Constructor: Joel Fagliano
Relative Difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: GHANA
Ghana (Listeni/ˈɡɑːnə/), officially called the Republic of Ghana, is a sovereign unitary presidential constitutional democracy, located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in the subregion of West Africa. Spanning a land mass of 238,535 km2, Ghana is bordered by the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east and the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean in the south. The word Ghana means "Warrior King" in Mande.
The territory of present-day Ghana has been inhabited for millennia, with the first permanent state dating back to the 11th century. Numerous kingdoms and empires emerged over the centuries, of which the most powerful was the Kingdom of Ashanti. Beginning in the 15th century, numerous European powers contested the area for trading rights, with the British ultimately establishing control of the coast by the late 19th century. Following over a century of native resistance, Ghana's current borders were established by the 1900s as the British Gold Coast. In 1957, it became the first sub-saharan African nation to declare independence from European colonisation. (Wikipedia)
This has no glaring issues that I can see. Thumb's moderately perpendicular to the ground I suppose. I don't feel warm feeling of any kind toward CUPS [1D: Coffeehouse containers], whose clue just doesn't smell right to me. In my mind, CUPS aren't especially associated with coffeehouses. Mugs, maybe, but not CUPS. Too generic. So that clue's a definite miss. Shoulda gone with a bra reference.
Being that, like most Americans, I'm a bit clueless about Africa, I'm grateful that I was forced to learn something about GHANA today [3D: West African nation]. Of course, this puzzle has nothing to do with that; it was all Wikipedia. If I wasn't blogging the puzzle, I would not have learned for instance that GHANA was the first sub-saharan country to declare its independence, or that its name means "Warrior King" in Mande.
And those are two pretty interesting facts, contained in the first couple paragraphs of the Wikipedia article, which begs the question, why didn't the constructor go with one of those instead of the insultingly generic geographical clue we got instead? It's bad enough being force-fed throwaway clues like this in any case, but it's especially sad in an instance like this were it would really be nice to broaden my knowledge of a particular subject. The fact that GHANA is "West African" is quite possibly the only thing I could have heretofore told you about it for certain.
Mild yuks for PIANO [7A: Set of keys?]. It's not going to win any awards but it's trying, you know? HOCK is a fine, fine verb [6D: Sell at a pawnshop]. Fine. Would have preferred a meat-based clue, but I suppose that goes without saying. ASK [9A: "Go __ your mother"] is sexist, but certainly in the language, so I'm not complaining.
Signed, Jonathan Gibson, ham hock of CrossWorld