Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, Skyfall (2024)

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

Constructor: Kapil Mehta

Editor: Anna Gundlach

Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, Skyfall (1)

Comments from Today’s Crossword Constructor

Kapil: I picked the theme Skyfall because it is my favourite Bond movie. I love the idea of Bond overcoming difficulties, even as he ages. And the fact that after traveling the world, Bond must finally return to his childhood home for resolution. To capture the feeling of a literal Skyfall I arranged the theme answers vertically.

There is another enormous Skyfall that I eagerly await. I live in New Delhi where June is blistering hot (108 degrees Fahrenheit). Next month, the torrential monsoon rains will pour and cool things down.

I do want to specially acknowledge my co-constructor (see photo) for his thoughtful encouragement as I plodded over this grid. I do hope you enjoy the crossword.

Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, Skyfall (2)

Random Thoughts & Interesting Things

  • ADAGIO (13A: Leisurely tempo) ADAGIO is an Italian word meaning "slowly." It is used in musical terminology to indicate that the piece is to be played leisurely.
  • TOYOTAS (26A: Camrys and Corollas) and AUTOS (48D: Compacts and hybrids) TOYOTA introduced the Corolla in 1966, and the Camry in 1982. The TOYOTA Corolla is a compact AUTO. The TOYOTA Camry, (which was originally a compact car, but is now a mid-size AUTO) has been available as a (gasoline/electric) hybrid since 2006.
  • CACAO (38A: Chocolate source) The source of chocolate is a small evergreen tree, Theobroma CACAO, which grows in tropical rainforest areas in Central and South America. The tree's fruit, the CACAO pod, is ovoid, approximately 6-12 inches long and 3-4 inches wide. The pods can be yellow, green, or red in color. It is the seeds inside the pod that are used to make chocolate. On one of our trips to Seattle, Washington to visit our son, my husband and I visited Theo Chocolate, a company whose name comes from Theobroma CACAO. We took a fascinating tour and learned about how chocolate is made. We also got to taste a ton of samples – highly recommend this tour. It was on this tour that I learned that the CACAO tree blooms year-round, and that the flowers (some of which become pods) grow directly on the trunk or branches. I am grateful for the CACAO tree, and for the people that figured out how to use its seeds to make chocolate.
  • GILLS (40A: Manta ray's breathing organ) As manta rays are fish, they have GILLS to allow them to breathe underwater. Manta rays swim with their mouths open to feed. The water they take in passes over GILL rakers that separate out the plankton which the manta rays feed on, sending it to the esophagus. The water then passes over the GILLS, which extract oxygen dissolved in the water. The water exits through GILL slits on the underside of the manta ray.
  • KEA (49A: Mauna ___ (Hawaii's highest point)) Earlier this month I provided a review of Mauna KEA and Mauna Loa, two of the five volcanoes that form the island of Hawai'i. Both of these volcanoes have three-letter names that frequently appear in crosswords. Hopefully you remembered that the dormant volcano, Mauna KEA, is the Hawaii's highest point. Mauna Loa is an active volcano, and slightly shorter than Mauna KEA.
  • UBE (58A: Purple tuber hidden in this clue) UBE (aptly hidden in the word "tuber") is a species of yam that is a vivid purple color.
  • CRAYOLA (64A: Company that makes a 64-count crayon box with a built-in sharpener) Ah, this clue makes me want to go buy a brand new 64-count box of CRAYOLA crayons. There's nothing quite like that new crayon smell to bring back memories of countless hours spent coloring. I have plenty of crayons, so I'm not going to buy more (at least not today...), but I may find some time to color today. I find it relaxing.
  • ADIEU (2D: Common vowel-heavy first guess for Wordle) Do you play Wordle? If so, do you start with ADIEU? Playing Wordle is part of my morning routine. I like to switch it up, though, and choose a different starting word each day. Although I try to keep common letters in mind, I basically begin with whatever five-letter word pops into my head. Sometimes this works out better than others, but I like a challenge. If you are a regular Wordle player, you may be able to guess what my favorite Wordle answer of all time has been (pictured below). Not everyone shared my joy at this answer, as Wordle editor Tracy Bennett talked about in a video about "What Makes a Good Wordle Word."
Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, Skyfall (3)
  • IGOR STRAVINSKY (4D: "The Rite of Spring" composer) IGOR STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) was a Russian composer and conductor. He is considered an influential composer of the 20th century. His 1913 work,The Rite of Springis a ballet and orchestral piece, that was considered avant-garde at the time, and redefined 20th-century music.
  • AIR (5D: What free divers come up for) Free diving refers to diving that relies on holding one's breath, rather than using scuba gear. This practice requires, of course, surfacing for AIR.
  • MAINE (9D: "Vacationland" state) The slogan "Vacationland" has appeared on MAINE's license plates since 1936. Fun fact: "Vacationland" holds the longevity record for a promotional slogan on a license plate. In second place is "Land of Lincoln," which has appeared on Illinois license plates since 1954.
  • OMAN (11D: Persian Gulf sultanate) The country of OMAN is officially the Sultanate of OMAN. The current Sultan of OMAN is Haitham bin Tariq. OMAN continues its strong showing with this being its fourth appearance in the crossword this month.
  • SIBERIAN HUSKY (18D: Arctic sled dog breed) As you might guess from its name, the SIBERIAN HUSKY originated in Siberia. The dogs were bred by the Chukchi people of Siberia for sled pulling and companionship. The SIBERIAN HUSKY is a medium-sized dog, recognizable by its thick fur, triangular ears, and almond-shaped eyes.
  • MALI (34D: Timbuktu's country) Timbuktu is a Western African city in the country of MALI. Timbuktu is located North of the Niger River, and on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert.
  • STEELE (45D: "Remington ___" (Pierce Brosnan series)) The TV series Remington STEELE originally aired from 1982-1987. Pierce Brosnan portrays a former thief and con man who takes on the fictional persona of Remington STEELE, created by Laura Holt (portrayed by Stephanie Zimbalist) in order to overcome clients' reluctance to hire a female private investigator. It's been a long time since I've seen an episode of Remington STEELE, but I enjoyed watching it when it originally aired.
  • WELSH (53D: Like corgis and rarebit) The WELSH corgi is a breed of herding dog that originated in Wales. WELSH rarebit is a dish consisting of hot cheese sauce on toast.

