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.
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 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).
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