Happy Lunar New Year, solvers! The theme of this puzzle highlights five different New Year celebrations, two of which take place today. The first of these is the 14-letter grid-covering SPRING FESTIVAL (16A. “Chinese New Year, celebrated on February 1, 2022”). The second, on the west side of the grid, is SOLLAL (28D. “Korean New Year, celebrated on February 1, 2022”).
Both of these festivals celebrate the beginning of a Lunar New Year, and the year we begin today is, in the Chinese and Korean zodiacs, the Year of the Tiger. I hope the baby tigers in the photo above weren’t too much of a theme clue! I also can’t see a tiger face in the black squares – the little U-shape in the middle is a nose, the two side L-shapes are eyes, and the lines at the bottom are stripes or, maybe, some mustaches.
Going back to the thematic entries, in addition to the two holidays taking place today, we also have the Thai, Iranian and Jewish New Year celebrations in the grid. Although I know ROSH HACHANA (“Jewish New Year, celebrated on September 25, 2022”), both NOWRUZ (“Iranian New Year, celebrated on March 21, 2022”) and SONGKRAN (“Thai New Year, celebrated on April 13, 2022 “) were new to me. While some solvers (myself included) were unfamiliar with these holidays, others were probably happy to see their holidays represented in the grid.
As I mentioned above, most of the clues in today’s puzzle were pretty straightforward. It seems likely that the editors withheld the cunning quotient on the rest of the puzzle clues to help solvers unfamiliar with SOLLAL, SONGKRAN, and NOWRUZ, all of which debut in The New York Times today.
Congratulations to Ms. Burnikel for this celebration of a puzzle!
I originally had AZERA for 47-Across, where the Z-crossing might have created a pain point for some solvers. Wyna Liu, editor of the Times Crossword team, helped me polish this area.
2022 is the Year of the Tiger. Gong xi fa cai!
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