July 28, 2022


Constructors: Erica Hsiung Wojcik & May Huang

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
GENIE IN A BOTTLE (15D: Christina Aguilera song with the lyric "You gotta rub me the right way")
HELPING HAND (24D: Something lent in assistance)
LITTLE SPOON (27D: Inside cuddler)

Theme synopsis: The BOTTOM word of each vertical theme answer is something that can be used for FEEDing: BOTTLE, HAND, SPOON.

And now a word from our constructors:
Erica: So happy to collaborate with May on this one! Given the themer lengths, the grid was a challenge and I'm so happy with what we (well, mostly May) were able to do with it. Look out for other puzzles from me and May in the future, and find me on twitter @ewojcik! In honor of 19A, please watch this very satisfying scene from the 2017 Twin Peaks reboot: https://youtu.be/5nmmKkKoamc
May: Having admired USAT puzzles and Sally's blog from afar for a long time, I'm really stoked today to be contributing to both!! I looooved working with Erica (and Erik!) on this puzzle (they rock) and am a big fan of the theme words we chose, especially 27D, and the fun grid we devised. I hope solvers enjoy this puzzle and let us know what they think!

Things I learned:
  • ELI (13A: NFL player Ankou) ELI Ankou is a defensive tackle for NFL's Buffalo Bills. ELI Anjou was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and is an Ojibwa of the Dokis First Nation.
  • GAY ICON (47D: The Babadook, for example) The Babadook is the title character of a 2014 Australian horror movie. In The Babadook, the title character presents as a pop-up storybook titled Mister Babadook. When a mother reads the book to her six-year-old son, strange events begin occurring. Several years after the movie came out, a user on Tumblr posted the comment, "Whenever someone says the Babadook isn't openly GAY it's like?? Did you even watch the movie???" When that post went viral, the Internet took over, turning the Babadook into a meme, and eventually, a GAY ICON. As this Vox article explains, "There are two types of people in this world: People who know that the Babadook - the namesake of the acclaimed 2014 Australian horror film - is a queer icon, and people who will soon find out that the Babadook is a queer icon." Count me happily as a person that just moved from the second group into the first.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • I'VE (19A: "___ Been Loving You Too Long") The song, "I'VE Been Loving You Too Long" is a soul classic written by Otis Redding and Jerry Butler, and recorded by Otis Redding in 1965. The song was Otis Redding's second-best selling single, second only to "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay." Edited to add: After I posted this, May pointed out the extremely fun fact that this song is featured on Barack Obama's 2022 Summer Playlist.
  • OLSEN (26A: "WandaVision" star Elizabeth) WandaVision is a TV miniseries featuring Marvel Comics characters. The series begins with events occurring three weeks after the action of the 2019 movie, Avengers: Endgame. Elizabeth OLSEN plays the role of Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch in both the movie and the TV series.
  • EDM (28A: Dubstep is a genre of it) EDM, or electric dance music, is a broad label for percussive electronic music that includes the genres dubstep, dance-pop, house, techno, trance, drum and bass, and trap. Dubstep is generally characterized by syncopated rhythmic patterns and a strong baseline.
  • ENNUI (30A: Bored feeling) and SNORE (72A: "Boring!") I did not SNORE or experience ENNUI while solving this puzzle!
  • RATHER (43A: "There's no place I'd ___ be") Truly, there's no place I'd RATHER be than right here blogging about this delightful puzzle.
  • WAG (46A: Tail movement) We often associate tail WAGs with dogs, but cats also use their tails
    Willow demonstrates a tail WAG
     expressively. There's the slow, languid WAG meaning contentment, and the excited twitch meaning, "I'm on the hunt." I'm not sure what Willow spied out the window when this photo was taken, but her tail was definitely on the move!
  • BAILEYS (51A: Irish cream liqueur brand) When I was an undergrad at Drake University, one of my work-study jobs was working as a bartender at the bar in the student union. (The drinking age in Iowa was 19 at the time. There's no longer a bar in the Drake student union.) My boss introduced me to BAILEYS Irish Cream. I was a bit of a goody two-shoes in high school, and subsequently, that BAILEYS Irish Cream was the first alcohol I'd ever tasted. It remains one of my favorites to this day. After we took our daughter to college, my husband and I returned home as empty-nesters, and I discovered my daughter had conspired with her father to leave a bottle of BAILEYS with a sweet note for me to find upon our return. I still have that note, but that particular bottle of BAILEYS is history.
  • PLUM (59A: Fruit that's sometimes dried and salted) PLUMS that have been dried and salted are a snack popular in Mexico and China known as saladitos. Dried apricots can also be used to make saladitos.
  • RUTH (8D: "Passing" star Negga) Passing is a 2021 movie based on Nella Larsen's 1929 book of the same name. In the movie, RUTH Negga plays Clare Bellew, a Black woman who has married a wealthy white man. Clare's racist husband is unaware that Clare has been "passing" as white.
  • GENIE IN A BOTTLE (15D: Christina Aguilera song with the lyric "You gotta rub me the right way") "GENIE IN A BOTTLE" is a 1999 song from Christina Aguilera's debut studio album. Rolling Stone ranks the song number five among the "20 Biggest Songs of the Summer: The 1990s."
  • LITTLE SPOON (27D: Inside cuddler) Did you say, "Aww, that's so cute!" when you filled in this answer? No? Just me? Although all of the theme answers were great today, this was my favorite of the three.
  • BASS (55D: Este Haim's instrument) Este Haim and her sisters, Danielle and Alana, comprise the band Haim. Este plays BASS guitar and sings.
  • USER (61D: ___ error (computer problem that's not the computer's fault)) I chuckled at the explanation in parentheses here. Yes, I get who's at fault here. Ha!

    Geography review:

    • OCEAN (12D: Atlantic or Pacific) Time for a Geography Quiz! Can you name the Earth's five OCEANs? The clue has provided you with two of them, so to make the quiz a little more challenging, can you list the five OCEANs in order from largest to smallest? The answer will be at the end of this blog post.
    • ILE (52D: ___-de-France) The ÎLE-de-France is one of eighteen administrative regions of France. Located in north-central France, the region contains Paris, the country's capital.
    In addition to being my favorite of the theme answers, LITTLE SPOON was the first of those answers I discovered. This lead me to wonder whether a knife and fork were waiting for me, but HELPING HAND provided the "Aha!" moment to what direction the theme was heading. In addition to the theme, I liked HANG OUT, RAUNCHY, and GARGOYLES. This grid is asymmetric, but it is only three squares off from having mirror symmetry, being symmetrical around a vertical line down the center of the puzzle. Congratulations to May Huang, who is making her USA Today debut today! Thank you, Erica and May, for this puzzle that was a fabulous way to begin my Thursday.

    Answer to the Geography Quiz: The Earth's five OCEAN's, listed from largest to smallest are: Pacific OCEAN, Atlantic OCEAN, Indian OCEAN, Southern OCEAN (aka Antarctic OCEAN), and the Arctic OCEAN.


    1. Hi, Sally. Some discussion today over at Crossword Fiend about USAT starting to charge for doing their crosswords. One can request a two week free trial after which, I assume, one must pay. Have you heard anything about this? Do you think Erik might know? Thanks, in advance. David

    2. Sorry, Sally. Your blog doesn't make it easy these days to comment as myself on Firefox after a Google log-in. I don't know why. Annoying!! David Steere

      1. With no official relationship with USA Today, I'm afraid I have no inside information. Sorry!
        P.S. I'm not sure what blogger has against Firefox!


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