Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Poets’ Corner”—Laura’s review
Quick plus: Boswords is this weekend, and already will have happened once this review posts, but you can order the solve-at-home puzzles for a mere $5.
We’re looking for a five-letter word, and there’s something to do with poetry. Main themer clues are lines from poems, and the entries are their titles:
- [18a: “Here I am, an old man in a dry month” poem]: GERONTION
- [25a: “Lay your sleeping head, my love/ Human on my faithless arm” poem]: LULLABY
- [34a: “This is my son, mine own Telemachus” poem]: ULYSSES
- [40a: “O world! O life! O time!” poem]: A LAMENT
- [50a: “Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand” poem]: SECOND FIG
On the principle of: when you have a list of things, make a list of corresponding things, we have the poems’ authors:
T. S. ELIOT
W. H. AUDEN
Alfred, Lord TENNYSON
Percy Bysshe SHELLEY
Edna St. Vincent MILLAY
Do the names spell out a five-letter word? E-A-T-S-M. MEATS? TEAMS? MATES? METAS? Doesn’t seem quite relevant, except maybe that last one. Let’s study the grid and see if we see anything …
O world! Each poets name makes a “corner” in different parts of the grid, like so:
If we take the letters that are in the “corners” of those “poets’ corners,” and arrange them in order corresponding to their poems’ order in the grid, we get:
Or, IDYLL, which is a five-letter word, and another word for poem. One of TENNYSON’s more famous poems is “Idylls of the King,” which crossword solvers may know because it is often referenced in clues for ENID.
A few thoughts:
- It takes some serious skill and serendipity to find five poems that 1) had titles that fit correspondingly into the grid; and 2) had authors who could fit into the grid’s various “corners.”
- I don’t mind that the poets’ names were in corner-ish areas of the grid, and not, say, at the four outside corners.
- These are five extremely famous poets in English-language literature, only one of whom, Tennyson, is buried in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner. There are memorials to Auden, Eliot, and Shelley in Poets’ Corner, but none to Millay (she’s likely ineligible, as an American? While Eliot is considered an honorary Briton?).
- However famous certain lines from these cited poems may be, their titles might be lesser known, and are certainly not the most famous poems by them. Apparently even those with advanced degrees in English literature had to google lines from the poems to determine the titles. I can imagine this may have been a source of frustration for some solvers.
- I’ll leave you with “First Fig,” a more famous poem from MILLAY, and one that I find increasingly relevant of late:
My candle burns at both ends;It will not last the night;But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—It gives a lovely light!