WEDNESDAY, Mar. 14, 2007 - Peter A. Collins

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Solving time: unsure; maybe 8-10 minutes, maybe longer.
THEME: Pi - a rebus puzzle with many a "Pi" strewn about the puzzle, including two in every long (10-letter) answer, e.g. 60A: Editorial (o[pi]nion [pi]ece). Theme revealed at 28D: March 14, to mathematicians (Pi Day)

Um, Andrew, you did not tell me that today was PI DAY. Why was I not informed? You are a "mathematician," are you not? That's what I've been telling everyone. I guess at 1:59 a.m. all the mathematicians got together and held hands and shouted HUZZAH or FERMAT or something. Why in the world does the world need a PI DAY? Now a PIE DAY! That's something I could get behind.
Why was the PI in PI DAY not rebused?

As is typical with architecturally intricate puzzles, the fill suffers a bit in this puzzle, but there are also many answers to like.

40A: French artist Odilon _____ (Redon)

Somewhere between unknown and eerily familiar for me. I was very unsure of this answer, though the name sounded super-familiar. Thanks to Wendy for reminding me Why it sounded familiar. At one point a while back I was reading a beautiful Art book my sister got for me one Xmas, and I made a point of remembering the names of the artists for every painting in the book. I would quiz myself, going back through the book and identifying paintings by their artists. The book soon proved too massive for me to keep this up ... but one of the artists whose name I now remember saying over and over to myself back then was Odilon REDON, and THIS painting (presented here at Wendy's request) is the painting that was presented in my Art book:

1A: Enlighten (teach)

I am a TEACHer, so of course I did not get this answer for a very long time.

6A: A couple of CBS spinoffs (CSIs)

I love this answer for its implicit contempt. Can't even be bothered to give you the post-colonic (!) names of these shows. Sweet. You know my hatred of all things Law & Order and CSI. And if you didn't, now you do. Worst thing to happen to crime fiction in ... forever. More on that another time.

Iffy Fill
  • 17A: Surface again (retop) - had the far more reasonable RETAR. Of course, no one would actually say either of these words. The word is REPAVE.
  • 12D: Nevada's state tree ([pi]non) - OK, this isn't iffy, just unknown to me, and if I hadn't known that the ARNO was a river (I sure as hell didn't know it was a 22A: River to the Ligurian Sea), I'd have been in deep, deep trouble. Also, please to be noticing the thematic word ladder that is:
PINOT (42A: Grape for winemaking)
PILOT (34D: Stove feature)
  • 58D: Japanese city bombed in W.W. II (Kure) - my first thought: "all of them?" I mean, we bombed the @#$#@ out of Japan. Please see the great great great documentary "The Fog of War" to get some idea of the scale of the devastation. Anyway, my point is that this could have been anything. I have officially never heard of KURE.
  • 21D: Colonial figure with 46-Across (Crier News) - I've also officially never heard of this answer. As of right now I don't know if this is some guy's name or the name of a newspaper or what... still don't know. Shouldn't this be NEWS CRIER?
  • 39A: Gain _____ (a lap) - what kind of phrase is this? Why not "Take a drink" or "Drop a hint"? I can use this phrase in a sentence, but it hardly seems to rise to the level of puzzle-worthy idiom.
  • 6D: Treated with disdain (contemned) - another very non-everyday word; I so badly wanted CONDESCENDED to fit that I briefly imagined that the rebus extended beyond PI to include other letter combos ... but no.
  • 2D: "Mefistofele" soprano (Elena) - there are many less obscure ways to clue this, I'm guessing; with KURE and REDON, this is a lot of esoteric fill for a Wednesday.
  • 8D: Rhone feeder (Isere) - I will smack a non-major European river every chance I get.
The Good Stuff

