Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Solving time: 8-ish (on Across Lite)
THEME: "Orchestra" - final words of three long theme entries are BRASS, STRINGS, and WINDS, with the theme ORCHESTRA (58A) also in the grid
First, a correction: at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, competitors solve on paper, not the computer. I misunderstood someone's comment at another site. So sorry for yesterday's misinformation.
Second, I have said before, many times, maybe here, certainly elsewhere, that the non-Jerry "Seinfeld" actors are Not funny. I used to have to point to the string of horrid and / or failed vanity sitcom projects to make my point. Now I can just point to this.
Third, I have a question about the phrase "the fourth of never," which I used last night for some reason, to the surprise of my wife who had just heard the phrase used earlier in the day by one of her students. I don't think it's something I've ever said before, and in fact I'm not sure that the proper phrase isn't "fifth of never" or "twelfth of never." Oh, there's a song called "The Twelfth of Never" by, it looks like, Johnny Mathis, and possibly Keith Urban. Maybe Nina Simone sang it too. Oh ick, here's an online Casio keyboard version of some kind. It's actually written by Paul Francis Weber and Jerry Livingstone. It's pretty sappy. OK, back to puzzle. [late addendum: how's this for irony?: I've barely heard of the song "The Twelfth of Never," and yet Two of my favorite musical artists and biggest celebrity crushes have recorded it - why was I not informed? I prefer Dolly Parton's version to Olivia Newton-John's, but it's a pretty close call. The very best version (from what I could gather from the 30-second snippets @ iTunes) is by Nina Simone, yet Another one of my idols. The song just isn't that strong, but if these women are singing, I'm listening. Seriously, I'm downloading the songs right now.]
Today's theme was very clever, neat, tidy, musical. Nice. Couldn't ask for more from a Tuesday puzzle. I especially like that 20A (THEME): Generals and such (military brass) is crossed at the "Y" by 9D: Certain well-traveled child (army brat). Must move even more quickly today, as I'm on Sahra-patrol (she's out of school for the T-giving week, and she and I are due at Denny's to eat breakfast with mommy's students in about a 1/2 hour!).
4D: Morales of "NYPD Blue" (Esai)
41A: Architect Saarinen (Eero)
63A: Pitcher (ewer)
Gimme an "E"! Who opened the "E" pen at Krosswordese Korner? Pantheon stalwarts are running amok. In addition to these "E" words, we have EDER (15A), ERE (2D), EGO (34D), and EX-MET (43A) (that last one -> ouch). I don't know if I'm annoyed by all the conventional fill or amused by the "E" party. It's a close call. There's an abundance of tired fill that doesn't start with "E" - NTWT (55D), AREA (56D), ARIA (53D) [seriously, AREA and ARIA... and in the same neck of the puzzle woods? OK], ODEA (7D) and the old-school, Maleska-era throwback ABIE (19D). This fairly unimaginative short fill is, I'm happy to say, more than made up for by generous interesting longer fill, including ORGIES (22D) and PENMANSHIP (30D), which are two great tastes that taste great together.
6D: Sonnet part (sestet)
Mmmm, sonnet parts. I like the dark meat! Seriously, I do like that SESTET not only means a SIX-line chunk of poetry, but it has SIX letters in it, AND is positioned here at SIX-Down. 6-6-6. Symmetry! And evil...
The Petrarchan sonnet is typically described as having two parts: the octet and the sestet (first eight and last six lines, respectively). Rhyme scheme would usually change at the octet/sestet break. Here is a sonnet by Sir Philip Sidney, the first sonnet from his sonnet sequence Astrophil & Stella. Spelling is modernized, for your pleasure.
Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
That she (dear She) might take some pleasure of my pain:
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain;
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe,
Studying inventions fine, her wits to entertain:
Oft turning others' leaves, to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sun-burned brain.
But words came halting forth, wanting Invention's stay,
Invention, Nature's child, fled step-dame Study's blows,
And others' feet still seemed but strangers in my way.
Thus, great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,
Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite--
"Fool," said my Muse to me, "look in thy heart and write."
I love this poem (as Renaissance poems go), mainly for the line "I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe," but also for the weird, urgent pace of the end, which has a crazy masochistic birthing metaphor going on before it settles into the very simple last line. ANYway...
31D: German chancellor Merkel (Angela)
Again. Damn, she gets a lot of puzzle action for a six-letter answer.
49A: One working on the margin, briefly? (Arb)
I am not sure I know what this is short for. Isn't this what Arby's employees proudly call themselves? No, "anonymous" says it's "arbitrager." If it involves money or business in any way, then I am useless. I do not even like managing my own money (much). I have a guy who handles that. Seriously.
51A: Not, to a Scot (Nae!)
45D: Scottish hillside (Brae!)
As in, "NAE! I wilnae go o'er yon BRAE, ye daft wee bairn!" Cue the requisite shot of Willie!:
49D: Playwright Fugard (Athol)
Best name, because it sounds like a lisping guy is shouting profanity. In this picture, we see that ATHOL has a certain unfortunate Manson-ish quality. I know one thing about Athol Fugard. OK, two. One, he is (was?... no, is) South African. Two, he wrote a play called Master Harold and the Boys, which I think was on Broadway starring Matthew Broderick at some point, and which I know I saw at the Ashland, Oregon Shakespeare festival when my entire H.S. English class went on a week-long field-trip there in 1986 (or maybe 1987 - we went both years). It was ... good? I don't remember. I think it's about white guilt over Apartheid. I remember Shakespeare better.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld