Thursday, 7/26/12

NYT 6:09 
Fireball 5:14 
LAT 4:33 (Neville) 
BEQ 6:39 (Matt)  
CS 8:31 (Sam) 
Tausig untimed (Jared) 

Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 7 26 12 0726

I really didn’t like this puzzle until I finally cracked its code: Seven words or phrases contain UU (a total of eight times), but you fill in that “double-U” as a “W.” The Down crossings want the W, while the Across theme answers just look impossible until you understand the theme.

Here are the double-U answers:

  • 15a. [1975 Tony winner for Best Play], EQWS, Equus.
  • 19a. [Situated somewhere between two extremes], ON A CONTINWM, continuum.
  • 24a. [Forever], IN PERPETWM, perpetuum. “In perpetuity” is more familiar to me.
  • 39a. ["Capeesh?"], DO YOWNDERSTAND, do you understand. The only one in which the UU is split across words.
  • 57a. [Will-o'-the-wisp], IGNIS FATWS, fatuus. I bet there are a lot of solvers who will stare at the clue, the answer, and the double-U answer equally uncomprehendingly. The I.F. phrase means “foolish fire,” and the phrase means “something deceptive or deluding,” the dictionary helpfully explains. Then you have to look up will-o’-the-wisp to understand that: phosphorescent light floating over marshy ground at night, thought to result from burning of natural gases. Not to be confused with ignis fartuus, of course.
  • 64a. [Like some bags of food], VACWM-SEALED, vacuum. Once I figured out the theme, I looked for an answer with “vacuum” in it and found it here.
  • 70a. [Colorful dress], MWMW, muumuu.

Two thwmbs wp for this theme, which is far more interesting than just including assorted double-U words as is. There are single U’s in the grid too, which is not a flaw; there are no W’s other than the ones contained in the theme answers, however. And did you notice that the grid’s 16×15?

Fave fill: ED NORTON, TWERPS, Corazon AQUINO. Wasn’t really loving the fill overall.

Fave clues:

  • 60a. [Lottery picks], BALLS. There are about 20 more obvious paths to take in cluing BALLS.
  • 32d. [Meet face-to-face?], KISS.
  • 10d. [Beauty marks?], perfect TENS.
  • 55a. [Gymnasium floor choice], MAPLE. With the MA in place, I got fixated on gymnastics mats.

Fowr stars.

David Steinberg’s Fireball crossword, “Winning Choice”

Fireball answers, 7 26 12

So the circled letters are X’s and O’s mapping out a completed game of TIC-TAC-TOE. I don’t get the clue, though: 63a, [Game hinted at by the circled squares, as well as 14-Across, 10-Down, and 34-Down, the winner of which is for you to decide]. Okay, so there’s one diagonal with XXX and all the other combos are non-winners, like OOX. Why “the winner is for you to decide”? Are we making up our own rules for tic-tac-toe now? And what about 36d: XXX, [Letters on love letters]—is that thematic?

The theme is beefed up with TICKED OFF, TACKINESS, and TOE-TAPPER.

The Twitterverse tells me that there was a similar theme in the NYT back on March 5, 2003, but I wasn’t doing the puzzle regularly/obsessively until 2004. So it’s new to me (and I’m still wondering about the “winner is for you to decide” bit).

Favorite clues:

  • 37a. [Good fighter?], EVIL.
  • 41a. [Hit town, say], CAME. As in “When did you hit town?”
  • 29d. [Weekly Daly costar of the 1980s], GLESS. Cagney & Lacey.
  • 32d. [Didn't have any reception, perhaps], ELOPED.
  • 56d. [Word preceding the punch line of a knock-knock joke], WHO. “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?”

