September 5, 2022

Title: LET'S EAT

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
BITE THE DUST (17A: Be defeated)
SWALLOW THE BAIT (60A: Get reeled in)

Theme synopsis: The first word of each theme answer is a step in EATing. First you take a BITE, then you CHEW, and finally, you SWALLOW.

Things I learned:
  • CHEW THE SCENERY (31A: Overact) Although the phrase CHEW THE SCENERY has been used to describe overacting or hamming it up since the late 1800s, it is new to me. I like it. Perhaps I need to start reading more theater and movie reviews.
  • AMY (50A: Magnificent Seven member Chow) The "Magnificent Seven" here refers to the women's gymnastics team that represented the United States at the 1996 Summer Olympics. The team won the first women's gymnastics team Olympic gold medal for the United States. AMY Chow was part of that team. In addition to sharing the team's gold medal, AMY Chow won a silver medal on the uneven bars, and was the first Asian American woman to win an Olympic medal in gymnastics.
  • CARLA (31D: Fashion designer Rockmore) CARLA Rockmore is a jewelry designer who gained fame from sharing her fashion styling tips on TikTok. She recently announced a collaboration with Amazon.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • O'HARA (14A: Actress Kelli or athlete Kelley) I learned about Tony-Award winning actress, Kelli O'HARA, from the October 6, 2020 puzzle. She currently plays the role of Aurora Fane on the TV series, The Gilded Age. I learned about professional soccer player, Kelley O'HARA from the August 5, 2020 puzzle. She is a member of the United States women's national soccer team and currently plays for the NWSL (National Women's Soccer League) team, Washington Spirit.
  • ON A (16A: Go off ___ tangent) I know nothing about going off ON A tangent. Ha!
  • ARM (40A: Body part that Stitch has four of) This is a reference to the Lilo & Stitch movie and TV series. Stitch, aka Experiment 626, is a genetically engineered, extraterrestrial life-form. Stitch resembles a blue koala, and although Stitch has four ARMs, two of them are usually retracted.
  • SADE (49A: "Smooth Operator" singer) When the puzzle presents me the gift of an earworm, I often pass that on to you. This morning I decided this should be called "Share the Earworm!" Today we're sharing SADE's 1984 song, "Smooth Operator."
  • LADLE (7D: Budae jjigae scooper) This is the fifth time we have seen "budae jjigae" - whose name translates to "army base stew" - in a clue since I began blogging about the USA Today crossword. Here's a fun thing: All five of those puzzles have been constructed by Zhouqin Burnikel, and budae jjigae has been used to clue a different word each time. We have seen budae jjigae used to clue the word POT and SPAM, and the related STEW/STEWS. And now we add LADLE to the list. (Honorable mention to Rafael Musa who used jjigae to clue the word KIMCHI.
  • UNION (12D: The Teamsters, for example) The Teamsters was founded in 1903. It is one of the largest labor UNIONs in the world. Fitting to see the word UNION in the puzzle on Labor Day.
  • HEIST (18D: "Portrait of a Thief" scheme) Portrait of a Thief is a book by Grace D. Li that was published earlier this year. The HEIST novel is inspired by the true story of Chinese art vanishing from Western museums. Netflix has purchased the rights to adapt the novel.
  • ESPYS (30D: Awards show hosted by Steph Curry in 2022) Steph Curry is the second NBA player to host the annual sports award show known as the ESPYS (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award). LeBron James hosted the ESPYS in 2007. In addition to hosting the awards, Steph Curry won three awards: Best NBA player, Best Record-Breaking Performance (most 3-pointers in league history), and a shared award with the rest of NBA's Golden State Warriors for Best Team.

    Geography review:

    • ROMANS (27A: Residents of Italy's capital) Rome, located in central Italy on the western edge of the Italian peninsula, is the capital of Italy.
    • SAUDI (31A: Rajaa Alsanea's nationality) SAUDI writer and dentist, Rajaa Alsanea, is the author of the 2005 book Girls of Riyadh. The book, which was banned in SAUDI Arabia when it was published, has been referred to as a SAUDI Arabian version of Candace Bushnell's Sex and the City. According to Rajaa Alsanea's Instagram bio, she is currently the Head of Endodontics at King Faisal Hospital in Riyadh, SAUDI Arabia.
    • HUMID (32D: Like summers in Hong Kong) Hong Kong is located in southern China at the mouth of the Pearl River. It has a HUMID subtropical climate. The HUMID summers also bring occasional thunderstorms and typhoons.
    • ROSEBUD (43D: Sicangu Lakota reservation) The ROSEBUD Indian Reservation in southern South Dakota is the home of many members of the Sicangu Lakota tribe.
    • MAORI (51D: One of New Zealand's official languages) The island country of New Zealand is located in the Pacific Ocean about 1,200 miles east of Australia. The capital of New Zealand is Wellington, and its official languages are English, MÄ€ORI, and New Zealand Sign Language.

     I'm always delighted to hear those two lovely words, "LET'S EAT!" I enjoyed this creative theme, and appreciated the consistency of each theme answer being of the format "___ THE ___," and I liked that the words BITE, CHEW, and SWALLOW appeared in that order. It was a pleasant surprise to see a Zhouqin Burnikel puzzle today, as we usually see her byline on Sundays and Wednesdays. Thank you, Zhouqin, for this puzzle that was a great way to start my Monday.