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Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, 'Amazing to see you!'

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

Constructor: Rafael Musa

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

April 14, 2024
April 14, 2024

What I Learned from Today’s Puzzle

  • CECIL (8A: Zimbabwean lion in 2015 news) CECIL was a lion that lived in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. In July 2015, CECIL was shot and killed by a recreational big-game trophy hunter from America. The killing made international news. CECIL was 13 years old when he died. He had been the subject of research in the park for over 10 years, and was a popular attraction for international visitors. The killing of CECIL received a lot of media attention amid questions about whether CECIL had been lured from the park and shot illegally. In 2021, National Geographic released a documentary about CECIL's life, CECIL: The Legacy of a King. I needed to rely on crossing answers to remember CECIL's name, though once I had it filled in, I remembered CECIL.

  • EDM (19A: Genre for Odesza (Abbr.))  EDM, or Electronic Dance Music, refers to percussive electronic music often made for nightclubs, raves, and festivals. Odesza is an EDM duo from the state of Washington that was formed in 2012.

  • ACCESS (1D: "Random ___ Memories" (Daft Punk album)) Speaking of electronic music, Daft Punk was an electronic music duo formed in Paris in 1993 and active until 2021. Daft Punk's members, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo assumed robot personas when they performed in order to preserve their identities. Random ACCESS Memories is Daft Punk's fourth and final studio album, released in 2013. The album won multiple Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. Although I'm familiar with Daft Punk, I did not know the name of this album. The answer was fairly inferable, however, since random-ACCESS memory, or RAM, is a computer term I'm familiar with.

  • ARTUR (7D: Houston Dynamo midfielder from Brazil) Houston Dynamo is a Major League Soccer (MLS) club. ARTUR has played for the Houston Dynamo since 2022. Prior to that, he played for the MLS team Columbus Crew (2017-2022) and São Paulo FC, a professional football (aka soccer in the U.S.) club in Brazil (2016-2017). Add ARTUR and the Houston Dynamo to the sports info I've learned from crossword puzzles.

Random Thoughts & Interesting Things

  • CAT PARENT (17A: Person responsible for a kitty) Regular readers of Off the Grid will know I am a CAT PARENT. I am not, however, sharing a photo of my CAT with you today. Today's constructor is also a CAT PARENT, and I asked him if he would share a photo of his CAT. Rafael Musa is a CAT PARENT to Georgia.

  • SLIT (23A: Narrow opening) and SLOT(58D: Narrow opening) I enjoyed the clue echo for these two similar words. These clues were far enough apart in the puzzle that when I encountered the clue for 58-Down, I thought, "SLIT – wait, haven't I already put SLIT in the puzzle? (glances upwards in the grid) Oh yes, must be SLOT."

  • MAREN (38A: Country singer Morris) MAREN Morris is a CMA (Country Music Association)-award-winning and Grammy-award-winning singer. Her hit songs include "I Could Use a Love Song" (2016), "Girl" (2019), and "The Bones" (2019). Last fall, MAREN Morris announced she was leaving country music because "I've said everything I can say." She later clarified she's not leaving country music completely, but feels she "cannot participate in the really toxic arms of this institution anymore."

  • CERISE (44A: Shade of red that is French for "cherry") CERISE is a popular lipstick color. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes CERISE as "a moderate red." The HTML Color Codes website describes CERISE as "a deep reddish-pink color."

  • E-WASTE (45A: Discarded tech products) E-WASTE, or electronic WASTE, refers to electronic products that have reached the end of their useful life, and are therefore discarded or given to a recycler. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "E-WASTE is the fastest growing solid WASTE stream in the world." You can learn more about "Cleaning up Electronic Waste (E-WASTE)" from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

  • TIER (56A: God ___ (highest level possible)) The term God TIER is used in anime to describe the strongest characters, and in video games to describe players at the highest level or levels of powers available to those characters. I learned this term from the March 27, 2021 puzzle.

  • MORELS (59A: Wrinkly-looking mushrooms) MORELS, which are indeed wrinkly-looking, are valued for their umami-rich flavor. MORELS need to be cooked prior to eating, as raw MORELS contain thermolabile toxins, poisonous substances that are destroyed by heat.

  • CAR (8D: "Getaway ___" (Taylor Swift song)) "Getaway CAR" is a song from Taylor Swift's 2017 album, Reputation. Taylor Swift's 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department is scheduled to be released on April 19.

  • CALAMARI (10D: Seafood often served fried) and I'VE EATEN (11D: "No food for me, thanks") It made me chuckle a bit to see these two clues next to each other. "No CALAMARI for me, thanks; I'VE EATEN."

  • TENNIS (24D: Rafael Nadal's sport) Rafael Nadal has won 22 Grand Slam men's single TENNIS titles. More importantly, he shares a first name with today's constructor. It always makes me smile when constructors manage to work their names into the clues or grid of a puzzle.

  • UFC (35D: MMA org.) The UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) is a Las Vegas-based company that promotes MMA (mixed martial arts). The UFC produces men's and women's MMA events worldwide.

  • HAWAIIAN (40D: Endangered language where "hello" is "aloha") HAWAIIAN is a Polynesian language; it takes its name from the island of Hawai'i. Along with English, HAWAIIAN is an official language of the U.S. state of Hawaii. Although in recent years there has been an increased awareness of the need to promote the HAWAIIAN language, UNESCO still classifies it as a critically endangered language.

  • ALS (66D: Ice Bucket Challenge cause) In the summer of 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral on social media in an attempt to promote awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS - also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) and to encourage donations for research.

  • A few other clues I especially enjoyed:

    • TIME-LAPSE (65A: Kind of video that appears highly sped-up)

    • HOT MIC (3D: Device that might broadcast a private moment)

    • PUP (21D: Baby doggo)

Crossword Puzzle Theme Synopsis

No theme today, as this is a themeless, or freestyle, puzzle. The title, "AMAZING TO SEE YOU!" is a nod to the grid-spanning central answer, "THANKS FOR COMING!"

There are so many great answers and clues in this themeless puzzle. This was not a surprise, as it is what I have come to expect when I see Rafael Musa's byline on a freestyle puzzle. I was tempted to discuss every entry today! In addition to the answers I've highlighted above, I also liked DIMPLE, CROSSOVER, PINATA, and NATURE. Thank you, Rafa, for this stellar puzzle.

For more on USA TODAY’s Crossword Puzzles

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