January 20, 2022

Title: LEAGUE STANDINGS

Constructor: Matthew Stock

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
BROWN BAG LUNCHES (3D: Meals brought from home)
DOWN BALLOT RACES (12D: Elections for minor political offices)
DRAWN BACK (35D: Like hair pulled into a ponytail)

Theme synopsis: The LEAGUE that is found STANDING in the vertical theme answers is the WNBA.

And now a word from our constructor:
Matthew: I’ve continued to really enjoy mirror symmetry recently, but to pull off this 15/9/15 theme set using true mirror symmetry, I would have needed extra nine-letter entries on either side of DRAWN BACK. I’ve done layouts like this before in the USA Today, but decided here to take advantage of the asymmetric grid option ever so slightly instead. I think the resulting grid is really cool! Let me know in the comments which of the many food references made you the hungriest :) Thanks for solving, and go Sun!

Things I learned:
  • ELISE (13D: Journalist Hu) ELISE Hu is an NPR host, and was the founding bureau chief of NPR's  office in Seoul, Korea. She currently hosts the podcast, TED Talks Daily. She's also the co-founder of a podcast production company, Reasonable Volume. ELISE Hu was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and is a graduate of the University of Missouri. (M-I-Z!)
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • CABBAGE (1A: Kimchi vegetable) A staple food in Korean cuisine, kimchi is salted and fermented vegetables, often napa CABBAGE and Korean radish. In August of last year, I wrote about why a photographer might ask their subjects to say, "kimchi!"
  • ODE (20A: Amanda Gorman's "___ to Our Ocean") It's always a good day to spend three minutes watching and listening to "ODE to Our Ocean." Amanda Gorman collaborated with Lonely Whale to make the video for World Ocean Day last June.
  • NSA (22A: Org. hidden in "Vulcan salute") There's surely some wonderful joke to be made about NSA hiding in "Vulcan salute." It made me smile.
  • AUDRE (34A: "Sister Outsider" author Lorde) I just mentioned AUDRE Lorde in yesterday's write-up. Although she wasn't in yesterday's puzzle, her friend and fellow poet, Pat Parker, was. AUDRE Lorde, who said, "There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not lead single-issue lives." was a self-described "Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet."
  • PEG (39A: Tricky Triangle piece) Tricky Triangle is a wooden game featuring 15 holes and 14 PEGs. The goal of the game is to remove PEGs one at a time (a PEG is removed when you jump another PEG over it into an empty hole) until only one PEG remains. The trick is not to strand PEGs in such a way that you have no more moves. Although I am familiar with this game, and have spent many hours playing it, (I can win at it, but always forget my strategy so have to spend a few minutes experimenting before I remember!) I had never heard it called Tricky Triangle. If you've ever eaten at a Cracker Barrel restaurant, you've seen this game, as there's one on each table, and, of course, they sell them in their gift shop.
  • LAP (42A: Cuddly cat's seat) My LAP is one of Willow's favorite places to lay
    (even when she has to share my LAP with a computer). It's quite peaceful and relaxing to have a cat on your LAP. At our house, it can also get you out of doing some things, as COL (cat on LAP) is a valid excuse for not getting up. I usually try to limit myself to sharing only one picture of Willow per post, but today as I was searching through the photos on my phone looking of a picture of Willow on my lap, Willow climbed onto the back of my chair (another of her favorite places) and looked over my shoulder, as if she were helping me decide. So, of course we did a photo shoot. 

  • TULIP (Flower associated with the Netherlands) The Dutch Golden Age was a period of the Netherlands' history (roughly 1588-1672) during which Dutch art, science, and trade were among the most acclaimed in Europe. Many paintings made during this time featured TULIPs, and the flower has been associated with the Netherlands ever since. The Netherlands are the major producer of TULIPs for world markets.
  • WEB SITE (50A: NPR.org, e.g.) A nice WEB SITE shoutout to NPR.org, and a fun link with another answer in the puzzle, ELISE Hu.
  • ASMR (54A: Tingle-inducing YouTube genre (Abbr.)) I have previously written about ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response), the tingly scalp sensation some people experience in response to certain stimuli.
  • ACLU (64A: Org. protecting individual rights) The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been a participant in more Supreme Court cases than any other private organization. Since 1920, the nonprofit organization has been working "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution."
  • OREO (65A: Cookie that might be fried at a fair) Hello, OREO, it's always nice to see crossword's favorite cookie. Have you ever tried a deep-fried OREO?
  • ESPN (70A: Mina Kimes' channel) Appropriate to see ESPN in a puzzle featuring the WNBA as its theme. Mina Kimes is a senior writer at ESPN, where she is an NFL analyst on NFL Live. She also hosts an NFL-focused podcast, The Mina Kimes Show featuring Lenny. (Lenny is her dog.) Mina Kimes is also a self-proclaimed crossword enthusiast. 
  • INCA (9D: Builders of Peru's Qhapaq Nan) Qhapaq √Ďan, meaning "royal road" in Quecha, was an extensive system of roads in pre-Columbian South America. 
  • DOWN BALLOT RACES (12D: Elections for minor political offices) I'm going to take the appearance of this answer to make a PSA about the importance of local elections. The actions of city, county, and state legislative bodies affect our lives as much, if not more than the actions of the Federal government. Do you know who serves on your city council, your school board, your county board of supervisors? Do you know who your state legislators are? If not, put it on your to-do list to become informed.
  • ALOHA 'OE (44D: Hawaiian song written by Lili'uokalani) The song, "ALOHA 'OE" is a cultural symbol of Hawaii. It was written around 1878 by Lili'uokalani, who was Princess of the Hawaiian Kingdom from 1891-1893.
  • SLAP (60D: ___ bracelet (2000s fad)) We previously saw SLAP bracelets as a clue, referenced as a '90s fad. Some fads endure for more than one decade.
I'll be honest, after being stumped by yesterday's theme, I breathed a sigh of relief when I spotted WNBA in BROWN BAG LUNCHES! A fun puzzle today in a striking, ever-so-slightly asymmetric grid. The grid shape made me think of a booth in a diner, complete with a hanging lamp. That's appropriate, since after solving this puzzle, the answer to "Who's hungry?" is definitely "I AM." To pack our BROWN BAG LUNCHES, we have a choice of CABBAGE, APRICOT, GENOA salami, SALAD, TARO, and an OREO with a choice of GRAPE soda or LIMEADE to drink. If none of that appeals, there's always IHOP. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Thursday.

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