Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Wednesday, August 2, 2017, Bruce Haight


Boy, when I said yesterday that Wednesdays are a hodgepodge of oddball puzzles, I never thought I'd get one like this!

We have eight examples of auto-antonyms, or contranyms. That is, words which mean both one thing and its opposite. Had Mr. Haight clued these words with just one of their definitions, the puzzle would have been essentially a standard themeless, and that's the way it played. Actually, for me, about a themeless on the level of difficulty of a Friday.

How did these words come to mean their own opposites? SANCTION means confirmation or enactment of a law, which is where it gets its positive meaning (Sanctify comes from the same root). But the sense of a penalty is also an enactment of something, so I suppose that's where that comes from. Ah, English. What a strange language. Are there examples of contranyms in other languages? Dutch, say? (Horace? Frannie?)

Most of my difficulty was in the NW. I had OREO and DUO, but the rest of the answers just wouldn't come. If I had picked up KOI, that most standard of crossword fish answers, the corner would have been much easier. PELEG needed all of the crosses.

I'm not convinced that "Nosebleed seats" are usually the REARMOST. I'd be more inclined just to call them the uppermost seats. At Foxboro stadium, the highest tier has seats that are more forward than the back rows of the section below.

I enjoyed SUREDO near by MAAM. Sounded Western to me. He's a GONER, MAAM. SUREDO. See? You can write your own John Wayne script.

There's very little to really complain about (OEN). Otherwise it's a reasonably fine puzzle, although how the NW and SE corners are completely cut off bugged me.

1A: HOLDUP. It's a theme answer, but one of the ones I liked better, so I give it a solid B.
Fave: WECOOL (17A: "No hard feelings, man, right?"). I liked how the "man" is thrown in there in the clue to make the colloquial nature of the answer clear.
Least fave: HEHS (30A: Sneaky little snickers) - just because of all the possible answers that could fit in there, plus the plural.

- Colum


  1. 8:490
    I remember first learning about contranyms (and autological words) on an episode of the excellent podcast "Skeptics Guide to the Universe". Perhaps that helped me work through this. I very much enjoyed the puzzle.

    Only minor sticking spot for me was FIGHTWITH crossing SHH and CRUSTED.

    RESIGN (72A: Quit... or agree to keep going) is probably the contranym I encounter most often. In particular, the crawl on ESPN will say that a certain player has resigned and I don't know whether to be shocked or pleased until I manage to get more information from another source. I'd really like to see re-sign (with the dash) come into more common usage for the act of signing again.

  2. 10:15
    I agree with the dash on RESIGN; that seems reasonable and I often make use of a dash with contranyms when I write e-mails just to make my meaning clear (hopefully). ET59 probably got SUEDE and IDIOM right away, and Frannie probably knew ISBN. I got PELEG off of the clue since I just read the book maybe two years ago. I wonder how many solvers know of ORSON Welles? More enjoyable than a usual Wednesday.

  3. 10:52
    I love this idea. The antonyms are fascinating. I'm not able to come up with any in other languages on the spur of the moment, but I'm sure they must exist, mustn't they?
    I liked the whole thing. Even HEHS, which made me give out a little "heh" when I got it.

  4. This was nice. Liked AKITA (which must be in puzzles a lot, with all those vowels, but somehow doesn't seem like crosswordese the same way as etui or the like, maybe because I've seen akitas more often than etuis? But I disgress, this puzzle didn't have sewing gear, etui or otherwise).

    WECOOL was fun too, because I figured it must end with "cool" but it took longer to get the "we" part.

    REARMOST won't be literally true of all theaters, but I guess it is true enough of the time to be within the range of poetic license for me.

    Time: 13:17 (typical for me on Wednesday).