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

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

Constructor: Jeanne D. Breen

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

May 26, 2024
May 26, 2024

Comments from Today’s Crossword Constructor

Jeanne: After many years as a regular solver, I started constructing crosswords last spring.  An earlier version of this puzzle – with THE STROKES [clued to the band] as the revealer, rather than the title – was one of the first ones I created. The theme, swimming, is one of my passions.  I started swimming laps in medical school and have been doing so ever since (though I won’t say how many years that entails 😊).  I currently swim about 15,000 yards (~8.5 miles) per week at my local YMCA.  With warmer weather approaching, I’ll enjoy some open water swims in Long Island Sound.  Both the physical and mental health benefits are considerable!

Random Thoughts & Interesting Things

  • BACK TO THE FUTURE (17A: Franchise with a DeLorean) The DeLorean, manufactured from 1981-1982, was the only car produced by the DeLorean Motor Company. The car had stainless-steel outer body panels and gull-wing doors. Although it had a short run, the DeLorean achieved fame for being the car retrofitted as a time machine in the BACK TO THE FUTURE franchise. The first BACK TO THE FUTURE movie was released in 1985. This was followed by BACK TO THE FUTURE Part II in 1989, and BACK TO THE FUTURE Part III in 1990. I'm quite excited about the fact that BACK TO THE FUTURE: The Musical premiered on Broadway last year. My husband and I have tickets to see a touring production of the musical this fall.

  • EEL (22A: Unagi, on a sushi menu) Unagi is the Japanese word for freshwater EEL.

  • CREEK (27A: People also known as the Muscogee) The Muscogee are a group of indigenous peoples whose historic homelands are in the southeastern United States. The Muskogee are also known as the Mvskoke, Muscogee CREEK, or just CREEK. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo is a member of the Muscogee CREEK Nation.

  • GAMMA (35A: Third Greek letter) Whenever the Greek alphabet is referenced in the puzzle, I try to take that opportunity to review my knowledge of its 24 letters. The Greek alphabet begins with alpha, beta, GAMMA, delta, epsilon, zeta, and eta.

  • OPERA (42A: Performance at La Scala) La Scala is an OPERA house in Milan, Italy. It first opened in 1778.

  • RBG (45A: SCOTUS justice who wore dissent collars) Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020), known as RBG, was a member of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) from 1993-2020. During her time on the Supreme Court, RBG wore a number of different collars, an accessory she added to the robe, which was designed for men. She had a particular collar she wore on days she dissented. After Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, Time magazine was granted access to photograph some of her favorite collars, including her dissent collar.

  • ATLAS (48A: He had the weight of the world on his shoulders) In Greek mythology, ATLAS is a Titan (a pre-Olympian God). Following a 10-year war between the Titans and the Olympians, which the Olympians ultimately won, ATLAS was condemned to stand at the western edge of the earth and hold up the sky.

  • ALLAN (51A: "Barbie" character with a colorful striped shirt) Part of Mattel's Barbie brand, the ALLAN doll was introduced in 1964 as Ken's friend. (Side note: In 1991, the spelling of the doll's name was changed to Alan.) In the 2023 movie Barbie, the character of ALLAN, who wore a colorful striped shirt, was played by Michael Cera.

  • BUTTERFLY EFFECT (61A: Concept that trivial events might have big consequences) The BUTTERFLY EFFECT concept originated in weather science. Mathematician and meteorologist Edward Norton Lorenz was studying weather models of tornados, and noticed that a very small change in initial conditions could result in a significantly different outcome. The idea of the BUTTERFLY EFFECT has been adapted to contexts beyond weather science.

  • SOUR (70A: One of the five basic tastes) The five basic tastes detected by taste buds are salty, sweet, bitter, SOUR, and umami (savory).

  • CATNAP (5D: Refreshing bit of shut-eye) My cat, Willow, highly recommends CATNAPs.

  • ODE (7D: "___ to the Bear Hug" (Clint Smith poem)) Clint Smith is a poet and a staff writer for The Atlantic. "ODE to the Bear Hug" is from his 2023 collection of poetry, Above Ground.

  • LARA (29D: Fictional adventurer Croft) LARA Croft is the protagonist of the video game franchise Tomb Raider. Angelina Jolie played LARA Croft in the movies based on the video game, LARA Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and LARA Croft: Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life (2003).

  • EMU (32D: Bird that lays green eggs) EMU eggs are a dark green color, and are an average of 5 inches by 3.5 inches, weighing over a pound.

  • APPA (36D: Dad, in Korean) I learned the word APPA from the March 18, 2021 puzzle. More importantly, I remembered it when solving this puzzle!

  • SELA (39D: "CSI: NY" actress Ward) CSI:NY, part of the CSI franchise, originally aired from 2004-2013. SELA Ward portrayed Detective First Grade Jo Danville.

  • GLUTEN (47D: Celiac disease trigger) GLUTEN is a protein naturally present in some grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye. Celiac disease is an auto-immune condition that causes an intolerance to GLUTEN to develop.

  • SAWYER (49D: Broadcast journalist Diane) Among Diane SAWYER's many achievements, in 1984 she became the first female correspondent for 60 Minutes. She has also been an anchor on ABC World News Tonight, Good Morning America, and 20/20. Since 2014, she has been a special contributor for ABC News.

  • ERAS (57D: "The ___ Tour (Taylor's Version)") The ERAS Tour (Taylor's Version) is an extended cut version of Taylor Swift's concert movie – Taylor Swift | The ERAS Tour – that is available on Disney+.

  • FLO (62D: Progressive's saleswoman) Since 2008, ads for Progressive insurance have featured Stephanie Courtney playing the role of a saleswoman named Flo.

  • LOU (63D: Mary ___ Retton) Mary LOU Retton was the first American woman to win the Olympics all-around gold medal for gymnastics. That was at the 1984 Summer Olympics. She was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1997. More recently, in 2018 Mary LOU Retton was a contestant on the 27th season of Dancing with the Stars.

  • A couple of other clues I especially enjoyed:

    • SEND HELP (40D: "We're in a pickle!")

    • CAR (64D: A Mustang is one, but a Clydesdale isn't)

Crossword Puzzle Theme Synopsis

  • BACK TO THE FUTURE (17A: Franchise with a DeLorean)

  • BREAST PUMPS (37A: Lactation devices)

  • BUTTERFLY EFFECT (61A: Concept that trivial events might have big consequences)

The first word of each theme answer is a swimming STROKE: BACKSTROKE, BREASTSTROKE, and BUTTERFLY STROKE.

THE STROKES, who Jeanne mentioned in her constructor notes, are an indie rock band. Their 2020 album, The New Abnormal, won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. Today, the band's name makes a perfect title for this theme highlighting swimming STROKES. Congratulations to Jeanne D. Breen making a USA TODAY debut! Thank you, Jeanne, for this enjoyable puzzle.

For more on USA TODAY’s Crossword Puzzles

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Crossword Blog & Answers for May 26, 2024 by Sally Hoelscher