March 10, 2021


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
HARD TO BEAT (17A: Really good)
STILL IN BETA (38A: Not quite ready for full release)
AID AND ABET (61A: Assist in a crime)

Theme synopsis: The last (TAIL) words of the theme answers are anagrams of each other. That is, BEAT, BETA, and ABET have the same letters MIXed differently.

Things I learned:
  • LOREN (15A: Singer Gray) LOREN Gray joined, now known as TikTok, in 2015. Since then she has amassed over 51 million followers on TikTok, as well as millions of followers on Instagram and YouTube. Her latest single, "Alone," was released in July, 2020.
  • AMY (30A: Painter Sherald) You may (or may not) have recognized AMY Sherald as the artist selected by former First Lady Michelle Obama to paint her official portrait for the National Portrait Gallery. In the two years after Sherald's painting, along with the portrait of President Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley, were unveiled, attendance at the National Portrait Gallery doubled. Last year AMY Sherald painted a portrait of Breonna Taylor for the cover of the September 2020 edition of Vanity Fair. That painting is in the process of being purchased jointly by the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C., and the Speed Museum in Louisville, Kentucky.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ALPHA (5A: Omega's alphabetical opposite) ALPHA is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and omega is the last letter.
  • ERAS (10A: Meiji and Reiwa, in Japanese history) The Meiji ERA of Japanese history lasted from October 23, 1868 to July 30, 1952, and represents the first half of the Empire of Japan. The Reiwa ERA is the current ERA in the Japanese calendar. It began on May 1, 2019, when Emperor Naruhito became the 126th Emperor of Japan.
  • ALOO (14A: With 16-Across, Indian potatoes-and-bread serving) and PURI (16A: See 14-Across) ALOO is a South Asian term for potatoes. PURI, as I wrote about six days ago, is a fried bread. ALOO PURI is a potato curry served with fried bread. Sounds delicious, doesn't it?
  • ATE (21A: Had some Pocky sticks, say) Pocky sticks are chocolate-coated biscuit sticks. Yum! They are packaged in a distinctive red box, and were created in 1922 by a Japanese company, Ezaki Glico Co. Pocky sticks are named after the Japanese onomatopoeic word, "pokkin," that describes the sound made by snapping the sticks.
  • MALALA (32A: Activist Yousafzai) MALALA Yousafzai is a prominent Pakistani activist for the right to education, particularly for girls and women. In 2014, at the age of 17, she was the co-recipient of that year's Nobel Peace Prize, with Kailash Satyarthi of India. 
  • TAOISM (42A: "The Book of Balance and Harmony" philosophy) The Book of Balance and Harmony, written in the thirteenth century, is a Chinese anthology by Taoist master Daochun Li.
  • ANT (50A: Insect with a super-strong neck) What an interesting fact! Research published in 2014 showed that the neck of an ANT can withstand 5,000 times its weight. (Warning: Do not click this link and read about this research if reading about the destruction of ants would bother you. I'm not a huge fan of ANTs in my kitchen, but find them fascinating creatures. I'm a little bit sorry I read about how the studies were done.)
  • USURP (53A: Take unrightfully) I had SIEZE and STEAL before crossing answers directed me to USURP as the correct answer.
  • MIA (58A: "The L Word" actress Kirshner) MIA Kirshner played the role of Jenny Schecter in the TV show The L Word. She also plays Amanda Grayson in the series Star Trek: Discovery
  • RUTABAGA (11D: Root veggie with thick skin) RUTABAGA originated as a hybrid between turnip and cabbage. Did you know that the Ithaca Farmers' Market holds an International RUTABAGA Curling Championship each year on the last day of the market season? 
  • SALT MINE (38D: Place where halite is extracted) Halite is commonly known as rock SALT. 
Geography review:
  • ANTHEM (9D: "Isle of Beauty, Isle of Splendour," for Dominica) The Commonwealth of Dominica is an island country in the Caribbean. Its capital is Roseau. "Isle of Beauty, Isle of Splendor," was adopted as the national ANTHEM when Dominica gained statehood in 1967, and affirmed as the national ANTHEM when Dominica later gained independence in 1978.
  • SYRIANS (27D: Aleppo residents) Aleppo is the second-largest city in Syria. The largest SYRIAN city is its capital, Damascus.
  • MUMBAI (47D: India's "City of Dreams") MUMBAI has earned the nickname "City of Dreams" because of the possibilities and opportunities it offers. Other nicknames of MUMBAI, India include "Gateway of India," and "City that Never Sleeps."
  • USD (53D: Currency rival of CNY and EUR) Here we are talking about the U.S. Dollar (USD), the Chinese yuan (CNY), and the euro (EUR).
It's been a while since we've seen an anagram theme, so it was fun to see one today. I enjoyed seeing RUTABAGA and ARUGULA seemingly appearing in their own SIDE (salad) BAR in the upper right corner of the puzzle. I enjoyed beginning my Wednesday by solving this puzzle.