November 4, 2021


Constructor: Erik Agard

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
SEE FOR YOURSELF (19A: "Don't believe me? Go look!)
GROUND UP (27A: Like coffee beans)
COW TOOLS (39A: Inscrutable instruments)
WATER PROTECTOR (47A: Member of an indigenous-led environmental movement)

Theme synopsis: The first word of each theme answer can follow the word HOLY, giving us HOLY SEE, HOLY GROUND, HOLY COW, and HOLY WATER.

Things I learned:
  • COW TOOLS (39A: Inscrutable instruments) When I filled in this answer, I thought, "That can't possibly be right." When I completed the puzzle and discovered it was correct, I thought, "What in the heck are COW TOOLS?" Now that I know what COW TOOLS are, I am delighted that my confusion was incredibly appropriate! COW TOOLS is a 1982 cartoon from The Far Side by Gary Larson. The cartoon shows a cow standing in front of a table of unidentifiable implements (except for one that vaguely resembles a saw). The caption of the cartoon was "COW TOOLS." So many readers were confused by the cartoon that Gary Larson and newspaper editors around the country received hundreds of letters and phone calls from puzzled readers (including Gary Larson's mother) asking for an explanation. In response to the confusion, Gary Larson took the unusual step of issuing a statement explaining the cartoon, "The cartoon was intended to be an exercise in silliness. While I have never met a COW who could make TOOLS, I felt sure that if I did, they (the tools) would lack something in sophistication and resemble the sorry specimens shown in this cartoon." Larson went on to apologize for the confusion, saying, "I regret that my fondness for cows, combined with an overactive imagination, may have carried me beyond what is comprehensible to the average 'Far Side' reader." There is a TV Trope called COW TOOLS - named after The Far Side cartoon - that refers to props or artwork added to a scene that have no specific purpose.
  • TEYONAH (5D: Actress Parris) TEYONAH Parris played the role of Monica Rambeau in the miniseries, WandaVision, a role she will reprise in the movie The Marvels, scheduled to be released in 2023.
  • ESSENCE (38D: 2021 hit by Wizkid featuring Tems) "ESSENCE" reached number nine on Billboard's Hot 100, and number 28 on Billboard's Global 200, making it the first Nigerian song to appear on those two charts. The song was part of Nigerian singer, Wizkid's, fourth studio album, Made in Lagos. The video for "ESSENCE" was filmed in Ghana.
  • DRESS (46D: LaQuan Smith creation) LaQuan Smith is a luxury fashion designer. His brand of womenswear is LaQuan Smith, LLC. In addition to designing clothing, LaQuan Smith teamed up with Moët & Chandon to design a cocktail for the 2020 Golden Globe Awards.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • MRS (22A: "Me and ___ Jones") Me and MRS. Jones is the name of a 1973 album by Johnny Mathis. "Me and MRS. Jones" is also the name of a 1972 song by Billy Paul. Also, Me and MRS. Jones is the name of a British TV series about a woman named Gemma Jones. Whichever Me and MRS. Jones you are familiar with, it's an effective way to clue MRS.
  • SHEILA (24A: Drummer ___ E.) SHEILA E. gave her first public performance, including a drum solo, at the age of five onstage with her dad, Pete Escovedo. Known as the "Queen of Percussion," SHEILA E. has performed with Prince, Beyoncé, Phil Collins, while also having a successful career of her own.
  • WATER PROTECTOR (47A: Member of an indigenous-led environmental movement) A WATER PROTECTOR is an activist focused on defending and maintaining the world's water systems. The name of WATER PROTECTOR arose from the work of indigenous communities protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. 
  • TUTU (8D: Garment for Misty Copeland) Misty Copeland is a ballet dancer for American Ballet Theatre. She was featured in the 2015 documentary, A Ballerina's Tale.
  • CHILI DOGS (10D: Food sold by Ben's in D.C.) Ben's CHILI Bowl has been serving CHILI DOGS in Washington D.C. since 1958. 
  • GRIDS (27D: Crossword constructors create them) I always enjoy clues that reference the puzzles they appear in. Speaking of GRIDS, I like the diagonals formed by black squares in the center of this puzzle. They give the feeling of sliding down through the puzzle as you solve, or climbing up.
  • HBCU (32D: FAMU is one) Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) is a historically black college and university (HBCU). FAMU was founded in 1887, and is the only HBCU in Florida. The school is located in Tallahassee, Florida.
  • ATLAS (44D: Geographic reference work) It's been a big week for ATLAS. It also appeared in Monday and Tuesday's puzzles.

    Geography review:
    • BLUE (14A: Bottom color of the Eritrean flag) Eritrea is a country in Eastern Africa with coastline along the Red Sea. It borders Ethiopia, Sudan, and Djibouti. Its capital is Asmara. The flag of Eritrea is composed of green, red, and BLUE triangles with a gold emblem of a wreath and olive branch. The BLUE section of the flag represents the bounty of the sea.
    The title of today's puzzle, WHOLY HOLY, is the title of a song recorded by both Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin. It works perfectly to describe the collection of HOLY phrases that make up today's theme. Smooth fill all around today (as per usual). I chuckled at the word MOIST appearing in the center of the puzzle, as it is a word that annoys many people. In addition to the answers highlighted above, I liked SNOWFALLS, MOOD RING, and FAR FLUNG. This puzzle did not make me ANGRY. I would describe my reaction more as GLEE. My favorite part of this solve was learning that the confusion I felt about COW TOOLS was appropriate. Solving this puzzle was an enjoyable way to begin my Thursday.