1939 Giraudoux play / FRI 8-13-10 / Homo found in 1891 / Chéri novelist 1920 / 1898 Emile Zola letter / Fangorn Forest race / ABC newsman Potter
Friday, August 13, 2010
Ondine is a play of Jean Giraudoux , created on 27 April 1939 at the Athenaeum Theatre .
It is the tale Undine (1811) of the German Romantic La Motte Fouqué (1777-1843) that inspired Jean Giraudoux's Ondine. The theme of the water nymph (engineering or water nymph in Germanic mythology) who seeks to incarnate in the human is a typical fairy tale, and is also found in Celtic myth of Melusine . But whereas in these traditions, the mermaid wants to win in this human form more soul or accepts an old curse, Giraudoux's heroine loses its supernatural attributes of love. The playwright found his chance to represent the relations impossible for man and woman, in a theatrical fantasy where fantasy mingles with the rigor of classical tragedy. (hilariously google-translated version of a French wikipedia entry)
These kinds of grids aren't my favorite—the ones that essentially give you four mini-puzzles, each one a white chunk of intersecting 6-to-7-letter answers. Fill usually isn't too spiffy, and the entertainment value of the puzzle lies in a. the struggle, and b. the clues. Clue quality is Really important in this kind of puzzle. Today's clues are mostly good—heavy on the "?"-type clue, but that's what you should expect for a Friday. Mr. Nosowsky is a Legendary constructor—not as prolific now as he once was, but still much admired (even revered). This one seems to underutilize his talents—could've been by anyone. Hard to show off when you don't have any answers longer than 8 letters, unless your fill is original and remarkably clean. Today's fill is fine, but not memorable—unless you call putting ON on top of ON and doubling UP and doubling ONE memorable. Actually, the NW is kind of beautiful. Literary, anthropological, sporty, with mostly interesting words (ENTS and USENET notwithstanding). The rest of the puzzle is just OK. REWIRE, REDYED. ADOPTER / REAPERS / SMEARER (in one quadrant?!). I don't know. There's just not much to say about this one. It's solid. A nice, toughish diversion. I've seen grids like this done far, far worse.
I somewhat cheated in that I was pondering 1A: Homo found in 1891 out loud, trying to decide between SAPIENS and ERECTUS (both fit!), when I got the "J" and started sounding it out, and my wife (sitting next to me on couch) said "oh yeah, JAVANESE ... JAVA MAN ..." And there it was. Changed terminal "S" to "N" which gave me NAPE which meant I had the corner boxed in. From there to SW, which was tougher. For 45A: Brown, then red, then brown again, maybe (REDYED), I had SEARED (I was imagining a cross-section of meat). Only after I pulled that (very clever, I thought) answer did the DU- at 31D: Entertainer with the gag reply "What elephant?" give me DURANTE. Only mystery down here was 48D: ABC newsman Potter and others (NEDS). Never heard of him. Through the middle to the NE—the easiest section of all, if only because SMEARER (25A: Dirty campaigner) and DID TIME (9D: Was a joint tenant?) went straight in. Took a while to finish the puzzle off in the SE. Wanted BATISTA for KENNEDY (40D: Castro's "enemy to which we had become accustomed"). Still can't really buy POWER ON (49A: Start up, as electronic equipment) as a verb. I might POWER UP my computer, but do I POWER ON it? It must be legit, but yuck. ANY RATE was my anchor down here (38D: Whatever happens, after "at"). Last answer in the grid: MORONIC (36D: Dumb).
- 19A: "Chéri" novelist, 1920 (COLETTE) — Crossing the work of another French writer (1D: 1898 Emile Zola letter=>"J'ACCUSE"). Nice.
- 26A: Fangorn Forest race (ENTS) — 9y0 daughter just started reading "The Hobbit." Wife (a total Tolkien dork) is soooo excited.
- 2D: 1953 A.L. M.V.P. who played for the Indians (AL ROSEN) — his last name makes him one of the crossworthiest bygone baseball M.V.P.s. Put him in a grid once, and realized that that "1953 A.L. M.V.P." was always going to be in the clue about him. Thanks, brain, for tucking that bit of trivia away for me.
- 12D: Clerical clipping (TONSURE) — had almost every letter before I saw the clue, which is too bad, bec. I think I'd have nailed it with no letters in place. Had to think a lot about clerics in grad school, and some details stuck.
- 37D: Company whose logo is a lantern (COLEMAN) — because they make ... lanterns. Actually, all kinds of camping gear. First sentence at their website reads: "It was the first product we created, so it stands to reason that our logo is a lantern." My favorite COLEMAN is Gary.
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