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A ‘New York Times’ crossword clue weighed in on the Cuban sandwich war. Guess what? Tampa won.

A Sunday crossword puzzle asked for the “city famous for its Cuban sandwiches.”
A New York Times Sunday crossword named Tampa as the "city famous for its Cuban sandwiches." Times photos by Allison Graves and Scott Keeler.
Published May 13

Sunday’s New York Times crossword offered a polarizing clue for Florida readers: “City famous for its Cuban sandwiches.”

The answer for Sunday’s 1 Down contained five spaces. Both Tampa and Miami, cities that are, in fact, famous for their Cuban sandwiches, consist of five letters, making it a difficult wager.

Yet the clue for 1 Across was “whole lot," which could be substituted with the word “ton.” So a city famous for Cuban sandwiches that begins with a T? The answer becomes a whole lot (see what I did there?) clearer.

Miami and Tampa are constantly waging a war for the crown of the original and best Cuban sandwich in the state. The Cuban sandwich is considered one of the state’s most iconic foods, so it’s a war with significance. One of the Times’ own reporters, Christopher Spata, actually created National Cuban Sandwich Day in 2016. That’s August 23, for those who don’t know.

In 2012, the Tampa City Council voted the ‘historic Tampa Cuban sandwich’ as the official sandwich of the city of Tampa. That sandwich must include: Cuban bread with a leaf from a palm frond, ham, mojo roast pork, Genoa salami, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard and three dill pickle slices, but no mayonnaise, according to Times’ reporter Richard Danielson’s report.

Cuban bread from La Segunda Bakery and Café is used to make the pressed Cuban sandwiches at Tampa's new Cuban Foodies Family Restaurant. [DANIELLE HAUSER | Special to the Times]

Sen. Marco Rubio served a controversial opinion last month when he said Tampa bakery La Segunda had the best Cuban bread in the state. The Food Network named the Cuban at Tampa’s famed Columbia restaurant as the standard.

The Cuban sandwich’s roots form a large part of the debate. Ybor City native Jack Espinosa told Times columnist Sue Carlton that, when he tried to order a Cuban sandwich in 1950′s Havana, he was laughed away.

In a daily crossword column, the Times notes that it has waded into controversial territory with its crossword answer. The crossword was penned by University of Minnesota biomedical engineering professor Victor Barocas, according to The New York Times.

“I recently learned that the Cuban sandwich is really Floridian, but it turns out that there’s a real turf war for ownership between Miami and Tampa," wrote The New York Times’ Caitlin Lovinger. “We know where Professor Barocas’s allegiances lie, and he’s in the majority if you go by this NPR poll—which includes the decisive information that Tampa sends bread to Miami for its Cubanos. ‘Nuff said."

In 2012, 57 percent of NPR listeners chose Tampa over Miami as the first city for the Cuban sandwich.

And for anyone doubting our logic, the New York Times’ Crossword answers site confirms the correct response is Tampa.

Anyone else hungry? Let us know in the comments.

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