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

There are spoilers ahead. You might want to solve today's puzzle before reading further! Paper Hat

Constructor: Beth Rubin

Editor: Jared Goudsmit

April 21, 2024
April 21, 2024

What I Learned from Today’s Puzzle

  • ANNA (57A: Disability justice activist Landre) ANNA Landre is an internationally-recognized activist and researcher. Her work calls attention to the "implementation gap," highlighting ways laws often fail in practice. ANNA Landre is currently a PhD student at the Global Disability Innovation Hub in London. She previously served as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Washington, D.C., while completing an undergraduate degree at Georgetown University.

  • CREPE (33D: Thin pancake similar to malawah) A malawah is a sweet, thin pancake flavored with cardamom. It originated in Somali. A CREPE is also a thin pancake. CREPEs originated in France, and may be sweet or savory.

Random Thoughts & Interesting Things

  • CLUE (7A: Board game with Miss Scarlet) I enjoy playing many different board games, but if pressed to choose one game that is my favorite of all time, it would be CLUE. Nothing against Miss Scarlet, but Professor Plum is my favorite character. When I was young, Professor Plum was my favorite for the strategic reason that his starting space on the game board was the closet to the door of a room. Now when I play CLUE, I generally play the CLUE Master Detective edition, which was released in 1988 and features more rooms, more suspects, and more weapons. In this version, all characters begin in the same space. I still choose to play as Professor Plum.

  • EAU (16A: Water, in French) We frequently see the French word for water used in the name of perfumes. For example, I have previously written about EAU de Luna and EAU de Space.

  • I'VE (24A: "___ Been to the Mountaintop" (MLK speech)  "I'VE Been to the Mountaintop" was Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s final speech, delivered at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee on April 3, 1968, the day before he was assassinated. In the speech, he said, "...I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land."

  • ARABIC (25A: "Alif, ba, ta..." language) Alif, ba, and ta are the first three letters of the ARABIC alphabet. The basic ARABIC alphabet contains 28 letters, each representing a consonant. Vowel sounds are indicated by diacritical marks added to the letters.

  • OIL-BASED (29A: Like the paint Van Gogh used for "The Starry Night") I wrote about Vincent Van Gogh's painting, "The Starry Night," a couple of weeks ago.

  • MANO (32A: Hand, in Spanish) The phrase "MANO a MANO," which is Spanish for "hand to hand," is used to describe a direct competition or conflict between two people.

  • GEM (37A: Jasper or opal) Jasper is a type of quartz. It has a number of different colors, which are the result of mineral impurities. Red is a common color for this GEM (caused by iron inclusions), but it may also be yellow, brown, or green. There are a number of different varieties of opal, broadly classified into precious (these GEMs display iridescence) and common (such as the milk opal or resin opal).

  • ON SILENT (48A: Set to not ring or buzz) and JUST A SEC (60A: "Hang on one moment!") These two answers seem to go together nicely. "JUST A SEC ... I need to put my phone ON SILENT."

  • ESSAYS (50A: Some Zadie Smith works) Zadie Smith is a writer of novels, ESSAYS, and short stories. Her most recent book, The Fraud, was published last year, and is a historical novel about the Tichborne case, a British trial in the late 1800s concerning a man claiming to be the heir to a family fortune. I enjoyed listening to Zadie Smith talk about her new book in this NPR interview.

  • IN A (59A: Catch lightning ___ bottle) To try to "catch (or capture) lightning IN A bottle" is to attempt a particularly challenging or difficult feat, something that seems impossible. The saying dates back to the 1800s, and refers to Benjamin Franklin's experiments (conducted in the 1700s) that attempted to capture electricity from lightning and store it IN A jar.

  • STL (70A: Soulard Market city (Abbr.) The Soulard Farmers Market, located in St. Louis (STL), Missouri is the oldest public market in the U.S. west of the Mississippi River. It was established in 1779, and is still operating today. Soulard Market is open Wednesday through Saturday year-round.

  • CATAN (1D: Board game with ore, lumber, brick, wool and grain) It's been just a few days since we saw the game of CATAN referenced in a clue for the word ORES.

  • OPERA (2D: Show such as "Porgy and Bess") Porgy and Bess is an OPERA composed by George Gershwin, with libretto by Dubose Heyward and Ira Gershwin. It was first performed in Boston in September 1935, premiering on Broadway a couple of weeks later. The OPERA has been produced multiple times since then, including in 2019 at the Metropolitan OPERA in New York City. The live cast album from the Metropolitan OPERA production won a Grammy Award for Best OPERA Recording.

  • BEA (11D: "Golden Girls" actress Arthur) BEA Arthur (1922-2009) portrayed Dorothy Zbornak on the TV series The Golden Girls (1985-1992). Prior to that, she portrayed the character of Maude Findlay in the TV series All in the Family (1971-1972), and then in the spin-off series, Maude (1972-1978). BEA Arthur won two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, one for Maude (1977) and one for The Golden Girls (1988).

  • EDAM (19D: Cheese aka queso de bola) EDAM is a semi-hard cheese traditionally sold in spheres wrapped with red paraffin wax. It is named after the town in the northwest Netherlands where it was originally made. In Spain, the Philippines and some Latin American countries, EDAM is known as queso de bola, Spanish for "ball cheese."

  • UVA (22D: Charlottesville sch.) Charlottesville, Virginia is the home to the University of Virginia (UVA). The abbreviation of school in the clue alerts solvers that the answer will be an abbreviation.

  • OIKOS (34D: Greek yogurt brand) Dannon OIKOS is a line of Greek yogurt that has been on the market since 2007. Dannon is the American brand of the French food-processing corporation, Danone. I learned that fact when writing about a previous puzzle.

  • EAST (47D: Chad-to-Sudan direction) Chad is a landlocked country in Africa. The capital of Chad is N'Djamena. EAST of Chad is the country of Sudan. Sudan is not landlocked, as it has coastline along the Red Sea. The capital of Sudan is Khartoum.

Crossword Puzzle Theme Synopsis

  • MONEY ORDERS (3D: Bank-issued checks)

  • CUT ME SOME SLACK (7D: "C'mon, I only made a little mistake!")

  • BAG OF TRICKS (26D: Crafty person's repertoire)

The top word of each vertical theme answer (the one on top like a HAT) can pair with the word PAPER, giving us PAPER MONEY, PAPER CUT, and PAPER BAG.

I liked the use of the word HAT to point at the theme being in the top word of the vertical theme answers. It's a cute theme. Thank you, Beth, for this enjoyable puzzle.

For more on USA TODAY’s Crossword Puzzles

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Crossword Blog & Answers for April 21, 2024 by Sally Hoelscher