Title: BOX SET
Constructors: Brooke Husic & Erik Agard
Editor: Erik Agard
BUILDING A FUTURE (12A: Working for a better tomorrow)
WRITER'S ROOM (1D: Group of people working on TV scripts)
STUMBLING ACROSS (9D: Discovering unexpectedly)
CHOCKABLOCK (49A: Full, like this puzzle)
Theme synopsis: This puzzle is CHOCKABLOCK (full) of BLOCKS. Our BOX SET of BLOCKS includes a BUILDING BLOCK, a WRITER'S BLOCK, and a STUMBLING BLOCK.
And now a word from our constructors:
Brooke & Erik: We hope this puzzle brings you as much delight as it brings us!
Things I learned:
- RINA (10A: Singer-songwriter Sawayama) RINA Sawayama is a singer-songwriter and a model. She was born in Japan, and currently lives in England. Her debut EP was titled RINA (2017), and her debut album was titled Sawayama (2020).
- ODE (21A: "___ to My Father's Boots" (Cornelius Eady essay)) Cornelius Eady is the author of multiple books of poetry, and the co-founder of Cave Canem, a nonprofit organization supporting emerging Black poets. His essay, "ODE to My Father's Boots," describes his father's journey to "the Land called A Little Something More." I recommended taking a couple of minutes to read it. I like this clue. The answer is inferable even to those unfamiliar with the particular essay, and it led me to discover the work of Cornelius Eady.
- ROCK (32A: Genre influenced by Sister Rosetta Tharpe) Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973) has been referred to as the "Godmother of ROCK and Roll." She began her career recording gospel music, but her guitar-playing techniques appealed to a broad audience, including fans of rhythm and blues and ROCK and roll. Sister Rosetta Tharpe was inducted into the ROCK & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.
- RIC (48A: "The African Gentleman" musician Hassani) The African Gentleman, which includes the song "Gentleman," is the 2016 debut album of Nigerian singer, songwriter, and musician RIC Hassani. I enjoyed reading this Lifestyle article about RIC Hassani.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
- TRAPS (5A: Muscles worked by barbell shrugs, for short) It took me a bit to work out this answer. (Pun totally intended...sorry...not sorry.) Although my science background provides me with a familiarity with the names of muscles, I don't know weightlifting moves. To do a barbell shrug, you essentially hold a barbell and shrug, although it is important, of course, to make sure you have proper technique so you strengthen your trapezius muscles (TRAPS), and don't injure yourself. Your TRAPS extend down from your occipital bone (your head) on each side of your body, and connect both to your scapulae (shoulder blades) and your lower thoracic vertebrae (your spine).
- MAE (20A: "___ Among the Stars" (picture book about an astronaut)) MAE Among the Stars is a 2018 children's book by Roda Ahmed. The book tells the story of MAE Jemison, the first Black woman to travel into space.
- UPON (44A: "Once ___ a Time" (Chika EP) Once UPON a Time is a 2021 EP by rap artist, Chika. Like the clue for ODE, the answer here is attainable by solvers even if they aren't familiar with the specific reference.
- CHOCKABLOCK (49A: Full, like this puzzle) As the clue tells us, the word "CHOCKABLOCK" means full. According to Merriam-Webster, the word has nautical origins. I can't tell you the last time I heard this word, but it immediately came to mind when I read the clue. I'm sure this was assisted by the fact that I had already figured out we had types of BLOCKs represented by the other theme answers.
- EAR (52A: Elephant part that may be six feet long) I know elephants are big, and that they have big EARs, but this clue helped me visualize this fact in a way I hadn't before. I am shorter than six feet (by over half a foot), so an elephant could have an EAR the size of me on each side of its head. If I were talented with Photoshop, I would have whipped up a picture of this visualization to share with you.
- WRITERS' ROOM (1D: Group of people working on TV scripts) A WRITERS' ROOM is a process used by screenwriters. It's essentially just what it sounds like; several WRITERS gather in a ROOM to brainstorm story ideas and then craft them into scripts. Hopefully working together in this manner decreases the possibility of WRITER'S BLOCK.
- AND (3D: "I Believe in You ___ Me") "I Believe in You AND Me" is a song recorded by The Four Tops in 1982, and covered by Whitney Houston in 1996 for the movie, The Preacher's Wife.
- ALU (7D: Worker-led movement founded in Staten Island, for short) The Amazon Labor Union (ALU) was formed on April 20, 2021 by Amazon workers at a warehouse in Staten Island. It is the first labor union recognized by the National Labor Relations Board that is specifically for Amazon workers.
- DOLL (30D: Worry ___ (Guatemalan figurine)) Worry DOLLs are hand-made in Guatemala out of wire, wool, and colorful fabric leftovers. In Guatemala, children tell their worries to these tiny DOLLs and then place them underneath their pillows at night. The legend is that the DOLLs take the children’s worry so the children can sleep.
- KICK (42D: Mae geri or kin geri, in karate) In karate, a mae geri is a front KICK, and a kin geri is a groin KICK.
- THAI (47D: Like nam dok anchan) Nam dok anchan is a THAI drink made of butterfly pea flowers, honey, and citrus juice. The butterfly pea flowers result in a blue beverage that turns purple when lemon juice (or other citrus juice) is added.
- LYE (51D: ___ water (alkaline ingredient in kutsinta)) Kutsinta is a steamed rice cake made from tapioca or rice flour, brown sugar, and LYE water. The dish originated in the Philippines.
First of all, this grid is stunning, isn't it?! How fun to see the title BOX SET, and open the puzzle to find a grid full of BOXes. The grid has diagonal symmetry; it is symmetrical along a line from the upper right corner to the lower left corner. I had originally wondered if the theme answers might feature words paired with the word BOX, but uncovering BUILDING A FUTURE and STUMBLING ACROSS made me suspect we had a BOX of BLOCKS. WRITERS' ROOM confirmed my suspicion, and it was delightful to then discover the revealer of CHOCKABLOCK. In addition to the fabulous theme, I enjoyed WONK, MAZE, UH OH, and MORE LATER. Thank you, Brooke and Erik, for this puzzle that was a fantastic way to start my Tuesday.
One more thing: Just for fun, I've added a new page to the blog: CATS of SALLY'S TAKE. Feel free to visit this page anytime you need an infusion of feline furriness. (Okay, it's not all cats...there's a dog as well.) On the page, I've included an invitation to send me photos of your pets if you're willing for me to feature them on the blog. I hope some of you (readers and constructors) will take me up on this offer. In my humble opinion, a crossword blog is always improved by pet photos!