Tuesday, 6/28/11

NYT 3:17 
LAT 3:28 (Neville) 
Jonesin' 2:58 
CS 6:52 (Sam) 

Tom Baring’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 6 28 11 0628

Were you paying attention in your high school and college science classes? Because every so often, there will be a quiz. The Tuesday crossword is that quiz:

  • 17a. 3.14159 is your friendly neighborhood PI APPROXIMATION. I got the PI part right off, but the second word took a lot of crossings to piece together.
  • 26a. –273.15°C is ABSOLUTE ZERO. Is that 0° Kelvin?
  • 42a. The SPEED OF LIGHT is apparently 299,792,458 meters/second.
  • 55a. 6.022 x 10^23 is AVOGADRO’S NUMBER. Without looking this up, I’m gonna say it’s the number of atoms contained in one mole of a given element. Yes! Dictionary says it’s that, or the number of molecules of a compound in one mole. Same dictionary also says the number is 6.023. Eh, close enough.

Would you believe that crosswords have ruined my mind? It’s true. I read the clue for 11d, [Manicurist's supply], and tried to figure out how to fit EMERY into 10 squares. NAIL POLISH! Yes, that is generally a key component of a manicure, more so than an emery board.

I wanted 18a: [King's domain] to be HORROR, but the answer has only five letters. REALM, having nothing to do with Stephen King? Well, all right.

Solid fill overall. Four stars.

Vic Fleming and Nancy Salomon’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Neville’s review

LA Times crossword solution, 6 28 11

A puzzle from Vic “The Gavel” Fleming and frequent mentor Nancy Salomon? Exciting! The theme is words that I cannot spell because they are French:


  • 17a. [Delight in living] - JOIE DE VIVRE (literally, joy of living). I can’t think of this phrase without getting the theme song from The Nanny stuck in my head. Never learn French from Fran Drescher.
  • 24a. [Paris site of objets d'art] - MUSÉE DU LOUVRE (Louvre Museum). Did I mention – for the full effect, pretend that I’m also butchering the pronunciations of these words. French in the clue, even!
  • 48a. [Peppercorn-coated beef entrée] - STEAK AU POIVRE (steak with a creamy pepper sauce om nom nom). Apparently steak is a word that transcends language – I’d believe that.
  • 56a. [Shrimp cocktail, e.g.] - HORS D’OEUVRE (apart from the main work). I couldn’t find a capitalized version of œ – sorry. An anagram of HORE DEVOURS, of course. Glad there’s no W.

Now if I were an expert in French, I could tell you that each of these, with its DE, DU, AU and D’ has a different preposition in it, but this may not really be a thing. Someone who knows French – am I missing something extra? Because that’s what it feels like to me.

I really like this puzzle – it has a tame spelling challenge with things I’ve actually heard of. Plus, this is the kind of fill you expect from a Fleming/Salomon effort:

  • HAIL MARY, full of grace, we need a touchdown. (I’m Catholic, so I can get away with that joke.)
  • T-BIRD
  • TOLD ON, though [Snitched about] has me thinking about the upcoming Harry Potter finale.

Now, you expect the Downs to be the fun ones, because the across entries have the theme answers, right? Think again!

  • HAS BEEN was a great album by William Shatner – you need to pick it up right now.
  • THINK UP, like when you’re trying to pick out a Pixar film to watch.
  • The symmetrically placed BRETT/FAVRE

Usually I’d complain about U.A.R.OBEAH or SSS, but this puzzle is really cool, especially for a Tuesday puzzle. If this had a later-week theme, I’d be inclined to put it in the tippy-top, but as such, I can only give it a 4.5. Great work here.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Set Us Free” (themeless)

Jonesin' crossword answers, "Set Us Free"

I enjoyed this puzzle but dang, the clues were too easy! This puzzle will probably take Dan Feyer no more than 90 seconds to polish off.

Diary of a Crossword Fiend’s resident Disneyologist, Jeffrey, has alerted the world that the clue for 27a is incorrect. [Amphibian who used to have a "Wild Ride" at Disneyland] clues MR. TOAD, but it is Florida’s Walt Disney World that lost Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. California’s Disneyland still has that phantasmagoric experience.

