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Wednesday 1 January 2014

Crossword Exegesis

I don’t really know what an exegesis is, but people expect a crossword compiler to have a big vocabulary. What I mean is, on the other side of the following image are the answers to last week’s crossword and/or trivia quiz, together with an explanation of the various Fortean connections.

If you want to do the puzzle but haven’t done so yet, reading beyond this point will take you into spoiler territory. But if you’ve done the puzzle, or just want to see the answers, scroll on...


1. Author of Chariots of the Gods: ERICH VON DANIKEN. An easy one to start with! But EvD’s ideas weren’t as original as many people imagine – see Reinventing Ezekiel's Wheel.

9. First of the seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation: EPHESUS. A Turkish town and a major centre of early Christianity. It was also the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Temple of Artemis.

10. “Their weapons were no match for the Bossonian LONGBOW" (Robert E. Howard). This comes from the only full-length Conan novel that Howard wrote, The Hour of the Dragon (also sometimes published as Conan the Conqueror). Not a particularly Fortean story, although some of Howard’s other fiction is. I think I’ll make that the subject of my next blog post.

11. "Voyagers who have shown every indication of intent to EVADE " (Charles Fort). This comes from The Book of the Damned, a few paragraphs after the oft quoted “I think we're property” – the voyagers in question being extraterrestrial ones.

12. Yggdrasil, for example: ASH. Yggdrasil is the World Ash Tree in Norse mythology.

13. The world ends without this, according to T.S. Eliot: A BANG. From The Hollow Men (1925): “This is the way the world ends: Not with a bang but a whimper.” Another Eliot poem from the same period, The Waste Land, is packed with Fortean themes – I’ll have to add that to my list of future posts as well.

14. Site of the Crucifixion: CALVARY. From the Latin Calvariæ Locus = “place of the skull”. The Hebrew equivalent is Golgotha.

16. "I had long hoped for a personal CONTACT with a man from a flying saucer" (George Adamski). A quote from Flying Saucers have Landed, co-authored with the far more interesting Desmond Leslie.

18. The queen of the fairies, according to Shakespeare: TITANIA. From A Midsummer Might’s Dream, of course. The picture (fourth image on top row) shows a detail from The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania (1847) by Sir Joseph Noel Paton.

21. Sayings of Jesus that are not found in the Gospels: AGRAPHA. This is an obscure one, but anyone who’s tried compiling a crossword will know that the more words you fill in, the harder it gets to find unobscure words to fit the remaining spaces! But Agrapha isn’t so obscure that it doesn’t have its own Wikipedia page.

23. Max ERNST, German surrealist. Perhaps the most Fortean connection here is Ernst’s bird-man creation called Loplop, which was adopted as a kind of mascot by Jon Downes and the Centre for Fortean Zoology (see picture – third image on the top row).

25. URI Geller, Israeli-born psychic. Geller’s 1973 appearance on the Dimbleby Talk-In was one of my Fortean Events that Shook the World.

26. "Thus SPAKE Zarathustra", by Friedrich Nietzsche. Written in the 1880s, this philosophical work focused on two concepts more often associated with the 20th century: “The Superman” and “God is Dead”.

27. Lenape people living in New Jersey when the Europeans arrived: RARITAN. This is one of two grid entries where I just couldn’t find anything Fortean that would fit. There’s a modern-day city in New Jersey named Raritan, as well as Raritan Bay between New Jersey and New York.

28. "IMMORAL Tales" (1974), featuring Paloma Picasso as Countess Erzsébet Báthory. The Báthory segment focuses on the historical countess, not the later legends that associate her with vampirism. So she doesn’t slaughter large quantities of female virgins and bathe in their blood in order to restore her youth. She just slaughters large quantities of female virgins and bathes in their blood because she enjoys it (see picture – first image on bottom row).

29. Britain's best-known cryptid: LOCH NESS MONSTER. In light of the upcoming Scottish independence vote, perhaps I should have worded this as “Scotland's best-known cryptid” to stay on the safe side.


