23D. I was really hoping the answer here wasn’t SOCK, and Mr. Hawksley and the puzzle editors backed me up. The “Garment worn with sandals” is a TOGA.
33D. The “black sorority with over 300,000 members, in short” is Alpha Kappa Alpha, or AKA. My alma mater, Syracuse University, has an AKA chapter on campus.
55D. I sweated this clue, mainly because I thought it was a sophomore joke, at least on first reading. With its question mark, it is quite possible that a clue such as “peer of the sheikh? Could use a heteronym for “even” in a tasteless way. Did anyone else think that “pair” means “one who pees”? No? Just me? Because why wouldn’t royalty have someone to, uh, eliminate for him? Royalty is known to have food tasters. Why not outsource the work to the other end?
Imagine my disappointment when I solved the clue and “even” simply meant someone of the same rank. The answer is AGHA.
Hello everyone! This is John Hawksley. (As Jack Benny said when he first appeared on radio in 1932, there will now be a slight pause while you say, “Whatever!”)
This puzzle started with a different grid that included a third 3×15 stack in the center (and many more black squares). Here I found the stack HATERS GONNA HATE / I NEED BIG FAVOR / GARDEN APARTMENT, but it made ugly duvets like HANA and ITER. Luckily, I noticed that this could be opened to GHANA and LITER, while creating the four longer Down entries. I am happy with the result!
The puzzle is also notably a pangram (it uses the 26 letters). It wasn’t really planned; I only identified the opportunity while I was working on the final squares. JQA pulls the weight here, with a small compromise in AQUAS, which is not a common plural.
FUN SIZE is my favorite first entry in the puzzle. The term comes from tiny chocolate bars, but I’ve heard it’s used in a cute way for anything diminutive, including people.
GTA is an interesting start, as GTE, GTI, and GTO have all been used before, although they are much less familiar to me. I am curious to know what others think about it. (Will GTU ever arrive?)
My wife, Hanh, and I ate CHILE VERDE for the first time in Santa Fe on a road trip across the country this year.
I wrote the clue for HOT TO. I had recently watched the reality TV show in question. This is also why I was happy to keep the long partial sentence in the puzzle grid.
The editorial team wrote the AKA sorority index, and it was the biggest surprise to me in the final proof. The AKA Sisters List is a real who’s who of notable women that includes Kamala Harris, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison.
About the MOTHER’S DAY / DAD JOKE crossover in the puzzle, I take the time to make some family “long distance” calls that day.
That’s all for me. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the puzzle!
The tipping point
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