57A: Animal with striped legs (oka[pi]) - If the ERNE weren't so much more common in crosswords, the OKAPI would be the official mascot of this website. Love them, Love their name!
20A: Barracks artwork, perhaps ([pi]n-up [pi]cture) - this was where I first realized the theme, at the intersection of the first PI in this answer and 1D: Mastodon trap (tar [pi]t). This clue could also have been written [Rex's downstairs bathroom artwork]. Don't worry, Sandy's cool with it.
33A: Vice president after Hubert (S[pi]ro) - ah, my favoritely named vice president. You may recall my issuing a request to my mom for the SPIRO Agnew watch I knew she owned from back in the day. Well, she gave me the watch and it is now tacked to my corkboard next to my desk here. She also was horrified to learn of my failure to read Saroyan, so she sent me the first English edition of The Human Comedy - which she claims to have given me as a gift many years ago - I guess I didn't care enough to take it with me when I left home.... awkward! But thanks, mom. Oh, and she showed me that the stupid Denver Post (you heard me Denver, stupid!) doesn't put any kind of original date of code of any kind on their reprints of the NYT puzzle to indicate the date on which it initially appeared. How much can 4 digits cost to print!?!?
54D: Letter feature (serif) - a great font-related answer!
37D: Italian range (Dolomites) - normally European mountain ranges would make me as angry as European rivers do, but DOLOMITES is such a badass name that I have to give this answer some love.
43A: Single-dish meal (pot [pi]e) - I always want PAELLA when I see this clue, but this is a nice (and themed) answer as well.
29A: Greek peak (Mt. Ossa) - my favorite Greek mountain; but shouldn't the clue indicate the answer's abbreviatedness?
10D: Mushroom, for one ([pi]zza top[pi]ng) - my favorite of the themed answers - well, tied with PIN-UP PICTURE, I guess. Even knowing the theme, this took me a while to get.
36A: Patient wife of Sir Geraint (Enid) - the medievalist in me (yes, there is one) loves this. I think I slightly prefer ENID as an Oklahoma city, or an early Barenaked Ladies song (back when I could listen to them without wanting to retch), but medieval romance works too.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 10:11 AM

Teachers in many classrooms celebrate Pi Day this month. Pi -- the number 3.14… -- gets its own special day on 3/14, or March 14.
If one day of the year screams Party! in math class, that day is March 14. Each year on 3/14, teachers in classrooms across the globe take a break from the normal routine to plan a special celebration in honor of pi, or the number 3.14...

March 14 also happens to be the birth date of Albert Einstein -- which makes the day an extra special one!

Pi Day activities are meant to enrich and deepen students' understanding of the concept of pi. Activities might include investigations of the value of pi, special pi projects, and parties with pizza or other kinds of "pi."

Because pi is 3.14159…, some schools hold their big Pi Day celebrations at oon 3/14 at exactly 1:59 p.m.

sonofdad 10:14 AM  

That Redon painting freaks me out. What is with that large, awkward cyclopean creature with the oddly placed ears? Weird.

Pi Day was actually on my mind as I solved this one, so the rebus came to me about as quickly as possible (got it from 1D with only the final T in place). I think the math and physics geeks are giving out free pie today in the physics building. I should hit that up.

Anonymous 10:15 AM  

Happy Pi Day

Happy Pi day to you,
Happy Pi day to you,
Happy Pi day everybody,
Happy Pi day to you.

(to the tune of "Happy Birthday")

Oh Number PI

Oh, number Pi
Oh, number Pi
Your digits are unending,
Oh, number Pi
Oh, number Pi
No pattern are you sending.
You're three point one four one five nine,
And even more if we had time,
Oh, number Pi
Oh, number Pi
For circle lengths unbending.

Oh, number Pi
Oh, number Pi
You are a number very sweet,
Oh, number Pi
Oh, number Pi
Your uses are so very neat.
There's 2 Pi r and Pi r squared,
A half a circle and you're there,
Oh, number Pi
Oh, number Pi
We know that Pi's a tasty treat.

(to the tune of "Oh Christmas Tree")

Pi Day Song

Pi day songs
All day long.
Oh, what fun it is,
To sing a jolly pi day song
in a fun math class
like this. (Repeat )

Circles in the snow,
Around and round we go.
How far did we have to run?
Diameter times pi! (Refrain )

(to the tune of "Jingle Bells")

Web version by Mark C. Christianson
Song texts © 1996 LaVern Christianson
HTML © 1996,1997 Mark C. Christianson

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

There are some who think today is "pie" day; however --

National Pie Day - January 23rd
Created by the American Pie Council, National Pie Day is dedicated to the celebration of pie. As part of our American heritage, this day is a perfect opportunity to pass on the love and enjoyment of pie eating and pie making to future generations.

O, thought it nice touch that both pupil and teacher were included in the mess.

Alex S. 10:49 AM  

Once I figured out it was a rebus (S[pi]ro is what did it for me) and that the rebused squares weren't well contained and obviously located I just stopped doing the puzzle.

