June 23, 2021


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
JERRY RICE (16A: NFL player with 197 career touchdown receptions)
DON'T BE SILLY (29A: Response to a terrible idea)
GREASY SPOON (47A: Cheap eatery)
SELL SHORT (64A: Underrate)

Theme synopsis: The LAST word of each theme answer can follow the word STRAW to form a new phrase. We have RICE STRAW, a SILLY STRAW, a SPOON STRAW, and the SHORT STRAW.

Things I learned:
  • MAPO TOFU (40D: Sichuan bean curd dish) MAPO TOFU is a spicy dish made of TOFU (of course!), douban (fermented broad bean and chili paste), and douchi (fermented black beans).
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • JERRY RICE (16A: NFL player with 197 career touchdown receptions) Are you surprised that this sports entry is not in the "Things I learned" section? I frequently comment that almost everything I know about sports I've learned from crossword puzzles. Here's a great example. This is not the first time we've seen JERRY RICE as a theme answer; he was a theme answer in the June 28, 2020 puzzle titled After a Minute. At that time I learned JERRY RICE played for the San Francisco 49ers for most of his NFL career, winning three Super Bowls with them. His 197 career touchdown receptions mentioned in today's clue is an NFL record.
  • SARA (19A: TV host Haines) SARA Haines is a co-host on the ABC talk shows, The View and GMA3: Strahan, SARA and Keke. She is also the host of a quiz show, The Chase, that premiered earlier this year as a revival of a 2013-2015 version of the show. I learned today that SARA Haines was born in Newton, Iowa.
  • AFRO (69A: ___-Latinx) An AFRO-Latinx person is a Black person living in the United States with Latin American ancestry. This answer reminded me of the conversation around the recently released movie, In the Heights. The movie, about the diverse New York City neighborhood, Washington Heights, has received criticism for not having any dark-skinned AFRO-Latinos playing leading roles. Lin Manuel Miranda apologized on Twitter, promising to listen and do better in the future. I recommend both listening to and learning about these concerns - Black Lives Matter - and seeing the movie, which I thoroughly enjoyed. 
  • PBJ (1D: Sandwich celebrated on April 2) It's true, April 2 is National Peanut Butter and Jelly (PBJ) Day. Did you know in the early 1900s peanut butter was considered a delicacy? At that time it was only served in New York City's finest tea rooms. 
  • STRAY CAT (3D: Feline with no owner) Willow closed her eyes to avoid
    looking at this clue. It makes her sad to know some STRAY CATs do not lead the pampered 
    life she does. The term STRAY CAT is generally used to refer to a CAT that has been a pet at one time, but is lost or has been abandoned. A feral CAT, in contrast, is a CAT that has not been a pet, and is therefore not socialized or used to interacting with people.
  • A LA (9D: Pollo ___ parrilla) "Pollo A LA parrilla" is Spanish for "grilled chicken."
  • EAGLES (49D: Sharp-eyed birds) It's estimated that EAGLES have a visual acuity about three times greater than humans. Their powerful eyesight helps EAGLES spot potential prey from far away.
Geography review:
  • SLAV (33A: Czech or Pole) SLAVic people are those who speak any of the SLAVic languages. This includes people in the Czech Republic, whose official language is Czech, and in Poland, whose official language is Polish.
  • NI HAO (54D: "Hello," in Sichuan) Sichuan is a province in Southwest China. NI HAO is an informal Chinese greeting.
  • OSLO (57D: Capital home to the Fram Museum) The Fram Museum, in OSLO, Norway, tells the story of Norwegian polar exploration. Fram is the name of the original exploration vessel used by Norwegian polar explorers. The ship is the centerpiece of the museum.
Did you realize there were so many types of STRAWs? Today's puzzle points to two drinking STRAWs - a SILLY STRAW and a SPOON STRAW (particularly helpful for milkshakes!) -, one agricultural STRAW - RICE STRAW -, and a metaphorical STRAW - the SHORT STRAW. I enjoyed this theme, particularly the theme answer DON'T BE SILLY. This puzzle was an enjoyable way to begin my Wednesday.


  1. Zhouguin (aka CC Burnikel) tries to be too clever with her crossword themes, cluing, and answers. Erik Agard is just as bad. It's a shame that they have made the USA Crosswords less than what it used to be...

    1. As is obvious from my blog posts, I disagree with you on this one. I'm a fan of both Zhouqin's (C.C.'s) work and Erik's. The good news for you is that there are so many crossword puzzles to choose from these days, that you will hopefully be able to find puzzles to solve that you enjoy. Happy solving!

    2. I was having a bad day and venting at the crossword constructor and editor gave me an outlet. I apologize to them, but also want to give you kudos for doing such a great job!


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