December 21, 2021


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
DECADENT DESSERT (17A: Food that might be described as "sinful")
JANELLE MONAE (29A: "Dirty Computer" singer)
FEBREZE CANDLE (55A: Wicked air freshener)

Theme synopsis: The START of each theme answer is the abbreviation of a WINTER month. Appearing in order, we have DEC, JAN, FEB.

Things I learned:
  • GHEE (39A: Fat in laddus) Laddus are round sweets made from flour, GHEE, and sugar. Laddus originated from the Indian subcontinent, and are often served during festive occasions. GHEE is a type of clarified butter. (That part I knew.)
  • EMMA (67A: 2021 US Open champion Raducanu) Here I am, learning more about sports from the crossword puzzle. In September, 18-year-old EMMA Raducanu won the US Open, becoming the first qualifier to do so. (A qualifier is a player that reaches a tournament by competing in a pre-qualifying tournament, rather than being automatically in the tournament based on their world ranking.) The Women's Tennis Association voted EMMA Raducanu as the Newcomer of the Year, and two days ago she was voted BBC Personality of the Year
  • EGGS (56D: Gyeran-jjim ingredients) Gyeran-jjim is a custardy dish of light and fluffy steamed EGGS. Gyeran-jjim originated in Korea.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • APPS (1A: Shine and Shazam, for example) Shine is a self-care APP that offers daily meditations, gratitude exercises, and journaling prompts. Shazam is a music-identification APP that will tell you the name and artist of a song (if you're in a restaurant, for example, and hear a song you like but don't recognize).
  • DECADENT DESSERT (17A: Food that might be described as "sinful") Sinful or not, I will always say yes if offered a DECADENT DESSERT.
  • MISO (27A: Paste similar to doenjang) Both MISO and doenjang are made of fermented soybeans.
  • JANELLE MONAE (29A: "Dirty Computer" singer) "Dirty Computer" is the title track of JANELLE MONÁE's third studio album, released in 2018. The album's release was accompanied by the release of a narrative film which JANELLE  MONÁE called an "emotion picture."
  • ORG (47A: URL ending for CharityWatch) CharityWatch is an organization providing detailed information and ratings about charities to help people make thoughtful decisions about donating money.
  • BOLO (54A: Tie with a clasp) I have written about BOLO ties several times. Do you remember which three states have made the BOLO their official state tie? Those three states are Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. 
  • FEBREZE CANDLE (55A: Wicked air freshener) I had a funny interaction with this clue, as I originally read the word "wicked" as "wick-ed." Some people might view a FEBREZE CANDLE as wick-ed, but certainly we can all agree that they are indeed, wicked.
  • SONG (28D: "Dynamite" or "Butter") Well, the answer could have been "SONG by the K-POP group BTS that was a theme answer in the July 10, 2021 puzzle," but that obviously didn't fit. BTS released "Dynamite" in 2020, and "Butter" in 2021.
  • JEWS (29D: Many Keshet members) Keshet is a nonprofit organization that works for equality and inclusion of LGBTQ JEWS in Jewish life.
  • YOU ROCK (42D: "Amazing job!") The puzzle has been quite affirming this week, as this is the second day in a row we've seen YOU ROCK as an answer. Thank you, puzzle.
  • LILA (45D: "Una Sangre" singer Downs) I just recently learned about singer and songwriter LILA Downs, who often uses her music to address social issues. Her 2004 album, Una Sangre (One Blood), contains songs whose lyrics are about migration and discrimination. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Album of World Music.

    Geography review:

    • KYOTO (69A: City with over 400 Shinto shrines) Shinto is a polytheistic religion that originated in Japan. In Shintoism, kami are supernatural entities believed to inhabit all things. A Shinto shrine is a structure built to house one of more kami. As the clue tells us, many Shinto shrines can be found in KYOTO, the capital of Japan's KYOTO Prefecture.
    • SWEDEN (5D: Greta Thunberg's homeland) Always happy to see environmental activist Greta Thunberg in the puzzle. She was born in Stockholm, SWEDEN.
    When I saw Zhouqin Burnikel's name on today's puzzle, I briefly wondered if I was confused about the day of the week, since we usually see her byline on Wednesdays and Sundays. When we see a Zhouqin Burnikel puzzle on other days, there's usually a specific reason, as is the case today. Appropriate to see this START OF WINTER puzzle today, on the WINTER solstice. This appropriately-themed puzzle was a great way to begin my Tuesday.


    1. i also noticed EVE in 20-across (new year's eve before January) and RED in 40-across (traditional color for Chinese New Year on February 1).

      1. Oh, I like those! Nice catches. Bonus theme material! :-)

    2. Thank goodness for this blog -- I only ever read "wicked" as in "witch of the west" and was very confused about what was going on with Febreze!


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