This 68-word puzzle has a classic Matt Jones grid—unlike those you see anywhere else, and with room for lots of crazy long answers. Highlights:

  • 1a. ASS-BACKWARDS means [Convoluted beyond common sense]. And what does back-asswards mean? Is that even more convoluted?
  • 13a. [Former member of Congress] clues ANTHONY WEINER. Heh, he said “member.”
  • 56a. “RAISE YOUR HAND” is the [Teacher's request to prevent blurting out].
  • 2d. ST. THOMAS is [One of the U.S. Virgin Islands]. The others are St. Croix and St. John.
  • 6d. ["Later," in some text messages] clues CYA, as in “see ya.” Haven’t seen that one (though my son says “BRB” in speech), but long ago I learned that CYA was short for “cover your ass.” So it’s apt that this crosses ASS-BACKWARDS.
  • 7d. [Place to get Squishees] is Apu’s KWIK-E-MART on The Simpsons.
  • 28d. DANNY KAYE gets his full name in the grid. [He played Hans Christian Andersen] in…something. I don’t know what. The Kaye/H.C.A. connection is one I learned from crosswords.
  • 34d. We see ILIAD plenty in crosswords, but rarely THE ILIAD.

The puzzle’s got 30 3-letter words, which is a lot, but I found the long crossings to be clued easily enough that I never even looked at some of the clues for those 3s.

Four stars.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sob Story” – Sam Donaldson’s review

I don’t mean to come across as an S.O.B., but this puzzle’s got a sad little theme.  It features three three-word phrases with the initials S.O.B.:

  • 20-Across: There are lots of options for the [Breakfast decision], like “wheat or white toast,” “scrambled or sunny-side up,” and “cream or sugar.”  But the only one that fits this theme is SAUSAGE OR BACON.
  • 41-Across: The [Wise men's guide] is the STAR OF BETHLEHEM.  Today, the magi would be more inclined to use the Onstar of Bethlehem.  Hmm, have I discovered a goods theme entry for an “ADD-ON” puzzle?
  • 56-Across: For this one I had no idea at all.  The [Walter Carlos album that popularized synthesizers] is SWITCHED ON BACH.  “Ah…Bach.”  (You’re welcome, M*A*S*H fans.)

There are pros and cons to the theme and its execution.  On the pro side, I like that each of the “O.” words is different, and I like that there’s a little naughtiness to an S.O.B. theme.  On the con side, “sausage or bacon” feels a little forced (“bacon or sausage” sounds more common to my ear), and Switched on Bach seems a little too “you-know-it-or-you-don’t” to be much fun to those of who don’t know it.  Maybe SHADE OF BLUE could be paired with SIDE OF BACON–those seem a little more “in the language” to me.

Oenophiles may have plunked down BEAUJOLAIS as the [Region of France], but I needed all of the crossings to figure it out.  On the other hand, ETHAN HAWKE as the ["Training Day" actor] came fairly quickly (though my first inclination was try Denzel WASHINGTON).  My favorite entries were SUN-UP (clued [Dawn]) and MAKE IT (clued [Succeed]).

My favorite clue came twice: professional quarterback [Mark Sanchez, for one] clues both JET and PASSER.  I tend to like it when clues do double- or triple-duty.

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41 Responses to Tuesday, 6/28/11

  1. Dave G. says:

    I spent a full post-solve minute trying to figure out why a HEN would live in a Co-op… I don’t think it is the puzzles that have ruined my mind though, I think there were other activities that were more responsible.

  2. joon says:

    it is 6.022(14…), so the crossword is right (and your dictionary is wrong). as for ABSOLUTE ZERO, that’s 0 K (zero kelvins). “degrees kelvin” isn’t really a thing. kelvins are a unit like grams or moles, not a scale like celsius or fahrenheit.

    curious decision, that APPROXIMATION. i mean, sure, it’s approximate, but so are -273.15°C and 6.022 x 10^23. (by contrast, the SPEED OF LIGHT is exactly 299792458 m/s, by definition of the meter.) seems odd to have 13/15 of a theme answer be “ish” and only 2/15 the actual quantity. i kind of wish the puzzle had gone for all physical constants instead of three physical and one mathematical. still, it was fun to see those numbers in the puzzle. once i corrected APPROXIMATELY to APPROXIMATION, the puzzle very helpfully gave me the other 39 theme squares for free.

