February 3, 2021


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editors: Erik Agard & Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
SPARE NO EFFORT (20A: Do everything necessary)
SPA RESORT (Retreat with hot springs)
SPECIAL REPORT (56A: Breaking news story)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer begins with the letters SP- and ends with the letters -ORT. Therefore, the word SPORT is found at the EXTREME areas of the answers.

Things I learned:
  • IDOLS (18A: They offer immunity in "Survivor") I have never seen the reality TV series Survivor. Therefore, everything I know about the show I have picked up from hearing others talk about it, or from reading about it. Somehow I've missed the discussion about some seasons featuring hidden immunity IDOLS. Once found the players can use the IDOLS to save themselves or others. Following each season of Survivor, various props are auctioned off to raise money for charity. Some of the immunity IDOLS have been among the items auctioned off.
  • A-HA (23D: "Take on Me" band) A-HA (usually stylized as a-ha) is a Norwegian synth-pop band. Their 1984 single, "Take on Me" was an international hit. The song's music video won six awards at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, and has been viewed over one billion times on YouTube. 
  • ROLL (59D: Gimbap unit) Gimbap is a Korean dish consisting of rice and other ingredients that are ROLLed in dried sheets of seaweed. The name gimbap combines the name of the seaweed used - gim - and the word bap, which refers to cooked rice.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • TRIVIA (26A: LearnedLeague material) LearnedLeague is an online TRIVIA competition. In order to join LearnedLeague, you have to be referred by a current member. Not surprisingly, a number of crossword constructors participate in LearnedLeague. As such, it's an occasional topic on crossword Twitter, which is where I first heard of it.
  • ALSO (32A: "The Sun is ___ a Star" (Nicola Yoon book)) The main characters of Nicola Yoon's book, The Sun is ALSO a Star are Natasha, an undocumented Jamaican immigrant facing deportation, and Daniel, a first generation Korean American. Natasha and Daniel happen to meet on Natasha's final day in the United States, and the story progresses from there. The Sun is ALSO a Star was made into a 2019 movie by the same name.
  • TATE (40A: ___ Britain (London museum)) TATE Britain is one of four museums in the TATE network. The other three are TATE Modern (also in London), TATE Liverpool, and TATE St. Ives (in Cornwall). TATE Britain is the oldest of the four museums.
  • DIANA (61A: "Outlander" author Gabaldon) Outlander, which was published in 1991, is the first of a series of novels by DIANA Gabaldon. The books tell the story of Claire, a 20th-century British nurse, who travels through time (inadvertently) and finds herself in 18th-century Scotland. 
  • LARA (67A: Superman's biological mother) Here's a little interesting trivia: Superman first appeared in 1938 in the comic book Action Comics #1. In that comic, his biological parents were "Jor-L" and "Lora." A 1942 spinoff novel by George Lowther changed the names to Jor-el and LARA, and the change stuck. 
  • SRIRACHA (5D: Sauce similar to sambal) SRIRACHA and sambal are both types of hot sauce made from chili peppers. Anyone else discover they were unsure how to spell SRIRACHA?
  • UDON (7D: Chikara ___ (soup topped with mochi)) Chikara UDON, or "power UDON" is hot UDON noodle soup topped with toasted mochi rice cakes.
  • READER (49A: Blog subscriber) Hey, look - you're in the crossword! (Okay, technically my blog doesn't have subscriptions. Would you be interested in receiving this blog via email? Let me know.) Happy to have an opportunity to shoutout to everyone who is a READER of my blog, whether you read it every day, or only occasionally. I'm grateful for you!
Geography review:
  • CUBA (1A: Ropa vieja is one of its national dishes) Ropa vieja, which is Spanish for "old clothes," consists of shredded beef with vegetables. 
  • PESO (17A: Colombian currency) You might find a Colombian PESO useful if you are in Bogota, the capital of Colombia.
  • LAO (51D: One celebrating Pi Mai) Pi Mai is also known as LAO New Year, which lasts for three days from April 14 to 16.
If you are participating in an EXTREME SPORT, SPARE NO EFFORT might be a good motto! I noticed a couple of fun things in today's puzzle. It tickled me that the first two answers in the puzzle were CUBA and SCUBA. I was also interested to notice that the first two theme answers have the same first five letters - SPARE. This led my brain to parse SPA RESORT as SPARE SORT, which was not particular helpful, but amusing. Some nice non-theme answers today in HOT MIC, TADPOLE, and BASSETS. I was WON OVER by this puzzle - it was an enjoyable way to start my Wednesday.