August 16, 2021


Constructors: Sara Muchnick & Doug Peterson 

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
CHARGE ACCOUNT (19A: Shopper's pay-it-later convenience)
UPPER STORY (34A: Second floor, for example)
JOHN LEGEND (40A: Singer who starred in NBC's "Jesus Christ Superstar")
DOUBLE WHOPPER (51A: Burger King sandwich with two patties)

Theme synopsis: The ENDS of the theme answers feature synonyms of the word TALE. We have an ACCOUNT, a STORY, a LEGEND, and a WHOPPER.

Things I learned:
  • OBOE (37A: Titus Underwood's instrument) Titus Underwood is the principal oboist for the Nashville Symphony. In 2021, he was awarded a Sphinx Medal of Excellence, an honor given by the Sphinx Organization to recognize extraordinary classical Black and Latin musicians. Taking a few minutes to watch and listen to Titus Underwood play the OBOE was a lovely addition to my morning. 
  • ELSA (4D: Jewelry designer Peretti) Italian jewelry designer, ELSA Peretti, began designing for Tiffany & Co. in 1974. One of her most famous pieces is the Bone Cuff. ELSA Peretti died earlier this year at the age of 80.
  • EPIC (7D: Story such as the Ramayana) Rãmãyana is an EPIC of ancient India, and an important text of Hinduism. The EPIC, which narrates the life of a legendary prince named Rama, is attributed to Maharishi Valmiki. A nice bonus answer here, as EPIC is another synonym for TALE.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • JEW (6A: Purim celebrant) During the holiday of Purim, JEWs commemorate the events recounted in the Biblical book of Esther, in which the Jewish people were saved from an empire official's plan to kill them. The official's name was Haman. The celebration of Purim may include reading or listening to the book of Esther, dressing up in costume, donating food, and eating hamantaschen (a triangular filled cookie whose name means "Haman's pocket").
  • TESSA (16A: "Westworld" actress Thompson) The TV series Westworld is based on a 1973 movie of the same name. The TV show is about a Wild-West-themed amusement park. The hosts in the technologically advanced park are droids. TESSA Thompson plays the role of Charlotte Hale, an executive director overseeing Westworld. 
  • JOHN LEGEND (40A: Singer who starred in NBC's "Jesus Christ Superstar") JOHN LEGEND is the professional name of John Roger Stephens. Earlier this year, while appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, he explained how he ended up with the name LEGEND.
  • EDISON (47A: Inventor who worked with Latimer) Like Thomas EDISON, Lewis Latimer was an inventor. In addition to working with EDISON, Latimer also worked with Alexander Graham Bell. 
  • OREO (59A: Cookie brand with a Peach Oolong flavor) Unless you're in China, you'll have to get Peach Oolong OREOs from a reseller. 
  • ELENA (64A: Mrs. Richardson's name in "Little Fires Everywhere") Little Fires Everywhere is a miniseries based on a 2017 novel of the same name by Celeste Ng. Reese Witherspoon played the role of ELENA Witherspoon.
  • JADA (6D: "Red Table Talk" host ___ Pinkett Smith) JADA Pinkett Smith's daughter, Willow, and her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, join her in hosting the TV show Red Table Talk. The talk show premiered in 2018. During the show, the three generations of hosts offer their perspectives on a wide variety of topics. 
  • TORI (36D: Character in "Victorious" whose name appears in the title) I have previously written about the TV series, Victorious.
  • ORCA (52D: Black-and-white whale) As I mentioned yesterday, I just spent a few days in Seattle. While there, we were able to go whale watching, something I've wanted to do for a long time. You never know what you're going to see when you go on such an excursion. We were fortunate, and were able to see a group of 13 ORCA whales. The ORCAs were from three different pods, and were apparently spending the day socializing. It was truly amazing to observe them (from a distance) in their natural habitat.
  • EVER (56D: Happily ___ after) What a great way to clue the word EVER in a TALE-theme puzzle!
Geography review:
  • NAPA (14A: Wine Country valley) Thanks to a combination of favorable climate, geography, and geology, NAPA Valley in California is considered one of the premier wine regions in the world.
  • SMU (50A: Dallas school) Southern Methodist University, or SMU, is located in Dallas, Texas.
  • ALOHA (26D: Hawaii, the ___ State) The word ALOHA, meaning "love, affection, peace, compassion, and mercy," is found in all Polynesian languages. Hawaii became the 50th state on August 21, 1959.
  • ERIE (53D: Toledo's lake) Toledo, Ohio is one of several cities on the shores of Lake ERIE. Other cities along Lake ERIE are Cleveland, Ohio; Buffalo, New York; ERIE, Pennsylvania; Monroe, Michigan; Leamington, Ontario; and Port Colborne, Ontario.
  • RENO (57D: Nevada city) RENO, Nevada's nickname is "The Biggest Little City in the World."
This puzzle tells a delightful TALE throughout, not just at the END. I enjoyed this set of theme answers, and liked that the ENDing words have a different meaning in the theme answer than when used as a synonym for TALE. I also liked the bonus theme material included in the puzzle, the aforementioned EPIC and happily EVER after, as well as PAGE (35D: Part of a book). Nice cluing today - shoutouts to MUD (22A: Puddle gunk) and BURR (58A: Punny last name for a snowman). I also like the inclusion of the reminder that Black Trans LIVES Matter. This puzzle is Sara Muchnick's USA Today crossword debut, so congratulations! Solving this puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Monday.