FRIDAY, Sep. 7, 2007 - Barry C. Silk

Friday, September 7, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

This puzzle was at a perfect Friday level of difficulty. Some really tough spots, but enough reasonably gettable answers to give you needed traction. Friday mornings are tight for me, so I'm going to jump right in and see if I can't polish this entry off in about 15 minutes.

After looking the puzzle over briefly and not seeing much of anything I could get right away, I noticed the long clue 45A: If it's regular, each of its angles is 144 degrees (decagon). Too tired to do the calculation in my head, but decided it had to be some kind of -GON. Wrote those letters in and, miraculously, that "G" was enough to get me 36D: "Go easy, please" ("Be gentle"), and I was off to the races. Well, maybe not the races. I was moving, at any rate. Turns out I wouldn't even have needed the "L" from GENTLE to get 61A: Pro Football Hall-of-Famer-turned-congressman Steve (Largent). I was a huge Seattle Seahawks fan growing up (Dad is from Washington), so I knew Mr. Largent well. After I got LARGENT, the SE fell very quickly.

But that was the only section to fall quickly. Even with a couple of long gimmes in the NE - 13D: 1974 Best Actress nominee Perrine (Valerie) and 14D: Champs _____ (Elysees) - it took me a while to polish off that quadrant. Had no clue what 12D: Mayo's place meant - thought it was a sandwich clue, then I thought it was a Mayo Clinic clue. Something-LAND? No idea. Turned out to be IRELAND. [cough]. Whatever. Was surprised by 8A: French sentry's cry ("Qui vive!?") - Literally means "Who lives?" but must be the equivalent of "Who goes there?" By the way, there was a TON of foreign language in this puzzle; in addition to ELYSEES and QUI VIVE, there's NIE (30A: When Holle freezes over?), ANNEE (19A: Four quarters, in France), ENERO (49D: When most Capricornios are born) and ETE (57D: A season abroad). I winced at UNMORAL (16A: Ethically indifferent) but laughed out loud when I saw that it intersected IMUS (10D: "_____ in the Morning"). Who calls their uncle UNC (9D: Short family member?).

QUARTZ (8D: Tiger's-eye, essentially) comes down off the "Q" in QUI VIVE and opens up a super-Scrabbly center section, with three sets of double-Zs, and a wacky "FJ" combo in FJORD (28D: Greenland's Scoresby Sound is the world's longest). The double-Z words were of varying qualities. I wanted FRIZZLE (28A: Curl tightly) to be FRIZZ UP, largely because I don't think the word FRIZZLE is one I've seen before. Rather, I'm sure I've seen it, but I wouldn't use it. Looks familiar, sounds familiar, feels wrong. 21D: Approach to arithmetic that emphasizes underlying ideas rather than exact calculations (Fuzzy Math) feels weirdly phrased and oddly prejudicial. I've head the term FUZZY MATH used only disparagingly, but grasping underlying concepts would appear to be a fine achievement, so ... I'm confused. Plus, I didn't think "arithmetic" and "math" were equivalents. One of my many mathematician readers will chime in here. Had similar feelings about 46D: Blarneyed (coaxed), only in reverse - here, the clue seems negative where the answer seems neutral.Loved UTAH JAZZ (31A: Pro sports team that moved from New Orleans in 1979), both because you rarely see a sports team's full name in a puzzle, and because THIS full name had those great Z's. UTAH JAZZ probably helped me more than any other answer in the puzzle.

The "U" in UTAH convinced me that my first instinct for 1D: Type of massage (Shiatsu) was correct. Originally thought SWEDISH (like many of you, I'm sure), but decided early on that that was too obvious. After SHIATSU, the NW was reasonably easy. I particularly like 3D: Porthole view (open sea) and 17A: "Again..." ("I repeat...") - that last one is some spot-on cluing. Beautiful. Don't know what language gives you 6D: Overseas "-ess" (-ita). Spanish? Needed all my crosses for that one.

Never heard of:

  • 29D: Classic American watchmaker (Elgin) - only ELGIN I know is a basketball player from the 70's.
  • 54A: Philip of "Kung Fu" (Ahn)

Hey, that's only two answers. That's not too bad.

Here are the rest of my favorite answers:

35A: Fat cat (moneybags) - "Fat Cat Books" is where I buy my comics. The only MONEYBAGS in that place, I assure you, is this guy:

58A: Ding Dong alternative (Twinkie) - legendary indestructible snack cake. Even in my junkfoodiest phase as a child, I was never really into these. Wasn't convinced they were really food, I think.
40A: Concavo-convex lens (meniscus) - a familiar word to anyone who has ever had knee trouble.

