December 26, 2021


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
FAMOUS POTATOES (15A: Phrase on Idaho license plates)
MISS POTTER (35A: 2006 biopic about Peter Rabbit's creator)
LACKS POTENTIAL (59A: Shows no promise)

Theme synopsis: This puzzle has three INTERSTITIAL ADS, in the form of the word SPOT within each theme answer.

Things I learned:
  • ALEC (12A: Hacker on "Leverage") Leverage is a TV series that originally aired from 2008 to 2012. The show followed a five-person team - a thief, a grifter, a hacker, a retrieval specialist, and a former insurance investigator - that carried out heists aimed at correcting corporate and governmental injustices. The hacker was ALEC Hardison, played by Aldis Hodge, who reprised the role as a special guest star for the 2021 revival of the series, Leverage: Redemption.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • SARI (14A: Garment seen on Indian runways) My brain played a trick on me, and I initially read "runways" as "roadways," resulting in much confusion until I reread the clue. Anyway, read correctly I thought this was a lovely clue for SARI.
  • FAMOUS POTATOES (15A: Phrase on Idaho license plates) Idaho produces nearly one-third of the POTATOES grown in the United States. (I'm uncertain how many of those potatoes are FAMOUS...) In addition to featuring the phrase, FAMOUS POTATOES, Idaho's license plate features the word "Scenic" before the state name, and a background of mountains.
  • MISS POTTER (35A: 2006 biopic about Peter Rabbit's creator) The biographical drama, MISS POTTER, featured stories from the life of Beatrix POTTER combined with animated sequences featuring characters she created. I have not seen this movie, but I remember seeing trailers for it when it first came out, and my reaction when I read this clue was, "That was 15 years ago?!"
  • HERE'S (44A: "___ your problem...") The puzzle is much nicer than I am, as my first attempt was "what's." (I realized after correcting my answer that "What's your problem?!?!" requires question marks and exclamation points.)
  • SANS (46A: French for without) As in SANS serif fonts (fonts without serifs, the short lines at the upper and lower ends of letters).
  • PAN (54A: Vessel for frying jiaozi) Jiaozi are a kind of dumpling made of ground meat or vegetable filling wrapped in a thinly rolled piece of dough. The dumplings may be boiled, steamed, or PAN-fried.
  • RUSHED (57A: Went too fast) and SPED (56D: Went too fast) I wanted SPED at 57-Across, which obviously didn't fit, so 56-Down was rewarding.
  • DENT (67A: Flaw in a can) Sometimes my brain is a wild and wacky thing. It was again playing tricks on me, and I read this as "Flaw you buy in a can," and thought "I've never heard of such a thing...what does that even mean?" I'm sure canned flaws will be the next big thing. (For that person in your life that is just too perfect, perhaps...)
  • IRISH (24D: Like Saoirse Ronan and Maeve Binchy) Saoirse Ronan was born in New York City to IRISH parents, so she has dual citizenship in Ireland and the United States. She has multiple acting credits, including the roles of Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson in the 2017 movie, Lady Bird, and Jo March in the 2019 version of Little Women. Maeve Binchy was an IRISH writer, born in Dublin. Her novels included Circle of Friends (1990), The Glass Lake (1994), and Heart and Soul (2008). Maeve Binchy died in 2012 at the age of 73.
  • W.E.B. (34D: "The Souls of Black Folk" author Du Bois) W.E.B. DuBois was a sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, and writer. His 1903 book is titled The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches. Each chapter of the book begins with the text from a poem and the musical score of a spiritual. In the book, W.E.B. Dubois used the term "double consciousness" to describe how Black people must be aware of how they view themselves and how the world views them. 
  • SASHIMI (41D: Raw dish often eaten with wasabi) SASHIMI is a dish originating from Japanese cuisine that consists of fresh raw fish thinly sliced.
  • CIA (60D: Alma mater of Anthony Bourdain) That's the CIA as in the Culinary Institute of America, a college and culinary school founded in 1946. Its primary campus is in Hyde Park, New York, with branches in St. Helena and Napa, California, San Antonio, Texas, and Singapore. Chef and author Anthony Bourdain graduated from CIA in 1978.

    Geography review:

    • LAS (55A: ___ Vegas) LAS Vegas, Nevada bills itself as the "Entertainment Capital of the World," a nickname also used for Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York.
    • ERIE (64A: Great Lake or French suffix) As in Lake ERIE, the first of the Great Lakes listed alphabetically, and the suffix for patissERIE or charcutERIE, e.g.
    • SAO (9D: ___ Paulo) SÃO Paulo, Brazil is the third or fourth largest city in the world (depending on whether one is counting the city proper or the metropolitan area.)
    Whether or not you are familiar with the term INTERSTITIAL ADS, you have likely encountered the ADS themselves. INTERSTITIAL ADS are those AD SPOTs that appear in between content on your digital devices. For example, the commercial that appears before a YouTube video plays and the AD that plays between Scrabble games are both INTERSTITIAL ADS. Usually I consider INTERSTITIAL ADS an annoyance, but the appearance of these SPOTs made for an enjoyable theme. This puzzle, with its asymmetrical grid, was an enjoyable way to begin my Sunday.


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