Four stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Inches Apart” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, July 26

Bob builds a puzzle around three two-word terms where the first word ends in -IN and the second word begins with CH-. Thus, with the break between IN and CH, you have three cases of “inches apart.” Here are the three terms:

  • 20-Across: PLAIN CHOCOLATE is the [Cocoa concoction with little or no milk].
  • 39-Across: WISCONSIN CHEESE is the food [originally produced to preserve excess milk].
  • 54-Across: I wanted the answer to [Junk food changes it] to be WAISTLINE or some 14-letter equivalent, but alas it’s BRAIN CHEMISTRY. I was a little bugged that the other two theme entries had clues referencing milk but this one did not. I had been led to think that “milk” was somehow a part of this theme. It clearly isn’t, so this is my fault. But I still feel like I was led down this rabbit hole deliberately.

The theme doesn’t do much for me, but Bob’s puzzles are nearly always about the clues and not so much the theme. In no particular order, here were the clues that stood out to me:

1. [It goes from side to side] as a clue for WIDTH is a great example of a fiendishly clever clue that has you thinking of all kinds of oscillating objects, only to have the answer instead be a concept, a measurement.

2. [Whale's location?] is a funny clue for THAR. Thar! Thar she blows! (Notice that the very next clue is [Whale locator], for SONAR. I didn’t notice the close relationship until now, likely because 16-Across is over on the far right and 17-Across is, as nearly always, on the far left.)

3. ALDA appears all the time, so it was a fun twist to see ALAN clued as [Alda of "Tower Heist"]. I call that a “reverse wink” to regular crossword solvers.

4. Another reverse wink comes with ["___ Gold" (1994 Clive Cussler novel)]. What regular crossword solver doesn’t see “___ Gold” and immediately think ULEE’S? Here, it’s INCA.

5. [The Dead and the Red] is not the story of Russian fans of stoner rock. It’s a terrific clue for SEAS.

6. Likewise, [Without a hitch?] is a fun clue for SINGLE.

I was less enamored with some of the cluttered fill like AT WT, CTR, and USOS. Normally I would have added MRS to this list, but the clue, [Husbands or wife], is my favorite in the whole puzzle. How fun to see it as both a plural (Misters) and a singular (Misses)! So I felt clemency for MRS was appropriate in this case.

Favorite entry = GO SOFT, to [Get mushy]. Favorite clue = um, see above.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Signs of Stress” — Jared’s review

Tausig 7/26/12 Look - I figured out how to add the accents. I'm not telling you how.

Ben takes a common phrase or entity and reimagines it with an accent mark placed over one of the E’s. To wit:


  • 17a. [Discussion with one's therapist about a sparkly gold bath toy?] – LAMÉ DUCK SESSION
  • 25a. [Totally tired of yellow journalism?] – OVER EXPOSÉ
  • 36a. ["You go, señorita!"?] – OLÉ MISS.  As simple as this one is, it was my favorite of the bunch.  It’s just so elegantly cute.
  • 45a. [The NRA's official winery?] – GUNS N ROSÉS

And the big reveal…

  • 57a. [Pompous pretensions, and this puzzle's theme] – AFFECTED ACCENTS

The great thing about being a relative newbie compared to other Fiend reviewers and readers is that if a theme has been done before, I tend to be blissfully ignorant of it. So, this idea was new to me, even if it wasn’t to the grizzled vets. In any case, I loved this theme. The original phrases are solidly in-the-language and the accented versions aren’t so much of a stretch that they require granting a sort of “artistic license” that we often have to give to accept a creative theme. And more imporantly, they’re funny, or at the very least, entertainingly evocative.


