Sunday, April 22, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy to Medium
THEME: "For April - National Poetry Month" - six different long theme answers are all quotations that begin "Poetry is..."
[updated 11:45 a.m.]
An astonishingly elegant Sunday puzzle from Vic Fleming today. I solved it in very leisurely fashion (such that my handwriting is actually legible) - a bit just before dinner, and then the rest while sitting on the couch watching the latest episode of "The Riches" (our newest TV addiction). What I'm most impressed by in this puzzle ... well, there are two things. One is that the non-theme fill is Great, with Scrabbly letters in odd places and some highly original pop culture clues and about half a dozen answers I just didn't know. The other, more impressive feature of the puzzle is that only one of the quotations about poetry made me want to vomit. The rest were FRESH and striking and didn't sound like they came out of the mouth of some poser beatnik or touchy-feely earth mother type. See if you can guess which one I did NOT like. The answer may surprise you:
- 25A: With 36-Across, "Poetry is..." (Osbert Sitwell) [uh ... who?] ("... like fish. If it's / fresh it's good")
- 59A: "Poetry is ..." (Joseph Roux) [uh ... who?] ("... truth in its Sunday clothes")
- 81A: With 89-Across, "Poetry is..." (Carl Sandburg) [uh ... who? ... just kidding] ("... an echo asking a / shadow to dance")
- 111A: "Poetry is..." (Edith Sitwell) ("... the deification of reality")
- 128A: "Poetry is..." (Pablo Neruda) ("... an act of peace")
- 148A: "Poetry is..." (E. E. Cummings) ("... being not doing")
The following is one of the more memorable exchanges of all time between Bart and Lisa Simpson - from episode 3F02 of "The Simpsons" ("Bart Sells His Soul"). After Bart sells his soul to Milhouse for $5, he begins to lose many of his more positive human traits, including his ability to laugh (also, his ability to be detected by automatic sliding-glass door sensors, but that's another story). After watching a particularly gruesome "Itchy & Scratchy" cartoon, which would normally make him howl with laughter, Bart has no reaction. This sets up the following conversation with Lisa, who has been haranguing her disbelieving brother about the perils of selling his soul.
Bart: I know that's funny, but I'm just not laughing. [taps head]One of my favorite "Simpsons" lines of all times. Use it next time anyone condescends to you about anything.
Lisa: Hmm. Pablo Neruda said, "Laughter is the language of the soul."
Bart (haughtily): I am familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda.
17A: 1947 crime drama ("T-Men") - I'll take 1940's crime fiction for $1000, Alex. See also 52A: Ella of "Phantom Lady" (Raines) - I didn't know her name, but the 1944 movie (based on a Cornell Woolrich novel of the same name) is pretty famous - the first film noir from one of the greatest noir directors of all time, Robert Siodmak (a crosswordy name if I ever saw one).
21A: Block in the Southwest (adobe) - I love this clue for some reason, perhaps because I couldn't quite see what meaning of "block" the clue was going for.
93A: QB Rodney (Peete) - whoa, that's a sports obscurity for people who don't follow football, I'm guessing. He's not exactly a Hall-of-Famer. From Wikipedia - this is the LEAD info on his professional career:
Peete did not achieve stardom in his professional career in the National Football League (NFL), but he did play well enough to sustain his place in the league for 16 seasons, primarily as a back-up. His career was also riddled with injuries. He was drafted with the 141st pick of the 1989 NFL Draft by the Detroit LionsNot exactly the stuff of legend. He's better known for his work on "The Best Damn Sports Show Period" and for being married to actress Holly Robinson. And even with that, he's pretty damned obscure for a crossword.
95A: Russian city or oblast (Orel) - well not only do I not know what OREL is, I don't know what "oblast" is (an old Soviet administrative division).
119A: Title character in a "Sgt. Pepper" song (Mr. Kite) - Awesome answer, and yet ... I must confess that I did not know it. I currently own just two Beatles albums: "Abbey Road" and The White Album. I've never listened to "Sgt. Pepper" In My Life. The song in question is entitled "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"
136A: Sing "Gladly the cross-eyed bear," say (garble) - I only just now, just this second, got this. I was like "Who the hell is this bear? What's the bear's name supposed to be?" - but no, the clue is a GARBLEd version of "Gladly the Cross I'd Bear," which must be the name of a hymn or something ... right? Damned atheistic upbringing!
154A: #24 of 24 (omega) - or the last of any set, really. The wolf on the bottom of the pack hierarchy is called the "Omega Wolf" (as opposed to the "Alpha" at the top). We call our dog "Omega Wolf" because even the cats can beat her up.
[I'm gonna go to IHOP now (70D: Denny's alternative) and do the Down clues afterward. Enjoy a beautiful Sunday.]
