Thursday, November 21, 2013

No[,] Argument [Is] What the Answer Is

Here's this week's NPR puzzle:
Think of a word meaning "quarrel" in which several of the letters appear more than once. Remove exactly two occurrences of every repeated letter, and the remaining letters can be rearranged to spell a new word meaning "quarrel." What are the two words?

I like this puzzle...except for the idea that a misunderstanding is a quarrel is an argument. Argument and quarrel, sure. But even in its air quotes sense, "misunderstanding" is too amorphous to mean much. (In other words, I'm with Mendo Jim on this.) (Mendo Jim, we pulled your comment out of our spam trap, which really really doesn't like you. I gave you both Pick-a-Range slots as a consolation prize.)

Picture this. You walk into a room and ask someone, "What's going on?" and the person says, "Pat and Chris had a [air quotes] misunderstanding." Do you really go straight to quarrel? I wouldn't. I'd think, "Oh, it's [whichever of Pat or Chris is less reasonable] up to his/her old tricks again."

Oh, well, why let a linguistic context ruin a good puzzle, eh, what?

No photos. I was sick over the weekend, so if the picture of Dante Alighieri refusing to play ball with Girolomo Fracastoro anymore wasn't enough, you'll just have to wait until the weekend.

Fracastoro is an interesting guy. He coined the word syphilis for "The French Disease." He borrowed the name from Greek mythology. Too bad. It would have been fun to have an STD based on his name. Fracastoritis, perhaps. (Hey, it worked for Masoch.)

Time for
Confession time. Ross and I both had to travel to Philly today, and the Ruby Tuesdays where we lunched had no WiFi. Oh, and my phone's battery was dead. So, no chance to update the Pick a Range slots before the 3:00 cut-off. My apologies to everyone whose picks had "abandonment issues." We can sympathize, truly.

Here are this week's picks:
Fewer than 50
 51 - 100
101 - 150
151 - 200 -- Ross
201 - 250 -- zeke creek
251 - 300 -- KDW
301 - 350 -- Word Woman
351 - 400 -- Magdalen
401 - 450 -- Joe Kupe
451 - 500 -- Paul
501 - 550 -- David
551 - 600 -- Mendo Jim
601 - 650
651 - 700 -- Marie
701 - 750 -- Curtis
751 - 800 -- Mendo Jim 
801 - 850
851 - 900
901 - 950
951 - 1,000
1,001 - 1,050 -- Natasha
1,051 - 1,100
1,101 - 1,150
1,151 - 1,200
1,201 - 1,250
1,251 - 1,300
1,301 - 1,350
1,351 - 1,400
1,401 - 1,450
1,451 - 1,500

1,501 - 1,550
1,551 - 1,600
1,601 - 1,650
1,651 - 1,700
1,701 - 1,750
1,751 - 1,800
1,801 - 1,850
1,851 - 1,900
1,901 - 1,950
1,951 - 2,000
2,001 - 2,050
2,051 - 2,100
2,101 - 2,150
2,151 - 2,200
2,201 - 2,250
2,251 - 2,300
2,301 - 2,350
2,351 - 2,400
2,401 - 2,450
2,451 - 2,500

2,501 - 2,750
2,751 - 3,000
3,001 - 3,250
3,251 - 3,500
3,501 - 4,000
4,001 - 4,500
4,501 - 5,000

 > 5,000
 > 5,000 + new record
Our tie-break rule:   In the event that a single round number is announced with a qualifier such as "about" or "around" (e.g., "We received around 1,200 entries."), AND two separate people picked the ranges of numbers just before and just after that round number, the prize will be awarded to whichever entrant had not already won a prize, or in the event that both entrants had won a prize already or neither had, then to the earlier of the two entries on the famous judicial principle of "First Come First Serve," (or in technical legal jargon, "You Snooze, You Lose").  As of July 2012, this rule is officially no longer obsolete (and also I still just like having fine print).


Paul said...

Not to be a noodge, but I think Joe Kupe got usurped, and, even worse, I got slighted.

Magdalen said...

Paul -- Technology let all of us down today. But I've fixed it, so presumably the earth currents have realigned and no animal sacrifices will be needed.


Anonymous said...


I have to disagree with your assessment of the puzzle. Both and the American Heritage dictionary agree that a misunderstanding can be an argument.

I'm also not at all pleased with the puzzle. While I admire the cleverness necessary to recognize that "misunderstanding" can be reduced to "argument," I don't think a clever realization makes for a good puzzle. In this case, simply looking up "argument" in a thesaurus (as I did after solving the puzzle) reveals an obvious candidate for the answer.

Oh well, there's always next week.



Magdalen said...

Phil, I agree with your research: misunderstanding can mean argument. But that's not what the puzzle said to start with. It told us to use a word that means "quarrel." I don't think "misunderstanding" means "quarrel," not by at least an order of ten.

Here's what I mean by that. Ignore all the cases of slippage--where the meaning of a word just slips by the second word. You and I can be having a quarrel but understand each other all too well. :-)

But misunderstanding can mean argument only in context. That was the point I made in the post. Two people having a misunderstanding aren't quarreling until we're told more about the situation. So, while one possible context of "misunderstanding" is an argument which is a quarrel, I don't think it works as well in reverse.

Start with a word that means quarrel and you get argument without any effort at all. I argue (cough) that it would take a lot of effort when asked for a long word meaning quarrel to even think of misunderstanding.

See? Or are we misunderstanding each other?