"Midrash" by Arthur Rothstein and George Barany (September 2013)
This puzzle had its genesis in June 2012, when AR sent GB a list of pithy words and phrases directly or tangentially related to the modern technology boom, and challenged him to fit them into a grid. In the original list, just about all of the entries broke into two parts of length 5 letters each, but we later relaxed this constraint. An early draft by GB worked in eight theme entries in a double-ply pinwheel arrangemen [see Notes for the cognoscenti, towards the bottom of this page, first three grids]. As the project progressed, AR designed some further grids that jammed in even more theme entries, and of course, between the two of us, we were able to come up with all sorts of "opportunistic/bonus" entries of length 3 to 9 letters, for which properly crafted clues established connections to our loosely-defined overall theme. We ran what we thought were our best efforts [fourth and fifth sample grids shown in Notes for the cognoscenti] past our beta (and gamma) testing gauntlet, but were invariably stymied by a handful of words that were deemed as either too tough or too obscure (details below). The project sat on the shelf for over a year, but was resuscitated in a final flurry of end-of-summer 2013 activity to bring it to the present form.
We trust that theme entries like IN-ROOM_WI-FI [2-Down; crossword-wise, that worked out better than WIFI_ACCESS], VIRAL_VIDEO [15-Across, clued as "YouTube sensation"], FIBER_OPTIC (51-Across), and APPLE_STORE (56-Across) are so well-known as to not require further explanation, However, since others of the answer words (and corresponding clues) may not be immediately familiar, there follows a selective list together with perfunctory annotation. Solvers who are inspired to do further research via Google should in no way feel guilty; our purpose is to teach as well as entertain.
8-Across LEAF, clued as "Tesla wannabe," refers to competing models of electric cars. At one point, we considered the simple clue "Page," with its misdirection to the co-founder (with 28-Down) of Google. Of course, the clue as used misdirects to electrical engineer/inventor Nikola Tesla. For the record, both Larry Page and Sergey Brin were early investors in Tesla Motors [which is based in Palo Alto, see next paragraph], and for sure the latter (28-Down) drives a Tesla himself.
13- & 14-Across, PALO ALTO (California): what a godsend! Home of Stanford University, headquarters (HQ) to a number of Silicon Valley high-technology companies including Hewlett-Packard (HP) [as per the clue AR wrote, which stood out from others we considered for its lexicographic cuteness], Tesla Motors (discussed with 8-Across), and PARC [acronym that everyone uses for what used to be Xerox Palo Alto Research Center , where graphical user interface (with computer mouse), WYSIWYG, Ethernet, and laser printing were developed, among others], and incubator to Apple [see 56-Across], Google [see 27-and 28-Down], Facebook [see 1-Down], Logitech, Intuit, Sun Microsystems, Pinterest, and PayPal. In addition, many venture capital firms (VCs, see 16-Down) are located in Palo Alto.
19-Across, CLICK_FRAUD, is defined as per the link, and has been the subject of newspaper coverage (click here, here, and here for examples). We debated with some of our beta testers as to how "in the language" the phrase is, or whether it is more scam than felony, but believe that both the facts (see earlier in this paragraph) and the law are on our side. Compare to GOOGLE_BOMBing (27-Down), which describes a typically more playful form of internet mischief.
21-Across REOS. As any regular crossword puzzle solver knows, REO was the monogram of American inventor and automative industry pioneer Ransom E. Olds, for whom both the Oldsmobile and REO (Motor Car Company) brands were named. Our clue refers to two of the company's leading products from the olden days, the Flying Cloud and the Speed Wagon [in turn, the latter provided name for a still-active American rock band].
39-Across, WSB, is the monogram of William S. Burroughs, author of "The Naked Lunch" and grandson of the founder (same monogram) of the Burroughs Corporation which became established in the adding machine business, and later morphed into a computer company that merged in 1986 with Sperry Univac to form Unisys.
42-Across, The TROGGS, are best known for "Wild Thing," a song that many of us forever associate (along with Bob Uecker and Charlie Sheen) with the 1989 minor cult classic film "Major League" [click here to go down memory lane]. Did you know that "Wild Thing" was written by Chip Taylor, born James Voight, brother of actor Jon Voight, and uncle of Angelina Jolie? We figured you just might find this information to be of interest, and perhaps draw more viewers to our pages.
44-Across, the ANNES in question are two spouses (click here and here) of English monarch Henry VIII, and the spouse of 28-Down. The last of these spouses is co-founder of the personal genomics biotechnology company 23andMe.
49-Across, YE-YE is explained at the link to the left, and can be sampled here and here. The first Y, crossing 37-Down, TOBY, may be a "Natick" to some solvers.
62-Across, Paul ANKA did indeed compose the well-known theme song for "The Tonight Show" starring Johnny Carson. Note that ANKA has appeared over 70 times in New York Times puzzles during the Will Shortz era.
6-Down, ELECTRO. We were kind of locked into this word based on some of our other grid choices, and were concerned about its similarity to 50-Down, ELEC(tricity). The orthogonality of the clues seems to be a legitimate way to handle this coincidence.
16-Down, Venture capitalists are abbreviated as VCs.
27-Down, GOOGLE_BOMB refers to the deliberate manipulation of links to a particular web site in order to improve its PageRank. Sometimes malicious, often comical—classic examples are "miserable failure" taking one to the Bush White House home page, and "French military victories" taking one to a page entitled "French military defeats." A further priceless instance of (largely successful) Google bombing was covered (spoiler) in our "ADULT CONTENT" anonymous puzzle Rick-ed from the Headlines. Compare to INTERNET_FRAUD (19-Across), which describes a typically more malicious form of internet mischief.