All right, I'm back, and very proud that I managed to eat only enough to satisfy my hunger (my normal m.o.: wolf). Now where was I? Ah yes, the Downs. Wait - one more Across:
118A: French city in W.W. II fighting (Epinal) - Never heard of it. Sounds like a prescription drug or something you stab yourself with to prevent anaphylactic shock following an allergic reaction.
Now the Downs:
4D: West Indian sorcery (Obeah) - if I ever knew this I have since forgotten it. It looks vaguely familiar, but I had to piece it together entirely from crosses. I was thinking VOODOO, of course, but it didn't fit.
6D: Beantown, on scoreboards (BOS) - well you knew I was going to blog this one. Yesterday's "scoreboard": BOS 7, NYY 5. (P.S. half of IHOP this morning was decked out in Yankees gear - easy to wear the gear when you win, harder when you lose; as someone whose team has lost often, and painfully, I admire the loyalty)
7D: Durham sch. (UNH) - Like everyone else, was certain this was UNC until I realized that that would make Sitwell's comment about poetry begin "Poetry is LIKE FISC ..." and I know enough about poets to know that they are unlikely to see their art in FISCAL terms, and knowing no other FISC- words, I crossed my fingers and put the "H" where the "C" had been.
10D: Singer India._____ (Arie) - I think she had one "hit" about five years ago. Has not been heard from since. Or at least, I haven't heard from her. Call me, India!
12D: Nutrition drink brand (Ensure) - Hey, America, eat your @#$#-ing vegetables. I hate when laboratory products try to pose as actual food. (PS if you actually cannot digest solid foods, for whatever reason, then this comment Does Not Apply To You - drink up!)
15D: Cuban patriot José (Marti) - I am ignorant. Did not know this. A major figure in Cuba's fight for independence from Spanish rule (late 19c.). The airport in Havana is named after him.
26D: "This is where _____" ("I'm at") - ick, who says this? Would have liked this answer better if it had been clued [Autobiography of a postgraduate degree?]
42D: Month after Ab (Elul) - The lesser known cousin of EL AL
46D: Poetic break: Var. (cesura)
"Var." is right! The conventional spelling is CAESURA. Nice to have a poetic answer in a poetry-theme puzzle. The C(a)ESURA is an important feature of Anglo-Saxon poetry, every line of which has a strong one right in the middle. C(a)ESURA and alliteration are probably Anglo-Saxon poetry's most defining characteristics. Anglo-Saxon = pre-Norman Invasion. Why am I lecturing you?
56D: Here, in Juárez (aca) - somebody please tell me why this is not AQUI.
72D: Oklahoma city (Enid) - learn her, know her, love her. This is the second time we've seen her this week. ENID is also a song on the Barenaked Ladies album "Gordon" - a great album from 1992, before BNL started making horrid, shallow, banal, cutesy music that made you want to smash your radio just to make it stop.
73D: Steinbeck's "To _____ Unknown" ("a God") - Went through a Steinbeck phase as a kid. I grew up in California, so this is not that surprising. My dad, who currently lives in the heart of Steinbeck country, near the Salinas Valley, was reading "Cannery Row" on our recent vacation, and Sandy (wife) is reading it now (I think ... it's by the door, so I assume someone is reading it). I recognized "To A GOD Unknown" as a title that was lying around my house growing up but that I never read.
105D: Two, in Lisbon (dois) - had to guess the "I" - which was the cross for MR. KITE (above). Good guess.
108D: Operatic Jenny (Lind) - didn't know her ... until I just this second realized that I said that very same thing before, in an earlier blog, and my friend Andrew wrote in at that time to tell me that Jenny LIND was his mom's maiden name. Why won't this name stick in my head?
110D: Deli order (gyro) - this answer wanted, and still wants, to be HERO.
114D: Pulled in (came) - I'm trying hard to find this acceptable, but it's not working.
122D: Reply to "No way!" ("I can so!") - just because you don't call it a "playground retort" doesn't mean it's not. I would advocate the following partial, if all the words were not already in the clue: ["I wear my sunglasses at night / so _____ I can..."]
Finally, a trifecta of foreign, four-letter, "G"- and "N"-containing names:
- 139D: TV's Swenson (Inga) - I know her from such roles as the cook on "Benson"
- 140D: Fashion's _____ von Furstenberg (Egon) - there's a DIANNE von Furstenberg, isn't there? EGON sounds so made up. We used to call former Red Sox shortstop Alex Gonzalez "AGON."
- 143D: "Bus Stop" playwright (Inge) - this is what I call current Detroit Tigers third baseman Brandon INGE. Because it's his name. He's currently hitting .115. Not on a hitting bINGE.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld