July 16, 2021


Constructors: Brooke Husic & Stella Zawistowski

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
SCUTTLEBUTT (26A: Idle gossip)
BUTTER LETTUCE (39A: Vegetable with silky leaves)
KITTY LITTER (51A: Odor-absorbing stuff in a box)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer has two SETS of Ts.

And now a word from our constructors: 
Brooke & Stella: We're very happy to collaborate again and hope you think this puzzle is a 29-Down! Brooke feels very seen with the presence of SCRUNCHIE in the grid, and we're both happy to include so much great music (52-Down, 63-Down, 67-Down, etc.)!

Things I learned:
  • TAIKA (70A: "Jojo Rabbit" director Waititi) Jojo Rabbit is a 2019 movie adapted from a 2008 book by Christine Leunens, Caging Skies. Set in a fictional German town during the collapse of Nazi Germany, the movie centers around a Hitler youth, ten-year old Jojo Betzler, and Jojo's imaginary friend, a comedic version of Adolf Hitler. TAIKA Waititi not only directed Jojo Rabbit, but also wrote the screenplay and played the role of Adolf. I knew of the movie, but did not know TAIKA Waititi. Now I do!
  • ETTA (4D: Blues guitarist Baker) ETTA Baker was born in North Carolina in 1913. (Side note: She shares a birthday with my daughter - March 31.) She learned to play guitar at the age of three, taught by her father as his father had taught him. ETTA Baker dropped out of school after tenth grade to join the rest of her family working on a tobacco farm in southern Virginia. It wasn't until she was 43 years old that ETTA Baker's music was recorded. The 1956 album, Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians featured five solo pieces by ETTA Baker. At the age of 63, ETTA Baker quit her job and became a full-time musician, performing throughout North Carolina, and eventually internationally. She died in 2006 at the age of 93. Of one song she composed, "Knoxville Rag," ETTA said the chords came to her in a dream and she woke up and put them together. Describing the process she said, "It was like putting a crossword puzzle together."
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • AREA (14A: ___ 51) AREA 51 is a highly classified U.S. Air Force training facility in Nevada. All research at AREA 51 is classified as Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information, and the CIA did not publicly acknowledge the existence of AREA 51 until 2013. AREA 51 has been the subject of multiple conspiracy theories. In 2019, AREA 51 was the focus of a satirical Facebook event to "Storm AREA 51." Over 2 million people responded they were going to the nonexistent event, and 1.5 million people mentioned they were interested.
  • BOARD GAME (18A: Go or Indigo) Go is a strategy BOARD GAME for two players that was invented in China over 2,500 years ago. Black and white playing pieces, called stones, are placed on a BOARD of intersecting lines. Indigo is a BOARD GAME developed in 2012 by German game company Ravensburger.
  • SCUTTLEBUTT (26A: Idle gossip) In the early 1800s, SCUTTLEBUTT was the name of the cask on sailing ships that contained the day's supply of freshwater. As the sailors gathered at the SCUTTLEBUTT for water, they would share stories and gossip. The term SCUTTLEBUTT eventually became associated with the gossip.
  • YURT (50A: Dwelling also called a ger) The word YURT is from Turkic languages, and ger is a Mongolian word. A YURT or ger is a portable round tent used as housing by several nomadic groups in Central Asia.
  • KITTY LITTER (51A: Odor-absorbing stuff in a box) It was
    just five days ago that LITTER box appeared in a clue. Today KITTY LITTER plays a starring role as a theme answer. We currently have an additional KITTY at our house. Toby, shown here stopping to smell the flowers, is our daughter's cat, and is visiting from Chicago (with our daughter and her boyfriend). 
  • MINCEMEAT (61A: Pie filling that might be vegetarian, despite the name) Used as a pie filling since the 15th century, MINCEMEAT traditionally always contained meat. In the 20th century recipes were developed that left out the meat, instead using chopped dried fruit, spices, and distilled spirits. My favorite use of MINCEMEAT is not in pies, but in peaches. Canned peach halves spread in a baking dish with the hollow side up and topped with a heaping spoonful of mincemeat become incredibly delicious when baked.
  • MARILU (9D: "L.A. Story" star Henner) L.A. Story is a 1991 movie about a weatherman trying to find love in Los Angeles. The role of the weatherman, Harris K. Telemacher, is played by Steve Martin. MARILU Henner played the role of Trudi, Harris's girlfriend.
  • I WILL (52D: "For You ___" (Monica hit)) "For You I Will" is a 1996 song by Monica, recorded for the movie Space Jam.
  • ARI (63D: "Shea Butter Baby" singer Lennox) Shea Butter Baby is the 2019 debut album for ARI Lennox. The song, "Shea Butter Baby," appears on the album, and first appeared on the soundtrack for the movie Creed II in 2018. 
  • RAP (67D: CHIKA genre) CHIKA's debut RAP single, "No Squares," was released in 2019. Prior to that time, CHIKA had gained attention from activity on social media. In 2021, CHIKA announced she is retiring from music, citing the toll of the music industry on her mental health. 
Geography review:
  • USA (32A: Alabama's country) and UAE (33A: Abu Dhabi's country) A nice pair of "United" echo clues right next to each other here. Alabama is one of the United States of America. Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
  • EURO (42D: Currency in Greece) Greece is located in southeast Europe. Its capital is Athens, and its currency, as the clue informs us, is the EURO.
I like TEA (it is my beverage of choice), and I like TEA SETS (I still have a couple I played with as a child). No surprise then that I enjoyed the TEA SETS in this puzzle. SCUTTLEBUTT is my favorite theme answer - such a fun word! I appreciated learning about the fascinating ETTA Baker today. Not a single RAIN CLOUD over this puzzle, it is indeed a BEAUTY. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Friday.
The other day I discussed the updates to the USA Today puzzle app, and provided an email address for  questions about the app. However, having sent a question to that email, I now know that address no longer supports the current version of the app. They did provide me with a new address for questions about the app, so I wanted to pass that along: crossword@gannett.com