Must take Sahra to her First Day of School now. Maybe I'll take pictures.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Orange 8:22 AM  

Wow, your kid's school has a late start! Chicago and Milwaukee schools kicked in on Tuesday.

Has Sahra ever read the "Magic School Bus" series of books (or watched the animated series—not sure which came first)? They teach science via this school bus that can fly, is submersible, and can shrink down to have a Fantastic Voyage through the bloodstream. They're fairly entertaining science lessons. Anyway, the teacher's name? Ms. Frizzle.

Doug 9:00 AM  

Super grid today. Started in the Vancouver airport lounge and got about half, then finished up in 13 hours later in the Hong Kong airport when I had time to run the alphabet on some of the hard ones.

Put in DEXAGON not DECAGON, and the X lined up nicely with Blarneyed as in 'Kissed the Blarney Stone', so naturally the correct answer COAXED wound up as XOOXED, which I thought was a pretty lousy answer! I didn't know Philip AHN so he was crossed with the second O as OHN and it all worked fine until Mr. Parker corrected me.

Hey, isn't NIE the same as the Python/Grail Knights Who Say NIE? I think it is, so in fact many of us knew the answer. ELGIN very well known brand, and if you were to drive I-90 west from Chicago I recall a clocktower en route to Elgin, IL? UNC, FRIZZLE, UNMORAL=YUCK.

janie 9:00 AM  

loved the "scrabbly" nature of this puzzle -- especially them interlocking "zz"'s. a pangram, too.




(mary -- if you're reading -- posted [this morning...] a response to your 9/6 comment...)

Anonymous 9:39 AM  

QUI VIVE came up several weeks ago in the expression on the QUI VIVE. I think it was profphil who explained the origin..."Long live...who? (Careful how you answer)." My first impulse was QUI VA LA, but who could Perrine be but VALERIE? (I was 15 in 1974. Of course I knew Valerie Perrine.) Then I remembered our QUI VIVE discussion and thought, "strange but...I'll buy it" and I was off (not to the races, but moving).
The 51A & D cross (BARN, BONGO) collectively tickled my funnybone.

Alex S. 10:24 AM  

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I hate a lot of foreign languages in a puzzle, especially when clued with obscure cities or just as generally foreign without an indicator of specific language.

From frequent appearances I now know that Enero is Spanish for January but have no solid idea that Capicornios is Spanish for Capricorn (I guessed Italian and I don't know what January in Italian is).

I do know a bit of German and know that nie is German for never. However, I've never heard of Germany's great metropolis of Holle (which apparently is a metropolis of about 7,000 people) so had no idea until I had all the crosses anyway that German was the language in question (and assumed I was looking for "winter" anyway).

ETE again had no specific language indicator.

I'm fine with foreign words and phrases that have some currency in English but so often the use of them just feels like a cop out by the constructor unable to generate sensible fill.

Despite all of that most of the puzzle didn't give me any great problem but I never did finish the NE corner were QUI VIVE, UNMORAL, UNC, IMUS (I know Don Imus, just had no idea what his show was called), ACUTELY, and VOTED just would not make themselves seen.

I was pleased to see Monica SELES in the puzzle though since I haven't thought of her in many years but did so just the day before yesterday while watching the Jancovic/Williams match at the U.S. Open. Listening to Williams scream on every swing, even the softest of net drop shots (not that anybody really comes in to the net any more) made me nostalgic for the days when Seles' grunting was somewhat controversial and quite a few opponents complained about the distraction.

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

I thought 'live' or 'life' in French was 'vivre', as in 'joie de vivre'. I thought 'vive' (without the R) was closer to English 'go', thus 'who goes there' for 'qui vive'.

Also, before GWBush decided it was fun to taunt Al Gore for Fuzzy Math, it was not a pejorative. His use of it was completely out of context, unsurprisingly. It's a just a different approach to mathematical reasoning that came along a decade or two ago.

Orange 10:39 AM  

Re: what Alex said—Hmm, so maybe we don't like the applet with a diacritical mark removed but the letter left in place (as opposed to replacing the letter and diacritical with a question mark). It's supposed to be Hölle, German for hell, as in [When hell freezes over] = never, [When Hölle freezes over] = NIE. A town called Holle just muddles things.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

Like yesterday, I had many gimmes: LARGENT, QUIVIVE, UTAHJAZZ, SHIATSU (fortunately, I forgot about Swedish), TWINKIE, GORETEX, DOTER, ANNEE, SELES, RECORD and a couple short words. Normally Friday is such a struggle, and this wasn't at all. It's like appearing on Jeaopardy and getting categories like "Karmasartre's Real Name", and "'60's Rock and Roll" and "Easy stuff we normally use in the Teen Tournament", rather than "British Royalty". What are the odds?