Crossword Puzzle Theme Synopsis

  • IGOR STRAVINSKY (4D: "The Rite of Spring" composer)
  • THAT'S RISKY (17D: "I dunno, it could all go terribly wrong...")
  • SIBERIAN HUSKY (18D: Arctic sled dog breed)

The word SKY is found at the end of each vertical theme answer: IGOR STRAVINSKY, THAT'S RISKY, and SIBERIAN HUSKY.

SKYFALL is the name of the twenty-third James Bond movie; it was released in 2012. Today SKYFALL makes a nice puzzle theme, reminiscent of Chicken Little's warning, "The SKY is falling...!" Congratulations to Kapil Mehta making a USA TODAY crossword debut! I am especially delighted to see Kapil's name as constructor today, as he is a former mentee of mine. Also thanks to Kapil for sharing Chip's photo with us today. I'm always happy to add a pet to the Off the Grid / Sally's Take pet family. Thank you, Kapil, for this enjoyable puzzle.

For more on USA TODAY’s Crossword Puzzles

  • USA TODAY’s Daily Crossword Puzzles
Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, Skyfall (2024)


What is the hardest day for crossword puzzle clue? ›

The crosswords are designed to increase in difficulty throughout the week, with the easiest on Monday and the most difficult on Saturday. The larger Sunday crossword, which appears in The New York Times Magazine, is an icon in American culture; it is typically intended to be a "Thursday-plus" in difficulty.

Where is the crossword puzzle in New York Times? ›

The daily Crossword puzzles are printed in the Arts section of the print edition of The New York Times Monday through Saturday.

Does USA Today have a crossword puzzle? ›

The USA TODAY Crossword is a beloved crossword puzzle known for its contemporary themes, accessibility, and diverse range of clues, catering to a broad audience.

What are the black boxes in crossword puzzles? ›

Still, "cheater" black squares (ones that do not affect the number of words in the puzzle, but are added to make constructing easier) should be kept to a minimum, and large clumps of black squares anywhere in a grid are strongly discouraged.

What is the most used word in crossword puzzles? ›

9 Crossword Puzzle Hacks You Should Know, According to New York Times Puzzle Creators. Don't be intimidated by crossword puzzles. “ERA” is the most common entry in crosswords, as well as “ARE,” “AREA,” and “ORE.”

Is there a trick to crossword puzzles? ›

Tackle fill-in-the-blanks first.

Rather than starting with the first clue and going in order, scan through all of the clues and look for some easy “gimmes.” Fill-in-the-blank clues are usually common knowledge, so you should have an idea of what the right answer is.

Are crosswords good for your brain? ›

Research has shown a positive correlation between crossword puzzles and daily life functions, especially for people with mild cognitive impairment or dementia. Experts emphasize that larger clinical trials are needed to unravel the observed associations between crossword puzzles and how our brains function.

What do Americans call crosswords? ›

In the US, British-style puzzles are often called "Cryptic Crosswords," as in the New York Times magazine.

What is the best free crossword site? ›

Check out these 20 best online crossword puzzles to get started.
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What is the most famous crossword puzzle? ›

The most famous Schrödinger puzzle, and maybe the most famous crossword puzzle in American history, was published on the morning of Election Day in 1996. The clue for the two central entries read “Lead story in tomorrow's newspaper (!).” A bold clue indeed!

What were crossword puzzles originally called? ›

His first crossword, or 'Word-Cross' as he called it, did not look like the present ones – it was diamond shaped with no black squares.

What do circles in a crossword mean? ›

Although not present in all crossword types, circles are typically placed around letter squares in crosswords to refer to squares that will form part of a theme. After solving the crossword, the circled letters can be combined together to spell a word associated with the theme, or name the theme itself.

Is the Sunday Times crossword the hardest? ›

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Are Wednesday crosswords hard? ›

If you do the puzzle on a daily basis through the week, the Wednesday may not always be harder than Tuesday, Thursday may not always be harder than Wednesday. But if you do the puzzle long enough, the trend shows that it does get harder as the week goes on.”

Are Tuesday crosswords easy? ›

Honestly, Tuesdays aren't that much harder than Mondays. A big lesson to learn is to make your solving experience your own. Some hard-core puzzlers may consider using autocheck or Google to be cheating, but at the end of the day, you should solve the puzzle in the way that's most comfortable for you.

Is it good to do crossword puzzles before bed? ›

Additionally, solving puzzles such as crosswords, Sudoku, or jigsaw puzzles can also provide mental stimulation and enhance cognitive abilities before bedtime. These activities not only offer entertainment but also serve as effective tools for improving overall sleep quality.


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