  3. Erik says:

    i just graduated a math/science magnet program (sup Mr. Stein??). this is the closest i will ever get to one of Howard’s times.

  4. ArtLvr says:

    In the LAT, I think the French theme wasn’t the prepositional form so much as the ending – VRE with varying vowels or vowel combinations: VIVRE, LOUVRE, POIVRE, and OEUVRE with a bonus FAVRE. The only others that leap to mind are le Lièvre, which means “hare”, and Sèvres Porcelain though the latter doesn’t quite fit because of the final (silent) S.

  5. Noam D. Elkies says:

    What was that again about Avocado’s Number and the guacaMole?

    @Joon: I thought Kelvin was both a scale like Celsius and a (dimensionless) unit. Is it actually wrong to say that water freezes at 273-point-something degrees K?

    Re MJ’s pardon-my-French puzzle: DE, D’, and arguably DU are basically the same. Yes, I’d go with -VRE as the theme. A bit curious that STEAK_AU_POIVRE could sneak into French where usually English words are unwelcome especially words with foreign letters like K.

    NDE [in Vilnius]

    P.S. In HTML you can get a capital Πwith ampersand-OElig-semicolon.

  6. Gareth says:

    NYT:Simple, but fun, theme, marred somewhat by PIAPPROXIMATION, which IMO is a made up phrase. Also, I first tried AVOGADROCONSTANT, wonder how many of us there are.

    LAT: Had STEAKAUGRATIN – I don’t know that I’ve seen or eaten either of the two, but the one I typed in, I learned from other crosswords, so it >must< be right, right? (I'm no gourmet, me.)

  7. Matt says:

    My recollection is that absolute zero is exactly -273.15 degrees Celsius– defined with reference to the triple point of water (which is at exactly 0.01 degrees). Or have the metrologists changed all that while I wasn’t watching?

  8. pannonica says:

    NDE: So (in light of the Reagle puzzle this past Sunday) what’s the lowdown on Vilna versus Vilnius? Obviously “Vilnius” is the latinized version of the indigenous name, as was the custom across the Continent for some time, but is there a movement away from that nowadays?

    Neville: To add to Noam’s information, that’s &OElig; (the “lig” is short for ligature).

  9. Noam D. Elkies says:

    @pannonica: Vilnius is the only name I see used here, at least in the Roman alphabet (Yiddish plaques have ווילנע = Vilne); still in English Vilna can be an acceptable variant. Cf. Vienna for Wien, or Warsaw for Warszawa, or Moscow for Moskva, or Jerusalem for Yerushalayim. Other languages do this too, as in “Parigi” and “Rzym”.


  10. pannonica says:

    Oh, it’s an anglicized back-formation! I thought it was a restoration of the original name. A couple of well-known German ones are München/Munich and Köln/Cologne (although the latter is an adoption of the francized version).

  11. HH says:

    “Would you believe that crosswords have ruined my mind?”

    Yes. Join the club.

  12. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. one more for the LAT idea — SUIVRE, meaning to follow.

  13. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Noam, say hello to my distant Lithuanian kin! If there are any people named Z(i)ekas or Vigraitis, they may be related to me.

  14. Tuning Spork says:

    Apparently steak is a word that transcends language

    Indeed. The Russian word for “beefsteak” is “beefsteak”.


  15. Zulema says:

    A different perspective from a non-speed solver.

    I loved this puzzle because its theme was a subject, more like a CHE puzzle. I also wondered what would follow PI and thought “ratio” might be in there, but the crossings didn’t seem to go that way.

  16. Jeffrey says:

    MR TOAD’s Wild Ride has been at Disneyland since it opened in 1955. The Magic Kingdom version was replaced in 1998 by The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

  17. joon says:

    noam, good catch on the -273.15. that’s the kind of fact that i probably used to know but had forgotten.

    the definitions are kind of fascinating. if you define the kelvin so that the triple point of water is exactly 273.16 K, then you cannot also define the difference between the triple point and melting point to be 0.01 K. nevertheless, this is exactly what the international bureau of weights and measures did in 1948! they could get away with it because the values are extremely close to being exact, but it still seems sloppy to me. the ratio between the absolute temperature of the triple point and the absolute temperature of the melting point is a measurable dimensionless quantity, with an uncertainty, independent of units. it’s close to, but not exactly, 273.16/273.15. you can’t just call it exactly 273.16/273.15 by definition.

    in the LAT, i was puzzled by the not-quite-themeness of EN ROUTE, and the theme seemed incredibly loose to me. but artlvr’s explanation makes me much happier with it, and i think that BRETT FAVRE must be thematic rather than just a coincidence. the other option that comes to mind is LE HAVRE.

    nifty jonesin’! i loved the clue for NIGHTSTAND.