I hate rebus puzzles. It's bad enough that I'm not very good at solving when I know exactly how many letters I'm working towards but when I have to think "this 8 letter word could actually be 13" that I just move on rather than get grumpy with it.

Mark Iverson 10:54 AM  


Love your blog. Hate today's 10A. Can someone please shed light on its answer (PPPN)?



Mark Iverson 10:56 AM  

Ahhhh, Pippin! Got it.

Orange 12:42 PM  

Mr. Medievalist, you've seen Chaucer's blog, haven't you? One might think it would be hard to write about video games using Chaucer's English, but lo! it can be done. (Exboxe CCCLX!)

As one okapi said to another, "Do these stripes make my ass look big?"

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

I'd say the PIDAY was (unrebified? unrebusized?...) normal so that it could go in the middle of the grid.

The timing is a bit U.S.-centric as Europeans celebrate Pi Day on 22 July.

Anonymous 1:27 PM  

Pi Day! I loved this puzzle! I got the theme instantly after reading the clue for 1D. The answer could only be TARPIT. If nothing else, I know my mastodons.

Liked that photo of the OKAPI. Though I've seen the word many times, I've never seen the critter. Yipe (my new expression).

I liked seeing PICKLE as the answer to 55D: Jam. Reminds me of my vow to get SOUSED by drinking more martinis. Or maybe PINOT...

And now, I think I'll have pie for lunch!

Anonymous 1:39 PM  

P.S. Rex - just wanted to tell you that I find your style of irreverence hilarious and appealing. I read it as outrageous, not offensive, and it is very welcome to one in a field that's creative but occasionally stuffy. IMHO

And thanks for the little songs, R Kane!

Campesite 1:56 PM  

I was (pi)qued by this puzzle and performed (pi)tifully, but it was a clever puzzle (if not a bit tough for a Wednesday).

Linda G 5:13 PM  

I picked up the theme with PIPPIN but didn't "get" Pi Day. My husband thought it odd that I didn't know about it, inasmuch as I celebrate my height day. Most adults celebrate theirs in May or June. Mine is April 11, and it may very well become April 10 in another few years.

Alex, I agree with you completely on how much less fun a rebus is. You have to think so far outside the box to come up with an answer.

Thank you rkane for the Pi Day songs. I can't wait to sing them to my husband. Maybe I can modify them for height day.

Alex S. 5:22 PM  

My first thought for 1D was ICEPACK (or some variant).

It seems to me that more mastadons are found in ice than in tar.

I was so stuck on that, that even after knowing it was a rebus and probably ended in PIT that I was trying to think of an ice related PIT to kill the mastadon with.

Anonymous 7:49 PM  

Rex, so many thanks for The Cyclops. Just made my day all around, and I'm glad you were familiar with it too. Most are not. Yes, it's a freak-out, but that's Redon for you. Macabre is his middle name. As I told Rex earlier, I wrote a short story in college based on that painting.

I love rebus puzzles. So many aha! moments that give me a sense of triumph over adversity. I was having such a problem making my old Maryland governor SPIRO fit into four boxes until I realized what I was dealing with. Didn't know anything about PI DAY but had cheated on google to get that answer so then it dawned on me that that wasn't the last of the PIs by a long shot.

Liked POPPiNGPiLLS a lot, as well as OPiNIONPiECE, which I thought was jargon in my industry (PR) but apparently not. I agree that DOLOMITES rocks, but whassup with that CRIER thang? It's a TOWN CRIER, plain and simple. I couldn't crack that for love or money.

And last but not least, did anyone else think that OKAPI looked like it had capri pants on? What a cutie patootie.

Howard B 8:32 PM  

Looks like I picked the wrong puzzle to solve just after returning from my weekly hockey league. Sore and tired is not the way to jump into a rough rebus puzzle - on the other hand, it may be an amazingly accurate simulation of Stamford :). When solving in the Times applet, one missed letter can be a pain, but two is pretty lethal; and I butchered poor PIPPIN nicely, along with CONTEMNED, a word I don't even think I've ever encountered in my reading, all the combined standardized academic testing I've gone through, and the National Spelling Bees I've seen.

Ouch. Love the theme, but it'll be a while until I want another helping of pi.

By the way, just after reading the word FERMAT in today's post, I needed to wipe diet lemon soda off the monitor; you caught me off-guard there. Just so you know, thanks for the laughs.

