Off the Grid: Sally breaks down USA TODAY's daily crossword puzzle, Sink, Sank, Sunk

There are spoilers ahead. You might want to solve today's puzzle before reading further! Sink, Sank, Sunk

Constructor: Will Nediger

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

June 17, 2024
June 17, 2024

What I Learned from Today’s Puzzle

  • ALLYSIN KAY (17A: Wrestler with the ring name Sienna) ALLYSIN KAY is a professional wrestler. She has wrestled with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), Impact Wrestling, and on the independent circuit.

  • GHASSAN KANAFANI (32A: Palestinian author of "Men in the Sun") GHASSAN KANAFANI (1936-1972) is considered one of the world's leading Palestinian writers. Born in Mandatory Palestine (a geopolitical entity from 1920-1948), he and his family became refugees when he was 12 years old. Men in the Sun is a 1962 novel by GHASSAN KANAFANI. The book tells the story of three Palestinian refugees traveling from refugee camps in Iraq to Kuwait in hopes of finding work.

Random Thoughts & Interesting Things

  • SYRIA (1A: Aleppo's country) Aleppo, SYRIA is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It has been inhabited since the third millennium BCE (possibly since the sixth millennium BCE). Prior to the Syrian Civil War, Aleppo was SYRIA's largest city. Damascus, the capital of SYRIA, is now its largest city.

  • NALA (15A: Mufasa's daughter-in-law) I had to think about this one a minute. In Disney's The Lion King franchise, NALA eventually married Simba, who was the son of Mufasa. That makes NALA the daughter-in-law of Mufasa.

  • READ (19A: Crack open a book) I try to find time to READ every day; it's my favorite way to relax. The last two books I READ were recommended by my kids. Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron is a dystopian novel by Jasper Fforde. It takes place in an alternate version of the United Kingdom in which social rank is determined by the ability to perceive color. The book was originally published in 2009, and I READ it then at the recommendation of my son. I recently reread it in preparation to READ the long-awaited sequel that was recently released, Red Side Story. My other recent READ was a book loaned to me by my daughter. It's by Deanna Raybourn and is titled Killers of a Certain Age. I told my daughter that as a woman of a certain age (though not a killer!) I enjoyed this book that explores how the invisibility of older women could be a secret weapon. What have you READ recently?

  • LEBANON (28A: Country whose symbol is a cedar tree) LEBANON is a country in Western Asia. Beirut is its capital. The cedar tree is the national emblem of LEBANON, and is pictured on its flag. At one time, LEBANON was covered by large forests of cedar trees. Few old cedar trees remain, but reforestation efforts have resulted in over 600,000 trees (not all cedars) being planted since 2011.

  • FILL (37A: ___ in the blank) This may be my favorite FILL-in-the-blank clue ever!

  • HIJAB (57A: Headwear for Halima Aden) I first learned about Halima Aden from the May 17, 2021 puzzle. In 2019, Halima Aden modeled for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue wearing a HIJAB and a burkini. Prior to that, in 2016, Halima Aden competed in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. She was the first contestant in the pageant to wear a HIJAB. Halima Aden is Somali American. When she was seven years old, her family moved to the U.S. from a refugee camp in Kenya.

  • YOLO (2D: Daredevil's exclamation) YOLO = You Only Live Once

  • ROLL (3D: Throw a d12) A d12 is a 12-sided die. A d12 is a dodecahedron, and each face is a pentagon. Polyhedral dice such as the d12 are used in some role-playing, trading card, and board games.

  • PEN SPINNING (25D: Activity that involves deftly moving a writing instrument) PEN SPINNING is exactly what it sounds like. This clue reminded me of my son, who is skilled at PEN SPINNING. He tried to teach me how to do it once, but I would need a lot more practice to be able to do it without dropping the PEN. SPINNING a PEN is often used simply as a way to keep one's hands busy (perhaps during a meeting that could have been an email...). There are also competitions centered around PEN SPINNING.

  • NILE (31D: Africa's longest river) The NILE River is about 4,130 miles long. For comparison, the Mississippi River in the United States is approximately 2,340 miles long. The NILE travels through 11 countries in Africa: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan, and Egypt.

  • EAR (44D: Body part that some people can wiggle) About 10-20% of people can wiggle their EARs. Scientists think this trait may be left over from a time when moving one's EARs to detect which direction predators were coming from was a survival skill that helped one not get eaten.

  • L WORD (52D: "The ___: Generation Q") The L Word was a Showtime TV drama that aired from 2004-2009. The show featured the first ensemble cast of lesbian and bisexual characters. A sequel series, The L Word: Generation Q, aired from 2019 to January 2023.

  • SUMO (55D: Sport with a rikishi) Rikishi is a term for a professional SUMO wrestler. Rikishi live by a set of strict lifestyle rules, including growing their hair long.

  • JIM (59D: Astronaut Lovell who was played by Tom Hanks in "Apollo 13") JIM Lovell is a retired astronaut. In 1968 he was the command module pilot of Apollo 8, and along with Frank Borman and William Anders, was one of the first three astronauts to orbit the Moon. In 1970, JIM Lovell commanded the Apollo 13 lunar mission. Two days into that mission, an oxygen tank in the service module ruptured, requiring the mission to be aborted. Rather than landing on the Moon as intended, the crew looped around the Moon and returned safely to Earth. The 1995 movie Apollo 13 dramatized the Apollo 13 mission. The movie was based on a book by JIM Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger, titled Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13. As the clue informs us, Tom Hanks portrayed JIM Lovell in the movie.

Crossword Puzzle Theme Synopsis

  • ALLYSIN KAY (17A: Wrestler with the ring name Sienna)

  • GHASSAN KANAFANI (32A: Palestinian author of "Men in the Sun")

  • PARTS UNKNOWN (54A: An unspecified location)

Each of the words in the title – SINK, SANK, SUNK – are found hidden in one of the theme answers: ALLYSIN KAY, GHASSAN KANAFANI, and PARTS UNKNOWN.

The title of today's puzzle let me know just what to look for, theme-wise. I needed the help of crossing answers to uncover the new-to-me answers of ALLYSIN KAY and GHASSAN KANAFANI, but the crossings were fair and I'm always happy to learn new things from the crossword. I appreciate that the hidden words appear in the puzzle in the same order as the title: SINK, SANK, SUNK. Thank you, Will, for this enjoyable puzzle.

For more on USA TODAY’s Crossword Puzzles

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