  • 1a. [Parachutist's cry] – GERONIMO. Fun entry. I tend to think of it more as something shouted by a kid doing a cannonball into a pool but maybe that’s just me.
  • 15a. [Condition for Homer] – ALOPECIA. I may be just beginning to experience it myself. I’m told the mitigating drug is expensive and has side effects that affect “performance” though, so I’ll be watchfully waiting for now.
  • 20a. [Imaginary craps advantage] – HOT HAND. I love when superstition gets called out in crosswords.  And no, there isn’t such thing as a “professional craps player” either.  I promise, your only “system” is self-delusion.
  • 29a. [Sounds frowned upon at dog shows] – ARFS. Dog shows – where a dog can’t be a dog.
  • 42a. [The Great and the Fat, e.g.] – EPITHETS. This clue stymied me for a bit. Hint:  Think of it as ["The Great" and "The Fat", e.g.].
  • 65a. [A third one is the subject of many science fiction stories] - WORLD WAR. If you’re conflating “science fiction” with the “dystopian future” genre, sure.
  • 28d. [Number one in bowls?] – PEE. Clue/answer combo of the puzzle. I don’t tend to like bathroom humor but this made me laugh out loud.
  • 34d. [NL player certain to be traded midseason, if he's any good] – ASTRO. The only sport I follow is track and field so you’ll have to help me out with this one.  Do the Astros have an inability to hold onto their star players or something?
  • 52d. ["Bah, humbug!"] – PFUI. I was going to call this out as completely made-up but it actually out-googles “phooey” which is what I assumed is the default spelling.

Great theme, fun entries, creative cluing, minimal junk.  4.35 stars.

Brendan Quigley’s blog puzzle, “Bring Da Noise” — Matt’s Review

Today’s puzzle is quintessential BEQ: a fun theme (with a lot of theme entries), a wide-open grid (just 72 words), and lively, Scrabbly fill the author doesn’t sacrifice much to achieve.

so loud in here


The title is “Bring Da Noise,” and Brendan does just that, adding an onomatopoetic noise to a base phrase, yielding five wacked-out new phrases. They are:

17-a [Something that's tough to eat, but filled with antioxidants?] = BAMBOO BERRY (“bam!” + the classic cereal “Boo-Berry”)

24-a [Bit of fiction with a shower scene?] = LOOFA STORY (“oof!” inserted into the great movie “L.A. Story”)

32-a [Drop trou while standing on a pier?] = MOON SHIP OWNER (“pow!” inserted into “moonshiner”)

42-a [Parent paired up with guitarist Frank?] = MA AND ZAPPA (“ma and pa” + “zap!”)

51-a [Simply the best man cave?] = MODEL TV ROOM (“Model T” + “vroom!”)

So all five of these are funny, with the sound — different each time, which is nice — affecting the base phrases in unexpected and cool-looking ways. Big thumbs-up on the theme. Add-a-letter(s)/drop-a-letter(s) themes have all been pretty much done by now, so I like the variety of adding a different set to each theme entry, as here.

Fill roundup: lots of good 6-letter plus entries SQUADS, BOO-YAH!, AL OERTER (awesome entry; besides Carl Lewis in the long jump, the only other person to win gold in the same event in four straight Olympics), PAYPAL, WARHORSE, WANT AD, JOANNA, US MINT and XGAMES, plus I liked JAPAN just across the sea from KOREA. I’ll take Brendan’s word on MELANITE, DECAYER and OKEMO, but dock him .05 for ORT. Still, excellent fill.

Jared gave the Tausig 4.35 today, which sounds like the right number for this puzzle as well.

Don Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 7 26 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 7 26 12

Well I nearly flipped my LID over this puzzle. Stick with me – we’ve got nine theme entries! It’s nothing to SNEEZE AT.

  • 20a. [*Sounds familiar] - RINGS A BELL
  • 2d. [Volkswagen brand]AUDI
  • 10d. [*Daydreamer] – STAR GAZER
  • 19a. [Thanksgiving Day Parade sponsor] – MACY’S
  • 34d. [*Easily] – HANDS DOWN
  • 52a. [Auto insurance giant] – ALLSTATE
  • 59a. [*Easy place to go downhill] – BUNNY SLOPE
  • 47d. [Marilyn Monroe was its first cover girl] – PLAYBOY
  • 73a. [What the start of each starred answer is part of, for a company that intersects that answer] – LOGO

Killer theme – a lot of AHAS to be had here. Another great puzzle in a week of consistently top-notch LAT crosswords. Hope you didn’t think ENRON had a bunny in its logo, though.

On a Thursday I like entries like DROP OUTS, but a clue like [They don't graduate] just feels too straightforward. There’s nothing else it could be. FISH-EYES gets a similar treatment with [180-degree lenses]. I’m not saying they’re bad clues; I just long for something a little more evocative or clever for this long and fun entries. On the other hand, the simple WREN gets [Singer of complex songs]. That’s the way to do it. It’s not misleading, but it paints a picture beyond, say, [Small songbird].

