Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, Home Stretch (2024)

Sally Hoelscher, USA TODAY

·4-min read

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

Constructor: Freddie Cheng

Editor: Anna Gundlach

What I Learned from Today’s Puzzle

  • KANE (67A: Poet Joan) Joan Naviyuk KANE is an Inupiaq poet, novelist, and teacher. Her most recent collection of poetry, published in 2023, is titled Ex Machina. Earlier this month, I wrote about former U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo, and her signature project, Living Nations, Living Words: A Map of First Peoples Poetry. In learning about Joan KANE, I discovered that she contributed to the Living Nations, Living Words project.

  • TRICIA (3D: Actress Helfer who played Number Six on "Battlestar Galactica") As the clue informs us, TRICIA Helfer portrayed Number Six – one of several sentient robots known as Cylons – on Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009). She also portrayed the character of Charlotte Richards/Goddess in the TV series Lucifer (2016-2021).

Random Thoughts & Interesting Things

  • MCRIB (19A: Seasonal Golden Arches sandwich) Fans of the MCRIB, a barbecue-flavored pork sandwich, are probably aware that it is generally available in the fall at most McDonald's restaurants. The MCRIB is a permanent menu item at McDonald's in Germany and Luxembourg.

  • HOCKEY GAME (20A: Blue Jackets vs. Red Wings match) The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Detroit Red Wings are National HOCKEY League (NHL) teams.

  • CAVERNS (33A: Sites for spelunkers) Spelunkers are people who explore CAVERNS (also known as caves). CAVERNS are interesting, but spelunking is not for those who are claustrophobic, or afraid of heights, darkness, or bugs.

  • EPOCH (37A: Noteworthy time span) and ERA (22D: Noteworthy time span) When two answers in a puzzle are clued in the same way (or with similar wording), that's referred to as a clue echo. Clue echoes may induce a feeling of déjà vu, "Haven't I already answered this clue?"

  • NAP (47A: Word after "cat" or "power") My cat, Willow, insists that any catNAP is a power NAP. In this photo, she's illustrating how she keeps her tail in check while she NAPs, by placing a paw on top of it.

Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, Home Stretch (2)

  • ERIE (63A: Cleveland's Great Lake) Hello to our crossword-friend, ERIE! Cleveland, Ohio is located in the northeastern part of Ohio, along the shores of Lake ERIE. It is the largest city on Lake ERIE.

  • CLAP (64A: Give a hand with both hands) I enjoyed this playful clue.

  • NERD PROM (10D: Facetious term for the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner) The White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) is an organization of journalists who cover news concerning the White House and the president of the United States. The White House Correspondents' Dinner, also known as NERD PROM, is an annual event, and is traditionally (but not always) attended by the president and vice president. The event, which includes pre and post parties that extend over a period of several days, has been criticized for being more focused on the guest list and extravagance, than on raising money for scholarships. A documentary about the dinner that was released in 2015 is titled NERD PROM: Inside Washington's Wildest Week.

  • MOE (31D: One of the Three Stooges) The vaudeville and comedy trio known as The Three Stooges consisted of MOE Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Howard. (This was the lineup from 1932-1946. The third Stooge was also played at various times by Shemp Howard, Joe Besser and "Curly Joe" DeRita.) Out of MOE, Larry, and Curly, MOE is the only name that fits here.

  • VR HEADSETS (32D: Meta Quest products) Meta Quest is a line of VR (virtual reality) HEADSETS. These VR HEADSETS provide users with an immersive experience that gives the sense of being in a virtual world.

  • MIA (43D: "The L Word" actress Kirshner) MIA Kirshner played the role of Jenny Schecter in the TV showThe L Word (2004-2009). She also played Amanda Grayson inStar Trek: Discovery (2017-2019) and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (2023).

  • YEW (46D: Wood used to make bows) YEW is among the hardest of the woods classified as softwoods. YEW wood has elasticity, making it ideal for making bows.

  • BEEPER (51D: Cellphone predecessor) I am old enough to have experienced carrying a BEEPER before the time of cell phones. On one memorable occasion when I was on call, my BEEPER went off while I was stuck in traffic leaving an event. With no way to respond and let them know where I was, my BEEPER went off multiple times before I could get to a telephone. I don't miss those days.

Crossword Puzzle Theme Synopsis

  • HOCKEY GAME (20A: Blue Jackets vs. Red Wings match)

  • HOUSEHOLD NAME (38A: Celebrity that most people have heard of)

  • HOW SILLY OF ME (57A: "Duh, I'm so dumb!")

Each theme answer begins with the letters HO- and ends with the letters -ME, thus STRETCHing the word HOME: HOCKEY GAME, HOUSEHOLD NAME, and HOW SILLY OF ME.

The title let me know exactly what to expect today. It's always gratifying to make a guess about the theme, and then uncover the first theme answer and realize, "I was right!" Congratulations to Freddie Cheng making a USA TODAY debut! Thank you, Freddie, for this enjoyable puzzle.

For more on USA TODAY’s Crossword Puzzles

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Crossword Blog & Answers for May 20, 2024 by Sally Hoelscher

Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, Home Stretch (2024)


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1 Start with the easiest-to-solve clues. 2 Move on to fill-in-the-blank clues. 3 Solve shorter answers next. 4 Use the puzzle's theme to solve clues.

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Look at each unsolved clue in turn, if you can solve it great, fill it in and move on. If not, see if you can form a guess as to what the answer could be. If you are not sure, fill in your guess lightly on the puzzle so that you can erase it if you do find that you are incorrect.

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Every puzzle usually has a small handful of fill-in-the-blanks, so if you're looking to get an early confidence boost, scan the list of clues for fill-in-the-blanks and knock them out early.

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However, many times the blank space can be filled in with two or more words. In easier crosswords, multiple words will be indicated with (2 words) or (2 wds.), but more often than not it will be up to the solver to determine how many words fill in the space. Another hint sometimes used in clues is (hyphenated).

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