MENISCUS sounded like a good word but had trouble associating it with "lens". Tried the 144 degrees in my head as well, but had to resort to the slide rule. No idea on AHN. Thought ETONS were collars, not jackets. CONAN is getting a lot of play. Thought DECOYED made for an odd word.

All in all, an enjoyable puzzle.

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

"Vivre" is the infinitive. "Vive" is a subjunctive form of the same verb and means "may he/she/it live."

Anonymous 11:12 AM  

A great Friday puzzle. I also was looking for German for winter and did not know meniscus was a lens. I had IMMORAL for a while which slowed me down in SE. I thought COAXED was a bit off, but my only real problem with this one was SUE for 27a Court. My first thought was Court as a verb so I put in WOO, but the massage type wouldn't work. Can Court work as a verb to mean SUE??

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

Well, I loved this puzzle, in no small part because it took about 1/3 off my Friday record! I thought it was really easy. Usually on a Friday, I get bogged down several times and spend minutes on end staring at the grid, but that never happened today, except at the very beginning, before I got started with ELYSEES and SHIATSU. And though Rex says LARGENT and VALERIE were two of his first gimmes, they were two of my last answers to fall. I like Slik's (Barry's NPL nom) wordplay; it made for a lot of fun and chuckles. Rex, don't you remember "Unky Herb" from _The_Simpsons_? That's almost UNC. And you also know the ELGIN Marbles. Finally, as one of your many mathematician readers, I'll say that "arithmetic" and "math" are, indeed, not the same, but FUZZY MATH is pretty close to sloppy arithmetic. And, knowing Slik, I think the pejorative was intentional.

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

Good thing we're sports fans in this household. I started off with Largent for 61A and my husband contributed Utah Jazz for 31A which gave me fjord and HMO. That's it for now; back to my usual struggle with a Friday puzzle.

Anonymous 11:28 AM  

P.S. Are you kidding about 21D--my eyes just crossed.

Anonymous 12:02 PM gives a definition of sue as "to court" and does identify an "eton jacket."

Rex Parker 12:06 PM  


Am I kidding how? Meaning of question is not at all clear. Underlying concepts are important. I certainly don't take that back. I don't think testing young kids on the precision of their calculations is necessarily that helpful - I could do that stuff really really easily from a young age, but could not have told you At All why any of it mattered. I could perform math tasks - I had zero grasp of concepts, which were almost never the focus, even through Calculus (I don't even remember much discussion of the fact that Base 10 was a convention, not an absolute). Calculating, in the end, is easy. Understanding principles - more challenging, more important; nothing fuzzy about it. I stand by that, as someone who aced every math class I ever took until I hit college, when I ended up no longer caring... (and thus doing poorly).

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

Sorry, Rex, for my fuzzy comment; I meant to address the puzzle maker with that comment. I didn't read your notes until just now as I posted when I was just starting and didn't want to see any answers yet. The z's did help, finally, in getting the answer. We have a rice cooker with fuzzy logic which supposedly helps in arriving at the correct doneness. And hurray, I finished without resorting to any outside help and did it in a reasonable time. I never time myself; it makes me anxious.

Anonymous 12:23 PM  

my first tripper-upper in Nw was reading "massage" as "message" and getting stuck in my head there. I too assumed "woo" and immediately got Utahjazz, leaving me with a "wu" ending and figuring the "message" had to be modern text-ese that I would have to depend on the crosses for >>>sigh<<< .

Yes, reading is FUNdamental LOL!

I liked the "one raised on a farm" clue. The "No. of People" was cute, with the capitalization hint.

Anonymous 1:57 PM  


Thanks for remembering my comment. Ironically, when looking at the clue, I recalled I knew it but the answer wouldn't come to me until I filled in a few letters. Your memory is better than mine. Had the clue been "Qui VIve" I would be able to define it as a sentry's cry but not the other way around. I hope next time I will remember it.

Anonymous 2:45 PM  

I thought the term for emphasizing ideas over accuracy was "New Math", not "Fuzzy Math". Perhaps I'm just remembering the old Tom Lehrer song...

Nice Friday puzzle.

Anonymous 3:05 PM  

Finished whole thing without saying, "uncle." I do call my mother's bro. "unc." I cannot be unique.

