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Dalgona Korean sugar candies. Photo: Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you haven't heard of "Squid Game," a Netflix series that has taken South Korea by storm — and seems poised to do the same in the U.S. — here's what you need to know:

"Squid Game" is a nine-episode miniseries with a "Hunger Games"-type plot, set in a dystopian world in which desperate people compete in deadly children's games to win a huge cash prize.

  • One plot element involves a toffee-style candy called dalgona, made from melted sugar and baking soda — and that's why both the candy (often sold in lollipop form) and dalgona coffee have gone viral on TikTok. (You can make the candy in under 10 minutes, per a hot-off-the-press NYT recipe.)
  • The third episode of "Squid Game" is "all about ppopgi," a game in which kids use needles to try to pick up shapes stamped into brittle dalgona, the Times reports.

Why it matters: The show — with its creepy-looking masked guards whose red costumes are likely to be omnipresent this Halloween — points to uncomfortable socioeconomic truths that resonate in many societies, the Times explains.

  • "Squid Games" has "tapped a sense familiar to people in the United States, Western Europe and other places, that prosperity in nominally rich countries has become increasingly difficult to achieve, as wealth disparities widen and home prices rise past affordable levels."
  • It's "now the top-ranked show in the United States on Netflix and is on its way to becoming one of the most-watched shows in the streaming service’s history," per the Times.

Go deeper

Halloween 2021 will be pricier than ever

Expand chart
Re-created from Well Kept Wallet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans will spend more than $10 billion on Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Why it matters: Halloween continues to become a mainstream adult holiday, with 55% of households without kids saying they plan to celebrate, per the NRF.

By the numbers: While costumes tend to be where people shell out the most, 10% of people will spend more than $100 on candy alone this year, according to a poll by the Well Kept Wallet.

  • "On average, consumers plan to spend $102.74 on costumes, candy, decorations and greeting cards — $10 more than they planned to spend last year," the NRF said.
  • The record $10.14 billion spent on Halloween this year is up from $8.05 billion last year, "when the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention suggested most avoid trick-or-treating," as USA Today notes.

Even so, 58% of Americans participated in Halloween last year (even if just to hand out candy), and 65% percent plan to do so this year — which is comparable to the pre-pandemic figure of 68% in 2019, per the NRF.

  • While 82% of households will celebrate, a whopping 55% of those without children will too.

Xbox Game Pass subscriptions miss Microsoft’s target

Xbox Game Pass. Photo: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Subscriber growth for Microsoft’s signature gaming service, Xbox Game Pass, was slower than the company hoped for in the past year, according to a new financial filing.

Why it matters: Xbox Game Pass is often touted as the best deal in gaming and its subscriber count is a shorthand measure of Microsoft’s gaming success.

37 mins ago - World

Israel to approve new construction in West Bank settlements

Bennett (L) and Biden discussed the settlements issue. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty

Israel will approve the construction of 4,400 new homes in the West Bank next week: 3,10o in the Jewish settlements and 1,300 in Palestinian villages.

Why it matters: This will be the first time Israel has approved new settlement building since President Biden assumed office, and it's the first time since 2007 that it approves a significant number of new homes for Palestinians in "Area C" of the West Bank, which is controlled by Israel.