July 29, 2020

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel
Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
MASS APPEAL (17A: Something pop culture has)
THAT'S A PITY (24A: "Real shame!")
POLES APART (53A: Highly divergent)
ADAM'S APPLE (65A: Lump in the throat)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer contains the letter string S-A-P spanning multiple words. SAP collected from trees or plants becomes SYRUP when concentrated.

Things I learned:
  • ARIA (11D: "Pretty Little Liars" character Montgomery) Pretty Little Liars is a TV series loosely based on Sara Shepard's novel series of the same name. The series centers around the lives of four high school friends who drift apart after the leader of their clique disappears. They are reunited a year later when they begin receiving anonymous messages. ARIA Montgomery, one of the four main protagonists, is portrayed by Lucy Hale in the TV series. We often see ARIA clued pertaining to operas or divas. It's nice to see this common crossword fill clued in a different way.
  • LAW (36A: Annalise Keating teaches it) How to Get Away with Murder is a legal thriller TV series about a LAW professor who, with five of her students, becomes involved in a murder plot. Annalise Keating is the LAW professor, played by Viola Davis. Although I wrote about How to Get Away with Murder when it was referred to in a clue on July 12, I did not remember the LAW professor's name.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • RAP (23A: Flo Milli genre) Flo Milli is the stage name of Tamia Monique Carter whose singles "Beef FloMix" and "In the Party" went viral on social media in 2019. Flo Milli released her debut mixtape, Ho, Why Is You Here? five days ago.
  • TALC (35A: Softest of minerals) Although it hasn't been referenced in the USA Today crossword since I've been writing this blog, the Mohs scale of mineral hardness is something I learned about because I saw it in a crossword puzzle and looked it up. (When I originally looked it up, I had a vague memory of learning about it in 8th grade science.) The Mohs scale characterizes scratch resistance on a qualitative scale from one to ten. TALC is a one on the Mohs scale. Diamond is a ten.
  • BON APPETIT (29D: "Enjoy your meal!") Borrowed from the French, this phrase literally means "good appetite." Whenever I read this phrase, I always hear it in the voice of the great Julia Child.
  • STEAK (32D: What carne asada is made from) This is one of three answers in this puzzle that I knew immediately because I have learned the information from doing crossword puzzles (and writing this blog). "Carne Asada is a dish of grilled and sliced beef cooked with a marinade to impart a charred flavor." I wrote that on July 4 when CARNE ASADA FRIES was a theme answer.
  • OMAR (57D: Philosopher Khayyam) Here's the second answer I learned from the USA Today crossword. Hopefully, you also remembered OMAR Khayyam from the July 21 puzzle
Geography review:
  • GILA (1A: Colorado River feeder) Here's the third answer I remembered because I learned it from earlier puzzles. On June 10, (my second blog entry!) I wrote about knowing GILA monsters but not the GILA River. We saw a reference to the GILA River again on July 19. Interestingly, both of those previous puzzles were also constructed by Zhouqin Burnikel. I now know that the GILA is not only a monster, but also a river.
  • ASIA (68A: Largest continent) It's been 11 days since we've seen our crossword friend, ASIA. At over 17 million square miles, the continent of ASIA accounts for about 30% of Earth's total land area.
  • TEXAS (49A: State where Fritos originated) When Charles Doolin first began making Fritos, he did so in his mother's kitchen in San Antonio, TEXAS. Doolin bought the recipe for Fritos after responding to an ad in the newspaper.
No sticky spots in this puzzle, in spite of its high SAP content. You could say this puzzle flowed as smoothly as SYRUP. You doubt my jokes will have MASS APPEAL? THAT'S A PITY! Okay, I'll stop now. This was an enjoyable puzzle. WORRY WARTS and BON APPETIT were nice bonuses, as was BEATS ME.