1. The building pictured [in last week’s post]: EXETER CATHEDRAL. Another non-Fortean one – I needed a 15-letter word or phrase beginning with E and ending with L, and this was the best I could do. The answer was actually written on the image, if you can read Latin: Exoniensis Ecclesiae Cathedralis.

2. Eldest son of Abraham, according to the Book of Genesis: ISHMAEL. In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, Ishmael is less important than his younger half-brother Isaac. In Islam, however, Ishmael is the more important of the two, being a direct ancestor of Muhammad.

3. Herman HESSE, author of Siddhartha. According to Wikipedia, this 1922 novel “deals with the spiritual journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Gautama Buddha.... It was published in the U.S. in 1951 and became influential during the 1960s.”

4. The James OSSUARY is inscribed "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus". If the inscription is genuine, it might constitute archaeological evidence for the Biblical Jesus... but quoting Wikipedia again, “most scholars hold the last part of the inscription to be a forgery”.

5. The DELPHIC Sibyl, prophetess of Apollo. The illustration (second image on top row) is from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling.

6. Professional assassin in feudal Japan: NINJA. I’m not sure if this is an easy one or not – everyone uses the word “ninja”, but do they really know what it means?

7. An esoteric branch of Judaism: KABBALA. When I compiled the crossword a few years ago, I convinced myself this was a valid spelling – although “Kabbalah”, “Cabala” and “Qabbala” are more common.

8. A type of hippie found in 1980s Britain: NEW AGE TRAVELLER. Again the spelling may look wrong to some people, but that’s how it’s spelled here in Britain. And hey, spelling rules are just another fascist conspiracy anyhow. If you catch my drift, man.

15. ANN Greenslit Pudeator, hanged as a witch in Salem in 1692. It was tragic, of course, that so many innocent women were accused of witchcraft in the 17th century... but really, with a name like Ann Greenslit Pudeator, what do you expect? She probably had a pierced nasal septum and wore black lipstick, too.

17. "Alles Vergangliche ist NUR ein Gleichnis" (Everything transient is only a symbol - Goethe). These words are sung by the Chorus Mysticus at the end of Mahler’s 8th Symphony (see The Curse of the Ninth).

19. "The Serpent Power: Secrets of TANTRIC and Shaktic Yoga" by Arthur Avalon. The author’s real name was Sir John Woodroffe, who derived his pseudonym from Arthurian mythology. Oddly, though, the book isn’t about Arthurian mythology but about Indian mysticism. Woodroffe was one of the first proponents of the New Age formula “if it’s old, and it doesn’t come from the Judaeo-Christian or Graeco-Roman tradition, then it must be good.”

20. Thomas AQUINAS, author of "Summa Theologica". Aquinas was a 13th century scholar who specialized in interpreting the works of Aristotle (that’s what scholars used to do in those days, in lieu of thinking for themselves). He was often depicted trampling on a rival Aristotle-interpreter named Averroës, as seen in the painting by Gozzoli in the rightmost image above.

21. Belief that all living and non-living things have a spiritual essence: ANIMISM. Closely related to paranoia: the belief that all living and non-living things are out to get you.

22. Generic term for Indian languages related to Sanskrit: PRAKRIT. Most mystical and religious Indian writings are in Sanskrit, although the earliest Buddhist scriptures are in a Prakrit language called Pali. “Karma” and “Nirvana” are Sanskrit – the Pali equivalents are “Kamma” and “Nibbana”.

24. The largest moon of Saturn: TITAN. One of the few bodies in the Solar System that astrobiologists believe may support alien life – thought probably not as advanced as the alien life envisaged by Philip K. Dick in The Game-Players of Titan.

26. SIMON Magus, a sorcerer mentioned in the Book of Acts. All the Bible says about Simon is that he became a Christian, but not a very good one. However, later writers describe him as one of the founders of Gnosticism, and presumably for that reason he’s one of the many highbrow figures namedropped by Philip K. Dick in VALIS.

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