Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, In the Weeds

There are spoilers ahead. You might want to solve today's puzzle before reading further! In the Weeds

Constructor: Jess Rucks

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

June 25, 2024
June 25, 2024

Comments from Today’s Crossword Constructor

Jess: I don't typically make themed crosswords, so I'm excited to have the chance to lean into them more in USA Today! I love it when everyday phrases make it into grids, so I'm especially pleased with WELL I'LL BE DARNED (I'm from the Midwest, so this is def a common phrase in my world!). Additionally, for various reasons, I'm happy to have ADORKABLE, JOIN THE CLUB, ADOPT, and ABUELA in the puzzle! Hope you enjoy!

What I Learned from Today’s Puzzle

  • DAL (40D: ___ tadka) DAL are dried, split legumes (lentils, peas, and beans). This I knew, but the dish DAL tadka is new to me. In Indian cuisine, DAL tadka is a dish of cooked lentils, which is finished with a tempering of ghee and spices.

Random Thoughts & Interesting Things

  • TAO (4A: Concept in Chinese philosophy) In the TAO Te Ching, a fundamental test for Taoism, TAO is described as the natural order of the universe.

  • BOARD (15A: Part of many tabletop games) I'm always happy to see a BOARD game reference.

  • DEBUNK (22A: Bust, like myths) This clue reminded me of the Discovery Channel TV series Mythbusters, which originally aired from 2003-2016. On the show, hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage would test myths, often with elaborate setups. At the end of the episode, myths would be declared Busted (i.e. DEBUNKed), Plausible, or Confirmed. Some of the nearly 1,000 myths tested during the shows run included: whether a falling icicle can kill a person (confirmed), whether elephants are scared of mice (plausible), and whether a car can be driven into a fruit stand and continue to drive away afterwards, as seen in some movies (busted).

  • JON (24A: Jazz-pop musician Batiste) JON Batiste is a singer, songwriter, bandleader, and composer. From 2015-2022, he was the bandleader and musical director on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. This answer reminded me of the animated movie Soul (which I have written about previously). JON Batiste co-composed the score for the movie, and he was used for the animation of the movie's musical sequences. The 2023 documentary American Symphony follows a year in JON Batiste's life – a year in which he was nominated for 11 Grammy Awards, and his wife, author Suleika Jaouad, faced leukemia.

  • TOY DOG (46A: Affenpinscher or Chihuahua, e.g.) The Affenpinscher is a German TOY DOG breed. Affenpinschers are generally 9-12 inches tall and weigh 7-10 pounds. They have a shaggy coat that is usually black. The Chihuahua is a Mexican TOY DOG breed. Among the smallest of DOG breeds, Chihuahuas are generally 5-8 inches tall and weigh less than six pounds.

  • SLOTH (48A: Mammal that's faster in water than on land (which isn't saying much)) Well, here's a fun animal fact. I've never given thought to whether or not a SLOTH can swim. I usually think of them hanging from a tree branch. On land, a SLOTH moves at an average speed of 13 feet per minute. (This is not very fast at all. I have previously done an experiment and discovered that my normal, unhurried walking pace is 12 times faster than a SLOTH.) In the water, a SLOTH may attain a speed of 44 feet per minute. So in the water a SLOTH can move a little over three times as fast as on land. Though, as the clue says, that's not saying much.

  • ALBA (62A: "Dark Angel" actress Jessica) In the TV series, Dark Angel (2000-2002), Jessica ALBA portrays Max Guevara, a genetically enhanced transgenic supersoldier created in a government lab. The year the season premiered, Jessica ALBA won a Saturn Award for the Best Actress on Television. The Saturn Awards honor the best in science fiction, fantasy and horror.

  • MIAMI (63A: Setting for "Jane the Virgin") In the TV series Jane the Virgin (2014-2019), the title character is a 23-year-old Latina virgin (portrayed by Gina Rodriguez) who becomes pregnant after being accidentally artificially inseminated. The show is set in MIAMI, Florida, although it was filmed in California.

  • LOVE (64A: "I ___ you, it's ruining my life") "I LOVE you, it's ruining my life," is a lyric from Taylor Swift's song "Fortnight." The song features Post Malone, and is from Taylor Swift's album, The Tortured Poets Department, which was released in April of this year.

  • GUAM (65A: Island home to Chamorro culture) The Chamorro are the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands, an archipelago in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. GUAM is the largest and southernmost island of the Marianas. GUAM is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States. The capital of GUAM is Hagåtña.

  • ROSE BOWL (3D: College football event founded to fund a same-day parade) I guess I've never really thought about which came first, the ROSE BOWL or the ROSE Parade, so this was interesting to me. The ROSE Parade is produced by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, and was first held on January 1, 1890. It was 12 years later, in 1902, that the ROSE BOWL college football game was added in order to help fund the parade. The ROSE Parade has been held annually in Pasadena, California since 1890, with the exceptions of 1942, 1943, and 1945 during World War II and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • LORD (8D: ___ Farquaad ("Shrek" antagonist)) In the 2001 animated movie Shrek, LORD Maximus Farquaad is the short-statured, ruthless ruler of Duloc. The character of LORD Farquaad is voiced by John Lithgow.

  • OLDER (25D: Like the guests vis-a-vis the host on the podcast "Wiser Than Me") Wiser Than Me is a podcast hosted by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. On each episode, Julia Louis-Dreyfus interviews a well-known woman. Most of the guests are over 70 years of age, making them OLDER than Julia Louis Dreyfus, who is 63. Guests have included Julie Andrews, Vera Wang, Sally Field, and Amy Tan. At the end of each episode of Wiser Than Me, Julia Louis-Dreyfus calls her mom (who is 90) to tell her about the interview. I was introduced to the podcast, Wiser Than Me, a couple of months ago, and I really enjoy it. I appreciate the way it focuses the spotlight on older women, a group who are sometimes treated as invisible in our society.

  • NEEDY (26D: Like a pet that's glued to you 24/7) This clue/answer pair made me laugh. One of the nicknames my husband and I use for our cat, Willow, is "NEEDY kitty." You may remember meeting Jess's cat, MILO, earlier this year. Jess did not tell me whether Milo is NEEDY, but she did kindly share another photo of Milo.

  • A few other answers I especially enjoyed:

    • CAJOLE (29A: Use flattery)

    • ADORKABLE (5D: Delightfully nerdy)

    • JOIN THE CLUB (24D: "You're not the only one")

    • I FOUND IT (38D: "Eureka!")

Crossword Puzzle Theme Synopsis

  • WE WERE ROBBED (19A: "That should have been our victory!")

  • WELL I'LL BE DARNED (37A: "Wonders never cease!")

  • WENT UNNOTICED (55A: Flew under the radar)

Each theme answer is contained IN THE word WEED: WE WERE ROBBED, WELL I'LL BE DARNED, and WENT UNNOTICED.

I usually think of being IN THE WEEDS (so swamped with something it's difficult to focus on what needs to be done) as undesirable. However, IN THE WEEDS makes a delightful theme for today's puzzle. My favorite theme answer here is "WELL I'LL BE DARNED!" Thank you, Jess, for this delightful puzzle.

For more on USA TODAY’s Crossword Puzzles

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Crossword Blog & Answers for June 25, 2024 by Sally Hoelscher