Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, Hi There! (Freestyle) (2024)

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Sally HoelscherUSA TODAY

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

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Editor: Jared Goudsmit

What I Learned from Today’s Puzzle

  • ATE (24A: Had some kedjenou) Kedjenou is a slow-cooked chicken and vegetable stew in West African cuisine. This spicy stew, which is cooked in a sealed terra cotta pot, is a traditional dish of Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). The word kedjenou comes from the Baoulé language (spoken in central and southern parts of Côte d'Ivoire), and means "to move or shake." This is a reference to the practice of occasionally shaking the pot during the cooking process in order to distribute ingredients.
  • COOK (73A: Whip up some boliche, say) Boliche is a Cuban-style stuffed beef roast. The roast is stuffed with ham or chorizo, marinated with citrus and seasonings, seared, and then simmered with onions and potatoes.
  • ERIN (60D: Journalist/activist Reed) ERIN Reed is a journalist and LGBTQ+ activist. She focuses on legislation around the world that impacts LGBTQ+ people. She states on her website, "I am here so that we all can achieve liberation and a better future. Let's do that together."

Random Thoughts & Interesting Things

  • E-BOY (9A: Guy with an emo-inspired aesthetic) The E-BOY and e-girl alternative fashion subculture emerged in the late 2010s, and was popularized by TikTok. The look may include baggy clothes, neon-colored hair, nail polish, and decorative chains.
  • ALI (23A: "Moonlight" actor Mahershala) Moonlightis a 2016 movie based on an unpublished semi-autobiographical play by Tarell Alvin McCraney titledIn Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.The film looks at the themes of sexuality and masculinity while telling the story of its main character through childhood, adolescence, and young adult life. Mahershala ALI portrays Juan, a drug dealer who becomes a father figure to the main character. Moonlightwon the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Mahershala ALI won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
  • GIFT TAGS (27A: Items on presents that say "To:" and "From:") and TAPED (38A: Sealed, like a present) I appreciate the choice of referencing a present in the clue for TAPED, to tie in with the clue for GIFT TAGS.
  • MELD (43A: Vulcan mind ___ (telepathic link in "Star Trek")) The Vulcan mind MELD was introduced in the ninth episode (titled "Dagger of the Mind") of the TV series Star Trek. In the episode, Mr. Spock, who is half-Vulcan and half-human, performs a mind MELD with someone in order to get the true story about what has happened to that person. In subsequent Star Trek episodes, the Vulcan mind MELD was used by Mr. Spock and other Vulcans, and was sometimes used to erase or restore memories.
  • CAIRO (44A: Capital near the Great Sphinx) A sphinx is a mythical creature with the head of a human, the body of a lion. The Great Sphinx is a statue located in Giza, Egypt. It is one of the oldest known sculptures in Egypt, dating to the 2500s BCE. Giza is located across the Nile River from CAIRO, the capital of Egypt.
  • DUA (55A: "Houdini" singer ___ Lipa) "Houdini" is a 2023 song by DUA Lipa from her third studio album, Radical Optimism. "I'm not here for long / Catch me or I go Houdini..."
  • TOP HAT (4D: Headwear for Zatanna or Mr. Peanut) Zatanna is a DC comics character. She is a magician (a nice tie-in with the mention of Houdini in the DUA clue), and is a hom*o magi (a sub-race of humans with magical abilities). Zatanna first appeared in the DC comic Hawkman #4, in 1964. Mr Peanut is the TOP HAT-wearing, monocled mascot of Planters. He made his first appearance in 1916.
  • OPAL (11D: "Fire" or "matrix" gem) Fire OPAL is a variety of the gem that has a bright yellow, orange, or red color. Matrix OPAL refers to OPAL that has formed within the pores or holes of another type of rock.
  • ETTA (21D: "At Last" singer James) ETTA James (1938-2012) is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame, and the Grammy Hall of Fame.She recorded "At Last" in 1960 as the title track for her debut album. Her recording of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
  • INCAN (28D: Like Machu Picchu) Machu Picchu is one of the most well-known examples of INCAN architecture. Located in the Andes mountains in southern Peru, Machu Picchu is a 15th-century citadel most likely constructed as an estate of Pachacuti, an INCAN emperor.
  • ERIE (40D: The "E" of HOMES) HOMES is a mnemonic that is useful for remembering the names of the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, ERIE, and Superior. This is the first time we have seen our crossword-friend ERIE this month, and amazingly, it's the first time we've seen ERIE since March 23.
  • NBA DRAFT (42D: Event where the Pacers and Pelicans pick players) Fun alliteration here with "Pacers ... Pelicans pick players." The Indiana Pacers and the New Orleans Pelicans are NBA teams. The NBA DRAFT dates back to 1947, and takes place during the NBA's off-season, generally near the end of June.
  • A few other clues I especially enjoyed:
    • DOUBT (46A: "When in ___, throw it out" (food safety motto))
    • IDEA (71A: "I don't have the faintest ___!")
    • BANANA PEEL (10D: A slapstick comedian might slip on one)

Crossword Puzzle Theme Synopsis

There's no theme today, as this is a freestyle, or themeless puzzle. Edited to add: An astute reader noticed (Thanks, Leslie!) that although this is a themeless puzzle, there's a bit of a mini-theme in that the answers MOTHER EARTH and ON THE RECORD both contain the word THERE. Oh, HI THERE!

