Title: THREE STRIKES
Constructor: Kelsey Dixon
Editor: Erik Agard
PICKET LINE (17A: Strike zone)
BOWLING ALLEY (33A: Strike zone)
METEOR CRATER (55A: Strike zone)
Theme synopsis: Each of the THREE theme answers have the same clue: [STRIKE zone].
Things I learned:
- PLAITS (20A: Knotless ___) Knotless PLAITS, also known as knotless braids, are a variety of box braids that, as the name suggests, do not include the knots traditionally used to start box braids. Knotless PLAITS incorporate hair extensions into natural hair without creating a knot for attachment. Although this style takes longer to install, it is easier on the hair and scalp.
- LUFF (30A: Cutesy version of "love") According to Cyber Definitions, LUFF means "friendly love." Urban Dictionary defines LUFF as "another 'cutesy' way of saying "love," with "cutesy" here referring to a specific style of internet speech. This was a new term for me.
- ENL (46A: Course for some new U.S. residents) ENL stands for English as a New Language. I absolutely love this alternative to English as a Second Language (ESL). What a fabulous way to acknowledge that ENL students may already speak more than one language.
- OKURR (66A: Emphatic version of "OK") Today's puzzle is expanding my vocabulary (not a bad thing)! The usage of OKURR was popularized by Cardi B, and by drag queens on RuPaul's Drag Race. According to Urban Dictionary, the correct way to say OKURR is with rolled r's.
- FLIER (31D: Take a ___ (make a risky bet)) "Take a FLIER" is an idiom used to describe making a risky investment. I needed the help of crossing answers here. I may have heard this phrase before, but it didn't come easily to mind.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
- ALOHA (4A: "___ kakou" (Hawaiian greeting)) "ALOHA kakou" is used to greet a group of people. It's a way to say, "Hello to everyone listening."
- TAO (27A: ___ Te Ching) The TAO Te Ching is a fundamental text for Taoism.
- TDS (28A: Patrick Mahomes scores (Abbr.)) It just so happened that I filled in TDS from crossing answers, so didn't see this sports-related clue until I was reviewing the puzzle. I have heard of Patrick Mahomes, however. He's a quarterback for NFL's Kansas City Chiefs.
- LAURYN (48A: "The Miseducation of ___ Hill") The Miseducation of LAURYN Hill is the 1998 debut album of rapper LAURYN Hill.
- HANIF (61A: "A Little Devil in America" author Abdurraqib) A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance is a collection of essays by HANIF Abdurraqib published in 2021. The title is inspired by words spoken by Josephine Baker at the 1963 March on Washington, "I was a devil in other countries, and I was a little devil in America, too." I have previously written about some of HANIF Abdurraqib's other writing.
- MUPPET (1D: Miss Piggy or Dr. Bunsen Honeydew) I'm always happy to see a MUPPET (or two!) in my puzzle. This clue made me smile.
- SALAD (22D: Snickers ___ (Midwestern potluck dish)) This clue made me laugh! Living in the Midwest, I'm qualified to tell you that Midwesterners classify many concoctions containing Cool Whip as salad. Make no mistake, Snickers SALAD, in spite of its name, is a dessert. Chop up some Snickers bars and combine them with diced Granny Smith apples and Cool Whip, and, "Voila!" you've made Snickers SALAD.
- PAPUA (67A: ___ New Guinea) PAPUA New Guinea is a country located on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean north of Australia. The country also includes offshore islands. PAPUA New Guinea is largely rural, with only 13 percent of it's population living in urban centers. The capital of PAPUA New Guinea is Port Moresby.
- ORL (25D: The Magic, on scoreboards) The Orlando Magic (ORL on scoreboards) are an NBA team established in 1989, and located in Orlando, Florida.
- USA (50A: Kelsey Plum's Olympic team) Kelsey Plum is a professional basketball player. She plays for WNBA's Las Vegas Aces and the USA Women's basketball team. At the 2020 Summer Olympics (held in 2021), Kelsey Plum won a gold medal for Team USA in Women's 3x3 basketball (along with teammates Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray, and Jackie Young).
I think it's a fun twist to see the theme play out in the clues. My interaction with the theme answers went as follows: PICKET LINE - "Oh, that makes sense," BOWLING ALLEY - "That's the one I expected to see," METEOR CRATER - "Oh, very clever!" In addition to the theme, I enjoyed the answers OLD SOUL, GIRL SCOUT, and GO DEEP. Thank you, Kelsey, for this puzzle that was a fabulous way to start my Tuesday.