December 19, 2021


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
CHILI CON CARNE (20A: Spicy stew at a cookoff)
WIFI CONNECTION (39A: Hotspot offering)
ORGANIC ONIONS (61A: Some 20-Across ingredients)

Theme synopsis: The word ICON is found HIDDEN in each theme answer.

Things I learned:
  • IMAM (5A: Jummah figure) An IMAM is an Islamic worship leader. Jummah, also known as Friday Prayer, is a congregational prayer observed by Muslims. In Arabic, "Jummah" means "Friday." 
  • ETTA (69A: Actress ___ Moten Barnett) ETTA Moten Barnett's signature role was that of Bess in the George Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess. Gershwin wrote Porgy and Bess with ETTA Moten Barnett in mind, but she originally refused the role of Bess because it was written for a soprano, and she was a contralto. She finally agreed to take the role for the 1942 Broadway revival of the show, which was a success. In learning about ETTA Moten Barnett, I discovered she and I have something in common; we are both PK's (preacher's kids). ETTA Moten Barnett died in 2004 at the age of 102.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • OREOS (13A: Crushed cookies in froyo places) OREOS making an encore appearance, and gaining strength in numbers, as yesterday we saw the single OREO.
  • MALE (15A: Like ganders and toms) and DRAKE (55D: Duckling's papa) A trio of MALE animals today. A MALE goose is called a gander. A MALE cat is called a TOM, as is a MALE turkey. A MALE duck is a DRAKE.
  • ENTS (28A: Doctors who prescribe CPAP machines) The abbreviation CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) tips us off that we are looking for the abbreviation of ear, nose, and throat doctors (ENTS).
  • TLC (47A: "No Scrubs" group) "No Scrubs" is a 1999 song from TLC. It became the group's third number one hit.
  • KNICK (50A: Madison Square Garden hooper) and ACES (35D: Las Vegas WNBA team) Today's puzzle is testing my basketball knowledge. NBA's New York Knicks play at Madison Square Gardens. Two things here: the single KNICK looks unusual, and the team's full name is the New York Knickerbockers (I didn't know that). WNBA's Las Vegas ACES play at Michelob Ultra Arena in Paradise, Nevada. The team was formerly the Utah Starzz, then the San Antonio Silver Stars, then the San Antonia Stars, before becoming the Las Vegas ACES in 2018.
  • MAI (60A: TV star Jeannie) I learned about TV presenter, make-up artist, and stylist Jeannie MAI from a previous puzzle constructed by Zhouqin Burnikel.
  • EYES (73A: Most geckos lick theirs clean) Now that's an image, isn't it? Imagine if your tongue were long enough to lick your EYES... There's an important reason geckos lick their EYES. Geckos don't have eyelids. Therefore, they use their tongue to clean their EYES and keep them moist.
  • ORPHAN (2D: "___ Black" (sci-fi series)) ORPHAN Black is a TV series about human cloning. Tatiana Maslany plays the role of five genetically identical clones - Sarah, Alison, Cosima, Helena, and Rachel. 
  • STIR (14D: Tend to jeonbok-juk) Jeonbok-juk is a Korean porridge made with abalone and white rice.
  • APA (64D: "Riverdale" actor KJ) I learned about KJ APA from the September 12, 2020 puzzle that featured this same clue/answer pair. KJ APA plays the role of Archie Andrews on the TV series, Riverdale

    Geography review:

    • ASIAN (64A: From Qinghai or Chennai, for example) Qinghai is a province in China. The province is named after Qinghai Lake, the largest lake in China. Chennai is a city in southern India, located on the Bay of Bengal.
    • POLKA (68A: Dance that originated in Bohemia) Bohemia is a historical Czech region in what is now the Czech Republic. The POLKA originated in the middle of the nineteenth century.
    My title-based guess of the theme was correct in the type of theme, but incorrect in specifics. My guess was that the HIDDEN IMAGE would be the word "pic" found in the theme answers. Instead, I realized as I filled in CHILI CON CARNE, we have the equally-appropriate ICON. (I was distracted for a bit, wondering how many different themed puzzles you could make with the same title. This is an idea for a set of puzzles that would either be interesting, or boring in its repetitiveness, depending on execution, I suppose.) I enjoyed the answers HERE WE GO and TOUCHE. This puzzle was a fine way to begin my Sunday.