September 9, 2022

Title: PR PROS

Constructor: May Huang

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
PUNK ROCKER (20A: Antiestablishment musician)
PALM READER (37A: Fortuneteller who interprets life lines)
PARK RANGER (57A: NPS employee)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer is a profession whose job title can be abbreviated PR.

And now a word from our constructor:
May: I'm glad to be back in the USAT with a puzzle that hits close to home—or shall I say, work... maybe next time someone asks me what "working in PR" entails I'll draw inspo from 20A, 37A, or 57A!

Things I learned:
  • LATKE (7D: ___-Hamantash Debate (University of Chicago tradition) The LATKE-Hamantash Debate originated at the University of Chicago in 1946. The humorous academic tradition debates the merits of LATKEs - potato pancakes eaten during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah - and hamantashen - triangular filled pastries eaten on the Jewish holiday of Purim. The debate has never been conclusively won, but the debate is followed by a reception at which both foods are served, allowing participants and listeners to evaluate the matter for themselves (although last year's event was held via Zoom, so participants were responsible for their own refreshments).
  • TERESA (49D: Taiwanese singer Teng) Teresa Teng (1953-1995) was a Taiwanese singer and actress who is sometimes referred to as "Asia's eternal queen of pop."
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ENYA (14A: "Only Time" singer) In today's episode of "Share the Earworm," I offer you ENYA's 2000 song, "Only Time." "Who can say where the road goes? Where the day flows? Only time..."
  • ASMR (17A: Relaxing video genre) I have previously written about autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR).
  • EVE (27A: "Maya and the Robot" writer Ewing) I have written several times about sociologist, author, poet, visual artist, and University of Chicago assistant professor EVE Ewing. Maya and the Robot was published in July 2021. The book tells the story of fifth-grade Maya who uses her science skills to resurrect a robot she found in a closet. 
  • I'LL (46A: "___ allow it") The phrase "I'LL allow it," is used by judges during court proceedings. It's also used outside of the courtroom by those wanting to be pretentious and/or funny. The phrase became part of a meme (meme-ified?) after Ken Jeong's character SeƱor Chang used it on the TV comedy series, Community. This is a great clue to elevate a common word.
  • SUMAC (51A: Spice used in za'atar) Za'atar is a spice mixture associated with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. The mixture contains sesame seeds, SUMAC, and a variety of spices. 
  • ASST (68A: Job title abbreviation) I liked the appearance of the clue [Job title abbreviation] in a puzzle whose title and theme are based on a job title abbreviation.
  • GYMNAST (3D: Suni Lee, for example) I wrote about GYMNAST Sunisa Lee, who sometimes uses the nickname Suni, when we saw her full name as a theme answer on October 6, 2021.
  • RANDALL (22D: "Always Be My Maybe" star Park) Ali Wong and RANDALL Park star as childhood friends who have not been in touch since a teenage fling ended poorly in the 2019 movie, Always Be My Maybe.
  • OLDEST (44D: Este, among the Haim sisters) ESTE, Danielle, and Alana are the Haim sisters, and the members of the pop rock band, Haim.
  • UNAGI (55D: Unadon fish) Unadon is a dish in Japanese cuisine consisting of steamed white rice topped with grilled UNAGI (freshwater eels) in a sweetened soy-based sauce.

    Geography review:

    • DES (28A: ___ Moines, Iowa) DES Moines is the capital of Iowa. If you ever find yourself in DES Moines and have some time to hang out at a coffee shop, I recommend Smokey Row Coffee Co. (This would have been a great recommendation to make yesterday.) The ambiance is welcoming and they have a wonderful selection not only of coffee, but of other beverages as well as sandwiches and ice cream. Also, if you're ever in DES Moines, you're just a two-hour drive from me, so let me know and I'll meet you at Smokey Row!
    • ERIE (40A: One of the Great Lakes) Not just any Great Lake, but crossword's favorite, Lake ERIE, making its first appearance of September. It's actually been over a month since we've seen ERIE in the puzzle. Have you missed it? Here's some fun data: Since I have been blogging about the USA Today puzzle, there hasn't been a month that we haven't seen ERIE in the puzzle at least once. And there have only been two months during that time that we have seen ERIE just one time. One of those months was last month; the other was January 2021.
    • STL (41A: Gateway Arch city, for short) The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri (STL, for short)
      Gateway Arch
      is 630 feet tall and 630 feet wide. Construction of the Gateway Arch was completed October 28, 1965.
    • LGA (47D: Airport near JFK) LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) are both located in New York City in the borough of Queens. 
    • MALTA (52D: Island near Tunisia) MALTA is an archipelagic country (one consisting of islands) in the Mediterranean Sea. The country and its main island share the name MALTA. The capital of MALTA is Valletta, whose metropolitan area covers the entire island of MALTA. The African country of Tunisia is 176 miles west of MALTA.
     Well, we didn't get any dessert in the LET'S EAT title progression, but this theme was so delightful I don't even mind! When I saw the title, I guessed the theme answers might be people with the initials PR, and was pleasantly surprised to discover I was wrong. I enjoyed seeing the variety of these PR PROS. Hmmm, someone please write a joke about, "A Public Relations ASST., a PUNK ROCKER, a PALM READER, and a PARK RANGER walk into a bar..." Other great answers today: EGGED ON, E-TICKETS, EPIC POEM, and RESIGNED (which may be a PR issue...). I always appreciate when constructors send me notes (Never required, always appreciated!) because I enjoy the insights they provide into the puzzle's background. Today it's a fun bonus to know that our constructor is a PR PRO. Thank you, May, for this puzzle that was a fabulous way to begin my Friday.