January 24, 2021


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
DON'T BE LATE (17A: "Make sure you get here on time")
DESERT CLIMATE (23A: Death Valley feature)
DEPARTURE GATE (51A: Airport boarding area)
DREAM STATE (63A: REM sleep occurrence)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer begins with the letter D- and ends with the letters -ATE. The remaining letters of each theme answer are found STUFFED inside of the word DATE.

Things I learned:
  • MAMA (6A: Cooking ___ (video game)) The original Cooking MAMA video game was released in 2006. Since that time, the Cooking MAMA franchise has grown to include additional versions of the game such as Cooking MAMA; Cook Off and Cooking MAMA: World Kitchen. Spinoffs of the game include Camping MAMA and Gardening MAMA. When playing Cooking MAMA, players must follow the instructions given by MAMA to cook various meals. Although I enjoy playing a few video games, I am not an avid gamer, and as a result, I was not familiar with Cooking MAMA. Sounds fun, though. I might have to check it out.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • OPEC (15A: Oil grp. founded in Baghdad in 1960) Thirteen countries are a part of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The five founding countries of OPEC are Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. How many of the other eight OPEC countries can you name? Answer below. OPEC has been headquartered in Vienna, Austria since 1965, although Austria is not an OPEC member.
  • ION (30A: Particle in a cyclotron) A cyclotron is a type of particle accelerator - a machine that uses electromagnetic fields to propel IONs at high speeds. Ernest O. Lawrence, who invented the cyclotron, was awarded the 1939 Nobel Prize in Physics for its invention. Cyclotrons are used to produce radionuclides for use in nuclear medicine.
  • OILERS (44A: Edmonton hockey team) The Edmonton OILERS joined the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1979 as a part of the NHL merger with the World Hockey Association (WHA). The OILERS are one of two NHL teams based in Alberta, Canada, and have a rivalry known as the "Battle of Alberta," with the Calgary Flames.
  • THEME (71A: Central idea) You would think that since I write about the THEME of the puzzle every day, I would have gotten this answer immediately. However, you would be wrong, as I initially typed in TENET here. That caused some minor confusion which was quickly straightened out as the down answers became apparent.
  • SEA (24D: ___ cucumbers) SEA cucumbers are echinoderms that live on the ocean floor and are found in marine environments worldwide. (Other echinoderms are starfish and sea urchins.) As their name implies, SEA cucumbers are tubular in shape. Depending on the species (there are about 1,250 different species), SEA cucumbers may be as small as an inch in length, or as big as six feet long. Some species of cucumber are edible, and they are eaten in fresh or dried forms in some cuisines. If you want to learn more about the role SEA cucumbers play in maintaining the ocean's ecosystem, I recommend this Nat Geo Wild video about SEA cucumber poop. (Yes, you read that correctly!)
  • WORE (28D: Was dressed in) "Who are you wearing?" This question, occasionally asked of people in high profile positions, has always amused me. (I'm currently wearing a flannel shirt and am wrapped up in a fleece blanket, so that gives you an idea of how much time I spend thinking about fashion.) Nonetheless, I do appreciate when those in the spotlight make thoughtful clothing choices in order to use the inevitable media coverage to make a statement and highlight talented people. I appreciated reading the story about what our new first lady, Dr. Jill Biden, WORE for the inauguration concert. Vice President Kamala Harris also made thoughtful choices about what (or who) she WORE for her inauguration. 
  • HABANERO (39D: Pepper named for Cuba's capital) The name HABANERO indicates the pepper is from La Habana (Havana). HABANERO peppers are rated 100,000 to 350,000 on the Scoville scale which measures the spiciness of chili peppers. Anything above 80,000 Scoville heat units is considered very highly pungent. 
  • POPES (53D: Holy See leaders) The Holy See, or the See of Rome, is the term used to describe the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, known as the POPE.
Geography review:
  • DESERT CLIMATE (23A: Death Valley feature) The DESERT CLIMATE of Death Valley, in eastern California, makes it one of the hottest places on Earth.
  • ISLAM (49A: Major religion in Malaysia) Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia. It is separated by the South China Sea into two regions - Peninsular Malaysia, and East Malaysia. The capital of Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur. Although ISLAM is recognized as the country's established religion, the constitution of Malaysia grants freedom of religion to non-Muslims.
  • ATL (34D: Capital of Georgia, for short) ATLanta is Georgia's most populous city, in addition to being its capital. Unusually for a large city, ATLanta has an abundance of trees. The city has the highest percentage of vegetation cover of all major American cities.
  • SIA (45D: Singapore Airlines, for short) The hub of Singapore Airlines (SIA) is Singapore Changi Airport.
I enjoy eating STUFFED DATES, and I enjoyed it as the THEME of today's puzzle, too. DON'T BE LATE was my favorite THEME answer. IT'S A MESS was a nice entry, and does not apply to this puzzle! I also liked MINI DONUT, AGHAST, and STALEMATE. Although Cooking MAMA was the only completely new thing I encountered in today's puzzle, I appreciated the encouragement to learn more about SEA cucumbers, cyclotrons, and the world of fashion. Solving this puzzle was a delightful way to start my Sunday.

Answer: The remaining OPEC members are: Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Libya, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, and the United Arab Emirates. (Former OPEC members: Ecuador, Indonesia, and Qatar.)