04.25.07 -- The Curse of QWERTY

1878 Typewriter Patent Drawing, featuring the QWERTY Keyboard
Puzzle by John Farmer, Edited by Will Shortz
This is one of those puzzles where the ULTIMATEPURPOSE (17A Teleogistsconcern) 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).
The puzzle is split down the middle with QWERTYKEYBOARDS (none of its letters form the “keyboard” of the puzzle) into left-hand and right-hand akin to when we TYPE (8D Use 7-Down). An alphabet soup of words has been crammed into the left and right halves of the grid to accommodate the circled keyboard letters which are in proper order of the QWERTY Keyboard, although they are not in neat horizontal lines but vibrate up and down without intermingling among the three lines of QWERTY Keyboard letters. The puzzle as printed in the newspaper supplies two thick horizontal lines dividing the puzzle into three parts vertically to indicate a keyboard and to assure that the circled letters' placement in the erratic vertical pattern of each level of the keyboard is seen more clearly as a group (F, K and V are snuggled up against the thick line) -- this feature is not included in the electronic version of the crossword on the The New York Times website.
The origin of the QWERTY keyboard, so named for its top row of letters, has its origins in the limitations of the first typewriters. The early machines were crude and prone to jamming if you typed too fast. The QWERTY Keyboard was designed to place the most commonly used letters on the opposite sides of the keyboard, making mechanical jamming less likely. It has also been said that the QWERTY Keyboard was devised in order to slow down typists and further reduce the possibility of jamming.Within a relatively short time, of course, typewriter engineering had improved sufficiently that jamming was no longer a major concern. But by then, the story goes, people were used to the QWERTY Keyboard and we've been stuck with it ever since.
QWERTY......the typewriter keyboard... It makes no sense. It is awkward, inefficient and confusing. We've been saying that for 124 years. But there it remains. Those keys made their first appearance on a rickety, clumsy device marketed as the "Type-Writer" in 1872. Read The Curse of Qwerty.
In order to accommodate this conceit, the remainder of the puzzle is a hodge-podge of unrelated and uninteresting words -- but that’s just the evil that goes with the “good” -- in this case only as good as its subject -- the placement of the QWERTY Keyboard on this grid jumps up and down like an old Model T in the throes of backfiring!
Any analysis of the words selected to accommodate the “keyboard theme” is absolutely useless and a waste of time -- this puzzle was simply about the QWERTY Keyboard and everything else be damned!
I prefer to refrain from making any notation about my own solving experience with a puzzle, but I worked this puzzle straight across and then down without ever realizing it was about the QWERTY Keyboard. In that respect, I was stupefied -- what a horrible piece this is, I said to myself. Then I settled down and looked it over a couple more times and was satisfied to see that it had at least an end goal or purpose. As I wrote yesterday, this genre of puzzle is much beloved by the general population, of which I count myself!
However, these letter-loving puzzles can get bogged down on the letters and the words exist merely to serve the “theme” whether it be the friendly little qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm Kwong puzzle of 02.07.07, Nancy Salomon’s Z puzzle (also known as the Pfui Puzzle) of 01.30.07, or yesterday’s Quigley Q-less A to ZZY puzzle (04..24.07). I get a kick out of these constructions, but I’m beginning to feel like we’re all going to burst out singing our ABC’s any day now!
Hopefully, Will Shortz will spare us this type of puzzle for a spell until we can forget what we did and think we’re doing something new when we see it again!
Try Typing on These Keys! This was high tech in the 1890s, but it wasn't so easy tapping these keys. Notice there's no QWERTY keyboard. Considered the first portable typewriter, George Blickensderfer created this beauty in 1893. AVA (49A Actress Gardner)
Puzzle available on the internet at THE NEW YORK TIMES -- Crossword Puzzles and Games If you subscribe to home delivery of The New York Times you are eligible to access the daily crossword via The New York Times - Times Reader, without additional charge, as part of your home delivery subscription.


Linda G said...

Very nice write-up, Donald. I loved the first picture. Looks like the typewriter I learned on : )

Thanks for the link.

DONALD said...

No long nails in those days!

Anonymous said...