Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Muses: Virtue and Moir

A reader asks: "How do you come up with puzzle ideas?"

I'm often asked this question and, darn it--I've yet to come up with a good answer. I don't know exactly how the ideas come, but it starts with the hunter/gatherer instinct. When it comes to searching for themes, I'm the Collyer Sister--obsessively hoarding words and seed phrases . . . impulsively scribbled on deposit slips, receipts and any writing surface that, of course, can't be readily accessed when needed.

Prior to my constructing days, I was a fast reader. My reading speed has since decelerated from allegro to adagio.

That's because I've turned into a real book worm--inching across the pages at glacial speed. I can't read a paragraph without stopping to highlight an interesting word, or to jot down puzzle theme ideas in the margins.

Then there's the indirect route--inspiration from other art forms. I'm fascinated by greatness of any kind, especially in sports. To that end, I've watched way too much late-night Olympic coverage.

But I've found two new muses!  The Canadian ice dancing team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir; they won the Gold yesterday. Those simultaneous twizzle spins, the lifts, the mirrored skating patterns!  I'm enchanted by their exquisite music-driven programs, and by their trust in each other. Every artistic element has been honed, polished and spun into gold.

I don't think there's an ice dancing puzzle brewing in my brain. But Virtue and Moir inspire creativity through a passion for their craft. Good art, no matter what it is, makes me want to work harder in my own little micro world.

Solver's Takeaway:  It is an honor to add TESSA Virtue and Scott MOIR to the puzzle family. They're golden, they're young and poised for a long career on ice . . . and the puzzle grid.

The soundtrack for last night's free skate was a shortened version of the Adagietto from Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5. This 2009 performance says it all: These two young artists were destined for Olympic Gold.

Can you watch this without crying?  I can't. Well done, Virtue and Moir!


Crossword Man said...

I suppose it won't be long before we see {Virtue of ice dancing} as a clue and I stand a better chance of getting the answer now. Hang on a sec, TESSA is a really rare answer - how come, given those letters?

Kudos to Virtue and Moir for choosing the Mahler, which works beautifully with their routine.

Joe Krozel said...

Very true how accomplishments completely unrelated to one's own craft can be a source of inspiration. In one of my NYT crossword blog interviews I mentioned a very similar experience: for me, inspiration came from a book of Bobby Fischer's outrageous chess moves. Just when one thought the number of viable chess moves was finite, Mr. Fischer showed the world some really unconventional alternatives.

Elizabeth said...

Ross, you're right . . . VIRTUE has good wordplay possibilities. TESSA is mezzo in the G&S operetta "The Gondoliers"; also a character in George Eliot's "Romola." TESSA Virtue came along not a moment too soon!

As a kid, I saw Bernstein conduct Mahler 5 (NY. Phil); then took up the violin shortly after that, probably because of the all-string Adagietto movement. It still makes me cry. :)

Elizabeth said...

Joe . . . oho, so Bobby Fischer is your inspiration? That might explain your amazing puzzles. Your descriptives of Fischer's work -- "unconventional, outrageous" -- are what I'd use to describe your work!

Joe Krozel said...

Thanks Elizabeth, and by the way: your oft-invoked convention of using left-right symmetry came in handy today. So, thanks also for setting a strong precedent with that because I might not have been able to accomplish a certain construction feat without it! But that's all I'm going to say. :-)

Elizabeth said...

Joe, what excellent news! Mother Nature is really the right-left symmetry provider (all I did was copy her). I will keep an eye out for your grid!

(Or both eyes . . in the R-L tradition of symmetry) ;)