In the midst of doing the “Times” crossword, I came upon this clue: “A pressing device.” Four letters. I had only an “I,” which was the first letter. My mind, steel trap that it is, flew immediately to devices of the literary sort – “Irony” was too long, “Pathetic Fallacy” was far too long, and didn’t start with an “I,” and so it went, through “Imagery,” “Image,” and “Idiot” which could, maybe, in Medieval Literature, be a way of referring to a “fool” character brought in to illuminate the foibles of the protagonist. I was sweating faintly, running through every literary device I had ever learned. If you are an English major, you often fail to see the forest for the tree imagery.
Going back and working the rest of the puzzle, I was able to add letters. “I-r-o.” It had to be something about irony, maybe some obscure Greek form of the word. Maybe there was a kind of character called an “iron” who went about High Dunsinane, or hung out near the River Floss dispensing ironies. I did not have a computer handy, and I couldn’t Google it, but I was pretty sure that was what it was. Sure enough, with the realization that “reviving that loving feeling” was “Necromancy,” I got my final “N.”
My mother, also an English major type, was sitting on the couch across from me, reading the “Style” Section.
“Hey mom,” I said, breaking a cardinal family rule of newspaper reading. (That rule, in case you come from a family so lawless as to be without a Print Journalism Rubric, is that one never interrupts another person’s reading unless flames are licking at the edges of the curtains).
“Hmm?” she replied without looking up.
“Have you ever heard the term ‘iron’ as a literary device? It’s in the puzzle, and it seems weird that I never learned it in school.” I had her; she lowered the paper to her lap.
“What’s the clue?”
“‘A pressing device.’ I thought it might have something to do with moving the plot forward, because of the ‘pressing’ thing, but the answer I get is ‘iron,’ and I’m pretty sure that’s right.” She regarded me balefully over the rims of her glasses.
“It’s an iron, Annie” she informed me, “the kind you use on your clothes. It’s used to press things.”
Where there had been rabbit ears, there was a duck’s bill as the perspective spun and resettled.
“Oh” was my snappy response. “Yeah.” She resumed her reading, and I put down the puzzle in favor of a nap, mentally exhausted, just another casualty of a liberal arts education.
Image Stolen from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/Duck-Rabbit_illusion.jpg