[Grouse] – CRAB. These are both animals being used as verbs meaning to grumble and complain. That’s a neat find there – I wonder if any other animals fit the bill?

Very GOOD puzzle; I’m constantly IN AWE of the work put out by this pair of constructors.

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86 Responses to Thursday, 7/26/12

  1. All I can say is: UUOUU.

  2. Michael Hawkins says:

    This NYT reminded me of a recent NPR Sunday Puzzle weekly challenge:

    Challenge From listener Kate MacDonald of Murphys, Calif.: Think of a common French word that everyone knows. Add a “V” to the beginning and an “E” at the end. The result will be the English-language equivalent of the French word. What is it?

    (Answer: )

  3. -1 star for incorrectly stating that LBS are a unit of mass—they are a unit of force/weight.

  4. Doug says:

    In the Fireball, [Arena antagonist] can be answered with BOXER or BOOER. So you can “win” with a diagonal X-X-X or a vertical O-O-O.

  5. Erik says:

    i completely missed the twist in the fireball puzzle. very, very, very cool. thanks for pointing that out, doug.

  6. Huda says:

    NYT: Loved the theme even though it knocked me around. I figured out the UU/W deal, but I happened to do it in the south territory and that IGNISFATWS looked plain bizzaruus.

    I deducted 1 star from perfect because I did not like that several phrases were latin, but others were not, that in one case the double U was split between words and in all the others not, and finally that MWMW (MUUMUU) has an alternative spelling of MUMU.

    Still in all, this was really clever.

  7. J. T. Williams says:

    Most definitely a similar NYT puzzle. Even used BOOER/BOXER if I remember right, and I think the same clue as well. I’m wanting to say it was Tyler’s puzzle, maybe his first if I remember right? One of my all-time favorites, not sure how I feel about it being used again like this.

  8. seahedges says:

    Minus une etoile for RUES as “Ones coming from the Arc de Triomphe?” The twelve spokes radiating from the Arc, situated at Place Charles de Gaulle, aka “l’Etoile,” are not RUES, but rather AVENUES, namely Av. des Champs Elysees, Av. Marceau, Av. d’Iena, Av. Kleber, Av. Victor Hugo, Av. Foch, Av. de la Grande Armee, Av. Carnot, Av. Mac-Mahon, Av. de Wagram, Av. Hoche, and Av. de Friedland. There are rues encircling the Arc de Triomphe, but none coming from that central point.

  9. Gareth says:

    Joel Fagliano is quickly becoming one of my favourite constructors! This was so simple an idea yet so brilliant! Words with two u’s are all so cool! In the grid it looks like Welsh! Cottoned to the gimmick quite quickly although in the bottom-right at MWMWS! My biggest struggle was up top where I was dead sure one of ADSPOT or IDOS was right. Yes I didn’t reread the clue for TVSPOT, sigh.

  10. RK says:

    First NYT puzzle in a while that was too much for me. Got the theme but still too hard. In perpetuum, muu muu, fermi, ignis fatuus, etc… unknown words to me.

    And is “naming” a newborn a ceremony?

    Ah well……….

  11. Matt says:

    @Adam Rosenfeld. I agree, particularly since the clues refer specifically to Newton’s 2nd law. I mean, c’mon folks, that ‘m’ in F = ma stands for -MASS-.

  12. Niemand says:

    The Hinman puzzle was from 2003 in the NYT and just had X winning (with the revealer phrase X IS THE / WINNER. There was no double-winner idea, which makes Steinberg’s puzzle quite different. I certainly doubt Mr. Steinberg had seen Hinman’s puzzle before he made his own.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      It’s a little freaky to have the BOXER/BOOER = [Arena antagonist] in both puzzles. What are the odds of a Peter Gordon–edited puzzle having a linchpin clue that has been used before?

