WEDNESDAY, Apr. 25, 2007 - John Farmer

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Relative Difficulty: Medium high

THEME: QWERTY KEYBOARDS (7D: Places to find the letters circled in the grid) - 26 circles contain every letter of the alphabet, in approximately the same place on the grid as you would find those letters on a QWERTY KEYBOARD

At least the second keyboard-themed puzzle of the year. The last one had the three rows of letters as discrete entries (qwertyuiop, etc.), where here, letters are not in a row but in looser relationship to each other (I'm reminded of the Sunday puzzle several months back where state codes were placed on the grid roughly in relationship to where they'd be if the grid were an actual map of the U.S.). Anyway, I got caught off-guard by this puzzle, and for the first couple of minutes I was lost, wandering around the grid, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. My main problem was that the theme-revealing clue (7D: Places to find the letters circled in the grid) was phrased in a way that did not at all indicate letter placement. All I could think, even after I got QWERTY KEYBOARDS, was "so ... all 26 letters will be in here ... that's it?" You can find ANY letter in ANY grid on a QWERTY KEYBOARD, so ... no help. Truth be told, it wasn't til I was totally done that I noticed the significance of the circle placement.

Lots of trouble at the top of the grid, but for the second day in a row I feasted on the "Maryland" portion of the grid, which gave me traction, finally, and I was able to appreciate some of the niceness of the grid without the initial feeling of frustration at flailing around.

Two trouble spots

THE NORTHWEST

My studies tell me that 1A: King who united England (Edward) should have been ALFRED, which not only fits, but as you can see, shares several letters with the actual answers. So ALFRED went in and I went straight to work on the crosses ... and got zilch (even off of the correct letters). Moved over to 7A: Game period (qtr.) and wanted QTR but thought "no, that's stupid, that wouldn't be the answer." So I left it. Eventually got back into NW, but ONLY because I finally deciphered the first word in the answer to 17A: Teleologist's concern (ultimate purpose). I knew TELOS meant roughly "end point," but staring at ______TE PURPOSE was getting me nowhere. Finally got the (for some reason) elusive 6D: Bureau part (drawer), which gave me the "A" in ULTIMATE, and that was enough. Annoyed that I hadn't gotten WATTS (3D: Actress Naomi of "Mulholland Dr." - fantastic movie, btw), but would never in a million years have gotten AKIO (4D: Sony co-founder Morita) without the crosses. Always love the tricky cluing of QUAKER as 14A: Friend - but as with WATTS, was annoyed I hadn't thought of it more quickly. The most embarrassing moment for me, however, was being baffled by 1D: Like two dimes and four nickels (equal). I wanted TWENTY (wouldn't fit), then FORTY (seemed too lame), etc. etc.

THE NORTHEAST

The problems here begin with 10A: Hinged closer (hasp), where I fell right into the DOOR trap. When the obvious SASE (12D: MS. enclosure) made DOOR impossible, I didn't bother erasing DOOR completely, which ended up confusing me visually. Then when I saw 11D: On I immediately thought of the correct answer (ATOP), but somehow, in the chaos and dust and noise, I actually entered ON TOP ("ON" is not only in the clue, it is the clue, you moron!). So things were mangled up there in the NE. You can see why I moved to "Maryland." The NW and NE ended up being the last parts of the puzzle I solved (very much the opposite of normal).

Other Noteworthy Moments

26A: Part of the verb "to be," to Popeye ("yam") - sweeeeet answer. Comics and colloquialisms, two of my favorite puzzle categories, brought together in some kind of perfect, peanut butter-and-chocolate candy concoction. I have a gigantic book of early "Popeye" comics by my bedside - the first of many (gorgeous) volumes that will reprint the comic's entire run. "Dick Tracy" is getting similar treatment. Both are very, very highly recommended. Not only are the comics fantastic, but the books themselves are really beautiful - an important issue for me, as I am constantly lamenting how @#$#-ing ugly most books are these days.

44A: August 15, 1945 (VJ-Day) - damn that looks good in the grid. Nice, concise clue too.

48A: Carrier with the in-flight magazine Scanorama (SAS) - The "Scan-" part of the clue should've tipped me off, but it didn't. I am very bad at airline abbreviations (see my recent JAL problem). Had to get this all by crosses.

49A: Actress Gardner (Ava) - Hot hot hot. At least one of my readers (now a fellow blogger) is likely very happy today.

65A: Lamebrain, in slang (Nimrod)

Had NITWIT, but this is so much better. Wasn't NIMROD the "Mighty hunter before the Lord" in the Bible ... somewhere? How did NIMROD come to mean "lamebrain?" Well, after a little "research," this is the answer I found. If this is true (and even if it's not), this is officially the best bit of information I've ever learned from Wikipedia:

A nimrod may refer to a silly or foolish person. This usage most likely originated with the classic cartoon character Bugs Bunny, who referred to Elmer Fudd as a "poor little Nimrod." While this was most likely meant to refer to the biblical character of Nimrod, described as "a mighty hunter," the word came to connote one who was easily confounded.

