October 24, 2021


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
HAILEY BIEBER (20A: "Drop the Mic" co-host)
RAINA TELGEMEIER (38A: "Drama" author)
DUSTIN JOHNSON (57A: 2020 Masters champion)

Theme synopsis: The first (FORE) part of each theme answer can precede the word STORM. Our weather FORECAST includes a HAILSTORM, a RAINSTORM, and a DUST STORM.

Things I learned:
  • HAILEY BIEBER (20A: "Drop the Mic" co-host) Drop the Mic is a reality TV music competition that premiered in 2017 as a spin-off of a segment from The Late Late Show with James Corden. On each episode of the show, celebrities face off in a series of rap battles. HAILEY BIEBER co-hosts with rapper Method Man.
  • POET (34A: Wendy Chen, for example) POET Wendy Chen is the author of the 2017 book, Unearthings. She is also the co-founder and editor of the digital poetry journal, Figure 1, that features new and underrepresented voices. 
  • RAINA TELGEMEIER (38A: "Drama" author) Cartoonist RAINA TELGEMEIER is the author of the graphic novel, Drama. The book's main character, Callie. is a seventh grader involved in her school's drama production crew. Drama and RAINA TELGEMEIER's previous books, Smile and Sisters, were New York Times Best Sellers. Interesting tidbit: According to the American Library Association, Drama is number 7 on the "Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books: 2010-2019." It's in good company on this list that also includes And Tango Makes Three (#6), The Color Purple (#50), The Holy Bible (#52), and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (#88).
  • DUSTIN JOHNSON (57A: 2020 Masters champion) The 2020 Masters was the second championship win for professional golfer DUSTIN JOHNSON. He also won the 2016 U.S. OPEN (48D; Major tournament in golf or tennis).
  • SEED (58A: Black piece inside a pitaya) A pitaya is the fruit of a species of cactus. The pitaya is commonly known as dragon fruit. Characterized by an exterior of leather-like, spiky skin, the inside of the fruit features numerous black SEEDS. I have heard of and seen (though never tasted) dragon fruit, but was not familiar with the name pitaya.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • EGGS (1A: Shakshuka ingredients) Shakshuka (also spelled shakshouka) is a dish in Middle Eastern cuisine consisting of EGGS poached in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and spices.
  • CLUE (17A: Hint) CLUE is the answer to this CLUE, and that made me smile.
  • CADDY (19A: Tea leaves holder) When tea was first introduced to Europe from Asia, it was expensive. The tea CADDY served a dual purpose of keeping tea fresh and safe. Early caddies were  made of a variety of materials, including porcelain, glass, and silver, and were always fitted with a keyhole. 
  • TRAP (24A: Music style from Atlanta) TRAP music, a subgenre of hip hop that uses synthesized drums and is characterized by complicated drum patterns, originated in Atlanta, Georgia in the early 1990s.
  • TAKE (64A: "I'll ___ You There") "I'll TAKE You There" was first released by The Staple Singers in 1972. It has been covered by many groups, including BeBe & CeCe Winans in 1991 (featuring Mavis Staples), and General Public in 1994.
  • SEDER (8D: Ritual with a Haggadah reading) The word "Haggadah" means "telling," and the Haggadah is a Jewish text telling about the Seder ritual. The text guides participants through the Seder meal and retells the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt.
  • EPEE (29D: Sword for Kelley Hurley) I learned about Kelley Hurley when her sister Courtney was a clue for ÉPÉE in August. Kelley Hurley and her teammates Courtney Hurley, Maya Lawrence, and Susie Scanlan won a bronze medal for Team USA at the 2012 Summer Olympics. 
  • NESS (60D: "You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch ___ monster?!") This clue is inferable for any solver familiar with the Loch NESS monster. Fans of The Twilight Saga movies (based on the books by Stephenie Meyer) will recognize this quote from the 2012 movie, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2.

    Geography review:
    • ST. PAUL (30A: Minnesota's second-largest city) ST. PAUL is the capital of Minnesota. ST. PAUL and Minneapolis - the state's largest city - are known as the Twin Cities. The Mississippi River lies between the two cities, with most of ST. PAUL to the east of the river, and Minneapolis to the west.
    • ETNA (37A: Sicilian volcano) Mount ETNA is an active volcano on the Mediterranean island of Siciliy, Italy. The most recent eruption of ETNA was in February of this year.
    • SUR (47A: Big ___, California) Big SUR is a section of the California coast known for its rugged mountainous scenery. Although the area doesn't have specific boundaries, it is generally considered to include a 71 mile stretch of coastline between Malpaso Creek and San Carpóforo Creek. Big SUR is also the name of an unincorporated village in the area.
    • RENO (38D: Nevada city that rhymes with "casino") An appropriate rhyme, since RENO, Nevada, located along the California-Nevada border near Lake Tahoe, is known for its casinos.
    • JAVA (59D: Island south of Borneo) JAVA is an Indonesian island in the Indian Ocean. With a population of over 147 million people (over half of the Indonesian population), JAVA is the world's most populous island. The island of Borneo, to the north of JAVA, contains parts of three countries: Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia.
    Where I live, the FORECAST for today was 100% chance of RAIN. Appropriately, when I began solving today's puzzle, a STORM was happening. Fortunately, I was dry inside, where I could enjoy the puzzle STORM. After uncovering the first two theme answers - HAILEY BIEBER and RAINA TELGEMEIER, I thought the theme was simply types of weather at the beginning of the theme answers. While this works for HAIL and RAIN, it does not work for DUST. ("Is DUST a type of weather?") However, a glance at the title reminded me to add STORM to these words. FIRST DATE, was a nice long down, and I chuckled at its clue (33D: If it lasts for 24 hours, it's probably good). I wonder if this FIRST DATE began with the question "WHAT DO YOU DO?" This puzzle is asymmetric; it's doesn't feature rotational, mirror, or diagonal symmetry. This allows the theme answers to have unpaired lengths - in this case, 12-, 15-. and 13-letters. Mirror symmetry is sometimes used to accommodate unpaired theme answers, but the 12-letter theme answer here would not work with mirror symmetry. Although I haven't mentioned it in every write up, I've noticed that this is the fourth of Zhouqin Burnikel's puzzles in a row with asymmetrical grids. (See the October 20, October 17, and October 13 puzzles.) I admit to having a preference for symmetry - it's just part of my personality! However, as I've said before, I don't mind occasional asymmetry in the interest of interesting theme answers and smooth fill. This puzzle was an enjoyable way to begin my Sunday.