December 31, 2022


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
ENERGY BALL (3D: Round snack for a hiker)
LAID AN EGG (8D: Failed big-time)
PRIVATE EYE (29D: Sleuth for hire)
SAY MY NAME (34D: 1999 hit for Destiny's Child)

Theme synopsis: The LAST word of each vertical theme answer can precede the word DROP, giving us BALL DROP, EGG DROP, EYE DROP, and NAME DROP.

Things I learned:
  • YAO (25A: Minority ethnic group in China) The largest ethnic group in China - and in the world - are the Han. The Han people make up 92% of the population in China, and 18% of the global population. China recognizes 55 ethnic minorities, one of which is the YAO. The YAO are also recognized as a minority in Vietnam.
  • TBS (52A: "The Cube" channel) TBS is a pay TV network owned by Warner Bros. Discovery. The Cube is a game show that premiered on TBS in 2021, modeled after a British show of the same name. The Cube is hosted by former basketball player Dwayne Wade. Contestant pairs are given tasks to complete - all while confined in a glass box known as "The Cube."
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • BAO (22A: Filled mantou) Mantou is a type of steamed bun that originated in China. Filled mantou are known as BAO. I have been learning to make BAO. My technique still needs some work to keep the steamed buns from splitting open, but the results have been delicious.
  • CATS (24A: Animals revered in ancient Egypt) According to a National Geographic Kids article, "Egyptians believed CATS were magical creatures, capable of bringing good luck
    Good luck CAT, Willow
    to the people who housed them." Willow says the Egyptians had it right! Here's Willow bringing me good luck by "hiding" in plain sight behind my spider plant. 
  • CYA (49A: "l8r!") and BYE (48D: "Later!") There's a lot of leave-taking happening in the puzzle. I guess that's appropriate for preparing to say "See ya!" (CYA) and "BYE!" to 2022.
  • LAID AN EGG (8D: Failed big-time) I was unable to find a definitive origin of the use of the phrase LAID AN EGG to mean one has flopped or failed big time. Some sources think the origin of the saying may be sports-related, and come from "goose EGG" meaning "a zero score." 
  • JEDI (30D: Mace Windu, for one) Samuel L. Jackson portrayed the JEDI Master Mace Windu in the Star Wars movies 
  • SAY MY NAME (34D: 1999 hit for Destiny's Child) Here's a fun fact: The Destiny's Child song, "SAY MY NAME," was referenced in the first puzzle of 2022 (used to clue the word NAME). I started this year with "SAY MY NAME," as an earworm, and I'm finishing it up the same way. I'm good with that.

    Geography review:

    • EAST ASIANS (14A: Seoulites, Osakans, etc.) Seoul is the capital of South Korea, and Osaka is a city in Japan. South Korea and Japan are two of the six countries whose residents are EAST ASIANS. The other four EAST ASIAN countries are China, Mongolia, North Korea, and Taiwan. 
    • ATLANTA (55A: City where Gladys Knight was born) Gladys Knight was the lead singer of Gladys Knight & the Pips, and also had a successful solo career. If you remembered the 1973 hit, "Midnight Train to Georgia," it may have helped you deduce that Gladys Knight was born in ATLANTA.
    • ITHACA (7D: Cornell's city) Cornell University was founded in ITHACA, New York in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White. Cornell is a land grant university (an institution of higher education given federal land by the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890).
    • DES (62D: ___ Moines) As I hope you know by now as we see it often, DES Moines is the capital of Iowa. DES Moines has been the capital of Iowa since 1857. The first capital of Iowa was Iowa City.
    A timely theme for the LAST day of the year, with a nice nod to a New Year's Eve BALL DROP. I imagine a few people might be saying "I NEED A RIDE," tonight! Thank you, Zhouqin, for this puzzle that was a fantastic way to start my Saturday and end my 2022. However you will be celebrating tonight (my preferred method of celebrating the new year is being asleep at midnight...), I hope you have some good memories from 2022, and some things to look forward to in 2023. See you next year!