68A: Oliver Twist an others (gamins) - Good, but I prefer to think of Twist and his ilk as URCHINS, which is one of the English language's finest words.

9D: Worker who makes rounds (route man) - what the hell is a ROUTE MAN? This is not a phrase I've ever heard (sounds like something you might call a wide receiver in football - or your postman, if you wanted to give him a nobler-sounding title).

34D: One-named singer with the 2001 hit "Thank You" - every bone in my body wanted this answer to be ENYA, before I'd even seen that the answer was in fact four letters long. I'd completely forgotten about DIDO, who has a pleasant if somewhat boring voice. Why would you call yourself DIDO!? Unless you are going to stab yourself atop a funeral pyre you've constructed yourself out of artifacts left behind by your faithless, epic-hero lover, you have no business using this name.

Finally, since they're standing right next to each other in the SE of the puzzle, I'd like to introduce two crossword staples to one another. Ahem: NIA, MIA. MIA, NIA.

60D: Soccer star Mia (HAMM)
62D: Actress Long (Nia) - Sorry, Nia. My loyalties still lie with Shelley.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

36 comments:

Ultra Vi 9:44 AM  

I loved this puzzle! Had such fun hunting and pecking for the "keyed" letters, though it disconcerted me somewhat to see QWERTY twice in such close proximity. Never mind that one version was draped all over the NW.

Some of the answers seemed too obvious to be correct (I kept saying, "Is this right?"), like LSD and BACON and SASE, but I guess that's the trade-off for working around the letter scheme.

Excellent way to start the morning.

And many thanks to prof phil and orange and all the others who sent college advice.

mmpo 9:47 AM  

This was one of those puzzles that seemed annoyingly opaque for awhile, but once I reached the first or second breakthrough moment, it was over all too quickly.
I enjoyed getting USING ONE'S NOODLE from only ...OO_LE.
The clue Friend for QUAKER delighted me, especially as it eluded me almost to the end. I had INTIMATE PURPOSE for a longish moment, but couldn't quite make sense of that (or find anything to complete E_IAL). Had DIMLY for "without much intelligence", replaced the M with an N...
Had a similar thought process to yours, Rex, on the QWERTY thing (so, all 26 letters are in the circles?), noticed the jaunty arrangement of the top row across the top of the grid, then proceeded to ignore that information as I finished the bottom of the grid. Like I said, once I'd broken through, it turned into a very easy puzzle, so what added help single letters here and there might have given was not needed. I think it's more about the aesthetic enjoyment once the puzzle's finished. Plus, I use an AZERTY keyboard (much handier for writing requiring diacritical marks), so I couldn't look down and check the order...My fingers know the QWERTY keyboard, but I don't have a mental picture of it...
I also wrote in, then erased, QTR, thinking, "there's no U..." Wasn't sure whether Laramie was in Wyoming or Montana, but as soon as I tried the former instead of the latter, QWERTY KEYBOARD quickly followed, and the puzzle was soon completely solved.
One more thing (!), since you brought up "urchins"...I recently learned that this word is based on an old English word meaning "hedgehog." I'm sure some of the clever readers of this blog already knew that. I like it.

Orange 10:05 AM  

I almost put in METAL for the nickels/dimes clue.

Meant to grumble about ROUTE MAN in my own post, but neglected to do so. Will instead chide you for using the word postman, even though you're playing off of ROUTE MAN—my mail carriers are usually women.

Great NIMROD info and DIDO rant, Rex.

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

One of the first Wednesday puzzles I've ever completed without having to "google" for an answer! Rex, stumbled across your website about a month ago. Love the writing, the personal insights and all the comments. I think I've fallen in with kindred spirits and it has certainly helped my crossword solving skills. Thanks.

Alex 10:32 AM  

Didn't notice the relative placement of the letters so once again I are the dumb.

I was so proud of getting USING ONES NOODLE from ...0-D_E that I called my wife into the room to show her. I initially had USING YOUR NOODLE but that quickly fixed itself.

Dictionary.com essentially defines ROUTEMAN as a man who routes. Being both of these: the person who follows a route and the person who assigns a route.

Chris 10:38 AM  

I'd like to see a puzzle whose theme is based on the Dvorak keyboard.

I finished this puzzle really fast, even though I worked on it between innings and pitching changes of the Mets game. I got the down theme clue from Q-ER and then filled in all the bubbles after I had QWER and I. After that it was smooth sailing.