  13. Howard B says:

    Did not finish the Times. First off, I loved this theme and the concept. Brilliant!
    There was one issue for me here, and that was the closed-off upper-left.
    Rant warning:
    That section was too, too much. Never heard of IN PERPETUUM even knowing the theme and having the second half filled in. Did not know EQUUS without crossings, though I know the play. Did not know AQUINO, although I know the personality – Not knowing that Q was deadly.
    Did not have any chance at FATE or FERMI without crossings. That corner actually annoyed me, and that does take a bit. Now acknowledging my ignorance, each one was inferable and interesting alone, but the combination just wrecked me. This was a puzzle that after seeing the solution, I realized that I had no way to solve it, and it just felt unfair. But the overall puzzle was amazingly cool.
    Rant over.

  14. David L says:

    Though I normally agree with those who criticize Will Shortz’s sloppiness on scientific matters, I think that expecting NYT solvers to understand the distinction between weight and mass is too much. So LBS is fine by me.

    My objection is to 44D. “Top o’the mornin’” is what your Irish persons say (at least in bad movies), but TAM is Scottish headgear.

  15. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Loved the NYT concept and and, (this from the wavelength department), got through it quickly. Another one of the few where I wish I had run my time up on a flagpole. As a confirmed nit-picker, I was surprised by some of the comments. “In Perpetuum” is to me about as common a phrase as there is — all sorts of things get established “in perpetuum”, but then maybe it’s more of a legalism than I realized. SEA accurately and meticulously details the 12 points of the Etoile, but surely the word “rue” has a usage sufficiently generic (meaning ‘road’ or ‘thoroughfare’) for the clue to be accurate. “Il pleure dan mon coeur comme il pleut dan la rue” even if the ‘rue’ is the Champs-Elysée. I did agree with the Scots – Irish conflation. (Do they wear tams in Ireland, and if so, do they call them that?)

    Congrats, Joel. I wonder if your inspiration for the construction was the same thing that allowed me to “get” it promptly. When I 13d the Village Voice puzzle the file is headed ‘vv’ which looks like ‘w’ on the screen. (Even though we’re talking ‘u’s’ here.) That’s what gave it to me. 5 stars.

  16. Howard B says:

    I acknowledge my ignorance in that area of the puzzle, except to me, ‘In perpetuum’ is certainly inferable from the Latin *once you solve it*, but without several letters it’s not so easy. I have never heard the phrase before, but I don’t encounter legalese often in my existence. I did not study Latin either, except for half a year in 6th grade. Unfortunately do not have the academic background of many here.

    I did not come close to grasping the RUES clue without any letters, either. I had UNES for a while before throwing in the towel. Weak at French, though slowly learning. Never too late of course. As said, all the clues up there are great individually, but without any toehold as a block they are brutal. I needed to know EQUUS, AQUINO, or the longer phrase cold (without crossing letters) to have any chance there, and that was the source of my frustration.

  17. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Howard, I understand and sympathize with your frustration, especially since generally I am one of the more frustrated and you one of the less frustrated people here. As to backgrounds — well– I wish I had whatever it is that propels you to top – 10 finishes.

  18. animalheart says:

    I would have loved the puzzle without IGNISFATUUS. For me, that was so far beyond the pale that the pale wasn’t even visible. So to speak.

  19. Howard B says:

    Thanks Bruce. It’s funny how this does come down to the vagaries of our knowledge and experience.

    I’ve come across ignis fatuus several times in my reading, so I was familiar with that phrase (and its spelling), so that was no problem. And yet there is no clear reason why that phrase is “easier” or “harder” than some other theme answers (except perhaps the more symbolic connection between phrase and definition of I.F.).
    It’s just our own sphere of knowledge that we bring, and it’s always interesting to see how our solving (and life) experiences differ based on that.

    Now if only I could figure out how to broaden my theatrical and arts knowledge somehow without seeing so many performances – So much time, so little to do. Strike that, reverse it.

