Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, Bubble Pop (Freestyle)

There are spoilers ahead. You might want to solve today's puzzle before reading further! Bubble Pop (Freestyle)

Constructor: Dena R. Witkes

Editor: Anna Gundlach

June 14, 2024
June 14, 2024

What I Learned from Today’s Puzzle

  • TINA (8D: Talking Heads bassist Weymouth) Although I am familiar with the band Talking Heads, that familiarity did not extend to knowing the names of the band members, so I relied on the help of crossing answers here. Here's a fun thing that I learned: TINA Weymouth learned to play bass because Chris Frantz (a drummer who was her boyfriend at the time and later became her husband) and David Byrne (guitar and vocals) were unable to find a bassist to join their band. (Jerry Harrison rounded out the Talking Heads on keyboards and guitar.) Learning to play bass worked out well for TINA Weymouth. In 2002 the Talking Heads were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2020, Rolling Stone ranked TINA Weymouth as the 29th greatest bass player of all time.

  • VERA (42D: Pioneer in dark matter research Rubin) VERA Rubin (1928-2016) was an astronomer. Her observations provided evidence for the existence of dark matter (matter that appears not to interact with light). In other words, VERA Rubin's work confirmed that the majority of the mass in the universe is invisible. She is featured in the children's book The Stuff Between the Stars: How VERA Rubin discovered most of the universe. In addition to her work as an astronomer, VERA Rubin advocated for women in science, encouraging other women to enter fields like astronomy that have historically been male-dominated. VERA Rubin will be featured on a U.S. quarter in 2025, as part of the American Women Quarters Program. Hooray for science in the crossword! I was happy to learn about VERA Rubin today.

Random Thoughts & Interesting Things

  • HEMP (1A: Cannabis plant used for some nondairy milks) HEMP is a plant in the Cannabis class, and one of the fastest growing plants on Earth (along with bamboo). Although HEMP is related to marijuana, it has "about as much in common with [it] as a Brussels sprout does broccoli," as one Time article puts it. HEMP seeds can be used to make a plant-based milk, which has a creamier texture than soy milk.

  • INTO (16A: "Spider-Man: ___ the Spider-Verse") Spider-Man: INTO the Spider-Verse is a 2018 animated movie. The movie, which features several Spider-Man characters, won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

  • VENN (17A: ___ diagram) Many thanks to John VENN (1834-1923) the mathematician, logician, and philosopher who popularized the diagrams that bear his name. The use of VENN diagrams predates John VENN, but since he increased their popularity, they bear his name. VENN diagrams use circles to visually illustrate similarities and differences. The diagrams are useful, not only for visualizing serious interpretations of data, but also for conveying humorous content.

  • GAMER (32A: Passionate Xbox user) and NEWB (66A: Rookie, to a 32-Across) This was a fun clue pairing. I was able to fill in GAMER right away. When I came to 66-Across, however, although I knew the answer I only filled in the first and last letters. I never know whether this word is going to be spelled NEWB or noob. I've seen both in crosswords, so I played it safe here and waited for crossing answers to show me the spelling-of-the-day.

  • BATED (38A: Wait with ___ breath) The expression "wait with BATED breath" is one I use, but usually in a somewhat sarcastic or joking manner. "I will wait with BATED breath for that (unlikely event) to happen," for example.

  • BAHT (39A: Thai currency) The BAHT is the official currency of Thailand, a country in Southeast Asia. The capital of Thailand is Bangkok.

  • FAIRY (49A: Titania or Tinker Bell) Titania is a FAIRY in William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream. Tinker Bell is a FAIRY from J. M. Barrie's play (and its novelization) Peter Pan. Giving two examples in a clue means that a solver can be successful even if they are only familiar with one.

  • VAMPS (53A: Repeated musical sections) In music, VAMPS are repeating sections, which are often open to variation and improvisation.

  • OREO (63A: Cookie that is over 100 years old) Nabisco introduced the OREO onto the market on March 6, 1912, making it currently 112 years old. OREO is a copycat of the Hydrox cookie, which was introduced in 1908. OREO has become more popular than Hydrox, and is currently the best-selling cookie in the world.

  • HOV (1D: Hwy. lane type marked with a diamond) HOV stands for "high-occupancy vehicle." The abbreviation is used to indicate lanes reserved for use by vehicles with multiple passengers (including the driver).

  • PEN NAMES (4D: George Eliot and George Sand, e.g.) George Eliot was the PEN NAME of English writer Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880), whose novels include The Mill on the Floss (1860), and Silas Marner (1861). George Sand was the PEN NAME of French writer Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupen de Francueil (1804-1876). She wrote 70 novels, including La Mare au diable (1846) and La Petite Fadette (1849). She also wrote plays and political texts.

  • ODDLY SATISFYING (7D: Internet video genre with domino shows or hydraulic presses) ODDLY SATISFYING videos feature repetitive actions that viewers find pleasing. Some ODDLY SATISFYING videos include falling dominoes, things being destroyed by hydraulic presses, or slime bubbles being popped. Of these three examples, I definitely find the falling dominoes the most ODDLY SATISFYING. Your results may vary.

  • SAM (31D: ___-I-Am) SAM-I-Am is, of course, a character in Dr. Seuss' 1960 children's book, Green Eggs and Ham. "I do not like them, SAM-I-Am. I do not like green eggs and ham."

  • AUNTS (47D: Patty and Selma, to Bart and Lisa) In the animated sitcom The Simpsons, Patty and Selma are Marge Simpson's sisters. That makes them the AUNTS of Bart, Lisa, and Maggie Simpson.

  • STEW (55D: Ratatouille or bouillabaisse) Ratatouille is a STEW that contains vegetables – commonly tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, and peppers. Bouillabaisse is a fish STEW. Both ratatouille and bouillabaisse originate from France.

  • LEE (58D: "Problemista" actress Greta) Problemista is a 2023 movie about an aspiring toy designer from El Salvador (portrayed by Julio Torres) who is now living in New York City. Greta LEE also stars in the movie, along with Tilda Swinton and RZA. I just learned about Greta LEE a few weeks ago.

Crossword Puzzle Theme Synopsis

This is a freestyle, or themeless, puzzle, so there's no theme today. The title, BUBBLE POP, is a nod to ODDLY SATISFYING (7D: Internet video genre with domino shows or hydraulic presses).

Did you find this puzzle ODDLY SATISFYING? In addition to that great grid-spanner, I also enjoyed I NEED SPACE, BABYMOON, HOT-WIRED, and ON THAT NOTE. Thank you, Dena, for this SATISFYING puzzle.

For more on USA TODAY’s Crossword Puzzles

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Crossword Blog & Answers for June 14, 2024 by Sally Hoelscher