FRIDAY, Oct. 13, 2006 - Eric Berlin

Friday, October 13, 2006

Solving time: 20:59

THEME: none

This Eric Berlin puzzle is up there with recent Hinman and Quarfoot offerings as one of my favorite puzzles in recent weeks. The long answers (7+ letters, of which there are many) are almost all ingenious and entertaining, unexpected or surprising without being excessively recondite (for instance, the word "recondite" is nowhere to be found in this puzzle). My enjoyment level was high despite having to do the puzzle for a second day in a row in pencil (too Lazy to get up and look for a pen) and having to stop twice for various kid-related breaks. Actually, I should penalize myself a few seconds because I solved one of the clues while I was downstairs, off the clock, making sure Sahra (her self-selected screen name - "the 'h' is silent," I'm told) had put her dishes away and was safely ensconced in front of Looney Tunes (vintage Looney Tunes; you know, the good, old-timey ... occasionally racist and super-violent Looney Tunes. Only the best for my Sahra).

7A: Sitcom character in apartment 5B (Kramer)

At the risk losing my entire audience (exactly 12 lonely people in the Tri-State area, I'm pretty sure), I am going to say that I never liked Seinfeld and that Kramer is a big reason why. He always seemed like a sad rip-off of the Reverend Jim Ignatowski from Taxi. Why do I want to watch a group of hateful selfish jerks sit around and grouse and snark and grasp after catch phrases for a half hour? And that horrible horrible bass guitar in the theme and scene transition music. Again, if you haven't abandoned this site forever by this point, I'll finish the job: Friends was the superior sitcom.

30A: General Mills cereal trademark (Trix Rabbit)

So, so nice, what with the "x" and double "b" in there, and the cartooniness and nostalgia-riffic happy feeling that the answer evokes carefully hidden under a dull, corporate-sounding clue. "Silly rabbit! Trix are for kids!" Note: Google Image search of "Trix rabbit" reveals a very high number of links to MySpace profile pages, which means the Trix Rabbit must have something to do with drug culture ... or Napoleon Dynamite. Silly teens!

32A: Adam or Eve vis-à-vis 6-Down (evictee)
6D: See 32-Across (Eden)

How do I love this? In so many ways. These circular clues (where one refers to another, which refers back to the first) can be maddening. But the four spaces of 6D didn't leave much doubt that this was EDEN. So ... I wanted "denizen" or the like for 32A at first, but "evictee"! So sweet. Perfect, in that it is a word that is rarely if ever used to describe our Fallen progenitors (if you believe in that sort of thing), but that nonetheless fits, well, Perfectly. It's such a great, ordinary, everyday, non-hifalutin' word to describe A + E. As if they didn't pay their rent or had loud parties or something. Oh, and Adam and Eve and Eden and all that leads nicely to what I consider the TERtiary part of this puzzle's Bible-referencing extravaganza:

23D: "Awake, arise _____ forever fallen!": Milton (or be)

I told you I would blog Milton every chance I got, and I was not kidding. This is Satan speaking to all the fallen rebel angels after they are lying around in the abyss after getting their collective asses handed to them by Jesus et al. Satan is the Great Rhetorician, the Great Orator, and a personal hero of mine (where rhetoric is concerned, I mean; evil is of course wrong). Milton gives him all the best lines - I love that the poet-figure in Paradise Lost is the Devil. Milton is Krafty. Language is powerful, but seductive. What to do, what to do? Here is Satan, rallying the Troops:

Or in this abject posture have ye sworn
T' adore the Conqeror, who now beholds
Cherub and seraph rolling in the flood
With scattered arms and ensigns till anon
Th' advantage and descending tread us down,
Thus drooping, or with linkèd thunderbolts
Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf?
Awake! Arise, or be for ever fall'n! (Paradise Lost I.323-30)

So much enjambment! Urgency of words not hindered by pauses at the end of lines. Dreamy.
50A: Torch carriers (spot welders)

Normally I end up hating clues that stall me for a good period of time, but this one gave me such a "Eureka!" feeling upon solving it, that I ended up loving it. I had just the SPO at first, and a gaping SE corner, and was thinking of "torch carriers" as "spurned lovers" ("sporned exes" would have fit! "Sporned" should be a word) - then I was picturing an angry mob, or people carrying flashlights in Britain. When I finally got that 37D: Potty was DAFT (after having tried many synonyms for "toilet") then I had SPOT- and the rest is history.

7D: Bedside container (Kleenex box)

Technically ingenious way to get two x's and a k into a long answer, but something about this whole clue / answer combo grosses me out a little.

44D: Picnic implement (spork)

YES! I don't have anything to say about sporks, I just like the word, the concept, the way my tongue feels in my mouth when I say it. Spork! It is a word I feel close to. Perhaps because it seems like a word that is perfect for someone who is into sports but is also a dork. Or because it sounds like a colloquial answer to the question: "What kind of meat is this?"

51D: Mud dauber, e.g. (wasp)

I was all set to challenge the idea that a wasp could properly "daub" anything when I Googled "mud dauber" and found that that is the common name for many varieties of wasp. Here is more than you ever wanted to know about them. Most interesting: they are solitary, not social, and do not attack people as hornets and yellow jackets do. They are lovers, not fighters. They are the artists of the wasp family, harmlessly daubing away while their more conformist counterparts spread violence throughout the world. Shine on, you crazy mud-daubers!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 5:57 PM  

Love your daily dissection approach to our common addiction and glad you finally came out of the (I Hate Seinfeld) closet. Someday, the kids will be grown and you'll be offered a full professorship at NYU where you'll get to live in a loft in the West Village and hob nob with the likes of Will Shortz. After a couple of years of this bizarro-Binghamton lifestyle, Seinfeld will take on new meaning. And for documentation of Michael Richards originality and pedigree, ABC's old (80's, I think) sketch comedy gem "Fridays" is worth seeking out.

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