September 19, 2022


Constructor: Li Ding

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
LIST PRICE (16A: Suggested retail cost)
PAPER TIGER (24A: Toothless adversary (or something that can be made in 39-Down)
SPORT COAT (34A: Business-casual jacket)
HIGH ROLLER (49A: Big spender at a casino)
LENS FLARE (59A: Photo effect caused by bright light)

Theme synopsis: The FIRST word of each theme answer can follow the word CONTACT, giving us CONTACT LIST, CONTACT PAPER, CONTACT SPORT, CONTACT HIGH, and CONTACT LENS.

Things I learned:
  • ARE (6A: "And I thought I should tell you / How loved you ___ (Honne lyric)) Honne is the electronic music duo of James Hatcher and Andy Clutterbuck, and this lyric is from their song, "Woman." I like this clue. Even though I had to look up the song (which I enjoyed listening to), the answer was obtainable from the context.
  • SODA (20A: Milkis, for example) Milkis is a SODA produced by the South Korean company, Lotte Chilsung. Milkis is a carbonated beverage containing milk. In addition to the classic flavor, it is available in orange, strawberry, mango, melon, banana, peach, and apple.
  • AFRO (56D: "Gotta love that ___ hairdo" (Corinne Bailey Rae lyric)) "Gotta love that AFRO hairdo" is a line from Corinne Bailey Rae's 2006 song, "Put Your Records On." I've written about this song several times - and listened to it as well - but didn't recognize the lyric. Fortunately, the answer was easily inferable, and comes with the bonus that I'm listening to "Put Your Records On" while I write!
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • BABEL (21A: Site of a Biblical tower) The Tower of BABEL is a story from Genesis, the first book of the Christian Bible and the Hebrew Torah. The story is told in an attempt to explain the existence of so many different languages. Similar stories exist in other traditions.
  • PAPER TIGER (24A: Toothless adversary (or something that can be made in 39-Down) and ORIGAMI (39D: Japanese art form) The term PAPER TIGER is used to refer to something that appears powerful, but is actually ineffectual. The phrase has its origin in an old Chinese idiom that became well known when Mao Zedong, the former leader of the Chinese Communist Party, used it to refer to the United States in the 1950s. I liked the cross-reference hint.
  • ATE (30A: Had some baozi) Baozi, also known as bao, is a steamed yeast-leavened bun that is filled with a variety of savory or sweet fillings. I recently ATE some excellent baozi at a restaurant called Bao in St. Louis, Missouri. 
  • LIU (57A: Actress Lucy) Watch for Lucy LIU in the DC Comics superhero movie, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, which is scheduled to be released in March of next year. In Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Lucy LIU and Helen Mirren play supervillain sisters. 
  • MAORI (58A: Like haka performers) The haka is a ceremonial dance in the MĀORI culture. The MĀORI are indigenous people of New Zealand.
  • ATHLETE (11D: Gymnast or judoka) A gymnast is an ATHLETE that does gymnastics. A judoka is an ATHLETE that does judo.
  • BRUNO (21D: Ostracized uncle in "Encanto") This is a fabulous opportunity to Share the Earworm! I occasionally walk into our kitchen singing "We Don't Talk About BRUNO," ("No, no, no...") just to get a reaction from my husband.
  • REAL (36D: Birds Aren't ___ (parody conspiracy theory)) Birds Aren't REAL is a satirical conspiracy theory that says birds are actually drones used by the United States government to spy on people. Peter McIndoe created Birds Aren't REAL in 2017, on a bit of a whim, but the idea spread and caught on. This article from The Guardian provides a good overview of Birds Aren't REAL. 
  • ANN (37D: Polar explorer Bancroft) ANN Bancroft is an author, educator, public speaker, and adventurer. In 1986, she was the first woman to reach the North Pole. In 1992-1993, she led the first all-female expedition to the South Pole, becoming the first woman to reach both the North and South Pole. The ANN Bancroft Foundation, founded in 1991 "inspires and encourages girls to imagine something bigger" through grants, mentorship, and development opportunities.
  • LIN (60D: Architect Maya) I have previously written about Maya LIN.

    Geography review:

    • STATE (15D: Colorado or California) This is a great opportunity for a (perhaps easy-breezy for a Monday!) Geography Quiz. In addition to Colorado and California, there's just one other U.S. STATE that begins with the letter C. Can you name it? You'll find the answer at the end of this blog post.
    I think of the "words that follow X" as a classic USA Today theme type, but it's actually been some time since we've seen such a theme. With five great theme answers, it feels like this puzzle is jam-packed with theme, and that was fun. In addition to the answers I've already highlighted, I enjoyed BALLADS, LEG ROOM, and WAGE GAP. This is Li Ding's USA Today crossword debut. Congratulations! Thank you, Li, for this puzzle that was a delightful start to my Monday.

    Answer to Geography Quiz: The three U.S. STATEs whose names begin with the letter C are California, Colorado, and Connecticut.