Rex Parker 10:02 PM  

I love when I make anyone spit. Awesome.

My wife and I were just standing here wondering why Europeans would celebrate Pi Day on 22 July. I said out loud "2, 2, 7..." (grrrreat sitcom, btw) and Sandy goes "that means nothing to me ... oh, wait, 22 over 7!" She's often quicker than I am, dammit. She was a math major - I always forget that. Not that you had to be a math major to figure that out.

In case it wasn't clear (and it wasn't, to Sandy) the answer that could be clued [Rex Parker's downstairs bathroom artwork] is PINUPGIRL, not (as the wording kind of implies) TAR PIT. My wife's question this evening: "What's this about a mastodon in our bathroom?"


Anonymous 10:47 PM  

For future research, here's a site that mentions all 67 Japanese cities bombed in WWII.
Fog of War is an awesome doc. For some reason it was the first flick I rented after beginning my Netflix subscription.

Well, another Pi Day comes to a close. Next year I sure won't be ignorant of this HIGH DAY in the annals of math.

Anonymous 1:17 AM  

I'm happy to say that, though/because I am a mathematician, I had never heard of Pi Day until I gave a talk at a high school in Chicago a couple of years ago. I think Pi Day must be mostly for kidz.

As a fun fact, it is unknown which numbers from 0 through 9 occur infinitely many times in the decimal expansion of pi (which by definition is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter). That is, no one knows if, say, the number 4 occurs infinitely many times. It's not even known how many of those 10 numbers occur infinitely often in the expansion (although since pi is irrational, there have to be at least two numbers that occur infinitely in the expansion).



Do it on paper!

Anonymous 8:13 AM  

Hi Rex:

Just catching up on your blog now.

To wit: You wrote that you liked PiN UP PiCTURE. I didn't.

I cannot see this as 'in the language,' no matter how hard I try.

PIN-UP GIRL, sure (even though the term might be offensive to some), but a PIN-UP PICTURE?

Really? Hmm, I dunno, it just seems odd to me...maybe a few PiNTS of PiLSENER would help clear up my conceptual block.

All the same, great stuff, always enjoy your blog!

Pen Girl :)

xwd_fiend 12:44 PM  

OKAPI: In British cryptic puzzles, where the K and P don't need to be in other words, OKAPI is Pantheon material of Security Council rank, if not the captain.

Catherine 2:56 PM  

Ugh. Loved and hated this one. Every PI I found made me grimace and curse. As for the European references (of which there were what, six?): I got a new research friend today... from France! So I asked him. For "Europe/Asia border river", he said, "They're separated by a sea, not a river." Oh well. He did get ISERE for me.

It sure didn't help that I kept reading "Greek peak" as "green peak", or that my syndicated version published 6A as "A couple CBS spinoffs"... took me a while to trust that "of" was missing, not that it was some bizarre clue.

I first had 17A as RETAR, and got very angry at the idea that 1D was TAR(PI)T. I was a happier kid upon realizing HAP(PI)ER did fit, and thus RETAR was wrong.

Anonymous 3:19 PM  

From six weeks away, the stupid Vancouver Sun not only doesn't give the original date of the puzzle but supplies today's date in bold print under Will Shortz' name! Usually not a problem but on Pi day it would have helped.

Great blog--I'm addicted. Some confusion arises when I won't explain when I snigger REX SEZ PFUI.


Anonymous 8:57 PM  

Damn! (can I say that here?) Time Traveller, you stole my thunder about the Sun. Now I have nothing to grouse about.

I think I mentioned earlier that I loved rebus puzzles. My first encounter with a rebus was a Pi puzzle, so this is sort of a red letter day for me. I never heard of Pi day either, 'till now, but I won't forget it.

I thought the unrebated PI in the center was brilliant.


You said, "The word is REPAVE."

Only for roads or driveways. Cabinets, ice surfaces, sometimes even gas tanks get RETOPped (ok, the gas tank thing is thin, but you get my drift.)

The APiAN/PUPiL cross was my "aha" today

Oh, and about coming here, what Time Traveler said.

Anonymous 11:50 PM  

Late again. Really liked this puzzle. Got the theme right away from pin up picture (I've spent some time in a barracks). Like Rex, my only objection was the abundance of obscure fill for a Wednesday. I had no idea about redon, okapi, isere, pinon, & kure. Also, never heard the word contemn.

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