Showing posts with label Milton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Milton. Show all posts

THURSDAY, Oct. 26, 2006 - Todd McClary and Dave Tuller

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Solving time: 20:23 (on-screen)

THEME: SEE [blank] (long clues ask you to "See" another clue/answer, which ends up being the second word in the clue, e.g. 17A: See 59-Down [where 59-Down=FIT ... so "See Fit"] (deem worthy))

First things first. Chocolate. If you live in or near the Ithaca, NY area, you must, must, must head to Sarah's Patisserie and start eating everything in sight. Sarah herself brought a box full of chocolates and primarly-chocolate pastries to my office yesterday and O My God. Everything was beautiful *and* delicious. Sarah even included a little chocolate duck for my 6-yr-old daughter. Sarah's wife, Tammy, is the executive chef and owner. Her desserts are featured at Willow restaurant (also in Ithaca, also Great). This is what one of her desserts looks like. It's called "The Sixth Avenue." My wife and I had one last night, and it was the best chocolate experience I've had since I went to Jacques Torres's place in Brooklyn last summer (completely coincidentally, M. Torres was Tammy's chocolatiering teacher). If Sarah's Patisserie Only Had a Website (!?) I would have a link to it HERE.

Why did I do the puzzle on-screen when I had Just vowed never to do so again? Who knows? Self-inflicted misery. I guess part of me imagines that I will have a massive solving-time breakthrough; instead, I end up stuck in the utterly foreseeable morass of mis-typing and mis-clicking. And once again, my ensuing crankiness is inflicted upon the puzzle and its talented, well-meaning constructors.

Can a puzzle simultaneously be clever, too clever, and not clever enough? If so, this is that puzzle. There is the undeniably clever use of "See [another clue]," which is a crossword cluing convention so common that you would never suspect it of trickery. The best kind of trick is the one that is hidden out in the open. The Purloined Letter trick. Plus, they managed to pull off this cleverness without choking the puzzle with obscurities (47A: Mexican Indian tribe (Huastec) being the one exception). So, this puzzle, it's clever. Yet, it's too clever: I don't like looking all over Hell and Gone to figure out what my clues are. Cleverness has impeded the Pleasure Principle (never wise). Then there's not clever enough: there is no pattern to the clue / answer pairings - those we are asked to "See" are not in any consistent relationship to the answers they clue, and they are (maddeningly, to my OCD brain) NOT symmetrical; worse, they are Almost symmetrical, as if the constructors thought they might be able to pull it off, but were forced to bail out of their plan at some point. So all the answers we are asked to "See" are vertical answers that touch the corners of the puzzle (we See RED, See THINGS, See FIT) ... except in the NE, where, if the puzzle Were symmetrical, we would have to "See BEEPER" (not an expression I know ... ABOUT is sitting sheepishly just three clicks to the west, like an actor who missed his mark). And if the concept is clever, the execution is not (so much). There's no real pop or life to the clue/answer pairings - I do like HALLUCINATE at 11D: See 43-Down [=THINGS], but TAKE CARE OF and BECOME ANGRY are kind of lifeless, and DEEM WORTHY is a Stretch for "See Fit" (the former implicitly applying to a person, the latter, to a situation or action - or so my morning brain tells me). This puzzle is wonderful in its conception, weaker in its execution (which is almost word-for-word what one of my grad school professors wrote about my written work in a letter of recommendation that I attempted to read by holding the sealed envelope up to the light...).

6A: Moonfish (opah)
6D: Daily TV staple since 1986 (Oprah)

Not sure if this is brilliant or lazy, but there's something oddly pleasing about these conjoined near-twins. Oprah is ubiquitous, but her show does not run "daily." Is "weekdaily" a word?

