FRIDAY, Dec. 29, 2006 - Seth A. Abel

Friday, December 29, 2006

Solving time: 14:25

THEME: none

Rex Parker is officially back from vacation, though I won't be blogging at full strength until tomorrow. You know how it is when you return to your house after a substantial time away: you're jetlagged and groceries need buying, plants watering, dog exercising, bills paying, etc. So I'm going to get my House in Order today and return full of vim and whimsy tomorrow.

Today, however, I will say a few things about the Friday puzzle, just to whet your appetite. O and by the way, apologies to the Thursday puzzle, which becomes the first puzzle since I started this blog (Sep. 25, 2006) for which I failed to produce a commentary. You're probably lucky, Thursday, because I was none too happy with your Far North. Not blogging means not having to carp at you.

Friday was gloriously easy for a Friday. I SAILed (45A: Move easily) through it, though I probably could have / should have charged ahead faster. I always slow down a bit on late-week puzzles, approaching them more deliberately for fear of entering multiple wrong answers and then never being able to find my way out of the mess I've created. But there weren't any tricky patches in this puzzle, just a few odd words and names. The long entries, perpendicular pairs of familiar 15-letter phrases, were all beautifully colloquial and totally familiar - though I'd always heard YOU AND WHAT ARMY?, not 3D: Retort to an improbable threat (You and whose army?). I also hesitated at 20A: Insult from a fashionista (That's so last year), first because the word "fashionista" is so horrifically ugly, and second because I thought the phrase might be THAT'S SO LAST WEEK (funnier, somehow).

6A: Slate, e.g., informally (e-mag)

Of all the E-prefixed neologisms, this is perhaps my least favorite. Do people really call Slate this? Have heard of E-ZINE, but perhaps the more underground, DIY-sounding "ZINE" is too lowbrow a term to be applied to high-minded Slate. I like how the Down cross here, 7D: Send off (mail), creates a little upside-down-L-shaped E-MAIL.

6D: Bygone Cadillacs (El Dorados)

I had no idea these were "bygone." This is the first long answer I got in this puzzle (off of E-MAG). These Spanish-sounding cars descend from the top to the middle of the puzzle, where they just kiss the verifiably Spanish 47A: 16th-century Spanish mystic (St. Teresa), of which there is a famous statue ... somewhere ... ah, yes, "The Ecstasy of St. Teresa," by Bernini, from the Cornaro Chapel of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome (ah, the return of graphix to my blog; aren't you happy?):

THINGS I DIDN'T KNOW

  • 23A: KNO3 (niter) - my first thought: "Vanity license plate?"
  • 28A: Runner in "The Sun Also Rises" (toro) - The second "O" was the last square I filled in, once I realized the clue was asking for an ANIMAL, not a person - TORA seemed an odd name for a literary character, and I was pretty certain that the phrase was not LOVE CANQUERS [CANKERS?] ALL (11D: Starry-eyed sentiment (Love conquers all))
  • 52A: Pioneer in the math of Sudoku (Euler) - ick, I object, mainly because this clue is so inbred that only the puzzliest puzzle nerds are going to get it. HINMAN ("ACPT Champion") is a more familiar name to me than EULER, and you wouldn't put HINMAN in a puzzle ... would you? You should, actually. He's not Ken Jennings-famous (and Jennings was in a Sun puzzle earlier this year), but surely among puzzlers he's practically a gimme. Beats hell out of EULER ("Euler ... Euler ... anyone ... ?") [late addendum: OK, so EULER is a totally famous mathematician and I'm an idiot. Happy?]
  • 58A: 1814 Byron poem (Lara) - Oh 1814! Ugh. I had MAUD, which I think is also a Byron poem. The only Byron poem I know (well) is "Don Juan"
  • 63A: "The Phil Harris-Alice _____ Show" of 1940's-50's radio (Faye) - because "Tammy _____ Bakker" would be too easy
  • 50D: Home of the Ashanti (Ghana) - the only Ashanti I know is an Awful pseudo-R&B pop star

  • 25D: Some lobsters (hens) - yes, sometimes, in a clever ploy to get the fishermen to throw them back, lobsters start clucking and flapping their wings

48D: Hunt's sitcom co-star (Reiser)

How about "'Mad About You' also-ran"? Hunt, who was a huge star for about 4 years in the mid-late 90s (see, uh, Twister (1996), I guess), won a ton of Emmys, while Reiser ... didn't. He probably made a ton of money, though, so that's something. His great claim to fame, at least from where I sit, is that he is perhaps the most famous graduate of the university where I teach. When that's the best you've got for your promotional literature ... well, you can understand why we decided to invest so much energy in becoming a Division I athletics program. Sports give donors a reason to give, and "Mad About You" re-runs ... not so much.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

13 comments:

Chris 1:34 PM  

Euler was a big math guy in the 18th or 19th century, and the applications of his theories extend way beyond sudoku. My high school geometry and calc teacher mentioned him at least a hundred times, probably second in mentions only to Gauss, so once I had the first E and L it was pretty easy for me to fill it in. Also, it's pronounced "Oiler."

