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Off the Grid: Sally breaks down ˽ýӳ's daily crossword puzzle, Hey Siri

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

Constructor: Rachel Fabi

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

March 31, 2024

What I Learned from Today’s Puzzle

  • C-SPAN (29A: "Booknotes" channel) Booknotes is a TV series that originally aired on C-SPAN from 1989-2004. The show was hosted by Brian Lamb, and each episode was a one-on-one interview with a non-fiction author. are available online.
  • SYRIAN HAMSTER (37A: Golden rodent often kept as a pet) Just for fun, I said to my phone, "HEY, SIRI, tell me about the SYRIAN HAMSTER." I learned that the native range of the SYRIAN HAMSTER, also known as the golden HAMSTER, is northern Syria and southern Turkey. In the wild, SYRIAN HAMSTERs are considered endangered, but (as the clue informs us) captive-bred SYRIAN HAMSTERs are often kept as house pets.

Random Thoughts & Interesting Things

  • CEREAL BOXES (17A: Breakfast containers that may contain decoder rings) A is a simple device that can be used to create or decipher a coded message based on a substitution cipher. In the mid-1900s through the early 2000s, decoder rings were one of the toys that companies included in CEREAL BOXES as marketing items to increase sales of their products. Although some CEREAL BOXES still include toys, it's a much less common practice these days. In reminiscing about decoder rings, I came across a photo of a that's in the Smithsonian American Art Museum collection. It has four figures on it that function as handles. I would like to find a ring like this one in my CEREAL BOX.
  • CHU (19A: "Wicked" director Jon) Jon CHU is a director, producer, and screenwriter. He directed the 2018 movie Crazy Rich Asians. He is directing the two-part movie adaptation of the musical Wicked. The first part of Wicked is scheduled to be released in November of this year. I have seen the musical Wicked multiple times, and will be interested to see how it's adapted for the big screen.
  • OPI (28A: Nail polish brand with the color "Como se Llama?") If you're wondering what color OPI's nail polish is, it's burgundy. "Como se llama?" is Spanish for "What's it called?"
  • HEEL (50A: Vulnerable body part for Achilles) Achilles is a warrior hero in Greek mythology. The story is that when Achilles was an infant, his mother held him by one of his heels and dipped him in the river Styx in order to make him invulnerable. His one spot of weakness was his heel that did not touch the water. It is from this myth that we get the phrase "Achilles' heel," which is used to refer to a point of weakness. The Achilles tendon, located near the ankle in the human body, is also named from this legend.
  • GAG (51A: "___ me with a spoon!") This clue took me right back to the early 1980s – my high school years! The Valspeak phrase, "GAG me with a spoon!" means, "I'm disgusted." Valspeak is a dialect stereotypical of Southern California valley girls in the 1980s.
  • SERIOUS EATS (59A: Food and drink website with the "Food Lab" column) is a website and blog created by food critic and author Ed Levine. "The Food Lab" column on SERIOUS EATS is written by J. Kenji López-Alt, who wrote a book based on the column. Published in 2015, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, won a James Beard Foundation Award for the best General cooking cookbook.
  • BBC (1D: "Call the Midwife" network) Call the Midwife is a BBC TV series about a group of midwives working in London in the late 1950s and 1960s. The show premiered in 2012, and is in its 13th season. In the United States, the show airs on PBS. The series was originally based on Jennifer Worth's memoir about an Anglican religious order founded as a nursing order in 1849, though the storylines have now expanded beyond the memoir.
  • ACLU (5D: Org. that defends individual rights) The  (ACLU) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization founded in 1920. The ACLU believes "every person in this country should have the same basic rights, and works to "defend the rights of all people nationwide."
  • ROBE (6D: Part of an RBG costume) Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) (1933-2020) was an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1993 until her death. During her time on the Supreme Court, she was known for accessorizing her black ROBE with beaded or lace collars. Here's some advice from RBG: "Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you."
  • CHO (7D: John who played Lt. Sulu in the Kelvin timeline) The proximity of this answer to CHU in the grid made me realize that although I'm familiar with both Jon CHU and John CHO, I've never thought about how similar their names are. John CHO is known for portraying Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu in the 2009 movie Star Trek, which was a reboot of the original Star Trek TV series with a new cast. John CHO also played Harold Lee in the Harold & Kumar films.
  • SOCCER (11D: Trinity Rodman's sport) Trinity Rodman is a professional soccer player for National Women's Soccer League's (NWSL) Washington Spirit. She is the youngest player to be drafted in NWSL history, having been drafted by the Washington Spirit in 2021 when she was 18 years old. Her first season she was named NWSL Rookie of the Year and U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year.
  • AC/DC (18D: "Hells Bells" band) "Hells Bells" is a 1980 song by AC/DC. It's the first track on their album, Back in Black.
  • SPARTA (22D: Rival of Athens) In ancient Greece, SPARTA and Athens were rivals, vying for political dominance. The two cities were the principal parties in the Pelopennesian War (431-404 BCE), each aided by their own allies. SPARTA was the victor of that war. Just ten years later, the Corinthian War (394-386 BCE) helped Athens regain its independence. In modern-day Greece, Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece, with an urban population of over three million people. SPARTA is a city with a metropolitan area of less than 20,000 people.
  • PANERA (31D: Chain originally called "St. Louis Bread Company") PANERA Bread began in Kirkwood, Missouri (a suburb of St. Louis), as St. Louis Bread Company. In the greater St. Louis area, the restaurant chain still operates as St. Louis Bread Company.
  • URSULA (34D: "The Little Mermaid" villain) Two days ago we saw ARIEL clued as [Disney princess who makes a deal with Ursula]. Now URSULA is getting her turn in the grid.
  • EL DORADO (39D: Mythical city of gold) There is a legend that tells of a golden city – EL DORADO – located somewhere in the Americas. Stories of EL DORADO were first reported in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, but although many have searched for this mythical city, none have found it.
  • ETS (43D: Creatures from space (Abbr.)) This clue reminded me of the E.T.s we saw in last Thursday's puzzle.
  • RTS (60D: "___ are not endorsements") RTS here stands for "retweets." Some users of X (formerly known as Twitter) add the statement, "RTS are not endorsements," to their bio as a disclaimer.
  • SNL (63D: Punkie Johnson's show, for short) has been a cast member on Saturday Night Live (SNL, for short) since 2020.

Crossword Puzzle Theme Synopsis

  • CEREAL BOXES (17A: Breakfast containers that may contain decoder rings)
  • SYRIAN HAMSTER (37A: Golden rodent often kept as a pet)
  • SERIOUS EATS (59A: Food and drink website with the "Food Lab" column)

Each theme answer begins with the sound "SIRI" spelled in a different way.

This is a fun "sounds like" theme. Although the spellings are all different, the first two syllables of the words CEREAL, SYRIAN, and SERIOUS are all pronounced the same, and all pronounced like the word SIRI. Thank you, Rachel, for this delightful puzzle.

For more on ˽ýӳ’s Crossword Puzzles

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