WEDNESDAY, Sep. 27, 2006 - Elizabeth C. Gorski

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Solving time: 9:09

I muddled around in this one for a while - couldn't quite get a rhythm. Maybe I was distracted by thoughts of my lovely wife, as today is our THIRD ANNIVERSARY!!! But enough celebration; on to the puzzle!

1A: Appropriate-sounding papal name (Pius)

Normally, I'm not fond of 1A clues. Too showy, too cocky, too vain. I mean "1A" - could you imagine a more presumptuous name? They hog the spotlight. They're like the really high-achieving student - not necessarily the smartest, but the most self-promoting. Not the kind of folks I like to hang out with. In this case, however, I'll make an exception, as a. I am a sucker for all things papacy, and b. I am at this very moment teaching the Aeneid in my British Literature course (don't ask) and "pius" is the adjective (in the original Latin) that most often attaches itself to our hero, Aeneas. It means "pious" but "dutiful" is perhaps a better translation. He is all about the Common Good - preserving his household gods and his father and son (wife conveniently burned up in Troy and then even more conveniently returned as a ghost to cheer him on to his Destiny as founder of a new homeland for the exiled Trojans; this Destiny involves his marrying a new wife, a certain doorpost named Lavinia, but I digress). In short, Aeneas is like the first-born son in a fucked-up family who's doing everything he can to keep everything from coming apart, and though he is not nearly as flash as other epic heroes (say, Achilles, or, uh, Milton's Satan), I want to recognize the virtue of decency and civic-mindedness. Aeneas is boring, but he will not let you down. We have things in common.

15A: "East of Eden" director Kazan (Elia)

Kazan is a master director who ratted out friends and colleagues to HUAC. I saw a great documentary on PBS recently about his career and his relationship with Arthur Miller - it was fascinating, and pretty even-handed toward Kazan. Apparently he nailed Marilyn Monroe a lot. That's what I took away from it. The documentary was called Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan and the Blacklist: None Without Sin. Check it out.

O the other thing I wanted to say about this (common) answer is that there is another way that constructors often clue it: "Lamb alias" - Charles Lamb wrote essays for London Magazine under the pseudonym "Elia" in the 1820s. Who was Charles Lamb? Damned if I know. Go here to find out: "Charles Lamb, Elia"

41A: "One Tree Hill" target viewer (teen)

How do I love this clue? Let me count the ways. First, it will be so dated so fast! Imagine a neophyte puzzler in 2020 pulling this puzzle out of the archive and trying to solve it: "I know those words, but that title makes no sense." I love when constructors go so hyper-contemporary because the future obsolescence of the clue somehow soothes my soul. (See also 39A: Excellent, slangily (phat)) I also love the answer to this clue, because the word "teen" just makes me laugh. I think it's because every time I see or hear it, I think of Krusty the Clown worrying aloud during one of his broadcasts, after reading his up-to-that-second ratings: "We're losing male teens!" Like many Simpsons phrases, it has, for me, broken free of the show and fucntions as a great stand-alone exclamation. I just like saying it.

[Reader "Andrew" points out that Krusty did not, in fact, say the line about losing male teens. That line belongs to the sunny, versatile, and utterly conscience-free advertising executive - sales consultant Lindsay Naegle.]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Thanks to "Steve" @ the NYT Crossword Puzzle Forum for helping me realize that the reason I couldn't figure out what the answer to 31A: Gun meant was because the Real Answer is not "ren" (as I had it) but "rev." Can you blame me for having 10D: Congressional Record info down as "House Notes?" The word "Record" in "Congressional Record" just sounded so ... documentish, that I figured the answer must be "Notes." But no. "Votes," of course. "House Votes."


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