December 19, 2022


Constructor: Rebecca Goldstein

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
FLAMENCO DANCER (15A: Performer with castanets)
WICKED WITCH (33A: Elphaba Thropp, by another name)
WAXING CRESCENT (49A: Moon phase typically seen on the last two nights of Chanukah)

Theme synopsis: On the LEFT side of the theme answers we LIGHT a candle by discovering FLAME, WICK, and WAX.

Things I learned:
  • BEAD (38A: Huichol bracelet bit) The Huichol are an indigenous people of the United States (California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas) and Mexico (Jalisco, Durango, Zacatecas, and Nayarit). The Huichol use BEADs and yarn to make elaborate artwork which features traditional patterns. 
  • AYO (7D: "The Bear" actress Edebiri) The Bear is a TV series that premiered on Hulu in June of this year. It tells the story of Carmy Berzatto, portrayed by Jeremy Allen White, a chef from New York City who returns to his hometown of Chicago to run his family's Italian beef sandwich shop, The Beef. AYO Edebiri plays the role of Sydney Adamu, who is a new sous chef at the sandwich shop. I thought The Bear was new to me, but once I started reading about it, I realized I knew about it from an October episode of the NPR podcast, Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me featuring Jeremy Allen White
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ADAM (24A: Sandler who sings "The Chanukah Song") ADAM Sandler originally performed "The Chanukah Song" on Saturday Night Live in 1994. He has performed updated versions in his comedy stand-up act since then. A fun bonus answer for today's theme.
  • RASTA (30A: Follower of Jah) The religion known as Rastafari or Rastafarianism developed in the 1930s in Jamaica. Rastafari is based on a specific interpretation of the Bible. RASTA beliefs include monotheism, a belief in one God, who is referred to as Jah.
  • WICKED WITCH (33A: Elphaba Thropp, by another name) In L. Frank Baum's book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), and in the movie, The Wizard of Oz (1939), the WICKED WITCH is unnamed. In 1995, Gregory Maguire published the novel, WICKED: The Life and Times of the WICKED WITCH of the West, which subsequently led to the Broadway musical, WICKED. Gregory Maguire gave the WICKED WITCH the name Elphaba, a phonetic pronunciation of L. Frank Baum's initials, L.F.B. WICKED is one of my favorite musicals, so of course I'm going to share a link to "Defying Gravity." ("Elphaba, why couldn't you stay calm for once / instead of flying off the handle! ...")
  • SEE YA (36A: "Buh-bye!") and CIAO (47D: "Buh-bye!") This is a fun, playful clue echo.
  • CEO (47A: Jane Fraser, for Citigroup, e.g.) Jane Fraser has been the CEO of Citigroup since March 2021. She is the first woman to become CEO of a major bank.
  • WAXING CRESCENT (49A: Moon phase typically seen on the last two nights of Chanukah) The Jewish calendar is a lunisolar calendar, which means the dates of Jewish festivals, including Chanukah, are based on the cycles of the moon. Since Chanukah begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev and last for eight nights (and a lunar month is about 29.5 days long), at the end of Chanukah the moon is generally in its WAXING CRESCENT phase, the phase that occurs after the New Moon. (Disclaimer: I am not an expert on the phases of the moon or Chanukah. If I've gotten this wrong, please let me know!)
  • HALL (54A: Room at the top of a Clue board) This is a fun clue, and led to me attempting to visualize the Clue board. It might have been easier to realize that the HALL is the only four-letter room on the Clue board...
  • ALFRED (1D: Biologist and sexologist Kinsey) ALFRED Kinsey (1894-1956) was a sexologist, biologist, and the founder of the institute at Indiana University now known as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. The Kinsey Scale, which I wrote about in July of this year, was named for ALFRED Kinsey. 
  • MENORAH (14D: Chanukah candelabrum) Oh look, it's a bonus theme answer! A MENORAH is a candelabra that holds nine candles. The center candle is the shamash, which is used to LIGHT the other eight candles during the celebration of Chanukah.
  • MOOD RINGS (16D: Color-changing jewelry) and XYZ (50D: Letters that mean "examine your zipper") These two answers may not seem to be related, but I've placed them together because they both remind me of my childhood.
  • ACTS (31D: There are five in the play "Leopoldstadt") Leopoldstadt is a play by Tom Stoppard which premiered in London in January 2020. The play tells the story of a Jewish family in Vienna over the course of fifty years, with each of the five ACTS set in a different year - 1899, 1900, 1924, 1938, and 1955.

    Geography review:

    • DEAD SEA (25D: Saltiest body of water on Earth) The DEAD SEA is located between the countries of Jordan and Israel. It has a salinity of about 34%, compared to the 3.5% salinity of the world's oceans. As a result, swimming in the DEAD SEA is similar to floating. Most plants and animals cannot live in the DEAD SEA, hence its name.
    • CITY (29D: Antioch or Jerusalem, e.g.) Antioch is a city in California located in the San Francisco Bay Area. The city is named for the ancient Syrian CITY of Antioch, which is now known as Antakya, Turkey. Ancient Antioch was the capital of the Seleucid Empire from 305-240 BC. (Hang on to this fact, I'm going to refer to it later.) Jerusalem is a Western Asia CITY located between the Mediterranean Sea and the DEAD SEA. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all consider Jerusalem a holy city. Jerusalem is currently administered by Israel, but both Israel and Palestine claim the CITY as their capital. The festival of Chanukah commemorates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem at the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the second century BC. 
    Last night was the first night of Chanukah, so it is delightful to see this timely puzzle today. Side note: Yes, there are many spellings of Chanukah; I've chosen to use the one used by this puzzle's constructor. During the celebration of Chanukah, candles are placed in the MENORAH from the right, and one LIGHTs the candles  FROM THE LEFT. This theme is clever and I enjoyed seeing the FLAME, WICK, and WAX appear as I moved down the puzzle. I enjoyed the clue for SARCASTIC (25D: Like the comment "Thanks a lot," sometimes), so wish to clarify that I am not being SARCASTIC as I say: Thanks a lot for this puzzle, Rebecca. It was a fabulous way to begin my Monday.
    One more thing: Steve Mossberg is releasing a suite of Chanukah -themed cryptic puzzles, "Eight Cryptic Nights," on his puzzle blog, Square Pursuit. The first puzzle was released last night and there will be one puzzle a night throughout Chanukah. I'm not good at cryptics, but I've heard great things about these puzzles, so I'm going to give them a try.