Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, Ham Sandwiches

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

Constructor: Chandi Deitmer

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

April 17, 2024
April 17, 2024

What I Learned from Today’s Puzzle

  • UMA (52A: "Gattaca" actor Thurman) Gattaca is a 1997 science fiction movie about a future society where genetic selection is used to make sure children inherit the best traits of their parents. The movie's title is based on the letters G, A, T, and C, representing the four bases of DNA: guanine, adenine, thymine, and cytosine. In this world, genetic discrimination against those that were not conceived using genetic selection is illegal, but happens anyway. UMA Thurman stars in the movie alongside Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, and Loren Dean.

Random Thoughts & Interesting Things

  • SEA (1A: Aegean or Adriatic, e.g.) The Aegean SEA is located off of the Mediterranean SEA, between Europe and Asia. The Aegean SEA borders Greece and Turkey. The Adriatic SEA is also an arm of the Mediterranean SEA. The Adriatic SEA is bordered by Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Albania.

  • ORES (8A: Resources earned from mountain territories in Catan) Catan is a board game that involves collecting and trading resources. The hexagonal tiles that form the game board depict terrains that produce different resources. As the clue informs us, ORES are produced by mountain tiles.

  • HANNAH STORM (19A: SportsCenter anchor who was the first play-by-play announcer for the WNBA) HANNAH STORM is one of the anchors of SportsCenter on ESPN. As the clue informs us, she was the first play-by-play announcer for the WNBA; that was in 1997. In 2018, HANNAH STORM was part of the first female duo, with Andrea Kremer, to call an NFL game. That occurred during Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime.

  • SITTERS (24A: Supervisors for kids or cats) As you've probably picked up on, I am a fan of inserting cat-content into a crossword whenever possible, and this clue made me smile. It just so happens that the person who is a SITTER for our cat, Willow, when my husband and I are away used to be a SITTER for our children when they were young. Here's a photo of Willow (looking especially cute, I think!) peeking out from the shower.

Willow peeking out of the shower
Willow peeking out of the shower
  • EST (26A: "___ 1892" (line on A&F shirts)) Ambercrombie & Fitch (A&F) is a clothing retailer. The company was founded in 1892, which is why many of their shirts have a line that reads "EST 1892." The abbreviation of the company's name in the clue alerts us that the answer will be an abbreviation.

  • MINI-ME (31A: Child who looks just like you) This is a fun answer. Genetics are an interesting thing, which reminds me of the clue for UMA that I discussed above.

  • HACKTIVISM (34A: Techie's means of promoting social change) HACKTIVISM is a portmanteau of the words "hack" and "activism." HACTIVISM refers to the use of hacking, or other computer-based techniques, as a form of civil disobedience in an attempt to advocate for social change.

  • RBG (45A: "Notorious" former justice) Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020), known as RBG, was a member of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1993-2020, and a life-long advocate for gender equality and women's rights. In 2013, Shana Khiznik (who was a law student at New York University), was inspired by a dissent written by Ruth Bader Ginsburg that defended voting rights, and created a Tumblr account as "the Notorious RBG." The nickname was a takeoff on the name of the rapper Notorious B.I.G. The nickname stuck, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg embraced it. In 1988, Shana Khiznik co-authored Notorious R.B.G.: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I will always be happy to see an RBG reference in a puzzle.

  • AVIARY (50A: Enclosure likely to have feathers on its floor) This clue threw me for a bit because I felt like I should know the answer but it was just out of my reach. "Bird cage," and "chicken coop," came to mind, but didn't fit. I was on the right track, however, and eventually crossing answers helped me get to AVIARY, a large enclosure for birds that provides space for them to fly.

  • EMUS (5D: Large birds with three toes) Speaking of birds, EMUS cannot fly, but they do have three toes on each foot. Ostriches, on the other hand, have two toes on each foot.

  • TAHOE (12D: Lake known for its nearby skiing) Lake TAHOE is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The lake straddles the state lines of California and Nevada.

  • MTV (21D: Network that aired "Cribs") Cribs is an MTV show that features tours of celebrity's private homes.

  • TITULAR (37D: ___ character (common protagonist)) Since I write about a number of TV shows, movies, and books that are mentioned in the puzzles, I feel like I use the phrase "TITULAR character" quite a bit. In fact, I used the phrase just yesterday!

  • NIH (42D: Bethesda-based research org.) The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is located in Bethesda, Maryland. The NIH, founded in the late 1880s, is the U.S. government agency responsible for biomedical and public health research.

Crossword Puzzle Theme Synopsis

  • HANNAH STORM (19A: SportsCenter anchor who was the first play-by-play announcer for the WNBA)

  • HACKTIVISM (34A: Techie's means of promoting social change)

  • HAPPY MEDIUM (53A: Reasonable compromise)

Each theme answer is SANDWICHed within the letters of the word HAM: HANNAH STORM, HACKTIVISM, and HAPPY MEDIUM.

Is anybody else hungry for a HAM SANDWICH? This is an enjoyable theme with an excellent set of theme answers. I wonder what other types of SANDWICHES would lend themselves to this type of theme – egg, BLT, club, perhaps? Thank you, Chandi, for this enjoyable puzzle.

For more on USA TODAY’s Crossword Puzzles

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Crossword Blog & Answers for April 17, 2024 by Sally Hoelscher