  20. Matthew G. says:

    Both the NYT and the Fireball were excellent, but I have to give each of them four stars rather than five because of Fill Obscurity Issues. In the NYT, I was totally Naticked by the SWIT/THAIS crossing, and I have no idea what SEDGE is or why a water chestnut is one.

    I actually got the Fireball 100% correct, but only after lots of agonizing about where I had gone wrong because I was sure that SAONE and GLESS both had to be mistakes. I figured there were multiple possibilities in the center (beyond BOOER and BOXER) and that I had some of one and some of another. Couldn’t believe it when I gave in, picked up the answer sheet, and saw that SAONE and GLESS were correct.

  21. Huda says:

    Bruce, your vv error is interesting because dans les RUES et avenues de L’Etoile, they call it “double v” and I realized that this got in my way for a bit. I really don’t think of that letter as two Us but two Vs. I guess in old Latin, they wrote v in lieu of u? For that reason, the Latin theme answers felt less confusing, whereas the English ones were more tricky. And they don’t even have W in the Hawaian language, right? So Muumuu/MWMW was the ultimate mind twister.

    I saw EQUUS (weird!) and it still took forever to tumble to it…

    PS. My favorite in the French alphabet is “I Grec” for Y. As a little kid, I repeated it for years when reciting the alphabet without having any clue what it meant. Just the second longest name in the alphabet after “double v”.. It’s like from W onwards, they ran out of ideas for letters..

  22. Martin says:

    The American unit of mass is also called the pound.

  23. ktd says:

    After filling in a couple of long entries with the WM combination I thought I was heading toward an all-consonant or deliberate misspelling theme. The “double U/W” concept is very elegant and nicely done with the choice of theme answers. I agree with HowardB that the top left was by far the hardest–I’ve never heard of FERMI as a length unit before (Physics non sequitur–when are we going to see some crossword love for the Higgs boson? Only one of the most significant physics discoveries of the past 50 years!)

    @Gareth: nice call on the visual analogy to Welsh. Think we could sneak CWRW into a Times puzzle?

  24. Daniel Myers says:

    IGNIS FATUUS was what gave the game away for me. I’m so familiar with the term!

    I loved the, to me, very basic Latinisms. Then again, I’m unfamiliar with TV personalities and such.

    Note on the LBS issue: If you took the 34A clue as referring to the 73A CLUE rather than the answer – which, of course, one never does – then it would be technically correct, as a pound is a unit of force. Just nitpicking w. the nitpickers. :-)

  25. Martin says:


    The pound is equally the unit of mass. You can be more precise and speak of pound-mass or pound-weight, but “pound” is equally mass or weight. Unless you always buy a “pound-weight” of onions, you are being as “incorrect” as this entry.

  26. Daniel Myers says:

    OK. OK. Martin,

    I checked my OED and it, unsurprisingly, corroborates your statement as to the pound being a “measure of weight and mass”. But that’s not how it’s used on a day-to-day basis. Further, it’s not what I was taught in Physics classes. If you ask a random person on the street, or a random Physics Prof., if a “pound” measures weight rather than mass, you’ll get “weight” nine times out of ten. I’ll wager you £20!

    PS- You’ll stand a better chance with a random linguist, methinks.

  27. Martin says:


    That’s not the right question. The question is “what is the non-metric unit of mass?” The answer will either be “pound” or “pound?”

    There is another weird unit of mass in the Imperial system, but not the American, called the “slug.” It’s the only possible other answer, and only in England. But even there, “pound’ is more common.

  28. Matt says:

    Begin Technical interlude –

    If you insist on a pound-mass, then you need something for a pound-force, i.e., a ‘poundal’:

    In summary, if you do physics by looking things up in the dictionary, there’s a good chance you’ll be off by a factor of about 32. Thereby flunking Physics 101.

    End Technical interlude –

  29. Daniel Myers says:

    Very well, Martin, I’ll stand down. But nobody learns things that way anymore. My father, an aeronautical engineer who died last September at the age of 79, did, upon occasion, speak of foot-pounds and that sort of thing when I was a lad. But he soon adapted.

