October 29, 2020


Constructor: Rachel Fabi

Editor: Erik Agard & Paolo Pasco

Theme Answers:
STARBURST (16A: Chewy, fruit-flavored candy)
MURIEL SPARK (28A: "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" author)
FLEA FLICKER (45A: Trick football play)
NEWS FLASH (58A: Sarcastic lead-in to something obvious)

Theme synopsis: On the RIGHT side of each theme answer we find some LIGHT, in the form of a BURST, a SPARK, a FLICKER, and a FLASH.

Things I learned:
  • FLEA FLICKER (45A: Trick football play) A FLEA FLICKER is a play designed to trick the opposing team into thinking the team is executing a running play, instead of a pass. It is a difficult play to pull off successfully because of the number of times the football exchanges hands (therefore increasing the opportunities to lose control of the ball). Attempts at using the FLEA FLICKER play have resulted in some notable successes and failures. A success: In Super Bowl XXI, the New York Giants' FLEA FLICKER play against the Denver Broncos resulted in a 44-yard gain. A failure: In a 1985 FLEA FLICKER attempt, Washington Redskins' quarterback, Joe Thiesmann was tackled and suffered a career-ending injury. (Ouch!)
  • STEVE (63A: Urkel's first name) STEVE Urkel, played by Jaleel White, is a character from the TV series, Family Matters. Urkel is characterized as a nerd who is kind and well-meaning, but a bungling meddler. Urkel was also known for his high-pitched voice. He wore thick eyeglasses, and flood pants held up by suspenders. In addition to Family Matters, the character of Urkel has made appearances in other shows, including Full House and the animated series, Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?
  • ADS (1D: Pieces of sponcon) Today I learned that sponcon is short for sponsored content. Intertwined with influencer marketing, sponcon is advertising that has celebrities promoting products on their social media platforms. For example, a celebrity might post a photo on Instagram showing them feeding their cat a particular brand of cat food (with the label clearly showing). That's sponcon.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • MURIEL SPARK (28A: "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" author) Dame MURIEL SPARK was a British novelist. Her 1961 book, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, was first published in The New Yorker magazine. Miss Jean Brodie was a teacher self-described as being "in her prime." The book centers around six students singled out by Brodie as an elite group. In 2005, the novel was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels.
  • PITH (31A: ___ helmet (salakot relative)) A PITH helmet, also known as a safari helmet, is a lightweight, cloth-covered hat designed to shade the wearer's head and face from the sun. The PITH helmet is an adaptation of the salak√≥t, a traditional dome-shaped or cone-shaped headgear from the Philippines.
  • OSCAR (37A: "Sesame Street" grouch) Thank you to this answer for today's earworm, Oscar's theme song, "I Love Trash." ("Anything dirty or dingy or dusty/Anything ragged or rotten or rusty...") OSCAR the Grouch was originally performed and voiced by Caroll Spinney, who also voiced Big Bird. OSCAR the Grouch was originally orange, and did not become his characteristic green until the second season of Sesame Street. On the show this color change was explained as being a result of a visit to Swamp Mushy Muddy.
  • POGS (67A: Cardboard discs in a '90s fad) POGS derive their name from a brand of juice made from passionfruit, orange, and guava. POGS were collected and used to play a game called milk caps. The game existed prior to POGS becoming popular. It's a week for remembering fads, apparently, as we saw Tamagotchis and Webkins in Monday's puzzle.
  • MERCI (4D: "___ beaucoup") "Thank you, very much!"
  • TREVOR (11D: The ___ Project (LGBTQ+ youth mental health organization)) I have previously written about The Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services, as well as other mental health support services, to LGBTQ+ youth. I encourage you to learn more about this organization that is doing good work.

    Geography review:
    • LEBANON (41A: Country with a cedar on its flag) LEBANON is a country in Western Asia. Beirut is its capital. In ancient times, LEBANON was covered by large forests of cedar trees. Few old cedar trees remain, but reforestation efforts have resulted in over 600,000 trees (not all cedars) being planted since 2011. 
    • EXETER (47D: New Hampshire town with a prep school) EXETER, New Hampshire is named after EXETER in Devon, England. It is the location of Phillips EXETER Academy, one of the oldest secondary schools in the U.S.
    NEWS FLASH - this puzzle, was a BURST of delight, SPARKing my interest, which didn't FLICKER for a moment. This puzzle did not prove to be my NEMESIS, - it did not stick in my CRAW at all. My enjoyment did not DEFLATE at any point; rather, I was in the GROOVE as I managed to LOCATE each answer successfully without a FLECK or BLIP of trouble. (WELL, OK, my cat MEOWED for attention throughout the solve, but she does that every morning.) This puzzle was a delightful start to my Thursday morning. MERCI beaucoup, Rachel, Erik, and Paolo!
    Also, a birthday shoutout to my husband today, who has now been married to me for half of his life! In a fun coincidence, Rachel also constructed the puzzle on my birthday this year, making her the "Official 2020 Hoelscher Birthday Constructor."