Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, Coming Up for Air

There are spoilers ahead. You might want to solve today's puzzle before reading further! Coming Up for Air

Constructor: Joe Rodini

Editor: Jared Goudsmit

June 13, 2024
June 13, 2024

What I Learned from Today’s Puzzle

  • INCAN (57A: Like the god Illapa) In INCAN mythology, Illapa was the god of thunder, lightning, rain, and war. It was believed that Illapa had absolute control of the weather. Illapa was said to manifest itself in the earthly forms of a PUMA or a hawk.

  • POLO (63A: Sport similar to dakyu) POLO is a sport played on horseback. Riders use long-handled wooden mallets to hit a ball into a goal. (This I knew.) Dakyu is an East Asian equestrian sport in which horseback riders attempt to get a number of balls into a circular goal. (This I learned.)

  • ARM (8D: Limb for a pra jiad) A pra jiad is a type of armband. It is worn by Muay Thai athletes. Muay Thai, sometimes referred to as Thai boxing, is a combat sport and martial art. Some Muay Thai fighters wear a pra jiad on one ARM, while some wear them on both ARMs. The pra jiad is intended to give confidence and luck to those that wear them, and is often made by a family member.

Random Thoughts & Interesting Things

  • ASIA (14A: Fuzhou's continent) Fuzhou is the capital of China's Fujian province. This is the first time we've seen our crossword-friend ASIA this month.

  • ARCH (16A: St. Louis landmark) Construction of the St. Louis Gateway ARCH was completed in 1965. The ARCH was designed by Eero Saarinen, whose design was chosen in a competition. Here's an interesting story: In the design competition, there were 172 submissions, including the one from Eero Saarinen, and one from his father, Eliel Saarinen. A jury selected five finalists, and when telegrams were sent out to inform the finalists, a telegram was sent to Eliel Saarinen, who at the time was more well-known than his son. Two hours after the telegram arrived, a representative from the competition called to correct the mistake. Oops!

  • SIGMA (18A: Letter after rho) Here's an opportunity to review the Greek alphabet. SIGMA is the 18th of the Greek alphabet's 24 letters. As the clue informs us, the letter rho precedes SIGMA. The letters following SIGMA are tau, upsilon, phi, chi, psi, and omega.

  • LEIS (27A: Garlands on 34-Down) and OAHU (34D: Island near Kauai) OAHU and Kauai are two of the eight major volcanic islands that make up the state of Hawai'i. OAHU is the third-largest of the Hawaiian islands, and Kauai is the fourth-largest.

  • AGRA (28A: Indian city home to Anguri Bagh) Anguri Bagh is a garden located on the AGRA Fort premises. (AGRA Fort is a historical site in the Indian city of AGRA.) The Anguri Bagh, also known as the "Garden of Grapes," was established in 1647 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.

  • CONAN (33A: O'Brien who went viral after appearing on "Hot Ones") Hot Ones is a YouTube talk show hosted by Sean Evans, who interviews guests while they eat increasingly spicy chicken wings. A couple of months ago, the Hot Ones guest was TV host and comedian CONAN O'Brien. The video of the CONAN Hot Ones episode went viral and has been viewed over 10 million times.

  • PUMAS (41A: Big cats, or athletic shoes) My cat, Willow, is a fan of her big cat cousins receiving a mention in the crossword. Every once in a while, Willow likes to adopt what my husband and I refer to as her "big cat" pose. Perhaps she's pretending she's a PUMA hanging out in a tree.

Willow's big cat pose
Willow's big cat pose
  • DUBAI (42A: Jumeirah Mosque's city) Jumeirah Mosque is located in DUBAI in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The mosque was a gift from Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum (the former ruler of DUBAI) to his son (and the current ruler), Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Jumeirah Mosque opened in 1979. The mosque has an "Open Doors, Open Minds" policy, and tours of the mosque are designed to educate non-Muslim visitors about Islam and Arab culture.

  • BIG BIRD (48A: Muppet whose cousin Garibaldo has blue feathers) BIG BIRD is, of course, the eight-foot-two-inch-tall yellow Muppet character that lives on Sesame Street. Garibaldo is BIG BIRD's cousin who appears in the Brazilian production of Sesame Street, called Vila Sésamo. Garibaldo used to be blue, but in 2007, the character received a makeover and now has yellow feathers like BIG BIRD.

  • OHIO (59A: Maya Lin's birth state) Architect, designer, and sculptor Maya Lin was born in Athens, OHIO. Maya Lin's works include the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982), the Civil Rights Memorial (1989), and "A Fold in the Field," which I wrote about a few days ago.

  • ACAI (60A: Feira do ___ (berry market in Brazil)) The Feira do AÇAÍ is located in the city of Belém in the Brazilian state of Pará. It is an open air market and public trading post. About 820 thousand tons of AÇAÍ are produced in the state of Pará each year.

  • JADA (1D: "Gotham" actress ___ Pinkett Smith) The TV series Gotham, based on the DC comics characters in the Batman stories, originally aired from 2014-2019. JADA Pinkett Smith portrayed the character Fish Mooney in the shows first three seasons.

  • LINCOLN MEMORIAL (3D: Monument where the "I Have a Dream" speech was delivered) The LINCOLN MEMORIAL, which honors Abraham LINCOLN, the 16th president of the United States, is located on one end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech at the LINCOLN MEMORIAL on August 28, 1963.

  • STAR TREK (9D: TV show in which Kirk and Uhura kiss) In the third season of STAR TREK: The Original Series in an episode called "Plato's Stepchildren," the characters Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and Captain Kirk (William Shatner) kissed. Although this wasn't the first interracial kiss on television (as is sometimes claimed), it was nonetheless significant. The episode aired just a year after the Supreme Court ruling striking down nationwide laws that prohibited interracial marriage. Producers were nervous about how the scene would be received, and decided to film two options, one of which replaced the kiss with an embrace. However, William Shatner deliberately crossed his eyes in the non-kiss take, forcing the use of the take that included the kiss.

  • SALTY (10D: Like tarako and pretzels) The word "tarako" means "salted cod roe" in Japanese. Tarako is the roe of Alaska pollock, which is a species of cod. Although the knotted pastry known as pretzels can have a variety of toppings, salt is one of the most common.

  • COMO (35D: "___ esta usted?") "COMO esta usted?" means "How are you?" in Spanish. This is the second day in a row the puzzle has inquired after my well-being. Yesterday we saw this phrase used to clue ESTA. Maybe tomorrow we will see it used to clue usted.

  • A couple of other answers I especially enjoyed

    • BUTT DIAL (38D: Accidentally call)

    • DIBS (42D: "I call it!")

Crossword Puzzle Theme Synopsis

  • LINCOLN MEMORIAL (3D: Monument where the "I Have a Dream" speech was delivered)

  • VEGETARIAN BACON (7D: Plant-based breakfast option)

  • TRIAL MEMBERSHIP (11D: It gives you temporary access to a product)

Each vertical theme answer contains the word AIR reading UP: LINCOLN MEMORIAL, VEGETARIAN BACON, and TRIAL MEMBERSHIP. The word AIR is also COMING UP in the grid moving from left to right.

It's fun to have three grid-spanning theme answers today. I liked seeing the movement of the word AIR rising UPward in the grid. Thank you, Joe, for this enjoyable puzzle.

For more on USA TODAY’s Crossword Puzzles

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Crossword Blog & Answers for June 13, 2024 by Sally Hoelscher