Sunday, December 31, 2006
Solving time: 5:32
THEME: BOWLS (39A) - four theme entries are all two-word phrases, the first word of which is also the title of a College Football Bowl Game: ROSE GARDEN (3D), ORANGE CRUSH (53A), COTTON CANDY (21A), and SUGAR SHACK (30D)
I just spent an hour tearing up my house trying to find a stupid little piece of paper - I was unsuccessful. So I feel like I am losing my mind, which is always a good way to start the New Year. In order to mellow out, I decided I'd do the puzzle (somehow it always surprises me when Monday's puzzle appears so early on Sunday evening - you'd think I'd be used to it by now). And I can't say doing the puzzle relaxed me (I'm never happy if I'm over 5 minutes), but it sure took my mind off my early-onset dementia. The piece of paper itself is totally replaceable - it's just the idea that I would lose something that drives me Crazy. There are few things I hate more than losing things. I thought Crosswords were supposed to Sharpen your mental faculties. Where is the payoff!?
1A: Mrs. Dithers of the comics (Cora)
Man, not knowing 1A on a Monday is just a horrible feeling. And I'm supposed to Know Something about comics. Ugh. Um, this woman is Dagwood Bumstead's boss's wife, which I deem obscure, thereby eliminating my state of self-loathing for blanking on this answer. For future reference, [Red Sox infielder] will do the job for CORA. Or did they trade him? Nope, he's signed through 2008, despite his crappy batting statistics.
9A: County, in Britain (shire)
Why didn't I know this right off the bat? Probably because I try to put all Hobbit / LOTR-related things far, far out of my mind whenever possible. Again, a better clue (for my sensibilities) would be [Actress Talia].
25A: "It's not easy _____ green" (bein')
No "g," eh? OK. I nearly went past this one, thinking "BEING is five letters," but then the thought of clipping the word, hick-style, occurred to me, and I decided, rightly, to risk it. The greenness here is synesthetically echoed in the SW by 59A: Cape _____ Islands (Verde). I like that VERDE is sitting just under the ORANGE in ORANGE CRUSH, as ORANGE is my favorite color, while VERDE is my wife's.
33D: President before Taylor (Polk)
Everything I know about James K. Polk can be found right here.
53D: "Metamorphoses" poet (Ovid)
I don't have anything particular to say about Ovid (whom I love, as you know), but since he's here, I thought, why not add a little light to your lives, and this new year, by giving you a little taste of his genius. One of the great things about "Metamorphoses" is the opening Creation story, which has many many Biblical parallels, including God (Jove) going all Wrath and Vengeance on the stupid, wicked human beings. Like Lycaon (whom Jove has just turned into a wolf, the poem's first metamorphosis), humankind is greedy and self-worshiping and needs to be taken down. Or out. So like the Hebrew God, Jove, after toying with the idea of fire, brings down a world-destroying flood. "So now Jove set his mind to the deletion / Of these living generations" The translation is from Ted Hughes, and I love Hughes's modern phrasing, as well as his wickedly effective capacity for understatement. "Deletion," like Jove is going to wipe out humanity with his keyboard. His rendering of the final lives of Ovid's flood story are (like all good poetry) truly horrifying:
Birds grow tired of the air.
The ocean, with nowhere else to go,
Makes its bed in the hills,
Pulling its coverlet over bare summits.
While starvation picks off the survivors.
Drowned mankind, imploring limbs outspread,
Floats like a plague of dead frogs.
5D: Like many evangelicals (reborn)
Hmmm, I guess this is right. "Born again" is the more common phrase, but the gist of the meaning is the same. According to Wikipedia, there are Lots of different meanings for REBORN. Here is my favorite.
14A: Breakfast chain (IHOP)
2D: "Gone With the Wind" surname (O'Hara)
IHOP wants into the Pantheon. What a coincidence - I want into IHOP, nearly every day of my life. I'm not sure why I didn't kick off the New Year this morning by eating my way under the table at IHOP. Maybe this weekend. I like that my favorite restaurant chain intersects with one of my very favorite authors - two of my favorite authors, actually. I know it's clued to GWTW, but O'HARA to me means John (novelist) and Frank (poet), unrelated except in their greatness. John wrote novel after novel about the habits, mores, and rituals of Eastern Pennsylvanians - I know that doesn't sound hot, but the guy has the sharpest eye for detail and the sharpest ear for dialogue and I could open nearly any one of his novels at random and start reading, with pleasure. Frank O'HARA was a major mid-century poet who was very very involved in the modern art scene in Manhattan (friends with De Kooning, among others). He died in a freak dune buggy accident on Fire Island. It's true. Like you'd want that on your obit. Anyway, his poems are gorgeous, if often hard to make sense of. Best of all, he was obsessed with and wrote many poems about the color ORANGE:
Frank O'Hara, "Having A Coke With You" (1960)
is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluoresent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I'm with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o'clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles
and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it's in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven't gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn't pick the rider as carefully
as the horse
Happy 2007, everyone.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld