Title: SWORD PLAY
Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel
Editor: Erik Agard
GET A GRIP (16A: "Collect yourself")
SECURITY GUARD (28A: Employee monitoring camera feeds)
SHOULDER BLADE (55A: Bone also known as the scapula)
Theme synopsis: The last word of each theme answer is part of a SWORD: GRIP, GUARD, BLADE.
Things I learned:
- ODIE (27A: "North Face" singer) ODIE is a Nigerian-Canadian singer and musician. His song, "North Face," is about a beautiful girl he saw while working at the recreation store, The North Face.
- DEB (24D: ___ ball (event in "The Summer I Turned Pretty")) The Summer I Turned Pretty is an Amazon Prime TV series based on Jenny Han's novel of the same name. The TV show, which premiered earlier this year, is about a 16-year-old girl's summer at a beach with her family, which includes a DEB ball.
- BREW (59D: Prepare anji bai cha) Anji bai cha is a green tea originally produced in Anji County in the Zhejiang Province of China.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
- BTS (5A: Bangtan TV band) Bangtan TV is the YouTube channel for the K-Pop group, BTS. The group is also known as the Bangtan Boys.
- ASL (20A: Language learned by many CODAs) In this case, CODA stands for "child of deaf adult." Many CODAs learn American sign language (ASL) in order to communicate with their parents.
- IRISH (53A: Ruth Negga's nationality) I have previously written about Ruth Negga's performances in the movies Passing and Loving. Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and grew up in Ireland. She has IRISH citizenship.
- THREE (68A: Number of points for a B or C in Scrabble) Scrabble clues two days in a row - hooray! Interestingly, there are four Scrabble tiles with a point value of THREE (B, C, M, and P), and five Scrabble tiles with a point value of four (F, H, V, W, and Y).
- DEER (68A: Animal such as the pudu) The pudu is a species of South American DEER, and is the world's smallest DEER, standing 13-17 inches high at the shoulder and weighing about 26 pounds.
- SET IN STONE (3D: Unchangeable) Not only is SET IN STONE a great answer and a nice bonus, but also it brought to mind the SWORD in the STONE of Arthurian legend, and that seems to fit nicely with the puzzle's theme.
- TSA (4D: Org. with AIT scanners) AIT stands for Advanced Imaging Technology. The AIT scanners used by TSA (Transportation Security Administration) are also referred to as full body scanners.
- ALTO SAX (21D: Instrument for Vi Redd) I surprised myself by knowing this answer. It turns out I learned about Vi Redd from the December 13, 2021 puzzle.
- GNU (30D: animal that can learn to run just minutes after it's born) GNU, also known as wildebeest, are antelopes native to eastern and southern Africa. The ability to be able to run shortly after birth is an important survival technique, as predators often seek out young animals. GNU aren't the only wild animals that are mobile shortly after being born.
- TIL (46D: "It Ain't Over ___ It's Over") "It Ain't Over 'TIL It's Over" is a 1991 song by Lenny Kravitz. It was his first song to reach the top 10 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. The song is also the latest Share the Earworm offering.
- EILEEN (48D: Freestyle skier Gu) I wrote about EILEEN Gu a few months ago.
- ERIE (65A: Dirtiest Great Lake) Sometimes it seems like I've seen every possible cluing angle for some of our crossword favorites, such as ERIE...and then a constructor will surprise me with a novel clue. Such is the case today. This is an interesting fact about Lake ERIE, and also sad. Lake ERIE is the most polluted of the Great Lakes. That pollution is a result of industrialization near the lake that has dumped chemical pollutants into the lake for many years, particularly in the 1960s. Lake ERIE is also subject to runoff pollution, a result of rainfall washing fertilizer and manure into water sources that flow into the lake. In recent years, Lake ERIE has experienced algal blooms, overgrowth of algae that coats the water with green scum and threatens the drinking water supply. You may recall from previous ERIE clues that Lake ERIE is the shallowest of the Great Lakes. This fact plays a part in making it more susceptible to the effects of pollution.
- CANADA (10D: Country with 52,455 islands) This is a fun fact! I certainly don't think of CANADA as an island country (and it isn't), but it does have a lot of islands. For some perspective, according to the website WorldAtlas, Sweden has 267,570 islands, and the United States has 18,617 islands. (The state of Alaska has over 2,600 islands.)
- IDAHO (54D: Pacific Northwest state) Although there's no official designation, the Pacific Northwest is generally considered to include the U.S. states of IDAHO, Washington, and Oregon, and the Canadian province of British Columbia.
Let's talk about SWORDs. The GRIP is (intuitively) the part of a SWORD that you hold. The GUARD is the piece - often bar-shaped or circular - that separates the GRIP from the BLADE. When I saw the title of today's puzzle, I thought we might see some anagrams. I had a nice "Aha!" moment when I realized the direction the theme was taking instead. Thank you, Zhouqin, for this puzzle that was a superb way to begin my Sunday.
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