Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, How's It Goin'?

There are spoilers ahead. You might want to solve today's puzzle before reading further! How's It Goin'?

Constructor: Amanda Rafkin

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

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What I Learned from Today’s Puzzle

  • AGE (6A: "What's My ___ Again?" (Blink-182 song)) "What's My AGE Again?" is a 1999 song by the rock band Blink-182. The song contains the refrain, " Nobody likes you when you're 23 ... My friends say I should act my AGE / What's my AGE again? / What's my AGE again?" The song's music video features Blink-182 running naked through the streets of Los Angeles. Once I figured out the answer here, this clue made me laugh. I'm here to tell you that if you live long enough, remembering your actual AGE is sometimes a challenge! One month before my 46th birthday, it dawned on me that I was getting ready to turn 46 ... only, I had spent the last 11 months seriously thinking I was 46. I've had a few more birthdays since then, and never forgotten my actual AGE for quite that long a time since then, but I do pause and do the math to check now when I'm asked my AGE.
  • HAT (37A: "Finishing the ___" (Sondheim song)) Sunday in the Park with George is a 1983 musical by Stephen Sondheim. The musical was inspired by Georges Seurat's painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (which I have previously written about), and centers around George, a fictionalized version of Seurat. "Finishing the HAT" is a song sung by George in Act I. Mandy Patinkin originated the role of George when Sunday in the Park with George premiered on Broadway. In 2010, he sang "Finishing the HAT" at a celebration of Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday, Sondheim! The Birthday Concert. Appropriately, Stephen Sondheim's 2010 memoir is titled Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines, and Anecdotes. The second volume of the memoir – published in 2011 – is titled Look, I Made a Hat: Collected Lyrics (1981-2011) with Attendant Comments Amplifications, Dogmas, Harangues, Wafflings, Diversions and Anecdotes. (I adore a good subtitle.)

Random Thoughts & Interesting Things

  • WHITE CASTLE (20A: Fast-food chain with square sliders) The fast-food restaurant, WHITE CASTLE, was founded in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas. WHITE CASTLE's signature is their small, square hamburgers, known as sliders. The sliders were originally priced at five cents each. I haven't been to a WHITE CASTLE in many years, but I do know the prices have increased a bit since 1921.
  • OR A (23A: "Would you like a cup ___ cone?") Are you a cup OR A cone person when ordering ice cream? I'm firmly in the cup category. I like to let my ice cream soften and get a tad melty for full enjoyment, and that's a bit messy with a cone.
  • TEN (33A: 2-Down, in a date) and OCT (2D: World Animal Day mo.) October (OCT.) is month number TEN. It's fun to see these two clues linked together. World Animal Day is an international observance held annually on OCT. 4, which is the feast day of Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. The day puts a focus on animal rights and animal welfare. My cat, Willow asserts that every day is animal day.

off the grid: sally breaks down usa today's daily crossword puzzle, how's it goin'?

Willow celebrating her self-declared holiday

  • ONO (41A: Fish also known as wahoo) ONO is the Hawaiian name for the wahoo, a fish found in tropical and subtropical areas. In Hawaiian, "ONO" means "delicious," or "good to eat."
  • NPR (45A: "Consider This" network) "Consider This" is a short (10-15 minutes per episode) NPR podcast. New episodes are released daily Sunday through Friday evenings. About "Consider This," NPR says, "The hosts of NPR's All Things Considered help you make sense of a major news story and what it means for you."
  • CHU (46A: "In the Heights" director Jon) In the Heights is a 2005 musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda. It was adapted into a musical film of the same name in 2021. The movie was directed by Jon CHU. In the Heights is set in Washington Heights, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan that has a large Dominican community. (Note: There was a typo in the puzzle; in the clue here, I've used the spelling of Jon that Jon Chu uses.)
  • ARE (48A: "The Mirror in Which Two ___ Seen as One" (Adrienne Rich poem) Adrienne Rich (1929-2012) was a poet, essayist, and feminist. In 1997, she declined the National Medal of Arts to protest a House of Representatives' vote to end the National Endowment for the Arts. "The Mirror in Which Two ARE Seen as One," is a poem from Adrienne Rich's 1973 poetry collection, Diving into the Wreck. You can listen to Adrienne Rich read "The Mirror in Which Two ARE Seen as One," which is part of the University of Arizona's Poetry Center Audiovisual Archive.
  • ARGENTINIAN (55A: Like someone from Buenos Aires) Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina. It is located on the southeastern coast of South America.
  • IRENE (65A: "Fame" singer Cara) IRENE Cara (1959-2022) sang "Fame," the theme song for the movie and TV series of the same name. ("...Remember my name, fame / I'm gonna live forever/ I'm gonna learn how to fly, high...") IRENE Cara also co-wrote and sang the song "Flashdance... What a Feeling."
  • GAS (1D: Makeup of four planets in our solar system) A GAS giant is a planet with a relatively small core of rock or metal (or GAS compressed into a liquid state), with gases such as hydrogen and helium making up the bulk of the planet's atmosphere. In contrast to rocky planets, GAS giants do not have a well-defined surface. The four GAS giants in our solar system are Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, and Jupiter. Hooray for science in the crossword!
  • RAPINOE (24D: Soccer legend Megan) Megan RAPINOE is a former professional soccer player. She played on the U.S. national team from 2006-2023. She also played for the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) team, Seattle Reign FC, from 2013-2023. In addition to soccer, Megan RAPINOE is also known for her advocacy, especially for the LGBTQIA+ community.
  • ARIEL (43D: Disney mermaid played by Halle Bailey) Halle Bailey plays the role of ARIEL in the live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid (2023).
  • RICE (56D: Grain sometimes used to dry out a cellphone) Even though I have never dropped my phone in water, reading this clue caused me some anxiety! Putting a wet phone in RICE to dry it out has been advice passed around for many years, but companies don't recommend the practice.
  • A few other clues I especially enjoyed:
    • FORCE (68A: "Use the ___, Luke")
    • GUAC (7D: Taco add-on that might cost extra)
    • ENGAGEMENT RINGS (8D: They might be exchanged after mutual proposals)

Crossword Puzzle Theme Synopsis

There's no theme today, as this is a freestyle, or themeless puzzle. The title, HOW'S IT GOIN'?, is a nod to the grid art today, as this puzzle is greeting us with the word HI formed by its black squares.

This is some beautiful grid art! It was so fun to open the puzzle and be greeted with a big "HI." All of the grid-spanning answers were excellent: THE WAY I LOOK AT IT, ENGAGEMENT RINGS, UNDER THE COUNTER, and I STILL DON'T GET IT. Thank you, Amanda, for this friendly and entertaining puzzle. One more thing: a reminder that today at 11:00 a.m. ET (10:00 a.m. CT, 9:00 a.m. MT, 8:00 a.m. PT), Jen Hefty, the Local Audience director for USA Today will be live-streaming her solve of the crossword on the USA TODAY TikTok channel. If you're reading this before then, I invite you to tune in and help her solve.

For more on USA TODAY’s Crossword Puzzles

    This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, How's It Goin'?

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