March 23, 2023


Constructors: Rebecca Goldstein & Rafael Musa

Editor: Anna Gundlach

Theme Answers:
ASMR VIDEOS (17A: Clips that might cause pleasant tingling)
MARS ROVER (38A: Vehicle made to explore the red planet)
ARMS LENGTH (63A: Metaphorical unit of emotional distance)

Theme synopsis: The first part of each theme answer is an ANAGRAM of the word RAMS: ASMR, MARS, and ARMS.

Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ASMR VIDEOS (17A: Clips that might cause pleasant tingling) ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, and refers to a tingling sensation beginning at the scalp and moving down the back of the neck and the spine. ASMR may be triggered by auditory or visual stimuli, and some people are more susceptible to the experience. There are millions of YouTube videos designed to induce ASMR. 
  • VANNA (21A: "Wheel of Fortune" co-host White) VANNA White has been a co-host of Wheel of Fortune since December 1982. She's done a lot of clapping in all of those years, and in 2013, she was presented with a Guinness World Record certificate for "most frequent clapper." Here's a fun fact: In 1980, before she began on Wheel of Fortune, VANNA White was a contestant on The Price is Right. (Spoiler alert! ... She didn't make it on stage.)
  • JANET (24A: D'arcy Carden's "The Good Place" character) The Good Place is a TV series about a heaven-like utopia where humans spend their afterlife. JANET, played by D'arcy Carden, is an artificial intelligence guide in The Good Place. I learned about JANET (who is "not a robot," and "not a girl") from the April 28, 2022 puzzle
  • MARS ROVER (38A: Vehicle made to explore the red planet) As soon as I saw the title of the puzzle, I guessed MARS ROVER would be a theme answer, and I was delighted to discover I was right. To date, there have been six successful MARS ROVERs, five managed by NASA (Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance) and one managed by China (Zhurong). The Curiosity and Perseverance MARS ROVERs are still active. As you know if you are a regular reader of Sally's Take, NASA's Perseverance MARS ROVER has its own Twitter account. You can also learn more about Perseverance on NASA's website. I discovered an interesting map that details the 10.46 miles Perseverance has traveled on MARS since it landed on February 18, 2021.
  • ADAM (43A: "Severance" actor Scott) Severance is a TV series that premiered in February of 2022. ADAM Scott plays the role of Mark Scout, one of the workers at Lumon Industries who agrees to a "severance" procedure that separates work memories from non-work memories.
  • AUGUST (47A: Black Business Month) AUGUST was established as Black Business Month in 2004 by entrepreneurs Frederick Jordan and John William Templeton. Of course, any month is a great month to promote and support Black-owned businesses. I'm going to take this opportunity to shout out the Chicago restaurant, Batter & Berries, "Home of the World Famous French Toast Flight." 
  • DAILY (67A: Once every 24 hours) I'm delighted that my DAILY routine includes solving the USA Today crossword and writing this blog!
  • RAT (8D: First animal of the Chinese zodiac) The Chinese zodiac consists of a 12-year cycle, with a different animal associated with each year. The Year of the RAT is traditionally considered the first year of the cycle. We are currently in the Year of the Rabbit.
  • IDRIS (30D: "Zootopia" voice actor Elba) In the 2016 animated movie, Zootopia, IDRIS Elba voices the character, Chief Bogo, an African buffalo. Chief Bogo is the head of Zootopia Police Department's 1st Precinct.
  • THORA (48D: "Ghost World" star Birch) The 2001 movie, Ghost World, is based on a comic book of the same name by Daniel Clowes. THORA Birch plays the role of a teenager named Enid. Scarlet Johansson portrays Enid's friend, Rebecca. I learned about Ghost World from the October 26, 2021 puzzle
  • LYE (64D: Chemical used to make bagels) Making bagels is a multi-step process that involves mixing and kneading the yeasted dough, followed by shaping, proofing, boiling, and baking that dough. During the boiling step, LYE may be added to the water. I have made bagels twice - once with my son and once with my daughter - but we used barley malt syrup instead of LYE. 

    Geography review:

    • ERITREA (9D: Neighbor of Ethiopia) ERITREA is an African country located in Eastern Africa. Its capital is Asmara. This is the second time ERITREA has been in the puzzle this week. Do you remember the colors of ERITREA's flag?
    • AUSSIE (47D: Kiwi's neighbor in Oceania) Oceania is the name for the geographical region that encompasses Australia and other islands in the Central and South Pacific Ocean. Oceania is divided into four regions: Australasia (Australia, New Zealand, and some neighboring islands), Melanesia (New Guinea and neighboring islands), Micronesia (about 2,000 small islands), and Polynesia (over 1,000 islands, including the Hawaiian islands and New Zealand). You aren't seeing double, New Zealand is considered to be in both Australasia and Polynesia. Kiwi is an informal term commonly used by locals and internationally to refer to residents of New Zealand. AUSSIE is the informal name for a resident of Australia. Therefore, Kiwis and AUSSIEs are neighbors in Oceania.
    Well, yesterday we were ...IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING, and today it is the RAMS' turn, the ANAG-RAMS, that is. I thought this was quite clever. The title allowed me to guess exactly which ANAGRAMS would be in the puzzle, which was fun. No BAD VIBES at all here; this puzzle is SUBLIME. Thank you, Rebecca and Rafa for this puzzle that was a delightful way to start my Thursday.
    Two more things: First, if you're in the mood to solve another puzzle by Rebecca Goldstein and Rafael Musa, I notice this dynamic duo also constructed today's Los Angeles Times puzzle. I'm looking forward to solving that one!
    Second, the title and theme of this puzzle reminds me of Anigrams, a fun daily puzzle that challenges you to unscramble anagrams of increasing length, beginning with the owl level (4 letters) and progressing to the goat level (9 letters). Anigrams was created by ADAM Wagner (shoutout in the grid?) and developed by Rafael Musa. I have been enjoying playing Anigrams since it launched a few months ago. Also, if you are attending the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (ACPT) in Stamford, Connecticut March 31-April 2, I understand that Anigrams is going to be featured on Friday evening. If you are going to ACPT, please find me! It will be my first time attending in person, and I'd love to meet you. (Also, I'll have Sally's Take stickers!)