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comment Typesetting 144…4 with “n times” under the 4's is easy, but what about \sqrt{144…4}?
Yep. And it looks like someone has used \smash on the post that inspired this question too.
comment Programmatically setting a counter to a substring
Thanks! This is the solution I ended up using -- it "feels nicer" to be able to use a substring macro.
comment Do semantics matter in LaTeX? If not, why not?
I'd say one should be more willing to tolerate "unsemantic" markup in TeX than in HTML, because with HTML, the markup is all there is, but with TeX, the markup is only a means to producing the final output: a rendered document that has no trace of any semantics beyond the presentational. (That said, if you find yourself contorting tables and lists all the time to get what you want, you should probably be defining your own newcommands for those things.)
comment Turn on subsection numbering in memoir
Thanks! I had tried setting that in the preamble, but it hadn't worked -- it turned out that \mainmatter resets secnumdepth. Now that I know what to look for, the memoir documentation states that calling \maxsecnumdepth in the preamble sets the numbering level for \mainmatter.