Rex Parker 1:43 PM  

Hmmm ... I too had Geometry and Calc and never once heard this guy's name, I'm pretty sure. I don't deny that he is somebody. The "Sudoku" part of the clue kills it for me. What is with people and their Sudokus!?

And however his name was pronounced before (in "reality" or "Germany" or wherever), his name is now pronounced YOO-ler.

Andrew 2:39 PM  

Euler (pronounced "Oiler") was the greatest mathematician of the 18th century, and one of the greatest and most prolific mathematicians ever. He is responsible in particular for much of the notation seen by math students, including the f(x) notation for functions, the letter e for the base of the natural logarithm, and the letter i for the imaginary unit.

It is an insult that he is clued via a sudoku reference. The sudoku clue appears to be utter nonsense. For one thing, there is no math involved in sudoku.

Alex 3:18 PM  

Here's the paper in question from Leonhard Euler that lays out the mathematics at the foundation of constructing large "magic squares" (which aren't quite the same thing as Sudoku grids).

I knew the name Euler from college math classes as well, but the connection was so tenuous (and I was expecting a Japanese name) that it took me a while.

Orange 4:18 PM  

I've known EULER since my junior year of high school, when the algebra/trig teacher, Mr. Polanczyk, cemented his name in our brains (for, um, no real reason) by relating how he'd learned all about the mathematician but thought it was spelled "Oiler" for the longest time. (Mr. Polanczyk wasn't the best speller.)

My college boasts Thorstein Veblen, Garrick Utley, and dropout Peter Tork. I think Paul Reiser beats them all in recognizability.

Is vim and whimsy at all like piss and vinegar?

Rex Parker 4:51 PM  

God bless my mathematician best friend.

Mmmm, imaginary unit...

Orange, your college is the size of a postage stamp, and thus not comparable. My college boasts Twyla Tharp (who transferred away) and Richard Chamberlain, as well as We Are Scientists, which you all know already. Oh, and TV's Kelly Perrine.

RP

Isabel 6:53 PM  

His name is pronounced "Euler", at least by mathematicians.

Orange 11:50 PM  

I was thinking you meant the college you attended (smaller than a postage stamp!). Never heard of this Kelly guy, but I've seen a lot of the shows he's been on so I must've seen him. How come Wikipedia says he studied at UC-Irvine?

xwords4ever 3:19 PM  

Euler is pronounced oiler to rhyme with toiler.
The name Euler should not be confused with the name of a more familiar mathematician -- Euclid which indeed is pronounced like it is spelled, that is, yooclid.
Now everybody get a grip and go home and name your newborn Mary Smith so people will know how to pronounce and spell her name without suffering indignities of ignorance.

Sincerely as possible,
Xwords4ever

Anonymous 4:34 PM  

Hellooooo from the land of six weeks back! I've got to know, regarding the unblogged Thursday puzzle: Were you as annoyed as I at navel (central point) and knee pants (quaint school togs).

Knee pants?!?!?!? Good guhrief.

Rex Parker 4:41 PM  

What I remember about the Thu puzzle from back then is that it was a weirdly shaped grid, and I could NOT get the far North (this tiny little nook of 3- or 4-letter words). I was trying to solve it in the Denver Airport and getting nowhere. I left it behind when I boarded the plane. KNEE PANTS is kinda cute.

RP

Martin 5:09 PM  

(also from 6 weeks later land)
I also found Thursday's puzzle harder than Friday's....but I was working on it during a power outage at my lab and couldn't concentrate. The grid annoyed me.

Friday's was nice - I like the long fill that isn't totally obscure. I couldn't quite finish off the far south, after filling in LAY OUT and SO DO I insteand of LAY LOW and SO AM I.

There was also a lot of two and three word answers - NO ONE, AWE OF, SO AM I, LAY LOW, IN A TIE, I CANT SEE, SEW UP, GETS IT (also T-NUT, A-TEAM, E-MAG). Worth noting for future(?) Seth Abel puzzles, maybe?

armando 7:14 PM  

If you want to try out something new in sudoku, try shendoku, using the sudoku rules but playing two people, one against the other, like battleshipps. They have a free version to download at http://www.shendoku.com/sample.pdf . Anything else they are bringing out or they are working on you can find at www.shendoku.com or at they´r blog www.shendoku.blogspot.com . Have fun, I am. I specially like one slogan I heard about Shendoku: SUDOKU is like masturbation (on your own)…. SHENDOKU is like sex (it takes two).

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