May 8, 2021


Constructor: Mark McClain

Editors: Erik Agard & Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
BULLET POINTS (18A: List dots)
STEERING COLUMN (35A: Automotive devices that enable turning)
COWRIE SHELLS (51A: Mollusk coverings once used as currency)

Theme synopsis: If THREE'S A HERD, there is a HERD of cattle hidden in today's theme answers. We have a BULL, a STEER, and a COW.

Things I learned:
  • MARIA (13A: Ballerina Tallchief) MARIA Tallchief was a prima ballerina. When the New York City Ballet was founded in 1948, MARIA Tallchief became its first star. She is particularly remembered for her performances in The Firebird and The Nutcracker (as the Sugarplum Fairy). MARIA Tallchief was a member of the Osage Nation. She died in 2013, at the age of 88.
  • FASTS (10D: Observes Sawm) Sawm is the Islam practice of fasting. During the holy month of Ramadan, Sawm is observed from dawn to dusk. I knew that Muslims FAST during Ramadan, but this term was new to me.
  • USO (38D: Samoan sibling) The Samoan language is spoken on the Samoan islands, which consist of the country of Samoa and the U.S. territory of American Samoa. In Samoan, USO is a term used for your sibling of the same gender. If you are a woman, your sister is your USO. If you are a man, your USO is your brother. There are separate Samoan words used to refer to a woman's brother and a man's sister.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • AUGUST (25A: Only month that starts on a Sunday in 2021) That's a fun fact.
  • OSAKA (41A: Tennis champ or her birthplace) Naomi OSAKA was born in Chūō-ku, OSAKA, Japan. In February of this year, Naomi OSAKA won the Australian Open, her fourth Grand Slam title.
  • SHIA (48A: Branch of Islam) SHIA is the second-largest branch of Islam. The largest branch of Islam is Sunni.
  • COWRIE SHELLS (51A: Mollusk coverings once used as currency) COWRIE is the common name for sea snails, marine mammals in the Cypraeidae family. At one time, COWRIE SHELLS were used as money in many places around the world. COWRIE SHELLS are also used in making jewelry. 
  • CLARK (55A: ___ Atlanta University) CLARK Atlanta University is an HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) in Atlanta, Georgia. Originally founded in 1865 as Atlanta University, it consolidated with ClARK College in 1988 to form CLARK Atlanta University. Amy Sherald, who painted the official portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama, is a 1997 graduate of CLARK Atlanta University.
  • CATE (56A: Blanchett of stage and screen) CATE Blanchett was born in Australia, and was featured on an Australian postage stamp in 2009. She has dual citizenship in Australia and the United States. Her numerous credits include The Lord of the Rings movies, Thor: Ragnarok, and Oceans 8. Someday, I will remember that her name is spelled CATE (not Kate).
  • DUNE (60A: White Sands National Park formation) White Sands National Park is located in New Mexico. As the name implies, the park includes a field of white sand DUNES composed of gypsum crystals. Originally designated as a National Monument, the area became a National Park in 2019. White Sands National Park is on my "to be visited someday" list.
  • SHE (63A: "___ Bop" (Cyndi Lauper hit) "SHE Bop" is a 1984 song from Cyndi Lauper's debut album, She's So Unusual. When the song was first released, it was considered controversial because it deals with female masturbation. The Parents Music Resource Committee, a group founded in 1985 aimed at increasing parental control over children's access to music, included "SHE Bop" on its "Filthy Fifteen" list. I wonder what the Parents Music Resource Committee would have thought of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's song, "WAP"
  • KEANU (9D: Reeves who played himself in "Always Be My Maybe") Always Be My Maybe is a 2019 movie about childhood friends who have not been in touch since a teenage fling ended poorly. Ali Wong and Randall Park star in the movie as Sasha Tran and Marcus Kim. KEANU Reeves plays himself as a romantic interest of Sasha's.
  • EGG (31D: Omurice ingredient) The word "omurice" is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the English words "omelet" and "rice." Omurice consists of fried rice wrapped in a thin sheet of scrambled EGGs.
  • SLOE (52D: Plum relative) SLOE is the fruit of the flowering plant, Prunus spinosa, also called blackthorn. SLOEs are usually not eaten plain, due to their tartness. More commonly the fruit is used to make preserves and liqueur (SLOE gin).
  • EAT (59D: Enjoy some cachupa, say) Cachupa is a stew of hominy, beans, cassava, and sweet potato, along with fish or meat. The dish originated in Cape Verde, an island country in West Africa.

Geography review: 

  • ARLES (6D: French city hidden in "Charleston") ARLES is a commune (a French administrative division) in southern France located on the Rhône River.
  • SAO PAULO (8D: Most populous city in Brazil) The motto of SAO PAULO is the Latin phrase "Non ducor, duco," which translates to "I am not led, I lead."
Time to solve a puzzle and round up our HERD. I particularly liked that each cattle-related word was "hidden" as part of another word. A brief cattle terminology refresher: a BULL is a male, a STEER is a castrated male, and a COW is a female. This puzzle was a nice roundup to start my Saturday.


  1. I’m pretty sure the PMRC still hasn’t recovered from their fainting spell after watching WAP. Pearls are scattered everywhere, they were clutching them so hard.


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