  18. AV says:

    Note that today, 6.28 = 2*pi (approximation)

    Anti-pi propagandists have announced June 28 as “tau” day! Wonder if Will was making a statement in this fight …


  19. Daniel Myers says:

    As to the whole Kelvin & degrees fracas, I don’t understand what joon means by “degrees Kelvin isn’t really a thing.” Why ever not? It’s certainly the way I was taught to express it in physics class. Here is the rather exhaustive definition in the unabridged OED:

    Kelvin – 3. (With capital initial.) Used attributively to designate an absolute scale of temperature (defined thermodynamically in terms of the operation of an ideal heat engine) in which the zero is defined as absolute zero and the values are assigned to one or more fixed points so as to make the DEGREES (my emphasis) correspond in size to those of the centigrade (Celsius) scale. So, Kelvin temperature, a temperature expressed in terms of this scale.

    The point is that Kelvin emphatically IS a scale expresssed in degrees.
    —-The entry goes on and gets ridiculously technical.

  20. joon says:

    daniel, the “degree kelvin” was officially renamed the kelvin in 1968 and has been deprecated since 1980. the OED is a historical reference and shouldn’t really be the go-to source for scientific definitions.

  21. Daniel Myers says:

    Joon and I posted simultaneously, forcing me to continue with my own undoubtedly geeky rendering from the rest of the OED definition:

    “In 1954 the scale was redefined in terms of a single fixed point, the triple point of water, to which was assigned the value of 273.16° exactly (giving the figure of approximately 273.15° for the ice point)”—We needn’t get too geeksome about what exactly this means, the point is that it’s still expressed in degrees.

  22. joon says:

    yes, yes… degrees kelvin were used in 1954. they’re not any more.

    sorry everyone. i’m done, i promise.

  23. Jeffrey says:

    Am I on the wrong website?

  24. john farmer says:

    My first thought seeing SHORT_ was that there’s a SHORTz in “puzzle.” Except there are two of them, not one, the z’s are lowercase more than “short,” and it would be unusually self-referential for a WS puzzle.

    Enjoyed the science/math theme today. Similar thoughts to Joon’s on “approximation” — there are several in the grid — though pi is better known as an appoximation than the others (or possibly any other number in math). No PLANCK’S CONSTANT (15) today. Maybe next time, Max.

  25. Daniel Myers says:


    Very well, I concede, that by a resolution passed by committee the Kelvin are no longer, by some, expressed in degrees. But that’s certainly how they were expressed in my class at Winchester in the mid-1980s. And heaven help you if you omitted the “°” indicator. The master would be sneering at you for the rest of the week.

    “It seems that Mr. Myers is on personal terms with the late Lord Kelvin, perhaps in ectoplasmic form?” etc etc Thanks joon.:-)

    I’m done too!

  26. “the ratio between the absolute temperature of the triple point and the absolute temperature of the melting point is a measurable dimensionless quantity, with an uncertainty, independent of units. it’s close to, but not exactly, 273.16/273.15. you can’t just call it exactly 273.16/273.15 by definition.”

    No, the melting point of a substance is not a fixed number—it depends on the air pressure. What you meant to say is that “…and the absolute temperature of the melting point at standard atmospheric pressure is a…”. That’s why the triple point is used in the definition of the Kelvin, because that is fixed: it’s the singular (temperature, pressure) at which all three phases of matter can coexist. See a phase diagram, for instance.

    once i corrected APPROXIMATELY to APPROXIMATION, the puzzle very helpfully gave me the other 39 theme squares for free.

    Yep, being able to fill in all 4 theme answers right off the bat was a huge help, this was definitely one of my fastest Tuesdays ever. I started out trying to fill in 17A as “PI AS A DECIMAL (something)” but that didn’t fit, and I shortly thereafter settled on APPROXIMATION (also AMS didn’t make much sense for 4D. AM radios for public address maybe?).

