Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, Higher Forces

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

Constructor: Enrique Henestroza Anguiano

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

April 20, 2024
April 20, 2024

What I Learned from Today’s Puzzle

  • DON'T SPEAK (35A: No Doubt song with the lyric "I know just what you're saying") "DON'T SPEAK" is a 1996 hit song by the rock band No Doubt, from their album, Tragic Kingdom. The song was written by No Doubt's lead singer, Gwen Stefani, and her brother Eric Stefani. Interesting fact: Although "DON'T SPEAK" reached the top of many charts, it did not chart on Billboard's Hot 100. This is because it was never released as a commercial single, and at the time that was a requirement for songs on the Hot 100.

Random Thoughts & Interesting Things

  • WHEN (1A: "___ Doves Cry" (Prince hit)) "WHEN Doves Cry" is a song from Prince's 1984 album, Purple Rain. "WHEN Doves Cry" was Prince's first song to reach the top Billboard's Hot 100 chart. In addition to singing the song, Prince also played all of the instruments on the song's track. Thanks for this earworm, puzzle. "Why do we scream at each other? / This is what it sounds like / WHEN doves cry..."

  • TRIPE (15A: Menudo ingredient) In Mexican cuisine, menudo is a soup made of TRIPE in a broth with a red chili pepper base. TRIPE is the stomach lining from cattle, pigs, or sheep. It takes a long time to cook, making the preparation of menudo a lengthy undertaking. There is also a stew in Filipino cuisine known as menudo, but it does not include TRIPE.

  • ASIA (16A: Nepal's continent) Nepal is a landlocked country in South ASIA. It borders India and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The capital of Nepal is Kathmandu. Most of Nepal is located in the Himalayas. Mount Everest, Earth's highest above-sea-level mountain, is located on the China-Nepal border.

  • RELIC (18A: Buddha's Tooth, e.g.) According to Sri Lankan legends, when the Buddha died (543 BCE) his body was cremated, but his left canine tooth was retrieved from the funeral pyre by Khema, one of his disciples. The tooth is a venerated sacred RELIC. The Temple of the Sacred Tooth RELIC, located in Kandy, Sri Lanka, houses Buddha's Tooth.

  • TAROT (25A: Deck with the Judgement card) A TAROT deck is the most commonly used deck for cartomancy (fortune-telling using a deck of cards). A TAROT deck traditionally contains 78 cards, which are divided into the Major Arcana (22 cards without suits), and the Minor Arcana (56 cards in four suits – batons, coins, cups, and swords). Judgement is a Major Arcana card.

  • ART (39A: "It's more an ___ than a science") I enjoyed this clue. "It's more an ART than a science," is a phrase that is used to describe something that is perhaps not as exact or quantifiable as people might think.

  • SALLY (47A: Novelist Rooney) SALLY Rooney is an Irish novelist. Her books include Conversations with Friends (2017), Normal People (2018), and Beautiful World, Where Are You (2021). Her first two novels have been adapted for TV. SALLY Rooney has a new book, titled Intermezzo, that will be released in September. You know I am a fan of this answer!

  • AVE (65A: Pennsylvania in D.C., for one) The White House is located on Pennsylvania AVE. in Washington, D.C. The abbreviation D.C. in the clue alerts solvers that the answer will be an abbreviation.

  • HABIT TRACKER (10D: Record with daily checklists and streaks) A HABIT TRACKER is any system that helps you keep track of daily progress. It might be an online app, or a physical checklist. The idea of a HABIT TRACKER is to help visualize progress in developing a HABIT, and provide motivation. Do you have a streak for solving the USA TODAY crossword? That's a type of HABIT TRACKER.

  • LION (12D: Simba or Kimba, in animation) Simba is a LION in Disney's animated movie The LION King. Kimba is a LION in the anime series Kimba the White LION. Kimba is new to me, but since the clue gives two examples, I was able to arrive at the correct answer by being familiar with Simba. My cat, Willow, is always happy to see her big cat relatives in the puzzle. The other day, Willow put herself in a basket.

Willow in a basket
Willow in a basket
  • ROSARIO (23D: "Ahsoka" actress Dawson) Ahsoka, also known as Star Wars: Ahsoka, is a TV series created for Disney+. The show is a spin-off from The Mandalorian. ROSARIO Dawson stars as the titular character. She also played the role of Ahsoka in The Mandalorian.

  • PERU (30D: Arequipa's country) The South American country PERU is divided into 26 administrative units: 24 departments, plus the Constitutional Province of Callao and the Province of Lima. Lima is the country's capital. Each of the 24 departments of PERU are subdivided into provinces and districts. Arequipa is a department in southwestern PERU. Arequipa is also the name of a province in the Arequipa region, as well as the name of that province's capital city. The city of Arequipa is the second largest city in PERU, after Lima.

  • GUAVA (53D: The "G" in Hawaiian POG juice) POG stands for Passion Orange GUAVA. POG juice was created in Hawaii in 1971.

  • GETS (57D: "Whatever Lola wants, Lola ___") "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola GETS" is a song from the Tony Award-winning 1955 Broadway musical Damn Yankees. Many artists have done versions of the song, including Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Carmen McRae. The song has an interesting history. The saying, "Whatever Lola wants, Lola GETS," was inspired by Spanish dancer and courtesan Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, Countess of Landsfeld (1821-1861), better known by her stage name Lola Montez.

  • ANI (59D: Singer DiFranco)  ANI DiFranco is a singer-songwriter, activist, and feminist icon. Her lyrics are "often autobiographical, and strongly political." ANI DeFranco created Righteous Babe Records in 1990 in order to be able to release her own records without being beholden to a record company. All of her albums have been released on Righteous Babe. ANI DiFranco's most recent album, Revolutionary Love, was released in 2021. In February of this year, ANI DiFranco made her Broadway debut, playing the role of Persephone in Hadestown.

Crossword Puzzle Theme Synopsis

  • NATURE TRAIL (4D: Gentle hiking path with informational markers)

  • WILL THAT BE ALL (7D: "Anything else?")

  • HABIT TRACKER (10D: Record with daily checklists and streaks)

The first word of each vertical theme answer – that is, the HIGHER word – can be placed after the words "FORCE of" to form a new phrase. Our HIGHER FORCES are FORCE of NATURE, FORCE of WILL, and FORCE of HABIT.

I was familiar with the phrases FORCE of NATURE and FORCE of HABIT. I looked up FORCE of WILL to make sure I was on the right track with the theme, and discovered that FORCE of WILL is a trading card game. In addition to the answers I've already highlighted, I also enjoyed THE USUAL, BEAR CUB, and ROYAL PALACE. Thank you, Enrique, for this delightful puzzle.

For more on USA TODAY’s Crossword Puzzles

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Crossword Blog & Answers for April 20, 2024 by Sally Hoelscher