December 31, 2023


Constructor: Matthew Stock

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
VICE VERSA (15A: The other way around)
CAPE VERDE (35A: African island nation)
LIFE VESTS (60A: Wearable floatation devices)

Theme synopsis: The word EVE, a synonym for NIGHT, is found at the MIDpoint of each theme answer.
Things I learned:
  • TAPATIO (29A: Hot sauce brand) TAPATÍO hot sauce is produced in Vernon, California. The company's founders emigrated from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico to the United States. The brand is named after a term used to describe someone from Guadalajara, Jalisco. TAPATÍO's tagline is "Es una salsa ... Muy salsa!" ("Its a sauce ... Very saucy!")
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • DDR (1A: Music video game in which players step on arrows (Abbr.)) Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) is a series of video games than encourage players to dance to music videos. Players of DDR stand on a "dance platform" and move their feet to step on colored arrows.
  • CORAL (17A: With 37-Down, colorful marine habitat) and REEF (37D: See 17-Across) A CORAL REEF is comprised of living organisms. The colonies of CORAL are held together by calcium carbonate they secrete. CORAL REEFs, which generally grow in warm, shallow water, provide habitat for other marine creatures.
  • HORNED (24A: Great ___ owl) The great HORNED owl doesn't have actual horns, but has ear-like tufts of feathers that resemble horns. This species of owl is native to North and South America. In flight, a great HORNED owl is nearly silent, allowing it to sneak up on its prey.
  • ENYA (30A: Modern Celtic musician) ENYA, who is known for her Celtic music, is the best-selling Irish solo artist. It's always a good day to listen to some ENYA. Here's a song appropriately titled "The Celts."
  • EGOT (34A: Four-award acronym) EGOT is an acronym referring to Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards. The term is used to refer to those that have won all four awards. Of the 18 people that have attained EGOT status, the first was Richard Rogers in 1962. The most recent person to achieve EGOT status is Viola Davis, who achieved the accomplishment this year.
  • RRR (49A: 2022 film with the song "Naatu Naatu") RRR is a Telugu-language movie that tells a fictional story of two revolutionaries in India that fight against British rule. "Naatu Naatu" is a song in RRR that was written to showcase the dancing talent of the heroes.
  • RECENCY (3D: ___ bias (tendency to favor the latest information received)) RECENCY bias is exactly what it sounds like, a cognitive bias that places greater importance on recent events. RECENCY bias is important in economics as it affects the behavior of investors. In the workplace, RECENCY bias may result in a job performance being based on the most recent achievements, rather than on an employee's performance throughout the evaluation period. RECENCY bias may also affect hiring, as the most recently interviewed applicants may have an edge in being remembered. Appropriate for the end of the year, "Top Ten" lists are also likely to be affected by RECENCY bias.
  • APRIL (5D: National Sourdough Bread Day mo.) National Sourdough Bread Day is APRIL 1. (No joke!)
  • ONE (52D: ___ Direction) ONE Direction is an English-Irish pop band. The group was formed in 2010 while its members were participating in the British singing competition The X Factor. ONE DIRECTION is one of the best-selling boy bands of all time. The group has been on indefinite hiatus since 2016.
  • FOX (61D: "Fantastic Mr. ___") Fantastic Mr. FOX is a 1970 children's book by Roald Dahl. A 2009 animated movie of the same name was based on the book.
  • EBT (62D: Payment card letters (Abbr.)) Electronic benefit transfer (EBT) is a system used to purchase food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • A few other clues I especially enjoyed:
    • SLO-MO (14A: Replay effect that's helpful to refs)
    • I MADE IT (10D: "Who has two thumbs and is finally here!")
    • YOU'VE (48D: "___ got mail!")

    Geography review:

    • CAPE VERDE (35A: African island nation) CAPE VERDE is an island country in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of West Africa. Ten islands and eight islets make up CAPE VERDE. The country's CAPITAL is Praia.
    • CAPITAL (45A: Dover, for Delaware) Dover is the CAPITAL of Delaware, and the county seat of Kent County, Delaware. Dover and its county were named for Dover in Kent, England. Time for a Geography Quiz! In addition to Dover, Delaware, there are three other U.S. state CAPITALs whose names begin with the same letter that their state's name begins with. Can you name the three other alliterative CAPITAL / state pairs? The answer to the geography quiz will be at the end of this blog post.
    • TORONTO (9D: Ontario's largest city) TORONTO is the capital of the Canadian province of Ontario. Not only is TORONTO the largest city in Ontario, it is also the most populous city in Canada. TORONTO is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario.
    • TOLEDO (11D: City in Spain or Ohio) TOLEDO, Spain is located in central Spain, along the banks of the Tagus, the Iberian Peninsula's longest river. TOLEDO, Ohio is located in northern Ohio, at the western end of Lake Erie. 
    • PACIFIC (38D: Largest ocean) The PACIFIC OCEAN covers about 32% of Earth's surface, and its total surface area is larger than Earth's entire combined land area. The deepest part of the PACIFIC Ocean, called Challenger Deep, has a depth that has been measured at over 35,700 feet.
    • ALPS (55D: Swiss mountains) The Swiss ALPS – the portion of the ALPS located in Switzerland – are 14% of the entire mountain range. The ALPS also cover portions of Monaco, France, Italy, Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria, and Slovenia.
    MIDNIGHTS is a fitting theme for today when many people will attempt to stay up until MIDNIGHT to ring in the new year. (I rarely stay awake until MIDNIGHT, even on New Year's Eve, and will likely greet the new year when I wake up tomorrow morning.) I appreciate that the word EVE is at the exact MIDpoint of each theme answer. Thank you, Matthew, for this delightful puzzle that was a fantastic and appropriate way to start my Sunday. Happy New Year! I'll be back next year.

    Answer to Geography Quiz: The four alliterative U.S. capitals and states are Dover, Delaware, Honolulu, Hawaii, Indianapolis, Indiana, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.