28-Down, SERGEY_BRIN and Larry Page co-founded Google in 1998. As this puzzle went to press (late August/early September 2013), our hero was in the news for some less technological matters. In this context, we recall a quote from former Google CEO (now Executive Chairman) Eric Schmidt, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."
29-Down, ANTS are eaten by echidnas, among the exotic fauna currently on GB's mind following a trip Down Under that is commemorated in its own puzzle.
30-Down pays tribute to the insanely popular Angry BIRDs game and marketing juggernaut.
31-Down, DOWNLOADS, fell into our lap when filling the grid, and who hasn't used, let alone heard of, iTunes?
36-Down, ERA is short for earned run average. Before gaining baseball immortality with the New York Yankees as the Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth was one of the best pitchers in the game while wearing the uniform of the Boston Red Sox. In fact, "The Curse of the Bambino" traces back to the transaction that brought Ruth to New York.
41-Down. Bill Gates and Paul Allen co-founded Microsoft, and their friendship from those early days is well-documented (as is their later falling out).
52-Down, Big IRON is a colloquial term for mainframe computers.
53-Down. Some of our older solvers may remember with affection the pre-Nook, pre-Kindle era when one might just curl up with a nice BOOK.
Explanation of photograph on main puzzle page: Taken from this web site, the photo shows Amanda Rosenberg, (former?) marketing manager for Google Glass, modeling her marquee product. More information can be found here and between-the-lines of our explanations of 44-Across and 28-Down.
Additional answer words or clues that you might want to read about: 12-Across, Buster OLNEY; 47-Across, CALISTA Flockhart; 60-Across Groupon DEAL; 63-Across, STL (Saint Louis) Cardinals [see also this puzzle]; 64-Across, ISBN [a shout-out to 59-Down in this puzzle of September 12, 2013, as explained (spoiler) here]; 8-Down, Nixon's defense secretary Melvin LAIRD; 9-Down, ELSA Lanchester in "The Bride of Frankenstein" [Boris Karloff played the monster]; 13-Down, PalmPILOT; 20-Down, (Bernard) Bernanke, as of this puzzle's self-publication, was still head of the Federal Reserve, aka "The FED"; 25-Down, NES is short for Nintendo Entertainment System, which ruled the video game console industry for much of the 1980s; 44-Down, AAR, being a major European river, flows [not to be confused with the conventional definition of a "flower"—this is classic crossword misdirection]; 48-Down, Eddie Rickenbacker was an ACE during World War I; 51-Down, FEMA stands for Federal Emergency Management Administration [as in "heckuva job, Brownie," although more recently, the agency appears to be under competent management again]. We toyed with connecting the intersecting 23-Across, SOOTHED, and 7-Down, TOOK_HEART, but concluded that the former combats anger whereas the latter combats sadness.
Notes for the cognoscenti: Selected earlier iterations, in PDF format, can be accessed here (puzzle; solution), here (puzzle; solution), here (answer grid only); here (beta test puzzle; solution), or here (gamma test puzzle; solution). Spoilers: While apologizing for the inevitable schlock, there are also answer words that we were fond of, that are clearly not in the final version. These include BLACKBERRY (clued as "Mobile email king before the iPhone") or CRACKBERRY (clued as "Nickname for one-time addictive email device"), CYBERSPACE (clued as "Home for Webheads"), POWER_BRICK (clued as "AC adapter"), THUMB_DRIVE (clued as "USB stick"), the over-the-top KINDLE_NOOK (clued as "Reading alcove in a modern home?"), the quirky SPOKE_WITH (clued as "Skyped") or the equally quirky PHONE_BOOTH (clued as "Cellular casualty"). Referring only to the beta and gamma test versions, short fill consistent with the theme included BBS (clued as "Precursor of online chat room), CMOS (clued as "Digital logic technology "), DIAL (clued as "20th century phone type"), ETON (clued as "Stephen Wolfram's alma mater"), FORA (clued as "Online chat rooms, e.g."), GEEK(S) [clued as "Silicon Valley/Computer savant(s)"], HELP (clued as "Desk in the IT department"), HULU (clued as "Site for streaming TV and movies"), KBS (clued as "Computer input devices: Abbr."), MT/ST (clued as "IBM mid-60's word processor"), NET (clued as "Online world, familiarly"), PCS (clued "Windows notebooks"), PUMA (clued as "OS X code name"), ROOT (clued as "Commandeer an Android device"), SAE (clued as "Snail mail convenience"), and SURD (clued as "Math radical"). Words that might send solvers scurrying to their favorite hard-copy or web-based resources included CEIBA (clued as "common representation of Mayan central world tree") crossing CUVEE (clued as "blended wine"), and CLIPPIE (clued as "London bus conductor") in the same area as SALT_PAN (clued as "Bonneville geologic formation"), not to mention IAR (clued as "USMC M27 weapon," and clearly a non-inferrable word that would require solver to use all the crossing words) and IBOS (clued as "Native Nigerians"). Some of those words were in a version that had GALILEI (clued as "Italian physicist tried by the Inquisition," and note the misdirection with respect to the final letter), and vanished once CALISTA was introduced [see this solution grid, which also slightly improves the CEIBA/CUVEE fiasco by offering DEICE (clued as "Clear for takeoff?") crossing DUVET (clued as "comforter"); another option was MEIRS (think Israeli stateswoman, either as a plural or as a possessive) crossing MOVIE]. In the puzzle we actually offer, note the cheater square to the left of 1-Across (and of course, its symmetrically placed partner), which solves some of these issues.
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