Title: THE CLIMB
Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel
Editor: Erik Agard
FAMILY TREE (18A: Diagram with branches)
FAITH HILL (26A: "This Kiss" singer)
SOUTH POLE (48A: Place from which all directions are north)
WORD LADDER (59A: Puzzle that involves changing one letter per "rung")
Theme synopsis: The last word of each theme answer is something you can CLIMB. You might CLIMB a TREE, a HILL, a POLE, or a LADDER.
Things I learned:
- ACID (10A: Azelaic ___ (skincare product)) Azelaic ACID is a dicarboxylic ACID used in the treatment of acne and rosacea.
- IMANI (15A: Disability rights activist Barbarin) IMANI Barbarin is a disability rights and inclusion activist. Writing from the perspective of a Black woman with Cerebral Palsy, she created the online space, Crutches and Spice, to engage and advocate for the disability community.
- THAI (45A: Language in the film "Mekong Hotel") Mekong Hotel is a THAI movie that premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.
- CMA (6D: Award for Carly Pearce) Carly Pearce is a country music singer and songwriter. In 2020 she received the CMA (Country Music Association) Award for New Artist of the Year, and in 2021 she was awarded Female Vocalist of the Year.
- ERIN (54D: ___ Hunter, pen name on "Warriors" covers) Warriors is a series of fantasy novels about feral cats. The books are written by a team of writers that use the pen name ERIN Hunter.
- DAL (60A: Khichdi ingredient) DAL are dried, split legumes (lentils, peas, and beans). Khichdi is a dish originating from the Indian subcontinent. It is made of rice, DAL, and spices.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
- FAITH HILL (26A: "This Kiss" singer) FAITH HILL's 1998 song, "This Kiss," became a crossover hit, topping Billboard's country chart, and reaching the top 10 on the "Hot 100." The music video for "This Kiss," won a CMA Award for Video of the Year.
- LO MEIN (35A: Dish similar to yakisoba) LO MEIN and yakisoba are both noodle dishes. LO MEIN is a traditional Chinese dish, and yakisoba originated from Japan.
- HIPPO (39A: Big animal with a big yawn) A HIPPO can open its mouth to an angle of 150 degrees. To put that in perspective, a human jaw can generally open to a 26 degree angle. A HIPPO's yawn is often a sign of aggression.
- SPEEDO (42A: Its logo features a boomerang) and YAHOO (19D: Its logo features an exclamation point) and NIKE (36D: Its logo features a swoosh) This is a fun trio of logo clues. The boomerang in the SPEEDO logo is meant to symbolize "the clean cut of swimmers through the water and their fast return." Though often changing, the YAHOO logo has included an exclamation point since 1995. The NIKE swoosh was created in 1971.
- TASTE (47A: Take a bite of) There's a lot to TASTE in this grid! We have paella (cooked in PANS), a TACO bar, LO MEIN, the ROOT vegetables, daikon and taro, AREPA, a HOHO, khichdi, and SLAW. To accompany that feast we have ICED matcha latte. Yum!
- ASU (52A: Sun Devils' school, for short) The Sun Devils are the athletic teams at Arizona State University (ASU), which is located in Tempe, Arizona (part of the Phoenix metropolitan area). Sparky the Sun Devil is the official mascot of ASU.
- ANIMAL (8D: Hog or groundhog, for example) In spite of their names, groundhogs are not related to hogs. They are both ANIMALs, though, and this was a fun clue.
A cat is also an ANIMAL, so let me take this opportunity to introduce you to Lenny. Lenny is the cat of reader, Krishna Tateneni, who says, "My wife raised him from kitten hood, but he's adopted me for the past 8 years." Such beautiful orange fur. Welcome to the CATS of SALLY'S TAKE, Lenny!
- LILI (24D: "Riverdale" actress Reinhart) Riverdale is a TV series based on the characters of the Archie comic books. LILI Reinhart plays the role of Betty Cooper.
- TET (38D: Holiday on which many kids wear new clothes) TET is the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. It is traditional for kids to wear new clothes for the celebration.
- DECAL (43A: Decorative sticker) Just a reminder that you can have a SALLY'S TAKE DECAL. All you have to do is ask, and I'll send you one.
- ASIA (63A: Ulaanbaatar's continent) Ulaanbaatar is the capital of Mongolia, a landlocked country in East ASIA. Due to its high elevation and relatively high latitude, Mongolia is the world's coldest national capital.
- ROSE (53D: Oklahoma state flower) Oklahoma's state flower is, appropriately, the Oklahoma ROSE. This hybrid tea ROSE was developed at Oklahoma State University in the 1960s, and became the official state flower in 2004.
This puzzle is asking us to CLIMB with it. I appreciated that TREE, HILL, POLE, and LADDER as seen in the theme answers do not refer to physical CLIMB-able objects. It was a nice touch to see this change of meaning. I enjoyed the long-down answers of NEAR MISSES and SEE YOU SOON. There were a lot of ANIMALs in today's puzzle. In addition to the afore-mentioned hog, groundhog, and HIPPO, we also have YAK, LLAMA, DOE, and RAM. Thank you, Zhouqin, for this puzzle that was a fabulous way to start my Wednesday.
No elephant in today's puzzle, but you may recall that yesterday we saw the answer EAR clued as [Elephant part that may be six feet long]. In response to the clue, I commented that an elephant could have an EAR the size of me on each side of its head. Although I am not talented with Photoshop, my husband is, and he kindly created this visualization for me to share with you. It's not perfect - I'm not sure the stock photo of an elephant we used is the kind with the largest ears - but it gets the point across...elephants are large. Enjoy this silliness.