Thursday, June 16, 2011

It doesn't take a lot of courage to blog about crossword puzzles, but it does take courage to do so intelligently.  (I've made a couple tries before.)

There's a crossword blogger named Rex Parker who solves the New York Times puzzle, and he usually places quite high in the official NYT crossword tournament.  When I consumed crosswords regularly, his blog was my resort whenever I couldn't solve a particular section.  He gives a summary of the puzzle, goes into his own solving experience, and describes what clues he thought were good, or what clues he thought were bad.  And he always makes sure to embed at least one YouTube video, because who doesn't love watching YouTube videos over their morning coffee?

In one Sunday puzzle from several months back, the clue for an across fill was: "Homeric hero."

It took me about 30 seconds to solve.

It's six letters.


For anyone who's not sure, the definition of "Homeric" on is:

: of, relating to, or characteristic of the Greek poet Homer, his age, or his writings
: of epic proportions : heroic <Homeric feats>

There are two definitions of the word.  Neither of those definitions is obscure.  They're both quite common--especially for anyone who went to college and had to wade through a "Great Books" program.

So to solve the clue you need an epic hero from Homer, or a different epic hero who enjoys performing epic feats.  Aeneas was a Trojan soldier who briefly appears in the latter part of Homer's Iliad, and later Virgil composed the Aeneid with Aeneas as the central protagonist.

I thought this was an excellent clue.  "Epic hero" would have been terribly vague.  And since Aeneas, in fact, appeared briefly in the Iliad, the mental association is a dead giveaway he's the correct answer.  So it was an ingenious thing the crossword designer did, phrasing it that way.

Rex Parker blew a fucking gasket over this clue.

He wrote:
19A: Homeric hero (AENEAS) — I'm calling massive bull$#!* on this one. It is true that AENEAS is in Homer's "Iliad," but calling him a "Homeric hero" is kind of nonsense. He's pretty damned minor, compared to the (many) other "heroes" in that poem. Why the *&$! do you clue AENEAS via Homer and not Virgil?—Virgil named his damned epic after the guy, for pete's sake. Boo. Cheap. Bad. Etc.

It's true that Aeneas is a minor character.  In terms of importance to the Iliad, he'd be like that soldier who holds Frodo and Sam hostage in the second Lord of the Rings movie, and whose name I don't remember.

The problem, of course, is that Rex Parker doesn't know the definition of some words.  And, upon finding himself at a disagreement with a word, he goes on a tirade without bothering to look up the word in a dictionary.

"Homeric" does not imply ___ was in Homer.
Yes, Aeneas was in the Iliad, but that's just a bonus association.
"Homeric hero" simply means an epic hero.  It could be used to describe Beowulf just as easily.
Aeneas is an epic hero, and he's also associated with Homer.

Rex Parker has a lot of people who comment on his blog, and I was waiting for somebody to point out how plainly wrong Rex was about the clue.  This is what the people had to say:

Matthew G. said...
The only thing I enjoyed about this puzzle was looking forward to Rex skewering it, and I'm glad to see he hated everything I did about it.
Big ditto on hating AENEAS -- refused to accept it initially because I thought it had to be a trap given "Homeric" in the clue -- AARON, MCLI.
10:46 AM

twins4reading said...
Definitely didn't feel the anger of some of the solvers but agree with Rex's ANGST about AENEAS. I also couldn't fathom how WADEIN could be described as "energetically". Other than that I thought the puzzle was fun---2 Melville themed clues!
11:01 AM

archaeoprof said...

I agree with Rex about both AENEAS and NANCI Griffith
11:25 AM

George NYC said...
This is one of those days where I rejoice at the exist  ence of this blog. This puzzle just pissed me off until I finally asked myself, "Why are you doing this?" So nice to have Rex et al as a reality check.

Homeric hero = Aeneas is at best misleading, at worse, just plain wrong. If the Aeneid had never been written, maybe it would pass. But as Rex says, Aeneas is a minor character (compared to others) in Homer's The Iliad. It's like cluing the Mona Lisa as "painting that once hung in the Metropolitan Museum of Art."
2:43 PM

You fucking retards.  You solve the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle, which means you probably read the New York Times Sunday edition.  And you obviously spend time on the internet--perhaps on the parts that enlighten people, and you clearly participate in blog discussions.  Isn't that a stereotype of modern-day literati?  And not one person recognized that "Homeric" was, in fact, used correctly?

Here are their respective blog profiles:

George NYC:  Industry: Publishing  Occupation: Writer, Editor
Archaeoprof:  Industry: Education  Occupation: Professor
Matthew G:  Nothing about his occupation
Twins4reading:  No profile, but he blogs about publishing; appears to be an avid reader

That definitely sounds like people who are aspiring to be part of the educated class.

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