March 10, 2024


Constructor: Susan Gelfand

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
CAVE DRAWING (21A: Bit of ancient wall art)
COSTUME DESIGNER (37A: Person making clothes for film or stage)
COOKIE DOUGH (54A: Popular ice cream flavor with chocolate chips)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer has the initials C.D.: CAVE DRAWING, COSTUME DESIGNER, COOKIE DOUGH. When you HEAR the letters CD, they sound like the word SEEDY.

Things I learned:
  • EAT (40D: Enjoy some waakye) Waakye is a rice and beans dish that originated in Ghana. The beans used are usually black-eyed peas (also known as cowpeas). The rice and beans are cooked with dried red sorghum leaves and an additive similar to baking soda, which gives the dish a distinctive red color. In Ghana, waakye is sold as street food, wrapped in a banana leaf.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • OBOE (14A: Reed instrument with 45 keys) The OBOE is a double-reed woodwind instrument. It's also a four-letter word with three vowels, so it's a frequent entry in crossword puzzles. Clues for OBOE often reference its double reed, so it was fun to see this different approach. This clue made me curious about how many keys a clarinet – a single-reed woodwind instrument – has. A standard clarinet has 17 keys. (I probably knew this at one time, since I played the clarinet when I was in junior high. That was a few years ago, though.)
  • EDY (26A: Dreyer's partner in ice cream) William Dreyer and Joseph EDY founded Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, Inc. in 1928. The company has two signature brands: Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream - sold in the Western United States and Texas, and EDY's Grand Ice Cream, sold in the Eastern and Midwestern United States.
  • BAO (47A: Steamed bun that's a variation of mantou) Mantou is a type of steamed bun made of yeasted dough, which originated in China. Filled mantou are known as BAO. 
  • IVY (59A: Plant on the outfield walls at Wrigley Field) Wrigley Field is the home stadium for MLB's Chicago Cubs. The stadium's brick outfield walls are covered with IVY, a distinguishing feature of the park since 1937. I have not been to a baseball game at Wrigley Field. My family had tickets to attend a game there in 2020, but, well, we know how that turned out. We're trying again this summer, so hopefully we'll be successful this time and I'll be able to see the iconic IVY-covered outfield walls in person. (Sorry, Cubs fans, I will be rooting for the visiting team that day, the St. Louis Cardinals.)
  • DONNA (61A: Summer known as the "Queen of Disco") Donna Summer (1948-2012) was known as the "Queen of DISCO." During her career, she had 32 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, four of which reached the top spot. She also won five Grammy Awards. Last year HBO released a documentary about her life titled Love to Love you, DONNA Summer.
  • UPENN (64A: Wharton's school, for short) Located in Philadelphia, Wharton is the business school at the University of Pennsylvania (UPENN, for short). Established in 1881, Wharton is the world's oldest collegiate business school.
  • JOKER (1D: Versatile tile in mah-jongg) Mah-jongg, or mahjong, is a tile-based game developed in China in the 19th century. The game is played with a set of 144 tiles that are based on Chinese characters and symbols. Some variations of Mah-jongg, notably the American variation, include JOKER tiles that function like wild cards.
  • RUMI (11D: Popular Persian poet) RUMI was a thirteenth-century Persian poet. RUMI's poems have been widely translated, and remain popular, even more than 700 years after his death.
  • COD (21D: Lutefisk fish) Lutefisk is made by drying and salting COD (or whitefish), and then rehydrating it in a lye-solution. The result is gelatinous in texture. Lutefisk originated from Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland). It is popular in some parts of the United States, where it is often associated with Christmas celebrations.
  • HORA (33D: Circle dance) The HORA is a circle dance that is performed at some Jewish weddings. During the HORA, the wedding couple is lifted into the air (while seated in chairs) while their family and friends dance circles around them. Often the couple holds opposite ends of a napkin to signify their union. The HORA is often danced to the Jewish folk song, "Hava Nagila."

    Geography review:

    • PESO (67A: Currency of Mexico and Cuba) Mexico and Cuba are two of the eight countries that currently use the PESO as their currency. The other six countries that use the PESO are Argentina, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, and Uruguay. However, the currencies are not interchangeable, as each country has its own PESO. 
    • TAIWAN (10D: Taipei's country) Taipei is the capital of TAIWAN.
    As I usually do, today I attempted to guess the puzzle's theme from the title before I solved the puzzle. At first I was thinking about things that are described as SEEDY, like a dive bar or a pomegranate. Just before I started solving, I looked at the title again and the word "HEAR" stood out to me. That was my "Aha!" moment. "I HEAR SEEDY as CD," I thought, "I bet the theme involves C.D. phrases." As you can imagine, I felt particularly smart when I uncovered the answer CAVE DRAWING. This is a fun theme. Congratulations to Susan Gelfand making a USA TODAY debut! Thank you, Susan, for this delightful puzzle.


    1. Crossword puzzles really bring out the unexpected, don't they? that 'SEEDY' theme connecting to C.D. phrases was a clever twist! And who knew a puzzle could also serve a side of cultural education with the Ghanaian dish waakye?


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