April 10, 2022


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Guest blogger: Matthew Stock

Theme answers: 
STILL UP IN THE AIR (17A: Not yet determined)
STATIONARY BIKES (40A: Home gym machines)
FROZEN FOOD AISLE (64A: Place to find TV dinners)

Theme synopsis:
The first word of each themer is a synonym for "going nowhere" — we've got STILL, STATIONARY and FROZEN.

Things I learned:
  • ETTA (68A: Actress McDaniel) Etta McDaniel was born in 1890 and appeared in several films throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Her sister, Hattie McDaniel, won an Academy Award in 1939.
  • STIR (3D: Tend to zosui) Zosui is a Japanese rice soup that includes egg and vegetables. It's sometimes made with the leftover soup from a hot pot meal, and it looks very tasty.
  • AIM (66D: Trail of Broken Treaties org.) AIM, in this context, stands for American Indian Movement, an Indigenous rights organization formally founded in 1968 (though, according to their website, the Movement has existed informally for hundreds of years). This page chronicles some of their most notable activism, including the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties, which was a march in Washington D.C.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • CAT (27A: Maru, for example) Maru is a Japanese cat who is also a YouTube megastar. Videos of Maru have been viewed nearly 500 million (!!) times (make that 1 view closer, after I thoroughly enjoyed this recent post.)
  • IDIOM (69A: "Easy come, easy go" is one) I don't really say "easy come, easy go" that often in my life, but that's only not including all the times I sing "Bohemian Rhapsody."
  • HOPI (24D: Language whose first dictionary was published in 1998) Here's a website that shares more about the Hopi Dictionary project and the challenges facing Indigenous communities around language loss. I particularly enjoyed the videos they feature, including this one with some basic counting skills.
  • GLAD I ASKED (11D: "Great to find this out") I love this as a standalone, conversational entry, and the clue elegantly pointed me straight to it. BESTIE / I LIED / ITSON also gave this puzzle a pleasant, casual tone.
  • SOFT (47A: Like ripe bananas) I have some *very* ripe bananas sitting on my counter right now. Odds they turn into banana bread by the end of the day are high!

Geography review:
  • SIERRA (57A:  ___ Leonean) Sierra Leone is a West African country on the Atlantic Ocean. It borders Guinea to the north and Liberia to the south.
  • ETNA (31D: Sicilian site of some volcanic lightning sightings) Mount Etna in Sicily is Europe's most active volcano. Volcanic lightning is very rare, though it's been reported at Mount Etna twice recently (2015 and 2021).
  • ASIA (61D: Chiang Mai's continent) Chiang Mai is one of the largest cities in Thailand and the largest city in northern Thailand. Its name means "New City" in Thai.
Excited as always to be back to discuss the USA Today puzzle, and always thrilled to write up a Zhouqin Burnikel puzzle. I admired the neat 15 / 15 / 15 selection of theme entries, and loved the use of asymmetry that gave the grid so much flow and connectivity without having to dip into a low word count. The smattering of black squares throughout the center of the puzzle were especially eye-catching. Thanks, Sally, for letting me hop in today, and thanks to Zhouqin for the wonderful puzzle!