  27. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Let me be the first to go on record as having no idea what “triple point” means. PLEASE, NOBODY EXPLAIN THAT. I’m good.

  28. Howard B says:

    Well, I’m just glad that I was able to use some of those middle-school science, high-school chem and early math team study hours one more time for the powers of good.
    I enjoyed this one but can see the polarizing quality of it. However, this balances out my puzzle karma for of all those Broadway, film and opera references that have stumped me on weekend puzzles over the past year.

    Additional scientific explanation: I attended some college classes with a guy named Kelvin.

  29. Matt K says:

    Triple point: The unique spot in the outfield of every major league baseball stadium such that, on a ball hit to that spot, even the slowest-of-foot catcher will be guaranteed a triple.

  30. Ladel says:

    Hah, talk about being thrown back in time with all this science talk, picture me with my trusty slide rule and the mnemonic taped under the slide that read: SOHCAHTOA, thinking I was a clever cheat.

  31. AV says:

    @Ladel: The mnemonic we loved was – Some Old Hippie Caught Another Hippie Tripping On Acid! [for those still with this geeky crowd, this was the mnemonic for remembering what the Sine, Cosine and Tangent functions represented].

  32. Ladel says:


    When SOHCAHTOA was in vogue for us, we knew not of hippies or acid, and your little ditty would not have fit comfortably under the slide. But now modernity requires that I LMAO at all these quaint memories.

  33. John Haber says:

    I enjoyed seeing things like the theme entries I actually knew. If that made it too easy, it’s only a Tuesday. But yeah, I too took crossings to finish the first one. I looked at PI and wondered what the rest would be. “To five places” obviously wasn’t going to fit.

    While it’s fuzzy not to call others approximations, too, I suppose I’ll cut them a break in that, one could argue, they’re only empirically approximations while a transcendental number like pi is necessarily an approximation to any number of decimal places. Or, to put it another way, it’s an annoyance, but an annoyance only to five decimal places.

  34. Howard B says:

    Ah, my old friend Sohcahtoa :).

    Mathophobes, it could have been worse. Imagine if the clues/answers were reversed, such as having a clue of “PI, APPROXIMATED” and a 15-space answer of 3.1415926535898 (rounded from …8979, and including the ‘point’ rebus square). And so forth. Maybe absolute zero would be replaced with something odder, too.

  35. sandirhodes says:

    I hate to do this, but someone (no names!) said “… though pi is better known as an appoximation than the others (or possibly any other number in math).”

    Actually, pi is exact — it is any numerical representation of pi that must be approximate.

    Whee! 2 cents!!

  36. Vic says:

    Thanks for the nice comments. The inception of the puzzle was my wondering how many words that might be in an American’s vocabulary end with VRE. Not many. Nancy did the grid and fill, brilliantly, I might add. I did the clueing, which she then chimed in on as well and it looks like about 60% of our clueing survived, but, as always, Rich’s editing made for a much better puzzle in the end. /Vic

  37. Martin says:


    Since only the triple point and absolute zero are involved in the definition of the kelvin, I don’t see how absolute zero is in any way an approximation. Rather, the older use of the ice point means that the boiling point of water is 99.9+ degrees C (something slightly less than 100) and the freezing point slightly less than 0. In other words, the approximations have moved to the obsolete reference points.

  38. john farmer says:

    Hey, that was me. It’s okay to name names. I had said at least a couple of things that were not exactly right, and I suppose I should be more precise when talking about approximations. Caveat lector. I had said one or two things that may have been approximately right too, which may or may not have been good enough for a crossword blog. I’m just glad this isn’t a test.

  39. joon says:

    i acknowledge that we’re often a somewhat nitpicky bunch here, but today seems to have been over the top, with at least three different people “correcting” statements whose content was totally unrelated to the slight imprecision in the language they may have used. i blame … me, i guess, since i seem to have started it.

  40. Jeffrey says:

    At least the MR TOAD clue I corrected was ABSOLUTELY wrong.

  41. pannonica says:

    Let the record show that I stayed above the fray! In fact, my only comments had to do with a puzzle two days old. Okay, there was a teensy little addition to something someone wrote.

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