Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, Build-A-Bear

There are spoilers ahead. You might want to solve today's puzzle before reading further! Build-A-Bear

Constructor: Stella Zawistowski

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

April 24, 2024
April 24, 2024

What I Learned from Today’s Puzzle

  • TYSON (7D: Supermodel Beckford) TYSON Beckford is a model and actor. In the 1990s, he modeled for Ralph Lauren Polo. In 2008-2009, he co-hosted the reality TV modeling competition, Make me a Supermodel. Although TYSON Beckford stopped modeling in 2008, and began focusing more on acting, he did come out of modeling retirement in 2022 to model for Beyoncé's Ivy Heart line. Last year TYSON Beckford was a contestant on Season 32 of Dancing with the Stars.

  • ASIA (30D: Drag queen O'Hara) Drag queen ASIA O'Hara competed on Season 10 of RuPaul's Drag Race. I appreciated seeing this new clueing angle for ASIA. Incidentally, this is the third day in a row, and the fourth time in the last five days, we've seen ASIA in the puzzle. We've seen our crossword-friend ASIA a total of five times so far this month.

  • ATE (59D: "She ___ and left no crumbs!") The phrase, "she ATE and left no crumbs!" is new to me. I've learned that the expression is used to indicate that a person has done a great job / done something perfectly.

Random Thoughts & Interesting Things

  • RYE (22A: type of whiskey in a Manhattan) The cocktail known as the Manhattan is traditionally made using RYE whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters. The drink takes its name from the Manhattan Club in New York city where it is thought to have originated in the mid-1870s.

  • LLAMA (25A: Spitting Andes animal) LLAMAs are social animals and live in herds. They use spitting as a way to communicate with each other. A LLAMA may spit to establish dominance, to fend off a challenge, or to warn off an unwanted suitor. LLAMAs raised among humans may see people as part of their herd, and use this same method of communication, spitting to convey annoyance.

  • TAO (29A: Chinese philosophic principle) A few days ago we saw TAO clued as ["Way of the universe" in Chinese philosophy].

  • BEA ARTHUR (42A: Actress who played Dorothy on "The Golden Girls") BEA ARTHUR (1922-2009) is receiving some crossword love. We saw her first name in the puzzle two days ago.

  • CDC (46A: Org. with vaccine recommendations) The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is the national public health agency of the United States. CDC headquarters are located in Atlanta, Georgia. Established in 1946, the CDC is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the tasks of the CDC is to make vaccine recommendations. The abbreviation of the word organization (org.) in the clue lets solvers know the answer will be an abbreviation.

  • ESTEE (61A: ___ Lauder (beauty brand)) ESTÉE Lauder is one of the brands of ESTÉE Lauder Companies. The company was founded in 1946 by ESTÉE Lauder and her husband, Joseph Lauder. The company's other brands include Clinique, MAC Cosmetics, Tom Ford Beauty, Bobbi Brown, and Smashbox.

  • INCA (62A: Resident of old Peru) From 1438 until 1533, the land that is now the country of Peru, was part of the INCA Empire. The administrative center of the INCA Empire was in the city of Cusco, which is located in southeastern Peru.

  • ARIA (9D: Jessye Norman solo) Jessye Norman (1945-2019) was an opera singer who won four Grammy Awards, including a lifetime achievement award in 2006. Jessye Norman was mentioned in the April 13 puzzle, so if you didn't know of her before then, perhaps you remembered seeing her name in that puzzle.

  • PBR (15D: Cheap beer letters) PBR is Pabst Blue Ribbon, a beer sold by the Pabst Brewing Company, which was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1844. Between 1882 and 1916, the company tied blue ribbons around the necks of the beer bottles, a practice that ultimately resulted in the beer's current name (it was previously called Best Select and Pabst Select).

  • SLEEP (28D: What melatonin can help people do) Melatonin is a natural compound that plays a role in the sleep-wake cycle (aka the circadian rhythm). Melatonin may be used in the treatment of sleep disorders.

  • TALE (29D: "___ as old as time...") The song "Beauty and Beast" from the Disney movie of the same name contains the lyrics "TALE as old as time / True as it can be..." Thank you for this earworm, puzzle.

  • ALIA (50D: "RRR" actress Bhatt) RRR is a Telugu-language movie that tells a fictional story of two revolutionaries in India that fight against British rule. ALIA Bhatt portrays Sita, the fiancé of one of the revolutionaries. RRR is a movie that I learned about from a crossword puzzle, and a year ago we saw RRR as the theme of a puzzle.

  • TOES (52D: Polydactyl cats have extra ones) Polydactyl cats have extra TOES on their paws as a result of a genetic mutation. Polydactyly does not affect a cat's health, and in fact, the condition may help some cats become better hunters. It's hypothesized that polydactyl cats were transported to North America as ship cats, where they earned their way by keeping the ship's rat population in check. Polydactyl cats are more common in certain geographical regions: Western England, Wales, Canada, and the Eastern United States. My cat, Willow, does not have any extra TOES.

  • A few other clues I especially enjoyed:

    • EMTS (16A: Some healthcare heroes)

    • APT (6D: Like the name Sue, for a lawyer)

    • MATTRESS (8D: One might be a twin)

Crossword Puzzle Theme Synopsis

  • B AVERAGE (18A: 3.0 GPA)

  • BE YOURSELF (31A: Advice that encourages authenticity)

  • BEA ARTHUR (42A: Actress who played Dorothy on "The Golden Girls")

  • BEAR IN MIND (58A: "Please remember...")

Moving down through the puzzle, the word BEAR is being built at the beginning of the theme answers.

I had a hunch about the theme from the title of BUILD-A-BEAR. It was fun to see that hunch confirmed as I uncovered each of the theme answers. This is a fun and creative theme. Thank you, Stella, for this excellent puzzle.

For more on USA TODAY’s Crossword Puzzles

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Crossword Blog & Answers for April 24, 2024 by Sally Hoelscher