Howard B 10:59 AM  

Q*Bert!!! Thanks for that, I do miss that game. Didn't Q*Bert appear in a Sunday Times puzzle earlier this year somewhere? If only he popped up in this puzzle, that would have been great (if a bit obscure).

ROUTE MAN was the trickiest part for me on this as well - I didn't believe that could be right until the crossings were in.

Norrin2 11:04 AM  

I got that Popeye book for Christmas, and you're right, it is a delight to behold and to hold.

profphil 11:15 AM  

Rex,

Once again you made my morning -thanks. Although I did finish the puzzle there were clues that really stumped me. I got the keyboard part quickly, sans the qwerty. I finally got qwerti (with an "I") but that made no sense to me. I never heard of a "Qwerty" keyboard. I especially doubted the "Q" in "Qtr" because of its sports-relatedness and I am a Nimrod when it comes to sports. It wasn't until I noticed "Qwerty" in the NW corner of the puzzle that I realized it was "qwerty" and not "qwerti" however until I looked at my own keyboard when I had a D'uh moment and realized "Qwerty" was in fact correct. It was only then that I looked at the rest of the circled letters and compared them to my keyboard and found them to be in the same order.

Is it cheating to look at one's keyboard?

Routeman was an answer I got quickly but was unsure of as I too have never heard of it. Quaker, like Druze was an immediate response as religion is my sports, so to speak. I'm probably the only NY man who had never heard of A-Rod until your Blog and easily identifies Druze and Friend with the immediacy of obvious clues.

JC66 11:18 AM  

I am compulsive about starting & finishing the NW before moving to the UMW, etc (many Fridays & Saturdays are exceptions, however). Therefore, although I got QUERTYKEYBOARD early on (after QTR & WYO ) & realized the circles related to the 26 letters of the alphabet & where they appear on a typewriter keyboard, this didn't help much in solving the rest of the puzzle since I do it in pen, not on a computer keyboard. However, it continues to amaze me how puzzle constructors are able to accomplish feats like these, even if they occasionally have to resort to fill like ROUTEMAN.

Anonymous 11:28 AM  

Anyone notice LSD sitting on top of DROP and right next to TAB.

Linda G 11:31 AM  

Well, Alex, I also are the dumb. One of these days I'll start catching the subtleties.

Thanks, Rex, for the mention. Of course I'm delighted to see Ava, and especially to see her clued in such a positive light (i.e., not as an ex of someone). BTW, she was also in the Tuesday Sun puzzle, clued as Gardner of "One Touch of Venus" -- which I must add to my Netflix queue.

Good catch, anonymous. I'm not surprised that it escaped me.

Rex Parker 11:51 AM  

Yes, Anonymous, Damn Good Catch. I'm cursing myself for missing it - those types of observations are my bread 'n' butter!

RP

Orange 11:58 AM  

Love profphil's "religion is my sports" quip. We hear the opposite so much more often!

Linda, I wonder if the Ava-as-wife-of-X clues are gone for good. Will be on the lookout for them and will pounce if need be.

campesite 1:53 PM  

I quite liked this puzzle too, and once I got the QWERTY bit the puzzle fell QWickly.
When answers span the entire width of the puzzle (17A, 38A, 61A) I prefer them to have a connection to the theme, but I'm guessing this was not an easy puzzle to construct so I'll not QWibble.

triplerose 2:02 PM  

I got routeman right away from the clue - istn't that what you call the guy who drives around and fills up vending machines?

shaun 3:12 PM  

I'm loving the Nimrod etymology -- I can't think of Nimrod without thinking Christopher Smart/Benjamin Britten, so I've never understood how the name made the transformation to its modern usage. (Though it is good for giggles when you're a teenage alto.)

C zar 3:25 PM  

Agree, words like Yam and Nimrod made this a charming puzzle. Got off to a bad start with James I.

Rex Parker 3:30 PM  

James I - nice error! He united England ... and Scotland. That is a Shakespearean's error, that's what that is.

Clueless on the Smart/Britten reference, Shaun. Little help?

rp

DONALD 5:24 PM  

campesite

This is one of those puzzles where the ULTIMATEPURPOSE (17A Teleogist’sconcern) of USINGONESNOODLE (38A Figuring something out) might be to write a ZONINGORDINANCE (61A Part of a city code) for the QWERTYKEYBOARDS (7D Places to find the letters circled in the grid).

Wendy 6:07 PM  

Rex, it's probably not insignificant that the Maryland region is always your saving grace because, after all, that's where one of your favorite public figures, SPIRO "TED" AGNEW, was governor before he became a notorious crackpot on the federal level. I may have mentioned before (I grew up in Md.) that his campaign theme, when he was running, was "My kind of man, Ted Agnew is."