28D: City founded by Cadmus (Thebes)

Ah, my comfort zone. I love all things Theban - it's where all the most horrible things on earth happen, where family does things to family that should Not be done to family (Home of Oedipus REX). Cadmus is banished from Tyre by his father Agenor for failing to find his abducted sister Europa. So Cadmus heads off to settle a new land called Boeotia. Things do Not go well - all the people he brings with him are slaughtered by a giant serpent. Cadmus avenges their deaths by killing the serpent. Then he sows the serpent's teeth, and a new race of men emerges from the earth like plants. And then these new men immediately set to killing each other until only five remain. So the city is basically born out of family harming family, brothers killing brothers, civil war. Here is Ovid, from Metamorphoses (trans. Martin):

Now all of them were equally enraged!
These brothers of a moment slew each other,
until young men, whose lives had just begun,
lay beating the breast of their ensanguined mother. [nice!]
And now just five remained: one was Echion,
who, warned by Pallas, threw his weapons down,
seeking and giving securities for peace
among his brothers; these were the companions
Sidonian Cadmus had when he built the city
granted him by the oracle of Phoebus. (153-62)

And they all lived happily ever after.

42A: Product that prevents gas (Beano)

Awesome. Contemporary. Flatulence-Preventing. The only reason I am aware of this product is because I would often find it lying around the home of my friend Steve - super-smart, super-funny, super-gassy. At least I think it was Steve's. It could have been his wife's...

43A: "Boyz N the Hood" role (Tre)
45A: Kind of round in a tournament, informally (elim)
54A: Canceled (no go)

I don't like any of these. The first is pretty obscure, and makes me think of the early 90s, which you all know is a time in my life which I'd just as soon forget. Plus, whenever I see that movie title, I cringe. Spell it right, or go all the way and change "the" to "da." That's what I say. The second answer (ELIM) ... I don't hear it much if at all, and I've been in some tournaments. It works, it's just not as colloquial as I'd like. The last (NO GO) seems quite off. How can something be "canceled" if it was never allowed to "go?"

62D: Pop music's _____ Vanilli (Milli)

OK, if I must be reminded of the 90s, this is the way it should be done. If you're going to go dark, go very, very dark. So dark that it's Funny. Allow me to remind you that Milli Vanilli won the Best New Artist Grammy in, let's see ... 1989? (won it in 1990 for the year 1989, yes). Also nominated that year: Indigo Girls. Who did I start dating that year?: the sister of one of the Indigo Girls. It's true. Didn't last, or end well, but it's a nice little bit of trivia for the future Rex Parker bio (unofficial versions of which are surely already in the works).

63A: Classic rock group with a name from Greek myth (Styx)

O yeah. The late 70s and early 80s I am happy to remember. And the mythology theme (ERATO, THEBES ... uh, XENA) continues. There are two great moments in the history of the song "Sailing," by Styx. First, Cartman's version. Second, the use of the song at the school dance at the end of the pilot episode of Freaks and Geeks, one of the very greatest shows ever to be canceled (or should I say NO GO) after just one season.

2D: "For Lycidas is dead, dead _____ his prime": Milton (ere)

A thousand ways to clue ERE, and these guys decide to go through Milton. God bless them.

18D: Dungeons & Dragons creatures (orcs)
22D: "The Simpsons" bus driver (Otto)

Two gimmes, one right after the other. The fact that these two were gimmes tells you just about everything you need to know about Rex Parker (and his early and late nerdiness).
29D: Asian oil capital (Baku)

I had Bali here for a while, temporarily forgetting that that is a tourist resort, not an oil town. I have never heard of Baku. It sits in the part of the world about which Rex knows least (Russian Asia). BAKU is the capital of Azerbaijan, and it lies on the western side of the Caspian Sea. It is also the home of Aku, Dark Lord and nemesis of Samurai Jack:
Procter & Gamble brand (Gleem)

I just now guessed that this is a toothpaste, but I was thinking initially of household cleaners and air fresheners and other things that depressed housewives use in their futile-yet-never-ending War on Germs. This product falls under the "wacky spelling" category of brand names, which I hate so much. I want my teeth to GLEAM. GLEEM suggests they will give off some weird, radioactive glow. Good for Halloween, bad for ... well, every other situation one might find oneself in.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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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

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