03.24.13 — Rarity — the Acrostic

 
 
Victorian Butterfly Collection
 
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Sunday, March 24, 2013
 
ACROSTIC, Puzzle by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon
Edited by Will Shortz
 
This Sunday's challenging acrostic draws a quotation from At Large and At Small: Confessions of a Literary Hedonist by Anne Fadiman.
 
In "At Large and At Small", Anne Fadiman returns to one of her favorite genres, the familiar essay--a beloved and hallowed literary tradition recognized for both its intellectual breadth and its miniaturist focus on everyday experiences. With the combination of humor and erudition that has distinguished her as one of our finest essayists, Fadiman draws us into twelve of her personal obsessions: from her slightly sinister childhood enthusiasm for catching butterflies to her monumental crush on Charles Lamb, from her wistfulness for the days of letter-writing to the challenges and rewards of moving from the city to the country. ~ Book Description, Amazon.com
 
The quotation: THE FIRST CANTO OF “PALE FIRE” CONTAINS, WITHIN ITS… COMPASS, THE WORDS TORQUATED, STILLICIDE, SHAGBARK, VERMICULATED, PRETERIST, IRIDULE, AND LEMNISCATE. NABOKOV COLLECTED RARE WORDS, JUST AS HE COLLECTED RARE BUTTERFLIES.
 
The author's name and the title of the work:  FADIMAN,  AT LARGE AND AT SMALL

The defined words:
 
A. Vocabulary, to a walking dictionary, FORTE
B. Nonnumerical key on a phone, ASTERISK
C. Refractory, as a child, DIFFICULT
D. Unstated, IMPLICIT
E. Neither terrific nor terrible, MEDIOCRE
F. “One with jointed feet”, ARTHROPOD
G. Like a typical workday (hyph.), NINE-TO-FIVE
H. Star of 19276’s “The Jazz Singer” (2 wds.), AL JOLSON
I. Monster hit with a Vincent Price Sprechgesang, THRILLER
J. Cookie-cutter suburb started in 1947, LEVITTOWN
K. Got enlarged by a gradual buildup, ACCRETED
L. Site of an unusual passage (2 wds.), RED SEA
M. Beer holder; angry cur, e.g., GROWLER
N. Disrupter of the 1989 World Series, EARTHQUAKE
O. Off in foreign climes, ABROAD
P. Unrivaled person or thing, NONESUCH
O. Lenticular object of Summer Games, DISCUS
R. Having no rational basis, ABSURD
S. Science of maneuvering military forces, TACTICS
T. Like a couple of babies, in “H.M.S. Pinafore”, SWITCHED
U. Tyrannosaur of the insect world, MANTIS
V. Out, ASLEEP
W. Diagnostic procedure (2 wds.), LAB TEST
X. “Wheel of Fortune” elements; prose and poetry, LETTERS
 
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The full paragraph of the quotation: (My four favorite words in this passage are “and their food plants.” Only a true entomologist, as opposed to a starry-eyed amateur, would include them in such a lyrical effusion and, what’s more, clearly believe they were lyrical themselves.) Many of the themes in Nabokov’s fiction—metamorphosis and flight, deception and mimicry, evasion and capture—are lepidopteron. And to my ear, his very language is too. The first canto of "Pale Fire" contains, within its four-and-a-half page compass, the words torquated, stillicide, shagbark, vermiculated, preterist, iridule, and lemniscates. Nabokov collected rare words, just as he collected rare butterflies, and when he netted one, especially in the exotic landscape of his second language, his satisfaction is as palpable as if he had finally captured the brown and white hairstreak that once eluded him when he was a boy. Nabokov’s style is not just poetic; it is taxonomic. He mentions with something close to hatred the village schoolmaster who, taking his charges for a nature walk, used to quash young Vladimir’s hunger for precision by saying, “Oh, just a small bird--no special name.” And what scorn Nabokov bears for us, his clueless audience, when he writes, “I had found last spring a dark aberration of Sievers’ Carmelite (just another gray moth to the reader). ~ ”At Large and At Small: Confessions of a Literary Hedonist” by Anne Fadiman
 
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On Discovering a Butterfly
 
 
I found it and I named it, being versed
in taxonomic Latin; thus became
godfather to an insect and its first
describer—and I want no other fame.
 
Wide open on its pin (though fast asleep),
and safe from creeping relatives and rust,
in the secluded stronghold where we keep
type specimens it will transcend its dust.

Dark pictures, thrones, the stones that pilgrims kiss,
poems that take a thousand years to die
but ape the immortality of this
red label on a little butterfly.

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2 comments:

geoff said...

While the clue for tactics is accurate and one of the meanings of the word, when a soldier uses the term it refers to a great many things besides maneuver, from "guerrilla tactics" to psy-ops.

Unknown said...

Hex's puzzles are always grand, but I especially loved this one because it was so hard - and yet ultimately solveable. Those Nabokov words were like rare butterflies for us to pin down too!