March 7, 2024


Constructor: Glenn Cook

Editor: Jared Goudsmit

Theme Answers:
PROM QUEEN (22A: High school royalty)
PROBING QUESTION (39A: Nosy inquiry)
PULL QUOTE (56A: Attention-grabbing excerpt in an article)

Theme synopsis: The first word in each theme answer starts with a P, and the second word in each answer starts with a Q.

Things I learned:
  • TAUPIN (21D: Bernie in the Songwriters Hall of Fame) Bernie TAUPIN is a name I didn't recognize, but then once I looked him up, I realized I am familiar with his work. In 1967, Bernie TAUPIN and Elton John both responded to an advertisement placed by Liberty Records looking for new songwriters. The two were brought together and have collaborated since. In most cases, Bernie TAUPIN writes the lyrics, and Elton John writes the music. In 1992, Bernie TAUPIN and Elton John were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Bernie TAUPIN wrote the lyrics for "Rocket Man," "Crocodile Rock," "Candle in the Wind," and "Tiny Dancer," just to name a few.
  • COCA (35D: Leaf valued by the Paez people) COCA is a plant that is known for its alkaloid, cocaine, which has psychoactive properties. The COCA plant is native to western South America. The Páez people are an indigenous people of Colombia. The Páez people have consumed COCA leaves for many years. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ELSA (1A: Disney queen who says "You can't marry a man you just met!") This is a line from Disney's 2013 animated movie, Frozen. ELSA says these words to her sister, Anna, when Anna announces her intention to marry Hans (who she had just met).
  • COLE (16A: "Inseparable" singer Natalie) "Inseparable" is the title track of Natalie COLE's 1975 debut album. The album also contains the song "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)."
  • SOUP (26A: Harira or pho) Harira is a SOUP associated with the cuisines of the North African countries Morocco and Algeria. The tomato-based SOUP contains legumes, herbs, and spices. Pho is a Vietnamese SOUP that contains broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat.
  • AOC (33A: Progressive NY congresswoman, for short) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, AOC for short, represents New York's 14th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. AOC was 29 years old when she took office, making her the youngest woman to serve in the U.S. Congress.
  • NAME (38A: "Montero (Call Me by Your ___)") "Montero (Call Me by Your NAME)" is a song by Lil Nas X. The song previewed during a Super Bowl commercial in February 2021, and was released the following month. "Montero (Call Me by Your NAME)" debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
  • LOTTA (66A: "People Got a ___ Nerve" (Neko Case song)) "People Got a LOTTA Nerve" is a 2009 song by Neko Case. The song was initially released as a free download, and for every blogger that reposted the song, Neko Case and the record label ANTI- made a donation to the animal welfare organization Best Friends Animal Society.
  • DINO (70A: "The Flintstones" pet) The animated TV sitcom The Flintstones originally aired from 1960-1966, and was the first animated show to air on prime time. The show is set in a romanticized version of the Stone Age. DINO, the family pet, is a dogasaurus, a dinosaur exhibiting characteristics of a dog.
  • APPS (33D: Grindr and Gardenscapes) Grindr is a location-based social media dating APP. Gardenscapes is a mobile game APP.
  • OREO (34D: Cookie with a Jelly Donut flavor) Jelly Donut OREO cookies were released on a limited basis in 2017. This variety of OREO featured golden OREO cookies filled with vanilla and jelly-flavored creme.
  • EDIE (41D: Singer-songwriter Brickell) EDIE Brickell is the lead singer with the folk rock group, EDIE Brickell & New Bohemians. The band's 1988 debut album was Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars. EDIE Brickell has also released solo albums, Picture Perfect Morning (1994) and Volcano (2003). In 2013, EDIE Brickell released an album titled, Love Has Come for You, which was a collaboration with Steve Martin.
  • AQUA (51D: Miami Dolphins uniform color) The Miami Dolphins are an NFL team based in Florida. The team's colors are AQUA, orange, white, and marine blue.

    Geography review:

    • TULIP (27A: It isn't the national flower of the Netherlands, surprisingly) The Netherlands, informally referred to as Holland, is a country in northwestern Europe. The capital of the Netherlands is Amsterdam. The Netherlands exports two-thirds of the world's total of fresh-cut flowers and flower bulbs. Although the TULIP is associated with the Netherlands, the country voted in 2023 to make the daisy the national flower.
    • URDU (44A: Language of Pakistan) Pakistan is a country in South Asia. Islamabad is its capital. URDU is the national language of Pakistan, with English also having official status. Although URDU is the national language, only about 7% of Pakistanis speak URDU as their first language. Many different languages are spoken in Pakistan (77 according to Ethnologue), and URDU serves as a lingua franca, or bridge language.
    • ERIE (68D: Smallest Great Lake) Lake ERIE is the smallest, shallowest, and southernmost of the five Great Lakes. 
    • PESOS (8D: Coins in Cancun) Cancún is a city in Mexico located on the Caribbean Sea. It is a popular tourist destination. Mexican PESOS are the currency used in Mexico.
    • O'HARE (53D: Windy City airport) Windy City is a nickname of Chicago, Illinois. I have previously written about how the city got this nickname. O'HARE International Airport is located in Chicago. It is considered to be the world's most connected airport.
    "MIND YOUR P'S AND Q'S" is an expression that means "be on your best behavior," or "mind your manners." Today, however, this title is alerting us to look out for P's and Q's in the theme answers. Congratulations to Glenn Cook making a USA TODAY debut! Thank you, Glenn, for this enjoyable puzzle.


    1. Thanks Sally! And thanks for taking the time to review the puzzle. :)

      1. You're welcome, Glenn! I was happy to see your name on the byline today :)


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