January 30, 2024


Constructors: Sala Wanetick & Emily Biegas

Editor: Anna Gundlach

Theme Answers:
RED HERRING (16A: Misleading clue)
BLACK PANTHER (26A: First superhero film nominated for Best Picture)
SILVER LINING (42A: The bright side of dark times)
BROWN SUGAR (58A: Baking ingredient that gets its color from molasses)

Theme synopsis: Each of the 4 theme answers begins with a hair color that is not BLONDE. Our 4 NON BLONDES are RED, BLACK, SILVER, and BROWN.

Things I learned:
  • DRE (19A: Protagonist on "Swarm" or "Black-ish") Swarm is a TV miniseries that premiered on Amazon Prime in 2023. It follows the story of Andrea "DRE" Green (Dominique Fishback), a young woman obsessed with a pop star. Black-ish is a TV series that originally aired on ABC from 2014-2022. Black-ish is the story of a Black family, headed by Andre "DRE" Johnson (Anthony Anderson) and his wife, Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross). I was familiar with Black-ish, but Swarm was new to me.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • HAMM (5A: Mia in the World Football Hall of Fame) Mia HAMM is a retired professional soccer player. She was a member of the U.S. women's national soccer team that won Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2004, and an Olympic silver medal in 2000. The key here is to remember that the sport the United States calls soccer, many other parts of the world refer to as football. In 2013, Mia HAMM was the first woman inducted into the World Football Hall of Fame.
  • MOOSE (20A: Large member of the deer family) The MOOSE is the tallest and largest member of the deer family. Male MOOSE have antlers that are regrown each year in the spring. After mating season, male MOOSE drop their antlers in order to conserve energy for the winter. A new set of antlers takes three to five months to develop.
  • SASHIMI (22A: Fresh fish dish at an izakaya) An izakaya is a type of informal Japanese bar. Dining at an izakaya is generally done slowly, with food being ordered in several courses rather than all at once. SASHIMI is a delicacy in Japanese cuisine that consists of thinly-sliced raw fish or meat.
  • BLACK PANTHER (26A: First superhero film nominated for Best Picture) The superhero movie BLACK PANTHER was released in 2018. Although it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, it did not win, losing to Green Book. BLACK PANTHER did win three Academy Awards however, for Best Costume Design, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design. 
  • WHAT'S (36A: "___ Up?" ('90s hit by 4 Non Blondes)) The 4 NON BLONDES was an alt rock band active from 1989-1994. "WHAT'S Up?" was released in 1993, and was the second single from their only album, Bigger, Better, Faster, More! Today 4 NON BLONDES is the puzzle's theme, and this is a lovely bonus answer.
  • GIRL (41A: "___ With a Pearl Earring") GIRL With a Pearl Earring is an oil painting by Johannes Vermeer. It was painted around 1665. The 1999 Tracy Chevalier novel, GIRL With a Pearl Earring, is historical fiction about the circumstances of the painting's creation. The novel was adapted into a 2003 movie with the same name. This clue works whether a solver is familiar with the painting, the book, or the movie.
  • O CANADA (47A: Anthem at a Canucks home game) The Vancouver Canucks are an ice hockey team in the National Hockey League (NHL). As the team is based in Vancouver, CANADA, the national anthem of CANADA, "O, CANADA," is played at their home games.
  • BROWN SUGAR (58A: Baking ingredient that gets its color from molasses) Traditionally, BROWN SUGAR referred to partially refined SUGAR crystals that contained some residual molasses. Now, some BROWN SUGAR is produced by the addition of molasses to refined white SUGAR.
  • PETS (65A: Garfield, Lassie and Toto, e.g.) This is a fun way to clue PETS, by highlighting several fictional PETS. Garfield is the title cat of the Garfield comics by Jim Davis. Lassie and Toto are dogs. Lassie is a collie featured in the 1940 novel, Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight. Toto is a terrier that made his first appearance in Frank Baum's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900. All three of these PETS have had their stories adapted into movies.
    A calico cat that is half-asleep.
    Willow is a cat that is my PET. She has not appeared in any books or movies.
  • OPERA (2D: La Scala performance) La Scala is an OPERA house in Milan, Italy. It first opened in 1778.
  • ASH (4D: Pikachu's Pokemon trainer) ASH Ketchum is the protagonist of the Pokémon anime series. Pikachu is his Pokémon.
  • EMILY (17D: "Wuthering Heights" author Bronte) Wuthering Heights is an 1847 novel by EMILY Brontë. It was originally published under the pen name, Ellis Bell. Wuthering Heights was EMILY Brontë's only novel. Considered a classic, Wuthering Heights has been adapted multiple times, and has been referenced in numerous other works. In one of my favorite book series, The Thursday Next Series by Jasper Fforde, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights is referred to as the most tragic romantic hero.
  • HBCU (23A: Howard University) Howard University, an HBCU (historically black college and university) in Washington, D.C. was founded 1867. Howard alumni include Vice President Kamala Harris and author Toni Morrison.
  • WERE (36D: "If I ___ a Boy" (Beyonce song)) "If I Were a BOY" is a song on Beyoncé's 2008 album, I Am... Sasha Fierce.
  • VISION (43D: What a Snellen eye chart measures) The Snellen eye chart is named after Dutch ophthalmologist Herman Snellen. He developed the chart in 1862 as a way to test VISION. The chart contains capital letters arranged in rows. The first row contains one large letter (often the letter E), with each subsequent row containing an increasing number of letters that decrease in size. When read from 20 feet away, the smallest row a person can read determines their visual acuity.

