Saturday, December 8, 2012

Aunt Minnie (Sunday brunch: December 9, 2012)

Did you ever have the experience of taking a glance at a clue or a partial answer, and almost instantly some remarkably obscure word comes to mind--and it's right!?!  I had a couple of those with last week's puzzle by Hot and Trazom.  Radiologists like our solver Raydoc (Sabers and Bangle's grandfather) have a wonderful term for a recognition like this: "Aunt Minnie." Raydoc studied under Ben Felson, a legendary teacher and one of the doctors who popularized Aunt Minnie.

An Aunt Minnie is a kind of rare case you haven't seen or thought of since you were in school, but snaps into your mind when you see it.  It's like recognizing the face or voice of your Aunt Minnie even if you haven't seen her for twenty years.  Maybe our friends at the NPL could add that to their glossary.  Aunt Minnie can live over there next to the Icelandic Zoo.

While I'm not a clinical radiologist (though my degree is in MRI and I taught x-ray and MRI physics), I've had a few Aunt Minnie moments in my time.  The one I remember most vividly is the structure of diborane. I saw it once in a chemistry textbook when I was a freshman, never paid much attention to it, but I recognized it and its unusual "bridge bonds" when it showed up on my GRE exam.

So now you know what to say the next time you get amazed by your unexpected powers of recollection.

It's a weekend for variety crosswords today.  Variety crosswords (not to be confused with themed crosswords) are the puzzles with straight cluing, but unusual grids.  The Wall Street Journal offers us a "Double or Nothing" by Patrick Berry.  In this puzzle, logically enough, each space will contain two letters or no letters.  Enumerations of the solutions are not given, but you know they all have to have an even number of letters.  Another nice feature of these puzzles is that they end up with few black spaces (28 out of 225 in this case) and an impressive looking grid (at least before you start solving and penciling in and erasing...)

The New York Times has (behind the paywall or in your print copy) a spiral variety crossword by Will Shortz.  They're pretty easy: finding the puzzle is going to be harder than solving it.  There's also a Fred Piscop puzzle, which I assume is a diagramless, sitting there behind the paywall with no date other than "December."  I wonder if that will ever actually appear in the print edition.

The regular cryptic crossword by Hex is in the weekend's National Post.  Falcon will have solution and commentary for you.

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