August 25, 2021


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
PICO DE GALLO (17A: Topping for molletes)
BANCO DE MEXICO (38A: Financial institution whose name can be found on pesos)
CINCO DE MAYO (63A: Spring holiday)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer has the word CODE hidden in it. 

Things I learned:
  • AESOP (15A: Hand soap brand named after an ancient Greek storyteller) I had not heard of the AESOP brand, so was thankful for the Greek storyteller hint. AESOP was founded by Dennis Paphitis in 1987 in Melbourne, Australia. AESOP is now available in 25 countries, including the United States. Each of their stores is unique, designed to fit the specific space and often using reclaimed items as decor. Appropriate for a line named after a storyteller, many of their products (and their webpages) contain quotations, such as "Better than a face-lift, to stay young we need to be permanently in a state of intellectual curiosity." -Salvador Paniker.
  • PICO DE GALLO (17A: Topping for molletes) PICO DE GALLO is Spanish for "rooster's beak." Also called salsa cruda, PICO DE GALLO is a type of salsa made with fresh tomatoes, onion, peppers, salt, lime juice, and cilantro. Yum! I just made PICO DE GALLO last night, as a matter of fact, from the abundance of fresh tomatoes, peppers, and onions I've received from my CSA (community supported agriculture). Although I knew what PICO DE GALLO was, I was unfamiliar with molletes, so needed the help of crossing answers to recognize it. Molletes are a type of flatbread in Spanish and Mexican cuisine.
  • EPEE (31A: Sword for Courtney Hurley) Courtney Hurley is a fencer, and was part of the first USA Women's ÉPÉE Team to win an Olympic medal. Along with teammates Kelley Hurley (her sister), Maya Lawrence, and Susie Scanlan, Courtney Hurley won a bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Courtney Hurley also competed for Team USA at the 2016 and 2020 (2021) Olympics.
  • BANCO DE MEXICO (38A: Financial institution whose name can be found on pesos) As its name suggests, the BANCO DE MEXICO is Mexico's central bank. The bank's name appears on the Mexican peso.
  • BEN (62A: "Grand Tour" author Bova) Grand Tour is a series of science-fiction novels written by BEN Bova which have themes of exploration and colonization of the Solar System. BEN Bova was a prolific author of science fiction novels, and nonfiction books, and was an executive in the aerospace industry. BEN Bova died November 29, 2020 at the age of 88.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ANNIE (13A: "Any Day Now" actress Potts) ANNIE Potts played the role of Mary Elizabeth Sims in the Lifetime TV series, Any Day Now, that originally aired from 1998 to 2002. The TV show focused on Mary Elizabeth and her childhood friend, Rene Jackson, played by Lorraine Toussaint. Each episode alternated scenes from present day and scenes from Mary Elizabeth and Rene's childhood, and explored issues of recurring racism. The show was set in Birmingham, Alabama.
  • TLC (19A: "No Scrubs" group) "No Scrubs" is a 1999 song by the girl groups TLC off of their album FanMail
  • IRENE (21A: Name from the Greek for "peace") The Greek word for peace is "eirēnē." Eirene was the name of one of the Greek goddesses and was considered the personification of peace.
  • OATMEAL (24A: Ingredient in some DIY face masks) I read this clue correctly the first time through, and filled in the answer without problem. However, when I was looking over the clues, I read "face mask" as the type of mask we've been wearing for the last 18 months...oops. Please be advised that an OATMEAL face mask will not prevent the spread of Covid-19. 
  • I AM (32A: "Take Me as ___" (Mary J. Blige song) "Take Me As I AM" is a 2006 song by Mary J. Blige from her album, The Breakthrough
  • CINCO DE MAYO (63A: Spring holiday) CINCO DE MAYO is a holiday celebrated (appropriately) on the fifth of May. The annual celebration commemorates Mexico's victory over the French Empire in 1862. CINCO DE MAYO is not Mexico's Independence Day - that holiday is celebrated September 16. For many people, CINCO DE MAYO is an excuse (as if one is needed!) to eat tacos, and perhaps some PICO DE GALLO.
  • HOT TOPIC (10D: Mall store with fandom merch) Although I've occasionally walked past them (most are located in malls), I'm not sure I've ever been in a HOT TOPIC store. The first HOT TOPIC opened in Montclair, California in 1989. The store's merchandise caters to various segments of pop culture.
  • DREW (57D: Took on the Inktober challenge) Inktober is a celebration of ink drawing held annually during the month of October. Inktober was started in 2009 by illustrator and animator, Jake Parker, whose initial goal was to motivate himself. He provided prompts for drawings each day and encouraged others to post the items they DREW on social media. 
  • ANTS (59D: Insects with an "acrobat" variety) Acrobat ANTS are also known as Saint Valentine ANTS because of their heart-shaped abdomen. Acrobat ANTS, members of the genus Crematogaster, are predators, and feed on other insects, such as grasshoppers, termites, and wasps. 

    Geography review:
    • SOHO (28A: Neighborhood in Tampa or New York) In addition to Tampa, Florida and Manhattan, New York, areas called SOHO are found in London, Hong Kong, India, and Ireland.
    • CUBA (35A: Country south of Florida) CUBA is located south of Florida, where the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Ocean meet.
    • ETNA (43A: Active Sicilian volcano) Mount ETNA has erupted so much this year that it is 100 feet taller than it was last year. 
    • UTAH (45A: State whose motto is "Industry") UTAH's motto of "Industry" is related to the state's symbol of the beehive. The word "industry" appears on both the state seal and the state flag.  
    • RIO (4D: The ___ Grande) The RIO Grande is a river in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It begins in Colorado and flows to the Gulf of Mexico.
    • ORE (23D: State next to Idaho) Geography quiz: In addition to OREgon, what other states are next to Idaho? I'll put the answer at the bottom of this post.
    • SCOT (60D: Edinburgh resident) Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland.
    I thought about not writing about today's theme...after all, it's a SECRET. I liked the consistency of the CODE containing answers all being Spanish phrases of the format ___CO DE ___. Some nice long downs in the upper right and lower left corners today: HOT TOPIC, I'D LOVE TO, BETA TEST, ANACONDA. I also liked the inclusion of the word HID (10A: Kept away from prying eyes) in a puzzle with the theme SECRET CODE. This puzzle was a great way to begin my Wednesday.

    Answer to Geography quiz: The states next to Idaho are OREgon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. Idaho also borders British Columbia, Canada.