July 4, 2021


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
THE BALTIMORE SUN (17A: Maryland newspaper)
HEAD IN THE SAND (32A: Metaphor for willful ignorance)
LOST AT SEA (49A: Completely flummoxed)

Theme synopsis: The last word of each theme answer is an element of a DAY at the BEACH: SUN, SAND, and SEA.

Things I learned:
  • LIMES (15A: Fruits juiced for prik nam pla) Prik nam pla is a Thai dipping sauce made from the juice from freshly squeezed LIMES, fish sauce, sugar, chilis, and sometimes garlic
  • HASHTAG (24A: #ootd, for example) I recognized this as a HASHTAG, of course, but this particular HASHTAG was a new one to me. The initials "ootd" stand for "outfit of the day," and the HASHTAG is used on social media to showcase what you or someone else is wearing. A related HASHTAG (also new to me) is #wiwt, meaning "what I wore today." It looks like I need to up my fashion game.
  • LAO (29D: ___ gong (Chinese for "hubby") This was new knowledge to me, and I was happy to learn it. As I've written before, I appreciate seeing a variety of languages represented in the puzzle. This answer reminded me of something I read yesterday. Kameron Austin Collins, who constructed yesterday's New York Times crossword, wrote some notes about his puzzle for the Wordplay blog. The entire notes are worth reading, but the bit I was reminded of by this answer are Kameron's words about what he enjoys as a solver, "...puzzles that feel like they were born here, on planet Earth, which is full of fascinations, histories, beautiful bits of language (and not just in English); I want puns, I want people, I want reminders that the U.S.A. - territory populated by immigrants, colored by a history that ranges from Indigenous people to French and Spanish occupation, to God knows what else - is an amalgam of so many languages, people, things." I think this is a pretty good description of the USA Today crosswords every day, and beautifully describes why I'm a fan of these puzzles. 
  • HOPI (32D: Pueblo Revolt fighters) The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 is also known as Popé's Rebellion. The Pueblo people revolted against the Spanish colonizers in Santa Fe de Nuevo México, an area larger than present-day New Mexico. The Pueblo Revolt succeeded in driving the Spanish out of the province, though the absence of the Spaniards only lasted 12 years. The HOPI are one of several indigenous groups of people known as Pueblo people because they lived in villages (pueblos).
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • THE BALTIMORE SUN (17A: Maryland newspaper) THE BALTIMORE SUN was founded in 1837. At that time the paper was titled THE SUN. The name didn't expand to THE BALTIMORE SUN until the 2000s.
  • MOREL (38A: Mushroom not to be served raw) MOREL mushrooms are valued for their umami-rich flavor. Raw MORELs contain toxins that are destroyed by heat - known as thermolabile toxins - requiring they be cooked before eating. There are also a couple of species of mushrooms known as false MORELs that are similar in appearance to MORELs, but much more toxic. We have recently started growing mushrooms (not MORELs, which are extremely difficult to cultivate), and a friend recently sent me this tweet:

  • AMISH (7D: Rumspringa participants) Rumspringa is an adolescent rite of passage in some AMISH communities. Beginning sometime between the ages of 14 and 21, and ending when a youth decides to be baptized in the AMISH church, Rumspringa is a time when enforcement of some AMISH rules may be relaxed, as the AMISH accept that some amount of rebellious behavior and resisting parental authority is normal during adolescence. From Pennsylvania German, the word "Rumspringa" means "running around."
  • ANIMALS (25D: Lions and tigers and bears) Oh my! We recently saw this fun clue in another Zhouqin Burnikel puzzle used to clue the word BEASTS.
  • MEOW (42D: Call from a kitty) I have heard this call several times
    already this morning from Willow, shown her sitting on my iPad to prevent me from solving crosswords.
  • SLOTHS (46D: Slow mammals that hang upside down) Just how slow are SLOTHS? Their average speed is 13 feet per minute, meaning it would take them an hour to move the length of two football fields. SLOTHS have an extremely low metabolism, allowing them to exist on a low-energy diet of leaves. Their lack of movement helps them avoid predation by ANIMALS that hunt by sight, such as hawks and big cats. Although they are slow while on land, SLOTHS are good swimmers, able to hold their breath for up to 40 minutes at a time.
  • EVIL (59D: "The School for Good and ___") The School for Good and EVIL is a series of books by Soman Chainani. The books revolve around the title school, where children are trained to be either fairy tale heroes or villains. The novels are being adapted into a movie that is scheduled to be released in 2022.
Geography review:
  • TAHOE (2D: Largest alpine lake in North America) Lake TAHOE, in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, is on the border of California and Nevada. Although it is the largest alpine lake in North America, it is the sixth largest North American lake of all types, after the five Great Lakes.
We have SUN, SAND, and SEA. Throw in some HEAT and an ALE, if you'd like, for a perfect recipe for a BEACH DAY. I imagine quite a few people are enjoying BEACH DAYs on this holiday weekend. If you are one of them, please don't put your HEAD IN THE SAND or get LOST AT SEA; we don't want to read about your adventure in THE BALTIMORE SUN! This puzzle has left-right mirror symmetry; it is symmetrical along a vertical axis down the center of the puzzle. This allows for theme answers that are not paired in length, as the 15-, 13, and 9-letter entries we have today. I enjoyed this puzzle, and though I'm not headed to the BEACH today, it was a great way to begin my Sunday.


  1. I’m a few days late on this puzzle because I was offline over the holiday. I was pleased to see the Baltimore Sun in this puzzle. Solvers like me from Maryland are happy that the Baltimore Sun carries both the LA Times puzzle and The NY Times puzzle. Double fun.


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