July 22, 2020

Title: Packing on the PDA
Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel
Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
DEEP DARK SECRETS (17A: Skeletons in the closet)
LEAP DAY (49A: Feb. 29, 2024 occurrence)
HOOP DANCE (32D: Powwow performance)
CAMP DAVID (36D: Presidential retreat)

Theme synopsis: The letter string P-D-A is present in each theme answer. In each case, P-D-A spans the two words of the answer.

Things I learned:
  • OLSEN (25A: Scarlet witch actress Elizabeth) Scarlet Witch (aka Wanda Maximoff) is a character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). First appearing in a mid-credits scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Elizabeth OLSEN has played the role in five MCU films so far. OLSEN is also scheduled to play the role in the upcoming Disney+ series, WandaVision.
  • TEA (41A: Cha chaan teng drink) Cha chaan teng is a type of restaurant that originated in Hong Kong, and is sometimes referred to as Hong Kong-style cafe. Cha chaan teng locations are known for their casual settings and their affordable menus revolving around tea and coffee. The name Cha chaan teng means "tea restaurant."
  • MOM (47A: Bonnie, to Christy Plunkett) Christy Plunkett is the main character on the TV show, MOM. On the show, Christy, portrayed by Anna Faris, is a single mother restarting her life after battling alcoholism and drug addiction. Bonnie Plunkett, played by Allison Janney, is Christy's MOM, and is also a recovering drug and alcohol addict. Allison Janney won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her portrayal of Christy's MOM. 
  • ALEXA (3D: Actress Davalos) ALEXA Davalos played the role of Juliana Crain in the TV series, The Man in the High Castle. She has also appeared in the films, Defiance and Clash of the Titans.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ARLO (14A: "The Good Dinosaur" dinosaur) The Good Dinosaur is an animated Pixar film set in an alternate universe in which dinosaurs never became extinct. ARLO is a young Apatosaurus who becomes friends with a caveboy (Spot). 
  • SKIED (53A: Competed in a super-G race) Super-G, or super giant slalom is an alpine skiing race. In contrast to the technical events, giant slalom and slalom, super-G is a speed event. A super-G course consists of gates that racers must pass through, and the course requires skiers to turn more often than in downhill races.
  • BEET (69A: Source of the pink in pickled turnips) Pickled turnips are a common accompaniment to Middle Eastern food. They are a beautiful pink color, the result of including a BEET in the pickling mixture.
  • HOOP DANCE (32D: Powwow performance) The Native American HOOP DANCE is an individual dance. Dancing with a number of hoops (4 to 28), the dancer makes an elaborate sequence of moves, causing the hoops to interlock such that they can be extended from the dancer's body.
  • CAMP DAVID (36D: Presidential retreat) CAMP DAVID is located in Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland, about 62 miles from Washington, D.C. Officially known as the Naval Support Facility Thurmont, CAMP DAVID serves as the country retreat for the U.S. president.
Geography review:
  • SAUDI (23A: Mecca resident, e.g.) Mecca is the capital of the Makkah Province of Saudi Arabia, and is considered the holiest city in Islam.
  • ALBERTA (44A: Province north of Montana) Everything I know about Canadian geography I learned from crossword puzzles! While not technically correct, it is true that I know more about Canadian geography (and geography as a whole) because I solve crosswords. Two other Canadian provinces share a border with Montana. British Columbia is north of Montana, and also shares a border with the state of Washington. Saskatchewan is north of Montana, and also north of North Dakota. For ALBERTA, Montana is the sole state which it borders. 
  • SALEM (40D: Oregon's capital) SALEM was the capital of the Oregon Territory before Oregon became a state. The nickname of SALEM is the "Cherry City," because of the past importance of the cherry-growing industry in the area.
Remember last week's discussion of puzzle symmetry? Today's puzzle is an example of left-right mirror symmetry. The puzzle is symmetrical along an axis running down the center of the puzzle. Today's theme answers include a 15-letter word, two 8-letter words, and a 7-letter word. With traditional 180-degree rotational symmetry, this theme set would require including an additional 15-letter answer. The use of mirror symmetry allows this theme set to work as is. 
I was not familiar with the phrase PACKING ON THE P.D.A. The initials PDA here stand for public display of affection, not personal digital assistant, just in case you remember when the latter PDAs were a thing! Packing on the PDA is a term used when a couple is engaging in a lot of PDA. Even though the phrase was not familiar to me, the initials PDA were, so the theme was still discoverable as I solved.
Speaking of the theme, DEEP DARK SECRETS is such a juicy phrase! I like the puzzle based on that answer alone, but there's plenty of other stuff to enjoy here. A delightful solve to begin my day.