July 21, 2022


Constructors: Emily Sharp & Kunal Nabar & Brooke Husic

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
MAKE-BELIEVE (15A: Pretend)
FORGE AHEAD (35A: Proceed despite adversity)
FORM-FITTING (58A: Tight, like spandex)

Theme synopsis: The first (FORWARD) word of each theme answer is a synonym for FASHION: MAKE, FORGE, FORM.

And now a word from our constructors:
Emily, Kunal, and Brooke: We're so happy to have a triple collab in the USAT! We had such a great time gridding and cluing this together, and our favorite bonus answers are 1-Down, 3-Down, 21-Down, 24-Down, and 37-Down. Like many USA Today puzzles, the seed we tried to build this theme around ended up on the cutting room floor -- we're not telling you what it is, though, in case we can get it into a future puzzle!

Things I learned:
  • ASL (18A: Language in "A Quiet Place") The 2018 movie, A Quiet Place - starring Emily Blunt and John Krasinski - is a horror film that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by blind monsters with acute hearing. The characters in the movie use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate without making noise. 
  • SPAS (47A: Jjimjilbangs, e.g.) Jjimjilbangs are traditional Korean SPAS where one can visit baths and saunas, and also hang out, watch TV, and even sleep, as they are open 24 hours a day. Lonely Planet has a guide for visiting jjimjilbangs.
  • TAE (57A: "The Science of Breakable Things" author Keller) TAE Keller's 2018 book, The Science of Breakable Things tells the story of a seventh-grade girl navigating her mother's depression. Her science teacher's advice - enter an egg drop contest. TAE Keller (according to her Twitter bio, it's "TAE as in Tater Tot") grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, "where she subsisted on kimchi, purple rice, and stories." Her other books include the Newberry Award-winning When You Trap a Tiger (2020), and Jennifer Chan is Not Alone (2022).
  • AND (65A: Ska group Toots ___ the Maytals) Toots AND the Maytals is a Jamaican musical group that is credited with coining the term "reggae" with their 1968 song, "Do the Reggay." Toots AND the Maytals have won two Grammy Awards for Best Reggae Album: in 2005 for True Love, and in 2021 for Got to Be Tough. The group's leader, Toots Hibbert, died in 2020 from COVID-19, at the age of 77.
  • SKI (50D: Compete like Laurie Stephens) Laurie Stephens is a professional skier who has competed for Team USA at five Winter Paralympics, winning two gold, two silver, and three bronze medals.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • LAT (9A: Back muscle, for short) The latissimus dorsi muscle, or LAT for short, is the largest muscle in the upper body. It stretches from the mid to lower back (attached to the spine) to the arm (where it connects to the humerus). The LAT plays an important role in shoulder movement.
  • DER (32A: "___ Spiegel" (German magazine whose name means "The Mirror")) The German news magazine, DER Spiegel, was started in 1947. It is published weekly, and is known for its investigative journalism. An online version, Spiegel Online, was launched in 1994. 
  • OXEN (43A: Zodiac animals after rats) The Chinese zodiac is based on the lunar calendar, and assigns an animal and its attributes to each year, in a cycle that repeats every 12 years. The last year of the OXEN was February 12, 2021 to January 31, 2022.
  • TORAH (45A: B-mitzvah text) Some Jewish synagogues and institutions are moving away from the gendered language of bar mitzvah (for boys) and bat mitzvah (for girls), and using B-mitzvah to refer to the Jewish ceremony celebrating coming-of-age. During the B-mitzvah ceremony, passages of scripture from the TORAH are recited. 
  • TIN (62A: Metal present in this clue) This is a fun hidden word clue. TIN is a soft, silver-colored metal with the atomic number of 50. Its chemical symbol is Sn.
  • NEVE (7D: Canadian actress Campbell) NEVE Campbell's many TV and movie credits include playing the role of Sidney Prescott in the five Scream movies. 
  • TEENS (8D: Many "Heartstopper" characters, age-wise) I have previously written about the coming-of-age TV series, Heartstopper
  • VINDALOO (21D: Goan dish originally made with pork) VINDALOO is a curry dish that originated from the Indian state of Goa. Although traditionally made with pork, many variations of the dish exist, including those containing beef, mutton, prawns, chicken, vegetables, or tofu.
  • OFRENDA (24D: Dia de los Muertos altar) Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday celebrated on November 1 and 2. It is a time to pray for and remember family and friends that have died. As part of the celebration, many people make an altar, or OFRENDA, to honor those who have died. The term OFRENDA can be used to refer to the altar itself, and to the items placed on the altar. 
  • ROSETTA (38D: The ___ Stone) I have previously written about the ROSETTA Stone
  • MFA (60D: Degree held by Angela Bassett) An MFA is a Master of Fine Arts degree. Angela Bassett has an MFA from the Yale School of Drama.

    Geography review:

    • OAKLAND (1D: California city in "Black Panther") In the 2018 movie, Black Panther," T'Chaka, the king of Wakanda, visits his brother in OAKLAND, California. OAKLAND is part of the San Francisco Bay Area.
    • ORE (2D: 4-Down's state (Abbr.)) and SALEM (4D: State capital south of Portland) SALEM is the capital of OREgon. It is the state's third-largest city, following Portland and Eugene.
    • HONG (46D: ___ Kong) The city of HONG Kong is a special administrative region of China. HONG Kong has 539 skyscrapers (buildings taller than 492 feet, which is 150 meters) , the most of any city in the world. For comparison, New York City has 302 skyscrapers. 
    • SFO (53D: Bay Area airport code) The San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is located just outside of San Francisco, in unincorporated San Mateo County.
    Not one, not two, but three constructors worked together to FASHION, MAKE, FORGE, and FORM today's puzzle. A fun theme that took me a few moments to see, providing a nice "Aha!" moment when I discovered it. There's so much great stuff here. I feel like I wrote about a lot, and didn't even scratch the surface. Enjoyable answers in addition to those I highlighted: HABANEROS, LATINE, DEAD END, DIRT BIKE, and MATINEE. Thank you Emily, Kunal, and Brooke, for this puzzle that was a delightful way to begin my Thursday.