuvialuktun) Inuvialuktun is an INUIT language spoken by the Inuvialuit, INUIT people that live along the Arctic Ocean coastline in Canada's Northwest Territories. Inuvialuktun is one of 11 official languages in the Northwest Territories.
  • MEMOIR (9D: "A History of My Brief Body," for example) Billy-Ray Belcourt is an Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia's Creative Writing Program. He is from the Driftpile Cree Nation, and is the author of several books, including A History of My Brief Body: a MEMOIR, published in 2020. Billy-Ray Belcourt's website describes the book as "essays and vignettes on grief, colonial violence, joy, love, and queerness." Although I learned about this book today, the answer of MEMOIR was inferable.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ZITS (30A: Targets for hydrocolloid dots) Also known as "pimple stickers," hydrocolloid dots are small bandages containing a drying agent that may be useful for treating certain types of ZITS.
  • EDITH HEAD (35A: Costume designer with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame) Between 1949 and 1973, EDITH HEAD won eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, and holds the record for the most awards won by a woman. (Walt Disney holds the record for most Academy Awards, having won 22 awards.) EDITH HEAD began her career as a Spanish teacher until she was hired by Paramount Pictures in 1924 as a costume sketch artist. (She later admitted she used forged sketches for her job interview.) This New York article about EDITH HEAD includes a compilation of thirty movie costumes she designed. Edna Mode, the superhero costume designer in The Incredibles movies, was inspired by EDITH HEAD.
  • RUDOLPH (1D: "Away We Go" star Maya) Away We Go is a 2009 movie starring Maya RUDOLPH and John Krasinski as expectant parents searching for a new place to live and raise their child. 
  • GAME (3D: Elden Ring or ring toss) I liked the repetitive use of "ring" to mention two quite different GAMEs. Elden Ring is a role-playing video game, which is an appropriate kind of GAME to mention in a puzzle titled FINAL BOSSES. I learned from the January 21, 2021 puzzle that BOSS is a term for a significant computer-controlled enemy.
  • BOX FADE (7D: Rectangular haircut) In a BOX FADE haircut, the top of the hair is shaped like a BOX (i.e. rectangular), while the back and sides of the hair FADE.
  • AILEY (45D: "Revelations" choreographer Alvin) Alvin AILEY, who I first learned about from the September 22, 2020 puzzle, was the founder of the Alvin AILEY American Dance Theater (AAADT) in New York City in 1958. Revelations, the signature work of the AAADT, presents a historical view of the African American experience using spirituals, gospel, and blues music.
  • BEE (47D: ___ House (honey-making item in Stardew Valley)) I was excited to see Stardew Valley  mentioned in this clue, as I just learned about this video game from Saturday's puzzle. I did not, however, learn about the BEE House from the research I did on Saturday, so I was thankful for the "honey-making" hint.
  • NOVEL (51D: "Harlem Shuffle," for example) Harlem Shuffle is a 2021 NOVEL by Colson Whitehead. On his website, Colson Whitehead says the book is the first of a trilogy. I enjoyed this interview The New Yorker did with Colson Whitehead, in which the author says, "I'm writing novels set in the past because I don't have anything interesting to say about the present."

    Geography review:

    • ALA (20A: Lake Martin's state (Abbr.)) Lake Martin, formed by the construction of Martin Dam (from 1923-1926) on the Tallapoosa River in ALAbama, is one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States. 
    Regardless of your skill at facing FINAL BOSSES in video games, I trust you were successful at uncovering the FINAL BOSSES in today's puzzle. A nice set of theme answers today surrounded by so much delightful fill. In addition to the fill I've already mentioned, I enjoyed I'M AWARE (so sassy!), SOLOIST, JACUZZI, CRINGEY, and GONDOLA. I MEAN, there wasn't any SO-SO or BAD fill, so I honestly enjoyed the entire puzzle. Congratulations to Madeline Kaplan on her USA Today debut! This puzzle was a great way to begin my Monday.