February 25, 2024


Constructor: Trent Evans

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
UP TO THE MINUTE (20A: Like late-breaking news)
DOWN TO THE SECOND (39A: Extremely accurate, like a time prediction)
BACK IN THE DAY (56A: "When I was a youngster...)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer begins with a direction and ends with a unit of TIME. 

Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ELMO (14A: Muppet with a distinctive laugh) This clue made me laugh! Like ELMO, I also have a distinctive laugh (so I'm told). If you need to be reminded of what ELMO's laugh sounds like, take a peek at this video
  • TBH (25A: "Truthfully," in texts) TBH = to be honest.
  • ART (49A: Butter sculptures, e.g.) The ART of butter sculpting is often associated with state fairs. It's an ART that's been around for hundreds of years. In the 1500s, butter sculptures were used on banquet tables in Europe. I have previously shared a photo of some butter sculptures at the Iowa State Fair. 
  • KHAN (67A: Kamala ___ aka Ms. Marvel) Kamala KHAN is a character in the Marvel Universe. She is a Pakistani American teenager from New Jersey with shapeshifting abilities .Her alter ego is Ms. Marvel. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Kamala KHAN is portrayed by Iman Vellani.
  • FACT CHECKS (33D: Verifies the accuracy of) Did you know that someone FACT CHECKS the crossword before it finds its way to you? Having someone FACT CHECK a puzzle before it's published hopefully cuts down on the number of solvers writing in to point out errors. Side note: I am my own FACT CHECKer for my blog, and I'm always grateful when readers kindly point out errors so I can correct them. 
  • SWIFT (35D: Taylor who's currently on The Eras Tour) Have you heard about Taylor SWIFT's recent tour, The Eras Tour? I think you would need to actively work to avoid hearing any news of this tour. This is the sixth concert tour Taylor SWIFT has done. The tour began on March 17, 2023, and is scheduled to conclude on December 8 of this year in Vancouver, Canada. The tour is currently in Australia.
  • TEA PARTY (40D: The Mad Hatter's social gathering) This is a reference, of course, to Alice in Wonderland. Here's a video of an enactment of the Mad Hatter's TEA PARTY by the Royal Ballet
  • TLC (46D: Boo-boo treatment, for short) Tender loving care, or TLC, for short, is often the best treatment for a boo-boo.
  • NERD (58D: Person wearing a crossword puzzle tie, maybe) I don't own a crossword tie. However, I do have a crossword scarf, earrings, and necklace, as well as multiple crossword t-shirts and several crossword mugs, so I think the NERD label probably fits. 
  • A few other clues I especially enjoyed:
    • GEEKY (68A: Like Peter Parker but not Spiderman)
    • SET UP (1D: Prepare a board game for play)
    • SAME TO YOU (11D: "Right back atcha")

    Geography review:

    • BRONX (26D: NYC borough with a namesake cheer) Since 1898, New York City has been subdivided into five boroughs, or governmental districts. The five boroughs of New York City are the BRONX, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. The BRONX cheer is another name for blowing a raspberry. The term "BRONX cheer" has been around since the 1920s. That's when it first appeared in a newspaper article in reference to a soccer match. In researching the origin of the BRONX cheer, I learned about a chimp that is quite found of making the noise. 
    • IDAHO (53D: Snake River Canyon's state) Snake River Canyon is located in southern IDAHO. In 2016, stuntman Eddie Braun jumped over the Snake River Canyon in a custom-built rocket. This wasn't the first time someone attempted to jump the canyon (a distance of 1,400-1,600 feet). In 1974, stuntman Evel Knievel attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon, but the attempt failed when his parachute deployed early and he landed at the bottom of the canyon instead (remarkably, he only had mild injuries). 
    WHERE DOES THE TIME GO? According to today's puzzle, the MINUTEs go UP, the SECONDs go DOWN, and the DAYs go BACK. I enjoyed the cleverness of this theme. In addition to the answers I've already highlighted, I also liked NO NONSENSE. Congratulations to Trent Evans making a USA Today debut! Thank you, Trent, for this timely puzzle.