Campesite 3:24 PM  

Hola. Been enjoying the last ten days of blogs & comments without posting as I've been out in the desert (BMan), and I'm just getting caught up.
Lovely Friday puzzle today--good multiple word answers and, while difficult, was for me just on this side of resorting to outside help.

blimey 3:26 PM  

Pete M is right. The term is "New Math" not "Fuzzy Math."

My first answer was DECAGON. I actually did the calculation out: (n-2)/n*360 = 144. n = 10.

Lastly, I like that this puzzle uses every letter of the alphabet.

Anonymous 3:30 PM  

Great puzzle. But I got hung up on SNEE. I still don't know what it is. Help, please!

fergus 3:42 PM  

It's tempting to launch into a bunch of quibbles about some of the clues on this otherwise fine, but fairly strightforward puzzle. But it's Friday, and a lot of them did reach the outer bounds, but only one actually bugged me. I really don't think FUZZY MATH deserved such a precise description. The 21D clue describes what was known as the "new math" that had its heyday in the 60s, back when we were taught the commutative, associative and reflexive properties of addition, multiplication, etc. and lots of stuff about sets and Venn diagrams. Fuzzy logic is a genuine academic and, as someone noted above, a commercial concept. But fuzzy math is just one of those political catch phrases, like flip-flop, that prove to be so tiresome even when it's not campaign season. I stand to be corrected by someone who is more current with the lingo than I, since my last serious involvement in academic mathematics was a dozen years ago. None of the schools I've been involved with recently, however, made any mention of such a term -- even when I petitioned my son's fifth grade teacher to restrict the use of calculators, and she responded by asserting the primacy of the algorithm. But that gets us into a long and engaging argument that one doesn't need to win. One of those situations, I think, where conflicting opinions settle in as the optimal result.

Anyhow, the most accurate translation for QUI VIVE is "Who goes there?" It is a sort of archaic use of the subjunctive present tense that appears more as a noun meaning watch (as in on the watch for ... UNMORAL BRUTES). And speaking of watches, I've never seen an ELGIN one, but numerous ELGIN clocks, especially in schools and train stations.

Anyone who has messed up a knee will probably be familiar with the shape of the MENISCUS.

Also, when you don't follow suit in whist or bridge or hearts, haven't you REVOKED, not RENEGED?

So much for being accomodating ...

Alex S. 3:44 PM  

I don't know what "snee" is either but in a favorite game of mine (Nethack) there is a sword named Snickersnee so that was enough for me to assume a snee is something sword related.

Anonymous 4:02 PM  

Snee is an old fashioned term for dagger, dirk is also one. I believe Capt. Hook's right hand man in Peter Pan was named Snee.

I decided not to be lazy and looked up SUE. Turns out it is archaic and synonymous with WOO, so I was on the right track after all.

Anonymous 4:39 PM  

Thanks for your help with the elusive SNEE -- elusive, I think, because Google hits suggest a host of meanings, including a knife reference.

The character from Peter Pan is SMEE, a frequent denizen of the puzzle.

Anonymous 4:41 PM  

Jae -

Capt. Hook's right hand man was SMEE; his right hand was a hook!

Anonymous 4:48 PM  

I would have much preferred "Best College Basketball Team in the World" for 9-D... I absolutely loved this puzzle. It was a perfect Friday challenge and made my subway ride feel like it took no time at all.

Anonymous 5:28 PM  

For Badir 11:14, somewhat OT --

Just FYI, Barry Silk doesn't seem to be an NPLer. Slik is Michael Selinker.

Barry S 5:49 PM  

Sluggo, thanks for the clarification to Badir. I am the author of this puzzle and can confirm that I'm not a NPLer. Also, Barry Silk is not an alias.

When I submitted this puzzle, my clue for FUZZYMATH was "2000 Presidential debate topic." Would anyone have preferred that clue?

fergus 6:31 PM  


I, for one, would have preferred that. But I would have suggested "Compassionately conservative financial hypocrisy" instead, and then probably have gotten shot down for being political.

Anonymous 7:40 PM  

Mick & Sue, thanks for the SMEE clarification. I guess I thought it was SNEE because SMEE has recently been clued as a type of duck.

Anonymous 8:23 PM  

I would have preferred that clue, Barry. I was trying to fit 'the new' into six spaces.

Actually, checking on wikipedia, they describe fuzzy math in a way similar to the clue, and separate from the fuzzy logic that I've heard of before.