I didn't know from QWERTY until the bitter end, when I figured out TYPE. But so many delectable words - YAM, NIMROD, EXACERBATE. Who is BOND JAMES, though? Am I missing something that I will find painfully humiliating once you tell me?

campesite 6:15 PM  

Donald, I like the way you put that. I was already impressed with the construction of this puzzle, and now I'm even more so.

profphil 6:42 PM  

Wendy,

You will embarassed: Bond, James Bond. The movies...

Anonymous 6:42 PM  

Wendy,

I probably will not express this well but here goes. The character James Bond is noted for introducing himself as BOND, JAMES BOND. It has now become a cliche.

HTH (hope this helps)

shaun 6:52 PM  

Short answer -- ask your friend MM, now an expert on Mr. Smart.

Longer answer -- see this Wiki entry on Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb, based on Jubilate Agno, a poem by Smart, written when he was allegedly insane, sometime in the late 18th c.

Wendy 6:57 PM  

Can you hear me shrieking with abject mortification? (Actually I'm laughing hysterically) I may not be able to show my face around here ever again. ;) Because of the way that freaking clue was worded, I was envisioning two people, James Bond and Bond James ... ooooohhhhh I have to go get a stiff drink somewhere. And maybe rent a B,JB flick ... That could be fun, watching Goldfinger drunk.

John 7:25 PM  

Nice choice of pic for the WATTS movie. I have the one-sheet hanging on the wall above my desk. Probably my favorite film of the decade.

I understand the question about ROUTEMAN. Not a word that gets a lot of use anymore. The alternatives I'd looked at (southern, southpaw, routines, et al.) either didn't work or would have stunk up Maryland, not to mention of other states in the region and all the way to California. On balance, better one legit word that may be a little dated than a few real clunkers. At 40-something I may be a little dated myself, but I remember the days when the milk man and diaper man (no women then) did their routes through our neighborhood. I think they were considered routemen at one time or other. My great aunt probably called them that, just like she called that thing in the kitchen an ice box (and never once a refrigerator).

Ultra Vi 7:39 PM  

Whoa, Shaun--

Pretty obscure Britten info there re Nimrod. Thanks for the edification!

mmpo, any experience with that number?

Norrin2 9:53 PM  

Don't feel bad, Wendy. And just remember when you have that stiff drink -- it should be shaken, not stirred.

mmpo 8:06 AM  

Ultra Vi,
No, but I love the words of the soprano solo...
"For I will consider my Cat Jeoffrey, ... a cat, surpassing in beauty, from whom I take occasion to bless Almighty God."
...and the depiction of the cat "wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness."

Makes me want to go out and buy the music...

Anonymous 7:57 AM  

No liked ROUTEMAN here too.

Ditto about DIDO -- ha ha ha.

Clever puzzle nonetheless.


Pen Girl

Anonymous 8:03 AM  

Me again. I also want to say that I knew AKIO from an interview I'd read in Playboy magazine.

It WAS for the articles! Honest!


Pen Girl

ANTI-WAR DEMOCRAT 12:17 PM  

Rex,
Speaking of Shelley Long. One of my fav Cheers epsiodes was when Diane left. Someone came in and asked Norm why Sam fell off the wagon and this was how it went.

Norm: Dia.......
Carla jumps on Norms back grabs a handfull of hair and says

Carla: If you mention that sticks name I'll pull you bald!

Norm: Diah.....betes! That's what it is Diabetes!

by the way speaking of Shelly's what about Shelly Hack Oh Madonn!

WWPierre 2:13 PM  

Hi All,

This was a one-and-a-half cupper for me. The word that came to mind when I finished was "Elegant" No quibbles at all.

John, ROUTEMAN was a perfectly good choice. Don't listen to these young whipper snappers. Even today, a ROUTEMAN comes round to our house and sells us frozen steaks and such.

I especially liked the clues for BOND, REM, and YAM. I am pretty sure I have never seen them before. I had a bit of an issue with NIMROD while doing the puzzle, but Rex cleared it up nicely.

Well done, Sir! I salute you!

Anonymous 5:02 PM  

swl...

This thing is getting better. A Wednesday completed w/o aid. Thanks, Rex. Learning every day. Also saw the kipper (kip) over Israel (isr) and ruin closely folowed by the end.

- - Robert

Catherine 6:45 PM  

I had some big fast solves today -- USING ONE'S NOODLE from U_I (although I tried to do USING ONE'S NOGGIN) and QWERTY KEYBOARDS from ----T--EY------. Unfortunately, I was broken by the small stuff (the entire NE, some of the SW (although I loved EXACERBATE)).

Bottom line: I'm happy my daily is back in print and thus I get the crossword again (stupid semester breaks stopping things).

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