November 22, 2020


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
LIGHTNING STRIKE (16A: Storm discharge)
ERROR FREE (27A: Devoid of mistakes)
OLD SCHOOL (44A: Far from avant-garde)
CREATURE COMFORT (58A: Comfy bed or hot shower, e.g.)

Theme synopsis: The last word of each theme answer can precede the word ZONE to form a new phrase. We have STRIKE ZONE, FREE ZONE, SCHOOL ZONE, and COMFORT ZONE.

Things I learned:
  • AVA (35A: Model Sambora) If you search for AVA Sambora on Wikipedia, the page for actress Heather Locklear appears. Turns out AVA Sambora is the daughter of Heather Locklear and former Bon Jovi guitarist, Richie Sambora. AVA and her mom recently wrote essays on kindness for People magazine. 
  • OILY (62A: Like hands after eating youtiao) Youtiao are deep-fried strips of dough. You may have heard of youtiao referred to as Chinese cruller, Chinese fried churro, Chinese doughnut, or - pertinent to this clue - Chinese oil stick.
  • EGG (7D: Naengmyeon topping) Naengmyeon is a Korean noodle dish served with a tangy broth and topped with a boiled EGG.
  • ARIA (56D: Anna Netrebko delivery) Anna Netrebko is a Russian-Austrian opera singer who has performed worldwide and received multiple awards and honors. Here's a fun fact: Anna Netrebko had a cameo role in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, appearing as herself.
  • RED (60D: Popular wedding ao dai color) The áo dài is a Vietnamese national garment. It is a long split garment, worn over trousers. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • IRIS (47A: Candice Patton's role on "The Flash") On the TV series The Flash, Candice Patton plays the role of IRIS West-Allen. IRIS is married to Barry Allen, who is The Flash.
  • RABBIT HOLE (29D: You may fall down one while researching something online) Oh, indeed! This is the story of my blog-writing process - falling down one delightful RABBIT HOLE after another. It is the reason why many days I struggle to meet my self-imposed goal of posting the blog by 9:00 a.m. central time. There's just so much information available and so much of it is fascinating!
  • RIRI (39D: Fenty Beauty founder, to fans) When I first read this clue, I thought, "I have no idea." Then just before I went on to the next clue, a thought leapt up from my subconscious, "Wait, I think I've written about this before!" It's always gratifying to actually remember something I've learned from an earlier puzzle. Fenty Beauty is a cosmetics brand launched by singer, Rihanna, whose full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty. I first learned this information from the July 23 puzzle
  • TRIO (52D: The Chicks, e.g.) The Chicks are a country music TRIO of Natalie Maines, Martie Erwin Maguire, and Emily Strayer. Formerly known as The Dixie Chicks, the group changed their name in June 2020. 
  • TESS (54D: Model Holliday) TESS Holiday describes herself as a "body positive activist." 

    Geography review:
    • PALO (1D: ___ Alto, California) Located in the Silicon Valley area of California, PALO Alto is the home for the headquarters of several tech companies, including Hewlett-Packard, and Tesla.
    • PUGET SOUND (3D: Pacific Northwest inlet) PUGET SOUND is located along the northwestern coast of the state of Washington. The city of Seattle is located between PUGET SOUND and Lake Washington. 
    • AVIV (10D: Tel ___, Israel) Tel AVIV is the economic and technological center of Israel. 
    • SOCHI (33D: 2014 Olympics host city) SOCHI is a city in southern Russia. Stretching across a 90-mile long area, SOCHI is the longest city in Europe. In addition to hosting the 2014 Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games, SOCHI was also one of the host cities for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
    We're IN THE ZONE today. The question may arise - which ZONE are we in. My goal is to spend as much time in my COMFORT ZONE as possible. A nice theme today. CREATURE COMFORTS was my favorite theme answer. My favorite CREATURE COMFORTS are a cup of tea and a fleece blanket. Non-theme answers I especially enjoyed today included PUGET SOUND, DILEMMA (duck, duck) GOOSE, and, of course, RABBIT HOLE. This puzzle was a lovely way to begin my Sunday morning.