    Geography review:

    • BOCA (1A: ___ Raton, FL) BOCA Raton, Florida is located in Palm Beach County, about 45 miles north of Miami. With coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, BOCA Raton is particularly known for its two mile stretch of lifeguard-protected beaches.
    • SIAM (38A: Thailand's former name) Thailand is a country in Southeast Asia. Historically the country was known as SIAM. The country's name was officially changed to Thailand in 1939, then changed back to SIAM in 1946, and once again changed to Thailand in 1948. The capital of Thailand is Bangkok.
    • WACO (60A: Texas city where Dr Pepper was created) WACO, Texas is located along the Brazos River, approximately halfway between the cities of Dallas and Austin. It is also, as the clue informs us, where Dr. Pepper was created. That happened in the 1880s. The carbonated soft drink was created by a pharmacist named Charles Alderton. Dr. Pepper was nationally marketed in the U.S. in 1904, and is now sold worldwide. As I have previously written, Dr. Pepper has legally been declared a non-cola. 
    • NORWAY (44D: Country famous for its fjords) A fjord is a long, deep inlet. Fjords are often situated in valleys with cliffs on either side of the water. NORWAY a country in Northern Europe, is located on the Scandinavian Peninsula. Many places in NORWAY are near fjords, as the over 17,000 miles of coastline is made up mainly of fjords. For comparison, the baseline coastline (drawn in a straight line without following the fjords) is just over 1,500 miles. The capital of NORWAY is Oslo, which is located on the appropriately named Oslo Fjord.
    • INCA (53D: Machu Picchu builder) Machu Picchu is a 15th-century citadel in southern Peru. It was constructed around 1450, most likely as an estate of Pachacuti, an emperor of the INCA Empire. Machu Picchu is one of the most well-known examples of Incan architecture.
    I enjoyed uncovering each of the NON BLONDE hair colors in today's grid. My favorite theme answer is RED HERRING, as it is a frequent technique employed in cozy mystery novels, my favorite literary genre. It was especially nice to find the 4 NON BLONDES reference in the clue for WHAT'S – such a great bonus! Congratulations to Sala Wanetick and Emily Biegas making their USA Today debut today! Thank you, Sala and Emily, for this delightful puzzle.