July 11, 2021


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
PRIME PROPERTIES (17A: Desirable real estate)
SELECT COMMITTEE (31A: Specialized legislative group)
CHOICE WORDS (56A: Strong language)

Theme synopsis: The first word of each theme answer is a grade of BEEF, as assigned by the USDA. Reflecting decreasing amounts of marbling, we have PRIME, SELECT, and CHOICE BEEF.

Things I learned:
  • THAI (60A: Language spoken by Urassaya Sperbund) Urassaya Sperbund, also known as Yaya, was the first THAI celebrity featured in Vogue. Yaya is an actress, model, and influencer who has almost 11 million followers on Instagram. 
  • EWES (69A: Female Dorpers) Dorpers are a South African breed of domestic sheep. Dorpers are a cross between Dorset Horn and Blackheaded Persian Sheep. Dorpers are raised for their meat, and Dorper sheepskin is also prized for its thickness. Most Dorpers (EWES and rams) have white bodies with black heads, though some sheep may be completely white.
  • MALI (36D: Oumou Sangare's home country) Sometimes referred to as "The Songbird of Wassoulou," Oumou SangarĂ© is a musician from MALI. Wassalou is a genre of West African  music. Along with Pink, Seal, India.Arie, Jeff Beck, and Herbie Hancock, Oumou SangarĂ© won a 2011 Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Collaboration for the song "Imagine," part of Herbie Hancock's album, The Imagine Project.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • NAPA (42A: Cabbage for suan cai) Suan cai is traditional Chinese pickled cabbage. To make suan cai, NAPA cabbage is place in a container beneath a heavy weight so that the cabbage is compressed as fermentation takes place. 
  • AOL (44A: ISP whose greetings were voiced by Elwood Edwards) Those of us of a certain age definitely remember Elwood Edwards's voice (though we may not have known his name) proclaiming, "Welcome," and, of course, "You've got mail." Edwards recorded the messages for AOL in his living room using a cassette deck. Although users of AOL in the United States heard the voice of Elwood Edwards, AOL users in the United Kingdom heard the voice of Joanna Lumley tell them, "You have e-mail."
  • NACHO (62A: Nickname for Ignacio) Ignacio is a name of Spanish origin said to mean "fiery" (from the Latin "ignis" meaning "fire"). NACHO is a common short form for Ignacio.
  • GHEE (63A: Clarified butter) GHEE is made by simmering butter, and retaining the clear liquid fat that separates from the solid residue.
  • CURIE (2D: Marie who won the Nobel Prize twice) I'm always delighted to see Marie CURIE in the puzzle. In 1903, Marie CURIE won the Nobel Prize in Physics, along with her husband Pierre, and Henri Becquerel. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. In 1911, Marie CURIE was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discovery of the elements radium and polonium. Only two people have received Nobel Prizes in two different areas. Linus Pauling received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1954) and a Nobel Peace Prize (1962).
  • ANTS (25D: Insects that produce formic acid) A particular type of ANTS, known as Formicine ANTS, can spray formic acid to defend themselves.
  • ARO (47D: Like many advocates against heteronormativity, for short) ARO is short for aromantic, a term for people that do not feel romantic attraction.
  • LOINS (48D: Pork cuts) As I filled this answer in, I wondered how pork LOINS snuck into a BEEF puzzle.
  • CATS (57D: Litter box visitors) This clue reminded me of a funny litter box story.
    ("Funny litter box story" is not a phrase you hear every day!) Several years ago, I went downstairs and discovered the litter box in front of our fireplace, approximately 20 feet from where it normally resides in our laundry room. I was quite confused about why my husband would have placed the litter box in such a weird spot, and even more confused when I asked him about it and he denied doing it. A few days later the mystery was solved when we caught our dog (Ping Pong, whom I wrote about two days ago) in the act of dragging the litter box out of the laundry room! She had not done that at any time in the previous 11 years she had lived with us, and we have no idea what prompted her need to redecorate. Willow was not impressed with Ping Pong's redecorating schemes. 
Geography review:
  • AIRES (6D: Buenos ___, Argentina) Buenos AIRES is the capital and largest city of Argentina. 
  • ETNA (30D: Most active volcano in Europe) Mount ETNA is located on the Mediterranean island of Sicily, Italy.
  • EPSOM (32D: English salt town) In the 1700s, EPSOM, located in Surrey, England, developed as a spa town. The mineral waters in EPSOM are rich in magnesium sulphate, which became known as EPSOM salts.
Well, this is a meaty puzzle for a Sunday. (It's okay to groan at that...) There are eight grades of BEEF used by the USDA, but only the top three grades - PRIME, SELECT, and CHOICE - are used in retail. PRIME cuts are those with the most marbling of fat, with SELECT and CHOICE cuts having progressively less marbling. This puzzle uses left-right mirror symmetry. The two sides of the puzzle are symmetrical along a vertical axis down the center of the puzzle. Although the theme answers would work in a rotationally symmetrical puzzle, the use of mirror symmetry allows the theme answers to be placed such that the grades of BEEF are in order of grading. I liked the SASSY answer LIKE I CARE, as well as TALKS SHOP. This puzzle was an enjoyable way to begin my Sunday.


  1. Re: "Meaty puzzle"
    I'd never groan at something clever.

    I love the funny litter box story. I know a family that has a bunch of cats and dogs. Non of their dogs are talented enough to redecorate!

    Thanks for the amusement!


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