October 25, 2022

Title: GJ

Constructor: Erik Agard

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
GRAPE JUICE (18A: Beverage that's usually purple)
GEORGE JACKSON (36A: Author of "Soledad Brother" and "Blood in My Eye")
GUAVA JELLY (55A: Tropical fruit spread)
GRACE JONES (13D: Jamaican-born model/singer/actress)
GUEST JUDGE (26D: Nonpermanent panel member on a competition show)

Theme synopsis: Each of the theme answers has the initials GJ.

Things I learned:
  • TARA (20A: Rutina Wesley's "True Blood" role) True Blood is a TV series adapted from a series of novels by Charlaine Harris titled The Southern Vampire Mysteries. Rutina Wesley plays the role of TARA Thornton. Rutina Wesley also stars as Nova Bordelon in the TV series Queen Sugar (which I have written about previously).  
  • GEORGE JACKSON (36A: Author of "Soledad Brother" and "Blood in My Eye") In 1960, GEORGE JACKSON, who was 18 years old at the time, was accused of stealing $70 from a gas station. Although there was evidence of his innocence, he pled guilty as advised by his court-appointed attorney, and received an indeterminate sentence of one year to life. After doing some reading about GEORGE JACKSON, I realized I could easily spend the entire morning learning about him, and write several hundred paragraphs about his life. In the interest of getting this blog posted on time and keeping it at a readable length, I will instead refer you to the introductory paragraphs of Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of GEORGE JACKSON, posted online on the History is a Weapon site. These few paragraphs provide a good overview of GEORGE JACKSON's life (1941-1971), and may make you also want to learn more about him. His second book, Blood in My Eye was finished just a few days before he was killed by guards at San Quentin Prison.
  • K-POP (39D: TWICE genre) TWICE is a South Korean girl group whose first K-POP hit was the 2016 single "Cheer Up."
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • KINTE (21A: "Roots" character Kunta ___) We saw Kunta KINTE's full name as a theme answer in the August 18, 2021 puzzle. Levar Burton played the role of Kunta KINTE in the 1977 miniseries based on Alex Haley's 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. I was 12 years old when Roots first aired. Those were the days before VCRs, DVRs, or streaming services; you had to watch each of the eight episodes when they were aired. (This is reminding me of an entry from yesterday's puzzle: YEARS AGO...)
  • EARS (65A: Basset hounds have floppy ones) The EARS of Basset Hounds contribute to their ability to track. These dogs are second only to Bloodhounds in scent work and tracking. Their long EARS waft smells upward toward their nose. Their short stature is also useful, as it puts them closer to the ground where the smells are. The droopiness of Basset Hound EARS also make them prone to infection. Owners need to clean a Basset Hounds EARS regularly.
  • EGG (4D: Food item that will float in a bowl of water if it's old) While a fresh EGG will sink in water, a one to two week-old EGG will begin to float, perhaps one end of the EGG will lift off of the bottom of the container. This doesn't mean you need to toss it out, however. EGGs will keep for a couple of months in the refrigerator. If an EGG floats to the top of a glass of water, however, you might want to toss it, as it's likely older than three months. The reason older EGGs float is because air seeps through the pores of the shell, enlarging the air sac inside the EGG.
  • GRACE JONES (13D: Jamaican-born model/singer/actress) As the clue tells us, GRACE JONES was born in Jamaica. She moved to Syracuse, New York with her family as a teenager. She began modeling at the age of eighteen, and later added a career in music and acting. 
  • VEGGIE (24D: ___ Lover's (pizza order)) Pizza is one of my favorite foods, and VEGGIE Lover's is my favorite kind of pizza. If you were ever to "buy me a pizza" (say by supporting my work with a donation), chances are good that pizza would have VEGGIEs on it.
  • AJA (51D: ___ Wilson, 2022 WNBA MVP) AJA Wilson is a basketball player with WNBA's Las Vegas Aces. In 2022 the Las Vegas Aces won the WNBA Championship. AJA Wilson was also part of the USA Team that won a gold medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics (held in 2021). I surprised myself by knowing the answer to this sports clue! Since I haven't written about AJA Wilson before, my guess is I encountered her name while solving a non-USA Today puzzle. (Yes, I do solve other crosswords sometimes.)

    Geography review:

    • EST (29D: Time zone in VA) Virginia (VA) is located on the eastern coast of the United States and has coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. Like the rest of the east coast states, Virginia is on Eastern Standard Time (EST). The capital of Virginia is Richmond.
    It was easy to guess the theme from the title of the puzzle, but the title did make me wonder what "gj" stands for. The initials GJ can be used (often online) to indicate "good job" or "great job." GJ is also used as an abbreviation for gigajoule, and there is a song called "GJ!" by the Japanese heavy metal band, Babymetal. Take your pick. In today's puzzle, five different theme answers have the initials GJ. That's a lot of theme material, and the construction of this puzzle is impressive, with the two vertical each intersecting with GEORGE JACKSON. There were a couple of clue echoes today: [Farm machine] for SEEDER and TILLER, and [Fancy party] for SOIREE and GALA. I enjoy the "Haven't I answered this already?" effect of repeated clues. Thank you, Erik, for this puzzle that was a fantastic way to begin my Tuesday. gj