August 27, 2021


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
STAYING IN TOUCH (15A: Communicating regularly)
STOCK ITRADE (27A: Specialty)
STITCH ITIME (43A: Preemptive action that saves nine, in an adage)
STUCK ITRAFFIC (57A: Experiencing rush-hour delays)

Theme synopsis: The starting letters of the words in each theme answer (the ones UP FRONT) spell out the word SIT.

Things I learned:
  • HULA (20A: Kanaka Maoli dance) Kānaka Maoli are the indigenous Polynesian people of the Hawaiian Islands. I appreciate learning this term. HULA is a dance form developed by the Kanaka Maoli that involves hand motions to convey meaning.
  • PASTE (1D: Ssamjang, e.g.) We're talking about an edible PASTE, not a PASTE synonymous with glue. Ssamjang is a thick spicy sauce, or PASTE, made of soybean paste, red chili paste, sesame oil, onion, garlic, green onions, and (sometimes) brown sugar. In Korean cuisine, ssamjang is used to top grilled meat wrapped in a lettuce leaf.
  • SOY (4D: Okara ingredient) In the production process of soy milk and tofu, soybeans are pureed and the resulting mixture is filtered. Okara, also known as SOY pulp or tofu dregs, is the insoluble part of the soybean that remains after filtering. Okara is part of the traditional cuisines of Japanese, Korea, and China.
  • TANK TOP (5D: K.NGSLEY garment) First-generation Nigerian-American Kingsley Gbadegesin launched his fashion brand, K.NGSLEY, in 2020 during a time of Black Lives Matter protests. The genderless brand aiming to "reclaim and redefine the Black, Queer, Femme body," features TANK TOPs, some with asymmetrical straps, open backs and curved hemlines. Activism is an important part of the K.NGSLEY label, and part of the profits are donated to organizations that support Black lives. 
  • MAN (8D: "___ Alive" (Thomas Page McBee book)) Thomas Page McBee's 2014 autobiography, MAN Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness and Becoming a MAN won a Lambda award, and was named a best book of the year by NPR books. The book, written as McBee was preparing to transition from female to male, raises the question, "What does it really mean to be a MAN?" In his 2018 book, Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man, Thomas Page McBee continues the conversation as he discusses the insight he gained while training to box at Madison Square Gardens
  • ASH (11D: Residue from a Russian stove) First developed in the 1500s, a Russian stove is used for cooking and heating. Designed to retain heat for long periods of time, the wood-burning stove channels smoke and hot air through a series of passages that warm the bricks used in the stove's construction. I wasn't familiar with the specifics of a Russian stove, but the answer of ASH was easily inferable. 
  • SPA (57D: Place for radiofrequency facials) Another inferable answer though I've never heard of a radiofrequency facial. Apparently this treatment is designed to tighten skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • STITCH IN TIME (43A: Preemptive action that saves nine, in an adage) "A STITCH IN TIME saves nine" is an adage used to encourage people to act promptly and not procrastinate. It's a sewing reference deriving from the thought that sewing up a small hole when it's first discovered takes fewer stitches than would be needed if the hole is ignored and allowed to get bigger. 
  • KIT KAT (23D: Chocolate-covered wafer bar) This is the second day in a row we've seen KIT KAT in the puzzle (and here I am without a single KIT KAT in my house). Yesterday's clue was [Chocolate wafer candy bar].
  • EDITH (25D: Anne Frank's mother) Although I've read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl multiple times, it's been some time since the last reading. It took some help from crossing answers, therefore, to come up with the name of Anne's mother. EDITH Frank died in a concentration camp on January 6, 1945, a month before her daughters, Anne and Margot, died in a different concentration camp.
  • REUBEN (30D: Sandwich with Russian dressing) I do enjoy a good REUBEN - a grilled sandwich of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and dressing on rye bread. I usually use Thousand Island dressing on my REUBEN sandwiches, so I needed a couple of crossing letters to fill in this answer.
  • RICAN (51D: Puerto ___ Day Parade) The Puerto RICAN Day Parade occurs annually on the second Sunday in June along Fifth Avenue in New York City. 
  • IT'S (58D: The I in FWIW) FWIW = For What IT'S Worth
  • FBI (59D: Org. in "Judas and the Black Messiah") Judas the the Black Messiah is a 2021 movie. The film is a biographical drama about Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther party, about whom I have previously written. In the movie, the role of Fred Hampton is played by Daniel Kaluuya. Laketh Stanfield plays the role of Bill O'Neal, an FBI informant who infiltrates the Black Panther Party. 

    Geography review:
    • FLA (9A: Miami's state (Abbr.)) Miami is on the southeastern coast of Florida.
    • BAJA (62A: Mexicali, ___ California) Mexicali is the capital of the Mexican state of BAJA California. Mexicali is located on the Mexico-United States border, and is adjacent to Calexico, California.
    • IRAN (65A: Country where the Gate of All Nations is located) The Gate of All Nations is located in the ruins of an ancient city, Persepolis, IRAN. The Gate of All Nations is also known as the Gate of Xerxes.
    • ERIE (7D: Great Lake with 871 miles of shoreline) This is the fourth appearance of our crossword-friend ERIE this month. Interestingly, Lake ERIE ranks fourth of the Great Lakes in shoreline length. Lake Huron has the longest shoreline, 3,830 miles. Lake Ontario, with 712 miles of shoreline is the only Great Lake with less shoreline than Lake ERIE.
    • MESA (45D: Monument Valley landform) Monument Valley is located on the Arizona-Utah state line. The area contains a number of MESAs, and has frequently featured in many types of media
    I enjoyed this variation on the UP FRONT theme that featured the initials of the theme answer words rather than the first word of the phrase. A nice consistency with all of the theme answers of the format S___ IN T___, and in fact each of the first words begins with ST___. In addition to the answers I've highlighted, I also enjoyed MIC DROP. We usually see Zhouqin Burnikel puzzles on Wednesday's and Sunday's. A Zhouqin puzzle today made an enjoyable start to my Friday.