Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Title: That's Unreal!
Author: Peter A. Collins
Theme: Imaginary numbers (in math)
  • 25a: See 73-Across (THE SQUARE ROOT).

  • 53a: See 73-Across (OF NEGATIVE ONE).

  • 71a: Hurricane centers (EYES). "i" homophone.

  • 73a: What to do to all the letters in this puzzle's grid hinted at by 71-Across to create the symbol described by 25- and 53-Across (SHADE).

Here's a puzzle for the math geeks. In math, an integer is any non-fraction (i.e., ..., -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, ... ). A rational number is any number that can be represented as the simple quotient of two integers (i.e., a/b, where a and b are integers). Then you have irrational numbers, like "e" and pi, that cannot be so simplified. Combine the rationals and irrationals to get the set of "real" numbers. But that's not enough to solve all the equations that need solving. That's why we need "imaginary" numbers, defined as a product of a real number and "i" -- defined, as noted in this puzzle -- as the square root of -1 (so, i x i = -1). Armed with this new definition, we can define "complex" numbers, which have both a real and non-real component (e.g., 3 + 2i). Suffice it to say that this opens up new doors in mathematical analysis.

As a former math major, this puzzle tickled my fancy. But I can't help wondering how accessible this phenomenon is to the average crossword-solving crowd. Still, it's a nice execution, with the shaded "i"s forming another "i" in the grid.

  • 1a: Aria man, maybe (BASSO). Did you try TENOR first? Who could blame you?

  • 15a: Gabonese president Bongo (OMAR). See? Epps and Sharif aren't the only Omars out there if you look. And we know Peter Gordon looks.

  • 17a: Obfuscate (CLOUD). Obfuscate is a great word. It generally implied intentional clouding, to make something more difficult to understand for someone else. Why would one want to that, you ask. Well, I first became aware of it when programming in Java some years back. It was a relatively straightforward procedure to "decompile" someone's program, thus gaining access to the original source code and logic therein -- something that might want to be protected by the author to avoid pirating. Obfuscation was a routine that garbled the source code so that it was difficult to read by humans, but would still compile to function in the same way as the original.

  • 22a: Thing that can be very sticky? (DAM). Sticky, as in made of sticks. Ugh.

  • 24a: With 28-Across, 1935 nominee for Best Picture (TOP/HAT). With Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

  • 35a: Blowhard (GASBAG). Is this one word or two? I'm not sure.

  • 41a: Morse morsel? (DAH). Morse code is refered to as dots and dashes when written, but dits and dahs when heard. So, a morse code morsel in three letters could easily be DIT, DOT, or DAH. Put in the D and wait for the crossings.

  • 43a: Denis of "The Ref" (LEARY). I love Denis Leary. This was a pretty silly film, but has its amusing moments for sure.

  • 49a: Led (RAN). It took me a while to find the synonym here. Ran, as in ran a company, say.

  • 52a: Former Manhattan punk music club, familiarly (CBS). Some might find that CBGBs is enough of a stretch without resorting to a "familiar" shortcut. I got it easily enough, but there are better clues for CBS.

  • 58a: Where monkeys go bar-hopping? (ZOO). Ugh.

  • 60a: Signs up (ENROLLS). I'm more used to seeing this with one L, but both are legitimate.

  • 67a: Deuce follower, sometimes (AD OUT). Tennis scoring.

  • 68a: 2008 All-Star center fielder McLouth (NATE). Must be an NLer, as I've never heard of him.

  • 69a: Son of Solomon Levy in an Anne Nichols play (ABIE).

  • 70a: Word on Pooh's pot (HUNNY).

  • 72a: "___ on Entebbe" (1977 TV movie) (RAID). I remember this like it was yesterday. I was in my teens, a formative period.

  • 3d: Cargo measures (SHORT TONS).

  • 4d: Part of NSW (SOUTH). New South Wales, Australia.

  • 5d: Gobs (OODLES).

  • 6d: 1999 Claire Danes film, with "The" (MOD SQUAD). Could have easily been used to clue OMAR Epps, above.

  • 12d: Easy-to-play instrument (KAZOO).

  • 26d: Pope during the Great Schism (URBAN VI). I'm not crazy about Pope clues, but they're not usually that hard to figure out.

  • 29d: "The African Queen" co-screenwriter (AGEE). I think I must have seen this a few times in puzzles, because it came to me much quicker than I would have thought it might.

  • 38d: Court buildings? (GYMS). Basketball courts, particularly.

  • 42d: Did some work as a char (HOOVERED). I didn't know fish did housework. Apparently, there's another meaning of char I was not familiar with.

  • 56d: Olympic skiing gold medalist Alberto (TOMBA). Some athletes have personae that last well beyond their limited Olympics exposures. Tomba is one of these unforgettables.

  • 57d: "Well, obviously!" (NO DUH).

  • 61d: Bergman's "Casablanca" role (Ilsa LUND).

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

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