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Crossword Puzzles

Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, PB&J

There are spoilers ahead. You might want to solve today's puzzle before reading further! PB&J

Constructor: Jay Silverman

Editor: Jared Goudsmit

April 30, 2024

Comments from Today’s Crossword Constructor

Jay: I'm really happy to be making my USA Today debut with this puzzle! As someone who has worked for many years in children's media, I always make a point to sneak a few clues about kids' stuff into every puzzle I create (I like to imagine that there is, somewhere, a parent working through the puzzle who gets a bit stuck and calls out to their little one for some help). So consider me very pleased to have gotten clues about Miss Piggy (23-A) and Paddington Bear (25-D) into the puzzle, as they're both fictional talking mammals who are near and dear to my heart. My thanks and gratitude to the USAT team for giving me this opportunity to put together and share something fun with the world.  Good luck solving, everyone!

What I Learned from Today’s Puzzle

  • EGGS (1A: Danbing ingredients) Danbing is also known as an EGG pancake, or a rolled EGG crepe. This breakfast dish originated from Taiwan. It consists of a thin dough, which is partially cooked before EGGS are added on top. The resulting layers fuse with batter on one side, and fried EGG on the other. Other ingredients may be added before the dish is rolled up and served.
  • NASCAR (41A: Rajah Caruth's sports org.) Rajah Caruth is a stock car racing driver. He competes in the NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) Craftsman Truck Series, and in March of this year won the Victoria's Voice Foundation 200 (the third race in the series). In doing so, he became the third Black driver to win a NASCAR national series race (joining Wendell Scott and Bubba Wallace). When he's not racing on the NASCAR track, Rajah Caruth is a sim racer on the iRacing platform, which is where his career started. .
  • NORI (45A: Tenmusu seaweed) NORI, known also as edible seaweed, is dried red algae (red refers to its genus, not its color). Tenmusu is a dish in Japanese cuisine. It consists of deep-fried tempura shrimp inside a rice ball, wrapped with NORI.
  • RAP (52A: Shaybo's genre) Shaybo's debut RAP mixtape is titled Queen of the South. Shaybo was born in Nigeria, and moved to London with her family at the age of six. She uses a combination of English and Yoruba (a Nigerian dialect) in her RAP.

Random Thoughts & Interesting Things

  • SWAT (5A: Smack, like a cat toy) When my husband and I play board games, our cat, Willow likes to wait for an opportune moment to SWAT the game pieces. It's her way of helping.
Willow playing Abducktion
  • HILL (16A: Lawyer/educator Anita) Anita HILL is a lawyer, educator, and author. She is currently a professor at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. In 1991, Anita HILL accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. In her 1998 book, Speaking Truth to Power, Hill discusses details of events before, during, and after the confirmation hearings. 
  • OBIE (19A: Off-Broadway award) The OBIE Awards are presented annually by The Village Voice newspaper to artists and groups in off-Broadway productions.
  • MOI (23A: Me, to Miss Piggy) "Are you speaking of MOI?" I imagine Miss Piggy saying in response to this clue. The Muppet Miss Piggy uses the French word for me when she refers to herself.
  • PPE (24A: N95 masks, e.g.) PPE here stands for personal protective equipment.
  • PSI (25A: Letter after chi) PSI is the penultimate (next to last) letter of the Greek alphabet. It is the 23rd letter, following chi, and preceding omega.
  • MARS (31A: Fourth planet from the sun) Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and Mars is our neighbor, a mere 140 million miles away (on average).
  • YOGA (48A: Discipline with a cow pose) and BENT (57D: Like knees in cow pose) Cow pose is a YOGA asana that gently stretches your back. The knees are BENT, as the pose starts on all fours. Cow pose is often paired with cat pose as a warm-up for other poses.
  • JAY PHAROAH (61A: Comedian who played Barack Obama on "SNL") Comedian and actor JAY PHAROAH was a cast member on Saturday Night Live (SNL) from 2010-2016. His celebrity impressions include Barack Obama, Will Smith, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, and Denzel Washington. Also, clever JAY Silverman for getting his first name into the puzzle.
  • ADELE (65A: Singer with the albums "19" and "30") To date, ADELE has recorded four studio albums: 19 (2008), 21 (2011), 25 (2015), and 30 (2021). The numbers reflect ADELE's age when she wrote the songs on the album, not necessarily her age when the albums were released.
  • ETTA (66A: "Security" singer James) "Security" is a song from Tell Mama, the seventh studio album of ETTA James. The album was released in 1968.
  • SEED (69A: Bit inside a lychee) Lychee are green when immature, and pink-red when ripe. They have a thin, tough skin covered with small, sharp bumps. Under the skin, the white edible part of the fruit surrounds a brown inedible SEED.
  • PERU (25D: Paddington Bear's birth country) Paddington Bear is a fictional character that made his first appearance in the 1958 children's book by Michael Bond titled A Bear Called Paddington. Originally from PERU, the bear was discovered by the Brown family in London's Paddington station. Paddington Bear has appeared in a number of books, as well as TV series and movies. The movie Paddington in PERU is scheduled to be released later this year.
  • YAMS (39D: Amala tubers) Amala is a food originating from Nigeria, where it is a main part of the Yoruba diet. It consists of YAMS that are peeled, sliced, dried, and ground into flour. It is then made into a dough-like side dish called a swallow.
  • DONATES (40D: Gives to Planned Parenthood, say) I like the choice to use a specific organization in this clue. Here's a link if you'd like to DONATE to Planned Parenthood.
  • DEJA (51D: "___ Vu" (Beyonce hit with the lyric "Seem like everywhere I go, I see you")) "DÉJÀ Vu" is a 2006 song by Beyoncé that features rapper Jay-Z. The song is from Beyoncé's second album, B'Day. More broadly, DÉJÀ Vu refers to the feeling of already having lived through a situation. The phrase is French for "already seen." I like that the hint of the lyrics makes this answer attainable, even if a solver is unfamiliar with this particular song.
  • DEJA (51D: "___ Vu" (Beyonce hit with the lyric "Seem like everywhere I go, I see you")) Just checking to see if you are paying attention!

Crossword Puzzle Theme Synopsis

  • PEA SHOOTER (17A: Tube for small green projectiles)
  • BE MY GUEST (38A: "Do as you wish!")
  • JAY PHAROAH (61A: Comedian who played Barack Obama on "SNL")

The first words of the theme answers are, in order, PEA, BE, and JAY, or PB&J.

This is a clever theme, using words to spell out the initials of the classic sandwich, PB&J. I did not guess the theme mechanism from the title, but once I uncovered PEA SHOOTER, there was a nice, "Aha!" moment. Congratulations to Jay Silverman on a USA TODAY debut! Thank you, Jay, for this enjoyable puzzle.

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