    Anyway, my trivial – or is it quadrivial? – point still stands that – though it’s a trick never used in NYT puzzles – if one looks to the clue rather than the answer of 73A, LBS can be both modern and correct.

  30. Matt says:

    By the way, this error in units actually occurred in real life in the space program:'98_program

    Murphy’s law cannot be repealed.

  31. Andrew Greene says:

    I’d feel much more forgiving of the “pound defined as unit of mass” error as reflecting common usage if it hadn’t been clued specifically with regards to Newton’s second law, which makes explicit the distinction between force (measured in pounds) and mass (measured in slugs).

  32. Larry says:

    It doesn’t matter if you differentate between lb denoting mass or lb denoting force or not, as both entities, force and mass, are in the equation f=ma.

    If I have an object of mass 2 lb-mass, and wish to accelerate it 1 ft/sec-sec, I will have to apply 2 lb-force to it.

  33. Andrew Greene says:

    Larry: I don’t think so. If you have an object which weighs 1lb on the surface of the earth (which is what most people mean when they say it has “1lb of mass”), and you want to accelerate it at 1 ft/sec^2, you need to apply a 1/32lb force to it.

  34. Daniel Myers says:

    Yes, Larry, but nobody – for quite obvious reasons – does what you propose in your second para. What if we want to use your system to get the units of acceleration F/m=a? Your pounds would cancel out and we would have no units for acceleration, making it a constant, and we could all go to space sans acceleration due to gravity. What fun!

  35. Martin says:


    Ft-lbs measure torque, and have nothing to do with this conversation. This one is simple. Leaving alternatative units, like slugs and poundals, out of the discussion, it boils down to just another fact a solver might not know: there are two units called “pound;” one measures weight and the other mass.

    How we learn about this topic doesn’t seem to be an issue. If you know (correctly) that [one kind of] pound measures weight but not that [another kind of] pound measures mass, you might think the clue is wrong. Nothing abstruse.

    BTW, your other justification is not really kosher. By convention, a cross reference clue always refers to the answer and not the clue. Sometimes that’s important, and can even be required knowledge for a correct solve. But it was a nice try.

  36. Larry says:

    “In science and engineering, the weight of an object is the force on the object due to gravity”

    Daniel and others are arguing the right side of the standard equation for Newton’s Second Law, F=MA, does LBS fit for mass? The force, the weight of the object, the LBS everyone picking nits about the answer, fits on the left side of the equation.

    LBS fits as the answer to the clue no matter how you want to define LBS. It doesn’t matter whether you accept LBS denoting mass or not.

  37. Andrew Greene says:

    I want to “walk back” one aspect of my earlier comment. I accept that the clue isn’t an “error”. I still think the context is unfortunate — when referring to mass in the context of Newton’s second law, anyone who uses “pounds” will lose points on their physics exam. But this isn’t a physics exam, it’s a crossword puzzle, and it reflects “English as she is spoke.”

  38. Andrew Greene says:

    I want to “walk back” one aspect of my earlier comment. I accept that the clue isn’t an “error”. I still think the context is unfortunate — when referring to mass in the context of Newton’s second law, anyone who uses “pounds” will lose points on their physics exam. But this isn’t a physics exam, it’s a crossword puzzle, and it reflects “English as she is spoke.”

  39. Daniel Myers says:


    I’ve said as much in above post: “The NYT never uses this trick…” But I’ve done cryptic crosswords in the UK where the puzzle does use this trick. And, anyway, it wasn’t meant to be taken so bleeding seriously.


    The point is that you can’t have LBS as the units of weight AND mass in F=ma. The units cancel out, as demonstrated in the above post, leaving us with a unitless acceleration, which should, of course be in either ft./s^2 or m/s^2 –32 or 9.8, respectively, for gravity.

  40. JJ says:

    Wow your commenters are some serious nitpickers! I loved today’s NYT puzzle. Satisfying to solve and fun. I’m wearing a mwmw.

  41. Larry says:


    I weigh 175 pounds, pure muscle, sinew & charm. 175 pounds = the force of gravity on my mass. F is one element of the equation F=MA. LBS is a unit in the equation I wrote, 175 LBS = the force of gravity on my body.

