Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Accentuating the positive







"Don't Be So Negative" is by Pete Mitchell. And the conceit here is using a positive form of a word that is usually expressed as a negative. You'll see what I mean right after this SPOILER WARNING (now with 50 per cent more rant!): Don't read any further until you've done today's New York Sun Crossword Puzzle. New York Sun puzzles are every bit as fun and challenging as the more well-known New York Times -- No, you know what, they're better. That's right, I said it, the New York Sun's puzzles are better than the New York Times's puzzles, and I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to be Peter Gordon and to keep putting out this superior product and have everybody just blog, blog, blogging and yak, yak, yakking about the Times, Times, Times. Look, if you don't have time for two great puzzles a day, do the better one, do the SUN -- (we now return you to your regularly scheduled spoiler warning) -- and they're indisputably better in one way -- they're free. If you'd like to read about an unbiased head-to-head competition between the Sun and the Times puzzles check this out. For an unsolicited testimonial from someone who agrees with me, see here. Or if you're ready to decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

Ready to shed all that negativity and get some positive vibes going? Let's do it.

3D: Getaway drivers? (NOCENT BYSTANDERS) Although you never hear it, the word NOCENT has been around for 600 years or more. It means "harmful, injurious." In other words, the opposite of INNOCENT. I do have a problem with this answer though, as I don't see how you can be a getaway driver and a harmful, injurious bystander. You can't drive and stand by, can you? A nocent bystander might trip the police when they chase after the crooks or say "They went thataway" when they actually went t'other way, but if you're driving the getaway car, you're not a nocent bystander, you're a nocent abettor.

21D: Someone who doesn't bother anyone during a flight? (RULY PASSENGER) "Ruly" is a back-formation from "unruly" and it usually means "neat and tidy." Again, not a word you hear every day.

9D: Source of carnal desires? (MACULATE HEART) This is the one that gave me the most trouble, probably because I've never heard the word "maculate" and I don't think I'd ever considered the IM- in IMMACULATE to be a negative prefix, since "immaculate" is the ultimate positive word. Well, that's one of the reasons I love crossword puzzles. "Maculate" means "spotted or stained". It's used here in its archaic sense of "defiled, impure."

11D: Receiver of a large bonus? (GRUNTLED EMPLOYEE) We hear a lot about disgruntled employees and it's natural to assume that they are dis- (not) -gruntled (happy) but the "dis" of disgruntled is not the same as the "dis" of "dismayed." It's not a negative at all, it's an intensifier. It means "completely", and so "gruntled," just as it sounds, is an old word that means "grumbling." "Disgruntled" means "completely grumbling." Today, however, "gruntled" is finding its way into dictionaries as a word again, only this time it means "happy or content." In other words the opposite of what it originally meant.

If you like this positive spins on words you'll love this classic piece:

How I Met My Wife
Jack Winter, the New Yorker, July 25, 1994.

It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate.

I was furling my weildy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way.

I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I’d have to make bones about it, since I was travelling cognito. Beknowst to me, the hostess, whom I could see both hide and hair of, was very proper, so it would be skin off my nose if anything bad happened. And even though I had only swerving loyalty to her, my manners couldn’t be peccable. Only toward and heard-of behavior would do.

Fortunately, the embarrassment that my maculate appearance might cause was evitable. There were two ways about it, but the chances that someone as flappable as I would be ept enough to become persona grata or a sung hero were slim. I was, after all, something to sneeze at, someone you could easily hold a candle to, someone who usually aroused bridled passion.

So I decided not to risk it. But then, all at once, for some apparent reason, she looked in my direction and smiled in a way that I could make head or tails of.

I was plussed. It was concerting to see that she was communicado, and it nerved me that she was interested in a pareil like me, sight seen. Normally, I had a domitable spirit, but, being corrigible, I felt capacitated—as if this were something I was great shakes at—and forgot that I had succeeded in situations like this only a told number of times. So, after a terminable delay, I acted with mitigated gall and made my way through the ruly crowd with strong givings.

Nevertheless, since this was all new hat to me and I had not time to prepare a promptu speech, I was petuous. Wanting to make only called-for remarks, I started talking about the hors d’oeuvres, trying to abuse her of the notion that I was sipid, and perhaps even bunk a few myths about myselfs.

She responded well, and I was mayed that she considered me a savoury character who was up to some good. She told me who she was. “What a perfect nomer,” I said, advertently. The conversation became more and more choate, and we spoke at length to much avail. But I was defatigable, so I had to leave at a godly hour. I asked if she wanted to come with me. To my delight, she was committal. We left the party together and have been together ever since. I have given her my love, and she has requited it.



Other entries of interest:

31A: Manhattan variety (ROB ROY) My name is Robert Loy. Most people call me Rob, so I'm always this close to a cocktail -- unfortunately, a Rob Roy is made with Scotch, which I cannot stand.

32A: NASCAR septets (PIT CREWS) Not a NASCAR fan, and it gave me a headache trying to think of something a car would have seven of -- not tires or valves or windows. Turns out you have 7 guys on your pit crew. Adding to my troubles in this area was the fact that I had SEAT at 32D: Keister instead of PRAT so I was looking for a car part that started with a S.

36A: Carter who illustrated "The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer" (AMY) A family affair, since the Carter who wrote this book is JIMMY.
42A: Creator of Tommy and Tuppence (AGATHA) I went through a big mystery-reading phase many years ago, and I've read a lot of Agatha Christie. I was never a big fan of this husband and wife crime-solving team (although By the Pricking of My Thumbs is pretty good). I was more of a Hercule Poirot man, or as Dame Agatha herself referred to him: "That insufferable Belgian twit."


50A: Jacques Cousteau's ship (CALYPSO) I can thank John Denver for this one, as he recorded a song about Jacques and his crew that was so catchy I've never quite gotten it completely out of my mind.



7A: Soap spitfire since 1970 (ERICA) That would be Erica Kane as played by Susan Lucci on "All My Children." I started watching that show in 1972 and only quit about five years ago. I was an addict, even working at night during those pre-VCR years so I wouldn't have to miss it. Speaking of things I've never been able to get out of my mind, remind me sometime to tell you about the crush I had on an alcoholic lesbian named Devon Shepherd who was on that show.


12D: U.S. Counterpart of Action Man (G.I. Joe) You can learn more about Action Man than you ever wanted to know right here.


28D: Calliope's kin (ERATO) Erato, the muse of erotic poetry and song, is by far the most popular muse among crossword constructors. Clio shows up once in a while. Polyhymnia and Terpsichore almost never.


43A: Suburban bar (AXLE) No, not Applebee's. Part of the Suburban SUV. (And yes, I considered AXLES on that damn Nascar clue too.)


I just noticed that I left squares 60 and 61 blank. That kind of carelessness could cost me dearly at Brooklyn. Put an S in the former and a P in the latter. And while you're at it change WINNIE at 51A: Disney Store plush toy to MINNIE. Oh, and explain 61D: Cap's counterpart (PIE) to me. To me this is Cap:


and his counterpart would be either Bucky or the Falcon. I know, nobody but other comic book nerds has any idea what I'm talking about. It's probably time for me to sign off. Be here tomorrow when we'll close out the puzzle week.
Rest in peace, Elvis.




2 comments:

Francis said...

See http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?va=cap-a-pie for the explanation you seek

Norrin2 said...

Thanks, that actually makes me feel a little better about not getting the answer. I was afraid it was something obvious and I was just missing the connnection, but I have never heard of the term "cap-a-pie."