Puzzle #8: Voiced by Keith David

The origin of this puzzle is a little different than usual; it's more of a proof-of-concept. I might at some point attempt a 15x15, but first I wanted to see if the idea had any feasibility.

So as to not spoil the bit, dear solver: attempt the puzzle, and then scroll down to read my notes afterwards (and for what it's worth, I think solving it primarily downs-only emphasize the effect, but isn't strictly a requirement.)










So, no that you've solved it, hopefully it's clear that this puzzle is formally based on the Qwerty keyboard (thus it's title); the right half of the puzzle is filled exclusively with letters typed by the right hand, and similarly left-for-left.

This puzzle grew out of thinking about the concept of ludonarrative dissonance, in which the mechanics of a game are at odds with the narrative it's trying to tell (Bioshock Infinite is a prime offender in my mind). Now obviously this doesn't apply to crosswords, where there is no narrative. But it led to me thinking about the potential for consonance between how we solve a puzzle and the form of puzzle itself; for most of us, we use a keyboard to interface with the puzzle. This made remember a Radiolab episode (mostly about the development of a keyboard for Chinese, an interesting story in its own right), where at one point they talk about the impact the Qwerty keyboard has had on our use of letters:

"Simon: Yes. Correct. There is some evidence that the layout of the keyboard created those left-right preferences rather than the other way around. Just a couple of years ago, research has asked, okay, has our feeling towards letters changed over time? What they did was they got social security records from the 1960s through 2012 and they looked at names of babies being born. They decided we're going to pick 1990 as our year that the QWERTY keyboard became ubiquitous. Let's look at the prevalence of names with more right-handed letters than left before 1990 and after, and it spikes after 1990. It's crazy.

Jad: So suddenly a lot of Paul's and a lot of Leah starts to appear. That is bizarre.

Simon: Simon is four right hand one left-hand. Jad is one right hand to left hand. You and I bear out the idea.

Jad: It's funny. Was it Wittgenstein? I don't think it was Wittgenstein. Heidegger, was it a Heidegger thing? Somebody, one of those nihilistic German philosophers had this idea that the hammer isn't just a tool, the hammer actually feeds back. The hammer changes the hand. It's interesting to me that this arbitrary leftover arguably outdated QWERTY keyboard that we're all stuck with is actually influencing our preferences when it comes to naming our offspring. Who knows what else it's doing? It's probably doing all kinds of weird things to us."

Creating this puzzle was a strange experience, since I was severely limited in the words I could use: my dictionary has 278,807 words, while only 2838 of those are "left" words and an even fewer 593 are "right" (and 4239 are split somewhere in the middle). It took several grid iterations to get to a configuration that even had a solution, with comparatively tiny word list. Those numbers don't bode well for a full sized puzzle, but I'm happy at least that I could get a midi out of this idea.

Stray notes:

  • Admittedly 19-Across would have been much better as ABBA. But I tend to type 'B' with my right hand, while according to the Qwerty finger placement it should be typed by the left index finger. So to be safe I just omitted 'B' entirely.
  • After writing the clue for 28-Across, I realized that I don't think I've ever actually had Imo's Pizza. But living in St. Louis for five years it was impossible to not form an opinion about it.
  • I wanted to clue 10-Across with a reference to The Talos Principle, but I think that it's not well known enough and would just frustrate too many people.

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