March 24, 2023


Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
BANANA SEAT (3D: Bike perch that curves in the back)
BELL TOWER (8D: Church part with chimes)
CHERRY ON TOP (25D: Finishing touch)
GHOST TOWN (34D: Its streets are deserted)

Theme synopsis: The UPPER word of each vertical theme answer is a type of PEPPER. We have a BANANA PEPPER, a BELL PEPPER, a CHERRY PEPPER, and a GHOST PEPPER.

Things I learned:
  • PARIS OPERA (56A: Company with Palais Garnier performances) The Palais Garnier is an OPERA house in PARIS, France, and was the setting for The Phantom of the OPERA. The Palais Garnier was built in the 1860s-1870s for the PARIS OPERA, the primary OPERA and ballet company of France.
  • MONICA (23D: "Angel of Mine" singer) MONICA's 1998 cover of "Angel of Mine," a song originally released by the Eternals, reached number one on Billboard's "Hot 100" chart.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • HONOR (30A: Bushido concept) From the 12th century to their abolition in the 1870s, SAMURAI were members of the hereditary military officer caste in Japan. Although their roles ended in 1870 with the Meiji Revolution, the memory and weaponry of the SAMURAI still feature prominently in Japanese popular culture. Bushidō is a moral code concerning samurai attitudes and lifestyle, and addresses how to live a life with HONOR. 
  • REST (33A: Take a siesta) and I'M SPENT (4D: "Whew, that wore me out!") When I'M SPENT, REST is welcome. Fun to see these answers crossing.
  • GIN (34A: Negroni liquor) The Italian cocktail negroni, is made of equal parts GIN, vermouth, and Campari.
  • ANTS (47A: Insects studied by a myrmecologist) If you are a myrmecologist, you might subscribe to the Myrmecological News, a journal devoted to research about ANTS. The word "myrmecology" was coined in the early 1900s, and is derived from the Greek words for "ANT" and "study." 
  • BUNDT (52A: Type of cake that originated in Minnesota) A BUNDT cake is not linked to a specific recipe, but is used to refer to any cake baked in a specific pan resulting in a cake with a characteristic donut shape and a hole in the center. BUNDT is a trademark of Nordic Ware, a cookware company co-founded in Minnesota by the Dalquist brothers. Did you know there is a National BUNDT Day? It's November 15 if you want to mark your calendar.
  • DOLL (54A: Barbie or Fulla) The first Barbie DOLL was sold in 1959, launched by Ruth Handler, and named after her daughter. (Ruth's husband, Eliot, was a co-founder of the Mattel toy company.) Fulla is the name of a DOLL that has been sold by the NewBoy company since 2003, with the slogan "Arab Girl's Dream DOLL." Fulla is named for a jasmine flower found only in the Middle East.
  • BANANA SEAT (3D: Bike perch that curves in the back) This answer reminded me of a purple bike with a BANANA SEAT that I had when I was growing up. Good memories.
  • RELIC (29D: Buddha's Tooth, for example) According to Sri Lankan legends, when the Buddha died (543 BCE) his body was cremated, but his left canine tooth was retrieved from the funeral pyre by Khema, one of his disciples. The tooth is a venerated sacred RELIC. The Temple of the Sacred Tooth RELIC, located in Kandy, Sri Lanka, houses Buddha's Tooth.

    Geography review:

    • GOBI (1A: Desert in China and Mongolia) The GOBI Desert covers parts of northeastern China, and the southern part of Mongolia. We often imagine deserts as being hot and sandy, but the GOBI is a cold desert, which occasionally receives snow. Much of the GOBI is exposed bare rock rather than sand.
    • APIA (9D: Samoa's largest city) Samoa is an island country in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean. It is located about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. Not only is APIA Samoa's largest city, it is also the country's capital. In fact, APIA is Samoa's only city. 
    • PECAN (16D: State nut of Arkansas) The PECAN is the only tree nut native to North America. The PECAN has been the state nut of Arkansas since 2009, and is also the state nut of Arkansas, California, and Texas. In California, the PECAN is one of four state nuts, joined by the almond, walnut, and pistachio.
    We have a plethora of PEPPERs represented in today's puzzle (though no Dr. PEPPER). ACT CASUAL was my favorite answer today. Thank you, Zhouqin, for this puzzle that was a fabulous way to start my Friday.