Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Greco-Roman Wrestling

In our neighborhood drugstore, Valentine's Day arrives on the day after Christmas. The store's card section transforms overnight -- from Christmas red-and-green to Cupid red-and-pink. There they are in Aisle 3 -- row upon row of crisp, perky Valentine cards. It's hard not to feel sorry for the marked-down Chia Heads in Aisle 2, but life goes on. 

And so, in the spirit of living in the Hallmark moment, I give you . . . EROS and AMOR, the Greek and Roman love gods.

Crossword puzzle writers love Eros and Amor -- partly because they're so much alike, and partly because they're in a class of their own. First of all, they've enjoyed centuries of job security as love gods. They have wings. They carry bows and arrows. If you shout "Hey, lover boy!" -- they'll both turn around and wink at you. Most importantly, they both have four-letter names (two vowels, two consonants) with an "O" in the third position.

Constructors might keep you guessing by omitting the Greek (EROS) or Roman (AMOR) hint in their cluing -- so stash these factoids in your cruciverbal quiver:
  • EROS (Greek love god):  He's Aphrodite's son. There's a statue of Eros at London's Piccadilly Circus. He's in Oscar Wilde's poem title "The Garden of Eros"
  • AMOR (Roman love god): "Amor" means "love" in Spanish and Italian. Look for Latin fill-in-the-blank phrases like "Omnia vincit amor" ("Love conquers all"). He's a "Latin" lover. In opera, there's "Porgi Amor" from The Marriage of Figaro

      But what if you're like me: you take multi-vitamins, you drink acai tea, you floss . . . and yet, sometimes you still don't know your EROS from your AMOR?

      Here's a tip: AMOR, spelled backwards, is ROMA (hinting at ROMAN or ROME). Judith Testa's fantastic book captures the wordplay.

      Solver's Takeaway:  AMOR, spelled backwards, is ROMA. And so, AMOR is the ROMAn god of love.

      RENEE Fleming has become a crossword regular in recent years, and for good reason. Here she performs "Porgi Amor" from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro.  Perfection.


      Crossword Man said...

      The statue in Piccadilly Circus actually depicts Anteros - ironic in view of the theme in the New York Times crossword today (January 7).

      Don't worry, even the locals don't realize the difference between Eros and his twin brother Anteros, and Alfred Gilbert's statue has always been (and probably will continue to be) popularly referred to as Eros.

      Elizabeth said...

      Ross, now I can't wait to use ANTEROS, to give Mr. Gilbert his due. You're right -- "Anteros" is the name of Gilbert's work.

      Gee, how eerie: the twins, EROS and ANTEROS would feel at home in today's puzzle.

      I'll rethink this EROS/ Piccadilly clue . . . you make an excellent point. Many thanks!