December 20, 2020


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
TAN FRANCE (18A: Fashion expert on "Queer Eye")
CLIFFORD JORDAN (24A: Tenor saxophonist with the 1960 album "Spellbound")
GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (49A: Painter who said "To see takes time, like to have a friend takes time")
INDIA ARIE (57A: "I Am Not My Hair" singer)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer is a STAR whose first or last name is also the name of a COUNTRY.

Things I learned:
  • CLIFFORD JORDAN (24A: Tenor saxophonist with the 1960 album "Spellbound") CLIFFORD JORDAN performed with various jazz and rhythm and blues groups, both as leader and as a sideman. He was part of a sextet put together by Charles Mingus that toured Europe in 1964.
  • EELS (29A: Doyo no Ushi no Hi fishes) Doyo no Ushi no Hi is a Japanese summer tradition also known as "unagi day." Doyo no Ushi no Hi falls on a different day each year between July 18 and August 8 (and some years on two days), and on that day people eat unagi (or EELS) to keep up their stamina for the summer.
  • CHE (45D: Car, in Chinese) I did not know this answer, but am happy to learn it. If you would like to see the Chinese character for chÄ“/car, check out how someone cleverly used tape resembling a road to teach their children this character. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • LIVES (1A: "A cat has nine ___") Just as I filled in this answer, my cat went running through the kitchen. Timing is everything.
  • TAN FRANCE (18A: Fashion expert on "Queer Eye") In addition to being the fashion expert on Queer Eye, TAN FRANCE hosts the web series, Dressing Funny, and co-hosts the TV series, Next in Fashion. His memoir, published in 2019, is titled Naturally Tan. He created an Instagram account, named "shaded" to "celebrate every shade of skin, and to be reminded that every shade is desirable!"
  • FRED (21A: Alternative to Al, perhaps) FRED and Al are both nicknames for Alfred. I am embarrassed to admit (but I'm obviously going to anyway) how long it took me to understand this clue, even after I had completed the puzzle. Part of the problem is that I was reading it as [Alternative to Artificial Intelligence (AI)]. It's quite simple once your brain is headed in the correct direction. 
  • GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (49A: Painter who said "To see takes time, like to have a friend takes time")
    I like this quote. I also like GEORGIA O'KEEFFE's paintings. This one, titled "Blue and Green Music" is on display at the Chicago Museum of Art.
  • ACT (54A: Noh segment) Noh is a form of Japanese dance drama. It has been performed since the 14th century.
  • INDIA ARIE (57A: "I Am Not My Hair" singer) INDIA ARIE (whose name is sometimes styled as India.Arie) has appeared in the puzzle before, on September 10 and December 5, as a clue for ARIE. This is the first time (since I have been blogging) that her full name has been in the puzzle. In 2007, her song, "I Am Not My Hair," won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Song. 
  • RODEO (65A: "The Rider" contest) The Rider is a 2017 movie that was filmed in the badlands of South Dakota. All of the characters in The Rider are Lakota Sioux of the Pine Ridge Reservation located in South Dakota.
  • TEE (13D: Golf item invented by George Franklin Grant) This is a fun fact! In addition to inventing a wooden golf TEE which he patented, (The patent expired in 1916.) George Franklin Grant was a dentist, and the first Black professor at Harvard.
  • ROLE (22D: Rachel Chu, for Constance Wu) Constance Wu played the ROLE of Rachel Chu in the 2018 movie, Crazy Rich Asians
  • BTS (36D: "Dynamite" K-pop band) "Dynamite" is a 2020 song by BTS, and the first song the band fully recorded in English. I learned about the South Korean boy band, BTS, from the October 4 puzzle (also constructed by Zhouqin Burnikel). 
  • NORI (38D: Food item similar to gim) Gim and NORI are edible seaweed species.
  • NBA (58D: Org. with a Sixth Man of the Year Award) The Sixth Man of the Year Award has been awarded since the 1982-83 NBA season, and is given to a player with the best performance coming off the bench as a substitute, or sixth man. 
Geography review:
  • LANAI (17A: Hawaiian island with no traffic lights) LANAI is the third-smallest of Hawaii's eight main islands. The island has one school, Lanai High and Elementary School, which serves students from kindergarten through high school. LANAI also has a hospital, but no traffic lights.
  • ODESSA (30A: City in Ukraine or Texas) ODESSA is the third most populous city of Ukraine. ODESSA, Texas is the 29th most populous city of Texas.
Ah, a STAR-studded puzzle. No Reba McEntire or Miranda Lambert here, though, these are a different kind of COUNTRY STARS. I enjoyed discovering the names of the STARS in the puzzle, and discerning the theme early on helped me deduce the name of CLIFFORD JORDAN, the one name that wasn't familiar to me. I enjoyed the non-theme answers of HOT-HEADED and DON'T ASK ME. This puzzle was a pleasant start to my Sunday. 


  1. Sally, I always enjoy coming to this site because the first thing I see is your lovely, smiling face which never fails to cheer me and start my day with optimism. Thank you.

    I feel compelled to comment on 68 across. Creek croakers as clue for toads? Well, frogs croak and perch on lily pads. However, toads not only don't swim, they don't make any noise. They live in very dry areas. I'm speaking from personal experience. Growing up, I spent a lot of time playing with the toads that lived in our window wells outside.

    1. Thank you for your nice comments - I'm glad to know I can add a bright spot to your day!

      It's interesting that you mention that, because I did write in FROGS for 68-across until I realized it wouldn't work with the crossing answers. It appears that some species of TOADS do make sound, and some of them live near water. (I found a video of an American Toad "singing." I think this might be a case where the clue is technically correct, but may be a bit confusing.

  2. I thought it was Artificial Intelligence at first as well


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