Sunday, August 31, 2014

Doctor Butthead (Puzzle no. 3,334)

Writing comprises a pretty substantial part of my job: I do systematic reviews of medical technology and procedures to help our medical center improve the quality, safety, and value of care.  While the crux of the work involves searching the published literature for evidence from clinical trials (finding the three or four scientific papers that address the question of interest out of millions of papers in the databases), reading between the lines to find possible weaknesses in the research, and doing statistical analyses of the results, there’s also a need to write precisely and fluently: a skill that is enhanced by a crossword hobby.

Sometimes the two worlds intersect, and one of the topics I’m working on now (patient-controlled analgesia for patients with pain from sickle cell crisis) reminds me of one of those times.  It was in in my previous job, and a colleague was working on a report about narcotic drugs for patients with awful pain from cancer.  One of the issues in this topic is that some doctors are afraid to prescribe these drugs for fear their patients will become addicted.  Considering that most of these patients have advanced disease, it’s a pretty heartless position to take (and that’s not my opinion—many clinical practice guidelines note that doctors underprescribe narcotics for patients who really need them).

In our meetings about this report, my colleague coined the phrase “Doctor Butthead” to refer to these clinicians who overemphasized the risks of narcotics.  It got to be such a catchphrase among us that I hatched a plan to hide it in our report.  I made sure that the background section talking about the issue included the phrase “...DOCTOR, BUT THE ADdiction concerns...”

Our boss never noticed.

Have you ever managed to mix cryptics and your work?  Share your story in the comments.

Link to puzzle

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): moderate.  As is Hot and Trazom’s usual practice with themed or variety puzzles, they make the non-standard part pretty easy to pick up.  I stupidly got hung up on one of the theme answers though.

Hozom’s comment: “Puzzling Women” in which Hot and Trazom lament the lack of women constructing and solving crosswords: cryptic or otherwise.

Much as I love smart and articulate women (The Other Doctor Mitchell [who is not a crossword fiend–she does logic puzzles] foremost among them), I’m not so worried about the proportion of women in the crosswording pastime.  It’s their choice, and I’m fine with there being differences in human brains and what they’re most finely tuned to do.  Crosswording, especially in the cryptic mode, is a highly structured activity.  From what I’ve read about neuroscience (and I’m not any kind of specialist in it), it’s something the brains of males are more likely to be be attuned to than the brains of females are.  But it’s a tendency, not a dichotomy, so we’re blessed to know (and encourage) ladies like Emily Cox and Elizabeth Gorski who have made their own mark not as female constructors but as brilliant and creative constructors.  I don’t see anyone doing anything other than encouraging them to be a big part of our world.

Besides, I think there’s more in common among puzzling women and men than there is dividing them. Look at some of the side interests, like Doctor Who (LizR) or scoring baseball games (Erin Rhode). The kind of things associated with structure-oriented brains, regardless of what the chromosomes that gave rise to them are.

Cluing challenge: GENDER GAP

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