Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, Coast to Coast

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There are spoilers ahead. You might want to solve today's puzzle before reading further! Coast to Coast (Freestyle)

Constructor: Hoang-Kim Vu

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

April 16, 2024
April 16, 2024

What I Learned from Today’s Puzzle

  • KINGDOM (37A: One of three in a classic Chen Shou novel) Chen Shou (233-297) was a Chinese historian, politician, and writer. His best known work is Records of the Three KINGDOMs, which covers the late Han Dynasty, and the Three KINGDOMs period (the time from 220 to 280, when the Cao Wei, Shu Han, and Eastern Wu KINGDOMs dominated China).

Random Thoughts & Interesting Things

  • LAND ANIMALS (1A: Snails and quails but not whales) I needed the help of a few letters from crossing answers to figure out this long answer, but it made me smile once I figured it out. I appreciate the playful choice to use ANIMALS whose names rhyme.

  • OCT (16A: World Mental Health Day mo.) World Mental Health Day is observed annually on OCT. 10. It was established in 1992, and has become an international day for promotion and awareness for global mental health initiatives and education.

  • ATONE (21A: Observe Yom Kippur) Yom Kippur is a Jewish holy day known as the Day of ATONEment. It is observed by fasting and prayer. This year Yom Kippur will be observed from sunset, October 11 to nightfall, October 12.

  • CORGI (32A: Favorite dog breed of Queen Elizabeth II) Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022) was fond of CORGIs. During her lifetime, she owned over 30 different CORGIs. Her first CORGI, named Susan, was given to her as a gift for her 18th birthday.

  • GOAT (33A: Mammal sometimes recorded "screaming") The bleating of some GOATs sounds similar to a human scream. GOATs have made bleating noises for many years, but now that social media exists, it has become popular to share videos of GOATs that sound amazingly like humans screaming.

  • TAO (40A: "Way of the universe" in Chinese philosophy) In some religions and philosophies, including Taoism and Buddhism, TAO is considered the "way of the universe."

  • NSA (47A: Org. in "Snowden") Snowden is a 2016 biographical movie about Edward Snowden, a whistleblower that leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA).

  • REBIRTH (49A: Phase for a phoenix) A phoenix is a mythical bird of ancient Greek folklore that combusts into flames when it dies. The phoenix then experiences a REBIRTH from the ashes.

  • OWENS (53A: Olympian Jesse) Jesse OWENS (1913-1980) won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics. The year before the Olympics, at the Big Ten Track and Field Championships in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jesse OWENS set four world records within 45 minutes, a feat that has been called the "Greatest 45 minutes ever in sports."

  • PAPAYA SALAD (65A: Shredded starter in Asian cuisine) PAPAYA SALAD is made from shredded unripe PAPAYA. The thinly shredded PAPAYA is combined with lime juice, chili peppers, fish sauce, and palm sugar. Additional ingredients may also be added, such as tomatoes, beans, peanuts, and shrimp.

  • HOMOEROTIC (12D: Like "Carol" or "Call Me By Your Name") The 2015 movie, Carol, which I wrote about a few days ago, tells the story of an affair between an aspiring photographer (Therese, played by Rooney Mara), and an older woman going through a divorce (the titular character, portrayed by Cate Blanchett). Carol is based on a 1952 novel, The Price of Salt. Call Me By Your Name is a 2017 movie centered on the relationship between two young men, Elio and Oliver (portrayed by Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer). The movie is based on a 2007 novel of the same name by André Aciman. (I wonder if he ever goes by DRÈ (31A: Nickname that drops "An")?) The 2021 song, "Call Me By Your Name," by Lil Nas X, was also based on the 2007 novel.

  • TL;DR (22D: Initials before a summary) TL;DR = too long; didn't read. When appearing at the end of a long piece of writing, TL;DR is generally followed by a shorter summary of what was written.

  • ERIK (24D: "CHiPs" actor Estrada) Well, this clue certainly sent me down memory lane! TV show references are often unfamiliar to me. However, give me a TV reference from the late 1970s and early 1980s, and it's a different story! The TV series, CHiPs, followed two motorcycle officers of the California Highway Patrol (CHP). CHiPs originally aired from 1977 to 1983, and ERIK Estrada played the role of Officer Francis "Ponch" Poncherello. I remember watching many episodes of CHiPs.

  • ISN'T (38D: "___ She Lovely" (Stevie Wonder song)) "ISN'T She Lovely" is a song from Stevie Wonder's 1976 album, Songs in the Key of Life. The song celebrates the birth of Stevie Wonder's daughter, Aisha. "Isn't She Lovely" was never released as a single, because it was over six minutes long and Stevie Wonder was unwilling to shorten it to fit the single format.

  • MAE (45D: Actress Sandra ___ Frank) On the medical drama TV series New Amsterdam, Sandra MAE Frank played the role of Dr. Elizabeth Wilder in seasons four and five. She is also part of the cast for the upcoming crime thriller film The Silent Hour. Sandra MAE Frank is known for her advocacy efforts. She has frequently spoken up in favor of roles for deaf characters being given to deaf actors, and also for deaf actors to be considered for all roles, regardless of whether the character is deaf.

Crossword Puzzle Theme Synopsis

No theme today, as this is a freestyle, or themeless, puzzle. The title, COAST TO COAST, is a nod to LAND ANIMALS (1A: Snails and quails but not whales).

Instead of a theme today, we get an incredibly impressive grid. We have amazing triple stacks of 11-letter words at the top and bottom of the grid, and all of these entries are excellent: LAND ANIMALS, ON AUTOPILOT, STAGE-MANAGE, VOICE LESSON, PAPAYA SALAD, and STAR SYSTEMS - wow! But that's not all. Vertically we have side-by-side 10-letter entries on the left and right sides of the puzzle: HOMOEROTIC, I CAN RELATE, NOT ONE WORD, and CRAFT BEERS. I really enjoyed all of these answers, and the rest of the fill was smooth and interesting. Thank you, Kim, for this amazing puzzle.

For more on USA TODAY’s Crossword Puzzles

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Crossword Blog & Answers for April 16, 2024 by Sally Hoelscher