February 4, 2022


Constructor: Stella Zawistowski

Editors: Mollie Cowger & Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
TUSKEGEE AIRMEN (16A: Noted World War II aviators)
TAKE GREAT PAINS (24A: Be extra meticulous)
SALTED DUCK EGGS (41A: Treats served over porridge)
KEGEL EXERCISES (54A: Pelvic floor-tightening movements)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer contains the word KEG.

Things I learned:
  • SALTED DUCK EGGS (41A: Treats served over porridge) SALTED DUCK EGGS are DUCK EGGS that have been preserved either by soaking in brine, or being packed in damp, salted charcoal. SALTED DUCK EGGS are boiled or steamed before used as a topping for congee (rice porridge).
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • CAT (6A: Animal sitting behind a plate of salad, in a meme) This particular CAT of meme-fame is named Smudge. Although Smudge experienced moderate success when the photo of him behind a plate of salad was first shared, the meme became even more popular when it was paired with another meme to become "Woman Yelling at a Cat." I have previously shared a photo of Willow doing her Smudge the CAT impression. The other day she was once again sitting at the table; all she 
    needed was a plate of salad.
  • TUSKEGEE AIRMEN (16A: Noted World War II aviators) The TUSKEGEE AIRMEN were the first Black pilots in the U.S. Army Air Corps (a precursor of the U.S. Air Force). The name also applies to those that worked on the ground crew and operations support. The TUSKOGEE AIRMEN National Historic Site, commemorating the contributions of the pilots in World War II, is located in TUSKOGEE, Alabama at Moton Field, the site of primary flight training for the TUSKOGEE AIRMEN.
  • KEGEL EXERCISES (54A: Pelvic floor-tightening movements) KEGEL EXERCISES, involving contracting and relaxing the muscles of the pelvic floor, are named after gynecologist Arnold KEGEL, who published a description of the EXERCISES in 1948. 
  • DOLMA (59A: Cabbage leaf-wrapped dish) DOLMA is a dish that originated in the Ottoman Empire, and is still a part of many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. Cabbage leaves are wrapped around a variety of fillings, and the dish may be served either hot or cold. DOLMA can also be made using grape leaves to wrap the filling.
  • TIA (8D: Tamera's sister on "Sister, Sister") In the TV sitcom, Sister, Sister, identical twin sisters TIA and Tamera Mowry play the roles of TIA Landry and Tamera Campbell, identical twin sisters who were separated at birth and accidentally find each other years later.
  • GENE (11D: Tap dance legend Kelly) GENE Kelly's film credits are numerous, and include many musical films in the 1940s and 1950s, including Anchors Aweigh, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and An American in Paris. I learned in researching him, that he choreographed his own dances. It was hard to choose only one clip of GENE KELLY dancing to share with you, but I finally settled on this clip from Anchors Aweigh in which he dances with Jerry Mouse (of Tom and Jerry). It's absolutely delightful.
  • SHEL (36D: "Falling Up" poet Silverstein) Falling Up is a 1996 collection of poetry by SHEL Silverstein. The target audience of the book is children, but I can attest that adults enjoy the poetry as well. The title poem, "Falling Up," is about a boy that trips on his shoelace and falls upward.
  • YEWS (48D: Trees used to make bows) I just learned from the January 17 puzzle that the wood of YEWS is considered the best for making longbows. Not only that, I remembered learning it when I read this clue.
  • RIOT (50D: "The language of the unheard," per MLK) Martin Luther King, Jr. followed up his statement "A RIOT is the language of the unheard," with an important question. "What is it that America has failed to hear?"

    Geography review:

    • SYRIA (47A: Country home to the Umayyad Mosque) The Umayyad Mosque, considered one of the four holiest sites in Islam, is located in Damascus, the capital of SYRIA. Also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus, the Umayyad Mosque has a fascinating history. Although the mosque was built in the 700s, it was constructed on a site used as a house of worship since the 9th century B.C.E. The site has housed a temple to Hadad-Ramman (a storm and rain god in ancient Mesopotamian religions), Zeus (the Greek god of sky and thunder), and Jupiter (Roman god of sky and thunder). The site was also home to a cathedral dedicated to John the Baptist prior to the construction of the mosque.
    • ERIE (43D: Cleveland's Great Lake) Cleveland, Ohio is located on the southern shore of Lake ERIE. Our crossword friend, ERIE, is making its first February appearance.
    • OSLO (51D: Norway's capital) OSLO, also making its first February appearance, has a coat of arms that features St. Hallvard, the city's patron saint. (The coat of arms also features a nude woman, representing the woman Hallvard was defending when he was killed.)
    The title of the puzzle tipped me off to search for KEGs stored in the theme answer, and I found them. An interesting set of theme answers today anchoring a fun puzzle. I've recently discussed that the use of paired clues can add a feeling of cohesiveness to a puzzle. We have a couple of fun examples today with a pair of salad clues - the salad clue for CAT and CAESAR (6D: Salad with anchovies and croutons) - and a pair of cake clues - BAKE (4D: Verb that aptly rhymes with "cake") and ICING (28D: Cake coating). This puzzle was a fabulous way to begin my Friday.