  • MOTHER EARTH (20A: Personification of nature)
  • ON THE RECORD (58A: How public statements are made)

Not all crossword venues use titles, but I'm glad that USA TODAY does. I think titles add a lot to the personality of a puzzle. Today I feel as if the puzzle is greeting me. "Hi there to you, too, puzzle!" Also, themeless puzzles that have a bit of a mini-theme are my favorite types of themeless puzzles. Thank you, Bruce, for this entertaining puzzle.

For more on USA TODAY’s Crossword Puzzles

  • USA TODAY’s Daily Crossword Puzzles
  • Crossword Puzzle Answers

Share your feedback to help improve our site!

Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, Hi There! (Freestyle) (2024)


What is the hardest day for crossword puzzles? ›

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 as difficult as a Thursday puzzle.

How much is USA today crossword puzzle clue? ›

Unlimited Digital Access to USA Today Crossword: $19.99/year*

What is National Crossword Puzzle Day? ›

Crossword Puzzle Day on December 21st commemorates the birth of a challenging word game enjoyed by millions worldwide.

What is the most used word in crossword puzzles? ›

Don't be intimidated by crossword puzzles. “ERA” is the most common entry in crosswords, as well as “ARE,” “AREA,” and “ORE.” If a clue is in plural, the word will probably end in “S.” “Cheating” by checking a letter or word is encouraged if you're stuck.

Are crosswords good for your brain? ›

In fact, studies have shown that solving crossword puzzles on a regular basis can help improve your working memory, short-term memory, and overall brain health.

What is the best free crossword puzzle? ›

Here are the 10 best crosswords that you can solve for free online now.
  • Merriam-Webster: Missing Letter Crossword. FREE. ...
  • The Atlantic: Daily Crossword. FREE. ...
  • Vox Crossword. FREE. ...
  • AARP: The Daily Crossword. FREE. ...
  • Sheffer Crossword. FREE. ...
  • The New York Crossword (Weekly Crossword) FREE. ...
  • Morning Brew. FREE. ...
  • Bewilderingly. FREE.
Dec 7, 2023

Is the USA Today crossword app free? ›

Download the USA TODAY Crossword & Sudoku app today and enjoy hours of mind-bending puzzle fun. The app is free to download and play, with premium features available through in-app subscriptions.

Does the USA today have a Sunday crossword puzzle? ›

Your Crosswords subscription includes access 24/7 to Crosswords, Monday through Sunday. Your subscription does not include unlimited digital news access, nor print supplements. You can cancel your subscription at any time by calling 1-800-872-0001.

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.

Does USA Today have a crossword puzzle? ›

Enjoy a crossword experience that is accessible, engaging, and perfect for all skill levels. Clear Theme: Each Easy Crossword boasts an easy-to-understand theme, adding an extra layer of enjoyment to the puzzle-solving experience.

Is there a new NYT crossword every day? ›

Puzzle Availability

Each daily crossword puzzle is available for Games and All Access subscribers the evening before it appears in the print edition. Weekday and Saturday puzzles are available at 10 p.m. EST the previous day. Sunday puzzles are available at 6 p.m. EST on Saturday.

Is there a trick to crossword puzzles? ›

Tense. If a clue is in a certain tense (such as past tense), then the answer has to be in that tense as well. This is an easy rule to start with that will immediately improve your solving. For example, if you see the past tense clue “Adored” in a puzzle, the answer has to be past tense.

What does FR mean in crosswords? ›

Force = f, n. Former = ex. Fort = ft. French = fr.

Are Tuesday crosswords hard? ›

Monday is the easiest and Saturday is the hardest, with Sunday puzzles being larger and having the difficulty of about a Thursday puzzle. The biggest jump in difficulty is from Tuesday and Wednesday as the words get longer and longer and the clues get trickier. Hope this helps.

Is the Sunday Times crossword the hardest? ›

Comparison of cryptic crosswords
The TimesDailyMedium-hard
The HinduDailyMedium
The ListenerSaturdayVery hard
The Sunday TimesSundayMedium
18 more rows

What is the hardest crossword puzzle ever? ›

The Enigma crossword puzzle is widely regarded as one of the most difficult crossword puzzles ever created.

Is it good to do crossword puzzles before bed? ›

As doing a puzzle helps to ease your body and mind, they can lead to more consistent sleeping habits. Stress and anxiety is a big cause of insomnia, so focusing on a good puzzle could be what you need to let your brain wind down before bed.

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