November 7, 2021


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
WE'RE ALMOST THERE (16A: "It won't be long")
SIDEREAL MONTH (26A: Period of the moon's orbit)
REAL MADRID (55A: Spanish soccer powerhouse)

Theme synopsis: The two words in each theme answer are UNITED by a KINGDOM, specifically, the word REALM.

Things I learned:
  • ARAB (12A: Pan ___ Games) The Pan ARAB games are a multi-sport event. ARAB nations compete in the regional event that was first held in 1953 in Alexandria, Egypt. The games, which typically occur every four years, have not been held since 2011 due to current events in the Middle East. 
  • SIDEREAL MONTH (26A: Period of the moon's orbit) SIDEREAL MONTH was a completely new term to me. My first thought was "lunar MONTH," which of course didn't fit. It turns out the SIDEREAL MONTH is a type of lunar month. (The other types are synodic month, tropical month, anomalistic month, and draconic month.) The SIDEREAL MONTH is the time it takes the moon to return to the same position among the background of stars. The word "sidera" is Latin for "stars." The SIDEREAL MONTH is 27 days, 7 hours, 43 minutes and 11.6 seconds long.
  • EGG (37A: Tsukimi udon topping) Tsukimi udon is boiled udon noodles topped with nori and raw EGG, and covered in broth. The dish is associated with the Japanese autumn festival Tsukimi.
  • CHUTNEYS (15D: Chaat toppings) Chaat are savory snacks of fried dough with additional ingredients that originated in India. Chaat is sold at roadside stalls or food carts in some South Asian countries. CHUTNEYS are common accompaniments of chaat. There are many varieties of CHUTNEY - the word can be used to refer to many different fresh or pickled condiments.
  • GRIDDLES (38D: Teppanyaki cookware) Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cooking that uses iron GRIDDLES to prepare the food.
  • SIR (47D: Title for Kazuo Ishiguro) SIR Kazuo Ishiguro is a novelist, screenwriter, and musician, and the 2017 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. His novels include A Pale View of Hills, An Artist of the Floating World, and The Remains of the Day. Kazuo Ishiguro was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1995 for services to literature, entitling him to use SIR.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • HERON (14A: Bird that retracts its neck while flying) I learned this fun fact about HERONs just a
    couple of months ago. My husband and I were biking in Door County, Wisconsin when we passed more than a dozen long-necked birds in a field. We wondered if they were HERONs, though they weren't near water. In the process of identifying these birds as sandhill cranes, I learned that HERONs retract their necks while flying, a characteristic that differentiates them from cranes, storks, ibises, and spoonbills.
  • COCO (15A: Great-grandmother in a 2017 Pixar movie) The title role of Mamá COCO was voiced by Ana Ofelia Murguía.
  • IS IT (24A: "Hello...___ me you're looking for?") This clue is responsible for my earworm for the day. "Hello...IS IT me you're looking for?" is a line from Lionel Richie's 1984 song, "Hello." This song is not to be confused with Adele's 2015 song, "Hello." After Adele's song came out, Lionel Richie asked Adele on Instagram, "Hello...IS IT me you're looking for... 
  • GEN (31A: ___ Zers) Generation Z, sometimes referred to as zoomers, are those born between the mid-to-late 1990s and the early 2010s. (Some use the years 1997-2012.)
  • REAL MADRID (55A: Spanish soccer powerhouse) REAL MADRID is a Spanish professional football club (known as a soccer club in the United States). Last month I learned that any football match between REAL MADRID and their rival FC Barcelona is referred to as El Clásico.
  • OREO (2D: Cookie with a Lychee Rose Cake flavor) Lychee Rose Cake OREOs are one of the special OREO flavors sold in China, and sometimes found in specialty markets in the United States.
  • IRON (6D: Nutrient in oysters) Although oysters are low calories, and therefore don't provide much food energy, they are good sources of IRON, zinc, calcium, selenium, vitamin A, and vitamin B12.
  • BEARD (13D: National ___ and Moustache Championships) The most recent National BEARD and Moustache Championships were held September 10 and 11 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. There are over 50 divisions of competition.
  • ALIENS (17D: Visitors from outer space) We often see the abbreviation of ETS (short for extraterrestrials) in the puzzle, but today our visitors from outer space are ALIENS. As I read this clue, it amused me that in crossword puzzles we so frequently casually refer to visitors from outer space as if they are a common occurrence.
  • EASY (56D: Fictional detective Rawlins) Ezekiel "EASY" Porterhouse Rawlins is a character created by Walter Mosley. The detective first appeared in the 1990 mystery novel, Devil in a Blue Dress. EASY Rawlins was played by Denzel Washington in the 1995 movie adaptation of that novel.

    Geography review:
    • ASIA (59A: Jiangsu's continent) Jiangsu is a province of China. It is located on the eastern coast of China, bordering the Yellow Sea. The capital of Jiangsu is Nanjing.
    It took me a bit to see the theme today. I could see the word REAL in each theme answer, and spent some time trying to figure out what REAL had to do with UNITED KINGDOM, before I finally noticed the M making the REAL into REALM. This grid is asymmetrical. The outer edges of the grid almost have mirror symmetry, but the center of the grid is not symmetrical. This puzzle was a good way to begin my Sunday.