Sunday, September 14, 2014

It's like doing the Hokey-Pokey!

The Premier Crossword by Frank Longo this week is titled "Keeping to One Side" which on its face doesn't offer much help in discovering the puzzle's theme, and a quick scan of the clues reveals that there are no "?-style" clues to indicate that wackiness is afoot. What could be going on, I wonder?

I solved the first couple of long theme answers and spent a few seconds studying them but I couldn't see any common feature that would explain the title. Even with the grid almost half complete I couldn't detect a theme to tie the long answers together but when I arrived at the central answer, right there smack in the middle of the grid, was the answer: KEYBOARDING (69a - Typing (and the theme of this puzzle)! All of the long answers can be typed by using only one hand, as directed by the clues, thus:

23a - BEVERAGE CART (Thing pushed by a flight attendant [left hand])
28a - OPIUM POPPY (Plant that's a drug source [right hand])
30a - TREADS WATER (Dog-paddles [left hand])
53a - FREEZER BAG (Ziploc product [left hand])
56a - PHILLIP LIM (Fashion designer with the "3.1" label [right hand])
93a - TEXAS STATE (University in San Marcos [left hand])
95a - HI LILI HI LO (Hit song from a Leslie Caron film [right hand])
111a-IN MY OPINION ("What I think is..." [right hand])
117a-TARGET AREA (Strike zone, say [left hand])
124a-JOHNNY JUMP-UP (American violet [right hand])

I just noticed another dimension to the theme as I typed the theme answers out - they all appear on the side of the grid that corresponds to the hand used to type them, so the [left hand] answers all appear on the left side of the puzzle and the [right hand] answers can all be found on the right - "keeping to one side" indeed! So we have ten long theme answers distributed left, right, left, left, right, left, right, right, left, right - that is neat symmetry and if you put it to music I think you can cha-cha to it!

As for the non-theme fill, I'm going with two thumbs up mostly because the puzzle is almost totally "pop-culture proper name"-free, and the few that are in there skew toward my generation (i.e., OLD).
Anyone of a certain age knows LORNE (58a - Greene of "Bonanza"), LIZA (63a - Minnelli of "Cabaret") and (103d - "77 Sunset Strip" actor Edd) BYRNES, right? Even (92d - Actor Martin) SHEEN is notorious enough that I have heard of him.  Heck, Frank could have clued DEE (102d - Poor grade) as "Actress and singer Sandra" and I wouldn't have complained!  I love it when rappers and sit-com actresses are a NON-ISSUE (25a - Unimportant matter) in the puzzle.

Random things that tickled my fancy, in no particular order:

- We have 1860s prez ABE (4d) and 1950s prez IKE (64d) making an appearance - do any other presidents have a 3-letter nick-name, I wonder?

- THROE (77d - Piercing pain) is a word that I've only seen used in the plural - I wanted to put THROb there for a long time but happily I knew (100a - English Channel swimmer Gertrude) EDERLE from recent news headlines so I was saved from that mistake.

- Hmm, I just noticed ANGELA (131a - Bassett of "Notorius") lurking at the bottom of the grid. I don't know her but the crosswords were fair so there she is.

- SPECTATE (94d - Watch a sports event) is another perfectly fine word that doesn't get used often, I think.

- Is "Recorded in advance" (97a) really PRETAPED or just "taped"?  The "pre" seems superflous (this definition from notwithstanding: Verb
(third-person singular simple present pretapes, present participle pretaping, simple past and past participle pretaped)
  1. To tape in advance.)
- It's Sunday - I think I'll make a GIMLET (134a - Limy cocktail) and sit in the sun. See you next week?

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