Anonymous 8:37 PM  

A residue of the archaic use of "sue" to mean "court" (as in "woo") survives to this day in the word "suitor."

Mathematics emphasizes the primacy of concepts over calculations. If perfect calculations were the goal of mathematical training or practice, the subject would be abandoned. After all, machines can calculate better and faster than humans and they don't call in sick, show up drunk, expect holdiays, or ask for raises. We need to humans to analyze problems, develop the underlying concepts and, in some cases, use these to guide the creation of efficient calculation procedures, which will then be turned over to the machines. To label emphasizing "underlying ideas" over "exact calculations" as "fuzzy" is worse than wrong -- it is misleading and ignorant. Most Times readers would find a comparable gaffe on literature or other cultural matters embarrassing. I am glad to learn that it was not the constructor's error, since I found much to enjoy in this clever puzzle.

Anonymous 9:21 PM  

Fuzzy math.

And qui vive means "who would you have live [a long life]?," not "who goes there."

Anonymous 9:24 PM  

Can someone discuss the issues behind the evident disdain for NPLers? That is, if I read the context of the above comments, people who are NPLers (i.e., members of the National Puzzlers' League), are fond of arcane and trivial differentiations. Is that assumption correct?


Anonymous 9:34 PM  

Fuzzy math is also used as a derogatory term by some mathematicians about the current state of K-12 mathematics.

If you want to read more, just Google "math wars" and read away.

Or, you can Google "Mathematically Correct" and "Mathematically Sane" to find links to websites that present the opposite ends of the spectrum.

(From someone who is all too familiar with this debate.)


Anonymous 9:55 PM  

liebestraum -- very helpful, thank you. I read Bart Kosko's (sp?) "Fuzzy Logic" 12 years ago...and since then always associated the concept with grey-thinking, like rice-makers need to do (as someone mentioned above), partial-ness, etc., not the math world at all. I would have preferred Barry Silk's original cluing by far. My only math reference would have been going from A's in high school to "kinda C's" once calculus reared its non-intutitive head in college....

from: .9 karmasartre

fergus 10:12 PM  

Anonymous at 9:21,

That is a fine, precise interpretation of QUI VIVE but not one that a translator would use. I may point out that it's used as a threat, if that's not already obvious.

And while I love Wikipedia, I fear that it is an agent in spreading a loose acceptance of distinct terms that should have fine shades of meaning, but end up in the same fuzzy bucket of generally meaning the same thing. I don't believe in synonyms, but I'm not too crusadingly adamant about reprehending sloppiness in common speech.

Anonymous 10:45 PM  

I'm all for idiomatic translations, and would be willing to accept "Who's your daddy?," but "Who goes there?" means something entirely different.

What aspect of the wikipedia article on "fuzzy math" do you object to? The phrase has quite a precise meaning (fairly well aligned with the clue, I think). Do you disagree that the pedalogical approach described is called "fuzzy math," or that such an approach exists, or that such an approach is effective? I grew up in the "new math" era. My opinion is that that was bad enough and new-new math (aka fuzzy math) is even worse.

Anonymous 10:50 PM  

BTW, qui vive is used as a challenge, which is not quite the same as a threat. The proper response to "Who goes there?" is in the first person; to "Qui vive?" in the third.

wendy 11:25 PM  

Man, and my main complaint of the day was just that 44A was actually EPA when I had SPF ;)

An error which didn't reveal itself initially because the answers had a P in common and I had already gotten EPITOME.

Anonymous 11:47 PM  

Oops! Thanks, Sluggo, and sorry, Barry! I also got a bemused email from Michael Selinker after I wrote him (using his nom, Slik) to thank him for the puzzle. I remembered that his nom was like his last name, but didn't remember the name. When I saw the puzzle's author, I though, "I know him!" Anyway, nice puzzle, Barry. And, Anonymous/DS, while we NPLers do enjoy arcana and trivia and such, isn't that one large component of crosswords? We do have a large contingent every year at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, and Will Shortz himself is the emcee at our annual convention!

fergus 12:33 AM  

I object to allowing cheap imitations represent the 'essence' of the thing described. While this may be a half Platonic-sophomore point of view, I still want words to signify a direct target. On another night, I might have spent some more time in rebuttal, but for now I've just laid it to rest.

hotbetterthancold 9:55 AM  

Did anyone else NOT get the puzzle today? (Friday, Sept 14)

Anonymous 1:21 PM  

6 weeks after...Enjoyed the puzzle Barry.
I don't think anyone commented on the appearance of CONAN on two consequtive days, different clues.

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