January 31, 2022


Constructor: Erik Agard

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
TTEOKGUK (3D: New Year's dish)
AALIYAH (5D: The Princess of R&B)
LLAMA FARM (9D: Place where cries are raised) 
EERIE FEELING (11D: Deja vu, for example)
TWO STORIES HIGH (57A: A couple floors tall)

Theme synopsis: The first letters of the first four theme answers, taken in order, spell out the word TALE; the same is true for the second letters. Since those four theme answers are vertical, we have TWO STORIES HIGH in our puzzle.

Things I learned:
  • WOK (24A: Pan for char kway teow) Char kway teow is a stir-fried dish associated with the national cuisines of Malaysia and Singapore. The dish is made from flat rice noodles that are stir-fried with other ingredients in a WOK over high heat.
  • ARE (53A: "Several People ___ Typing" (Calvin Kasulke novel)) Calvin Kasulke's debut novel, Several People ARE Typing, published in 2021, is written entirely in Slack messages. Slack is a business communication platform that some companies use for company communication. The main character of the book accidentally gets trapped inside the Slack workspace of the PR agency he works for. Don't worry if you've never used Slack. I found an interview with Calvin Kasulke which reassured readers you don't have to be familiar with Slack to understand the book. That's similar to the fact that I didn't have to be familiar with the book Several People ARE Typing in order to figure out this answer. In researching this book (which I am adding to my rather lengthy "to be read" list...) I enjoyed this interview with Calvin Kasulke that was conducted via text messages.
  • TTEOKGUK (3D: New Year's dish) TTEOKGUK, also known as sliced rice cake soup, is a dish traditionally eaten in celebration of the Korean New Year. 
  • RELATIVE (40D: Halmoni, for example) In Korean, "halmoni" means "grandmother." In discovering the meaning of halmoni, I learned about a picture book that I'm now adding to my "to be read" list, Where's Halmoni? by Julie Kim. The book, written in a graphic novel style, tells of a young Korean girl and boy that visit their grandmother and discover their RELATIVE is missing. Of course they go searching for her, and have adventures along the way.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • STUD (34A: Type of 39-Across) and POKER (39A: Game with straight flushes) What I appreciate most about this pair of related clues is that the answers are stacked in the grid, so its easy to read STUD POKER.
  • HOT TAP (35A: Faucet usually found on the left side) This is one of those conventions we are so used to we don't think about it. However, if you've ever used a sink with the HOT TAP on the right side, you know how disorienting this can be.
  • LUTE (50A: String instrument spelled by removing the first letter from a woodwind instrument) If you remove the F from "flute," you end up with a LUTE.
  • IEP (52A: School document) IEP = Individualized Education Program. 
  • CAT (2D: Feline) Here's a recent picture I took of Willow trying to pretend she's a jungle CAT.
  • AALIYAH (5D: The Princess of R&B) AALIYAH was a singer, actress, dancer, and model. She earned the nicknames "Princess of R&B," and "Queen of Urban Pop," in recognition of the role her music played in redefining contemporary R&B. Sadly, AALIYAH was killed in a plane crash in 2001 at the age of 22. However, some of her music has been released posthumously.
  • LEI (8D: Necklaces sent by Abraham Akaka to Selma marchers in 1965) Abraham Akaka was a pastor of Kawaiaha'o Church in Honolulu. This article explains that the LEI worn by the Selma marchers were made my those in his congregation. It took me a minute to remember the word LEI can be singular or plural. Although "leis" is sometimes used as a plural, the Hawaiian language doesn't differentiate between singular and plural, so LEI can be either.
  • LLAMA FARM (9D: Place where crias are raised) Crias, which you probably deduced if you didn't already know, are juvenile LLAMAs. The Spanish word "cría" means "baby."
  • OYSTERS (36D: Shellfish served with mignonette) Mignonette sauce, made with shallots, cracked pepper, and vinegar, is traditionally served with raw OYSTERS.
  • TIM (42D: Name found in this clue's penultimate word) This is a fun clue! I always have to stop and think about the word "penultimate," as it sounds to me like it should mean "final." However, penultimate means "next to last."
  • APOLLO 49D: Theater that hosts the Double Dutch Holiday Classic) The Double Dutch Holiday Classic is a competition of Double Dutch jump roping. It is held in Harlem, at the APOLLO Theater which I have previously written about

    Geography review:

    • TAHOE (27A: Lake also known as Da.aw) Washo is the language spoken by the indigenous inhabitants of the Lake TAHOE area, the Washo people. The English name for Lake TAHOE is derived from the Washo name, Da.aw, which means "the lake."
    • ANGOLA (28A: Umbundu is one of its national languages) The African country, ANGOLA, is located on the west coast of the southern part of Africa, with coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. ANGOLA has four national languages, all four of which are Bantu languages (a family of languages spoken by the Bantu people in the southern part of Africa): Umbundu, Kimbundu, Chokwe, and Kikongo.
    • EAST (43A: Arizona-to-New Mexico direction) New Mexico is the only state along the EAST border of Arizona.
    • PLANO (10D: City near Dallas) PLANO, Texas is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. Fun fact: Elise Hu (who I wrote about a week and a half ago) graduated from PLANO Senior High School.
    • TEL (21D: ___ Aviv) One of the nicknames of TEL Aviv, Israel is "The Big Orange," so named for the Jaffa oranges that grew nearby and were exported from TEL Aviv.
    I thoroughly enjoyed the fun and creative theme of this puzzle. We have a NARRATIVE STRUCTURE composed of TWO STORIES HIGH in the grid, in the form of the double letters TT-AA-LL-EE. How fun to see so many words starting with double letters, too. Noticing the AA- and EE- was what first tipped me off that something interesting was happening in the top two rows of the grid. I had already spotted the TWO TALEs by the time I reached the revealer of TWO STORIES HIGH, so that answer was icing on the cake that had me chuckling with satisfaction. In addition to those theme components, we have the bonus answers of ACTS, ROLE, and SETS to help tell these TALES. Also, these particular TALES are TALL TALES, being at the top of the puzzle as they are. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Monday.