Title: SKI LIFT
Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
RUBIK'S CUBE ((3D: Six-sided twistable puzzle)
ERIK SPOELSTRA (15D: First Asian American coach in the NBA)
BATIK SHIRT (30D: Indonesian-style top)
Theme synopsis: Each vertical theme answer contains the letter string I-K-S, which spells the word SKI reading upwards.
Things I learned:
- KOI (18A: Fish that's a homophone for "love" in Japanese) The Japanese language has multiple words for "love." The Japanese word that's a homophone for KOI is used to refer to romantic love.
- STALE (59A: Like day-old mantou, probably) Mantou is a a type of soft bread sometimes referred to as Chinese steamed bun.
- ERIK SPOELSTRA (15D: First Asian American coach in the NBA) ERIK SPOELSTRA has been the head coach of the Miami Heat since 2008.
- AMY (25D: "Atypical" actress Okuda) Atypical is a Netflix TV series centered on Sam, an 18-year-old who is on the autism spectrum. AMY Okuda played the ROLE of Julia Sasaki, Sam's therapist.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
- EUPHORIA (15A: Gender ___) Gender EUPHORIA is defined as a happy feeling experienced when one is referred to, or seen as, a gender that matches their gender identity. The term is often associated with transgender people, and is considered the opposite of gender dysphoria - distress or discomfort occurring when a person's gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth.
- CAT (24A: Pet that might clean itself with its leg in the air) Funny clue!
- SHE (26A: ___-Hulk aka Jennifer Walters) SHE-Hulk made her first Marvel Comics appearance in 1980. Jennifer Walters is a lawyer who receives an emergency blood transfusion from her cousin, Bruce Banner aka Hulk. As a result, SHE acquires a mild version of Banner's Hulk condition. Unlike Hulk, SHE-Hulk retains her personality when SHE transforms into a large, powerful, green version of herself.
- PGA (50A: Org. hidden in "tulip garden") I enjoy hidden word clues. In this case it was fun to picture the entire Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) attempting to hide in a tulip garden.
- SPAT (51A: Acted like an angry llama) Llamas are herd animals, and they use spitting as a way to communicate with each other. A llama may spit to establish dominance, to fend off a challenge, or to warn off an unwanted suitor. Llamas raised among humans may see people as part of their herd, and use this same method of communication, spitting to convey annoyance.
- ROLE (56A: Raya, for Kelly Marie Tran) Kelly Marie Tran voiced the ROLE of Raya in the 2021 animated movie Raya and the Last Dragon. Raya is a warrior princess training to become a Guardian of the Dragon Gem.
- OPEN DOOR (61A: Unrestricted means of access) This clue has resulted in the earworm, "Love is an OPEN DOOR," from the movie Frozen.
- MAGNOLIA (66A: Flower on Mississippi's state quarter) The MAGNOLIA is the state flower of Mississippi, and the Southern MAGNOLIA is its state tree. Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of Mississippi's nicknames is "The MAGNOLIA State." In January of this year, Mississippi adopted a new state flag featuring a MAGNOLIA. Mississippi's state quarter, released in 2002, features two MAGNOLIA blossoms and the state's nickname. Alabama's state quarter also features MAGNOLIA blossoms.
- RUBIK'S CUBE ((3D: Six-sided twistable puzzle) The RUBIK'S CUBE was invented in 1974 by Ernő RUBIK. (Remember that name, "erno" is crossword friendly!) It is possible (though definitely not for me!) to solve a RUBIK'S CUBE in under five seconds.
- HOPI (27D: Tribe that makes kachina dolls) Kachina dolls are carved by the HOPI people. Usually carved from cottonwood, the dolls are given to young girls and new brides and used to teach about and be a reminder of Katsina, spiritual beings that are believed to visit HOPI villages.
- BATIK SHIRT (30D: Indonesian-style top) A traditional art form in Indonesia, BATIK is a technique of wax-resist dyeing used to pattern fabric. A design is blocked out by applying hot wax to fabric prior to dyeing. The parts of the fabric covered with wax will remain the original color. This process can be repeated multiple times to create elaborate designs. After the final dye application, the wax is removed. When I was in the seventh grade, we did a BATIK project in art class. It was one of my favorite projects, and somewhere I still have a piece of fabric with a tiger design on it made using BATIK.
- POI (65D: Staple in Polynesian cuisine) POI is made by mashing cooked starchy vegetables such as breadfruit, taro, or plantain.
If you're feeling down, this puzzle is here to provide a LIFT, a SKI LIFT, that is. RUBIK'S CUBE is my favorite theme answer today, and I also appreciated learning about ERIK SPOELSTRA. Quite a few lovely Across answers today, the aforementioned OPEN DOOR, EUPHORIA, and MAGNOLIA, but also AT BEST, REAL TALK, PLAY FAIR, and NO BIGGIE. Nothing STALE about this puzzle; it was a fine way to begin my Sunday.