Sunday, August 05, 2007

More powerful than a locomotive

I'm not crazy enough to think that I'm receiving secret messages through the crossword puzzle, but I've been working for the past several months on a new Jack B. Goode story. Mister Goode is my hard-boiled detective who has appeared in 3 issues of Fantasy and Science fiction magazine -- June 1999, December 2000 and August 2006 -- always as a fish out of water. The story I've been working on has him meeting Superman -- the Superman I grew up with, which is what comic book fans would call the Silver-Age Superman -- and helping him deal with Lex Luthor, Mr Mxyzptlyk and most sinister of all -- Lois Lane. I do feel like like this is a sign that I need to finsh that story and quit dragging my feet. So if the blog entries stay shorter than usual you'll know why.

But in the meantime, there is "Look! Up in the Sky!" by Will Nediger. SPOILER WARNING: 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 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. Or if you're ready to decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

The themed entries in this puzzle all refer to the opening lines of the Superman TV show, which were an adaptation of the lines in the Superman radio show. Actually they were a little different in the first episode of the radio show:

"Faster than an airplane, more powerful than a locomotive, impervious to bullets!"
"Up in the sky - look!"
"It's a giant bird!"
"It's a plane!"
"And now, Superman - a being no larger than an ordinary man but possessed of powers and abilities never before realized on Earth: able to leap into the air an eighth of a mile at a single bound, hurtle a 20-story building with ease, race a high-powered bullet to its target, lift tremendous weights and rend solid steel in his bare hands as though it were paper. Superman - a strange visitor from a distant planet: champion of the oppressed, physical marvel extraordinary who has sworn to devote his existence on Earth to helping those in need!"

But they quickly evolved into the lines we all know so well:

"Faster than a speeding bullet!

More powerful than a locomotive!

Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!

("Look! Up in the sky!" "It's a bird!" "It's a plane!" "It's Superman!")...

Yes, it's Superman ... strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men! Superman ... who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!"

Kinda funny that they kept that "Able to leap tall buildings" line even after Superman learned to fly.

The Super-references occur at:

4D: 1965 Jerzy Kosinkski novel (THE PAINTED BIRD)

14D: Much-hyped movie of 2006 (SNAKES ON A PLANE)

18D: Four-act play by George Bernard Shaw (MAN AND SUPERMAN)

Other entries of interest:

23A: Desi Arnaz memoir (A BOOK) I've never read it -- partly because I figure it's got to be pretty boring if that's the best title you can come up with -- but I wonder if he mentions how his marriage to Lucille Ball ended when she caught him in bed with, not one, but two prostitutes.

56A: "No one can sing who has smog in his throat" speaker of kiddie lit (LORAX) Dr. Seuss's work -- especially works such as "The Lorax" -- should not be consigned to the "kiddie lit" section. As a matter of fact, a lot of Seuss's stuff requires a few years on the part of the reader to truly appreciate. "Horton Hatches the Egg" is one of my favorite books ever -- not favorite children's books, just favorite.

27D: Low-prestige position (McJOB) I mentioned a while back how much I miss zines -- those handmade peiodicals that thrived in the 1990's. One of the ones I subscribed to was Julee Peezlee's "McJOB." Hilarious, especially if you've done some time on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

10D: Postpone, as a motion (TABLE) If you are in charge of the committee that tables the motion, you might be said to chair it. How many other actions in the boardroom are named after pieces of furniture?

19A: Cannabis (HEMP) I had WEED and when I found out it started with H I had HERB. Lots of erasing on this simple four-letter entry.

There's a blank space in my puzzle grid at 21. There should be an N there, making SNAPE and NOVA. There are holes in my Harry Potter knowledge and the field of smoked fish as well.
That's all for today.


Matt M. said...

I learned NOVA from an earlier Sun puzzle (and remembered it!). Your table/chair comment reminded me of this exchange from Annie Hall:

Robin: There's Henry Drucker. He has a chair in history at Princeton. Oh, and the short man is Hershel Kaminsky. He has a chair in philosophy at Cornell.

Alvy Singer: Yeah? Two more chairs they got a dining room set.

Norrin2 said...

I'm sure I've seen NOVA in a previous Sun puzzle and forgot it. Hopefully I'll do better this time.