Title: SLOW FINISH
Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
CHRISTMAS CREEP (15A: Premature display of holiday merchandise)
BEAR CRAWL (36A: Core-strengthening exercise done on all fours)
DON'T MOVE AN INCH (61A: "Keep totally still")
Theme synopsis: The last word (FINISH) of each theme answer is a synonym for SLOW movement: CREEP, CRAWL, and INCH.
Things I learned:
- TET (20A: Vietnamese holiday during which "Gap nihau cuoi nam" is watched) Gặp nihau cuối năm is a TV show produced by the Vietnam Television Film Center (VFC) that traditionally airs during TET, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. The show is a satiric comedy with a basic plot that is adapted each year to reflect events of the previous year. I was familiar with TET, but Gặp nihau cuối năm was new to me.
- NEWS (65A: Yamiche Alcindor delivers it) Yamiche Alcindor is the White House correspondent for PBS NEWSHour. Earlier this year she became the host of the PBS NEWS analysis program, Washington Week.
- OWEN (69A: "Siren" actress Rena) Siren is a TV show about a coastal Washington town that, legends say, was home to mermaids and mermen for centuries. Rena OWEN plays the role of Helen Hawkins, an eccentric woman with more knowledge about the menfolk than she lets on. Rena OWEN also played the role of Taun We in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
- ETTA (1A: Jazz singer James) We've had a weekend of musical ETTA puzzle appearances. On Friday I learned about Blues guitarist ETTA Baker. Today we have ETTA James, who makes frequent crossword appearances. ETTA James is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame, and the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2008, Rolling Stone ranked ETTA James number 22 on their list of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time."
- SEAS (12A: Blobfish habitats) In 2013, the blobfish was voted the World's Ugliest Animal. Although it's name is derived from its gelatinous, almost droopy appearance, the blobfish does not look like that in its natural habitat, deep in the SEAS (2,000 to 4,000 feet underwater), where the pressure of the water makes the blobfish look like any other fish. If you have some extra time today, I recommend this Smithsonian article about a particular specimen of blobfish dubbed Mr. Blobby.
- CHRISTMAS CREEP (15A: Premature display of holiday merchandise) Isn't CHRISTMAS CREEP a fun, colorful phrase? Even if you've never heard this particular phrase before, it's pretty easy to figure out that this term refers to the merchandising phenomenon we have all witnessed as retailers seem to set out CHRISTMAS-themed merchandise earlier and earlier each year.
- COLE (66A: Singer Paula or Natalie) Paula COLE is a singer-songwriter who won a 1998 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Her song, "I Don't Want to Wait," was the opening theme for the TV series Dawson's Creek. Natalie COLE was a singer, songwriter, and actress. Her hits included the 1975 song, "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)."
- PURRS (24A: Sounds from happy cats) Cats' PURRS have been the focus of much study (How do I sign up for that research gig?), and yet scientists still don't understand this
- EAR (37D: ___ candy (catchy, pleasant music)) I hear the phrase "eye candy" more than "EAR candy," but the latter is a great phrase for those tunes that might get stuck in your head and become EAR worms. There are (at least) two albums titled EAR Candy - a 1977 album by pop singer Helen Reddy and a 1996 album by heavy metal trio King's X.
- HMONG (54D: Largest Asian population in Minnesota) The HMONG people are an ethnic group in China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar. Many HMONG immigrated to the United States following the Vietnam War. There are more than 66,000 HMONG living in Minnesota.
- NEO (62D: Prefix for "pronouns") I wrote about NEOpronouns earlier this year.
- BOCA (43A: ___ Raton, Florida) BOCA Raton, Florida is 45 miles north of downtown Miami, and is considered part of the Miami metropolitan area. It is home the Florida Atlantic University.
- TEHRANI (2D: Resident of Iran's capital) Tehran is the most populous city in Iran, in addition to being its capital.
- ATLANTA (13D: City with many streets named "Peachtree") There are an amazing 71 streets in ATLANTA with "Peachtree" (or some variation) in their names.
- RIVER (55D: Nile or Salween, e.g.) The Nile RIVER is in northeastern Africa, where it flows through Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi. The Salween RIVER is in Southeast Asia, where it flows through China, Myanmar, and Thailand.
- RICO (60D: Puerto ___) Puerto RICO is an island in the northeast Caribbean Sea, approximately 1000 miles southeast of Miami, Florida.
I hope this puzzle's theme didn't cause you to be SLOW to FINISH it. I enjoyed these phrases containing slow synonyms. In addition to the theme answers, I enjoyed the answers OPEN NOW, AND THEN, CICADAS, and UNICORNS. I also chuckled appropriately at the clue for PUN (51A: "To the guy who invented zero, thanks for nothing," e.g.) This puzzle was a fine way to begin my Sunday.
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