    The LBS here, the one you’re arguing about, does, in fact, have the units ft/sec**2.

  42. Martin says:

    First: :=). Nothing serious.


    The LBs don’t cancel out. Andrew’s point is that if you’re weird enough to be using non-metric units on a physics exam you’d better use lbf and lbm. They are very different units, with different dimensions. That way the dimensional analysis will work out.

    My point is that both lbf and lbm (pound-force and pound-mass) are acceptably abbreviated as “lb.”

    The odd thing about this nit is that it’s backwards from the usual nit. Note that wikipedia redirects “LB” to pound-mass. As with “kilogram,” these units are more properly mass units. “Pound-force” and “kilogram-force” recognize that we use “weight” in everyday life when we mean mass. You wouldn’t be happy if that pound of onions had fewer onions if you happen to live high on a mountain. That’s why commercial balances really measure mass and why we don’t buy 10 newtons of onions. Nitting pound as mass is really a reverse of the usual nit.

  43. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Yes, quite the nice Thursday puzzle. I suppose with so much high-end vocabulary (not much choice there given that most UU words come from Latin) he couldn’t get away with 13-letter WELTANSCHAWNG as the central answer (plus the initial W would clash with the theme). There was a similar puzzle on a smaller scale by Alex Kolker in the Enigma a few months ago.

    My physics query was not about LBS (though I correctly predicted that it would generate discussion here) but the clue for 1D:FERMI: does the proton actually have a meaningful diameter?

    Typo in the review: UQWS should be EQWS. And of course “ignis fartuus” is ignoble but we can look forward to it in The Onion one of these days.


  44. Daniel Myers says:


    Can’t we, er, drop this? As Andrew Greene stresses above, this is a crossword blog not a Physics or Maths blog. But, once again, in the equation F=MA, it’s the A, not the F, that is expressed in ft/s^2. The F, broken down into English units would be, if you’re using LBS for mass:


  45. joon says:

    that LBS clue is not wrong, but it made this physics teacher quite unhappy. for that reason, i’d call it a bad clue, even if not a wrong one. martin, do you think the clue is more likely to

    1. teach people about the pound-mass/pound-force distinction; or
    2. perpetuate a misconception about mass and weight?

    i’d say #2, by a fair shot.

    then again, the last time i saw MASS in the NYT puzzle clued w.r.t. newton’s second law, the clue was {Force divided by acceleration}, which made me even unhappier.

    having gotten that off my chest, i want to praise this puzzle, and indeed all of today’s puzzles, for just kicking ass. loved them all.

  46. Martin says:


    “Roughly” in the clue makes it fine, in my opinion. The protons diameter may be fuzzy but it’s greater than one and less than two fm.


    You can’t say “let’s drop it” and then write a weird formula. =)

    Again, your units need to be

    lbf = lbm * ft / sec / sec

    The pound-force is defined as pound-mass times 32.17… ft/sec/sec. So the dimensional analysis is fine.

  47. Daniel Myers says:


    Thanks! I’m referring all future comments on this issue to your comprehensive and cogent post above. Everyone please read it. Me? I’m shutting up about the dog’s breakfast I’ve helped to make by going on about it here.

    Oh, and Martin, I’ve been meaning to ask you about the Singh book which you recommended and which I recently read: Did you solve the reprint of the crossword they used to vet recruits for Bletchley Park? I did, but it took me considerably longer than 8 or 12 minutes! I wouldn’t have made the cut!

  48. ktd says:

    @joon: What is wrong with describing mass as F/a? (perhaps better written F/a)

    PS This comment thread is doing wonders helping me procrastinate on my dissertation… :-)

  49. Daniel Myers says:

    ….and yes, the dimensional analysis is fine as long as you define the units as you have done, Martin.

  50. Martin says:


    I don’t think that a crossword puzzle is apt to do much 1. or 2. Having said that, a crossword that clues with Newton at all can’t be totally bad.

    But be clear: you and everybody else have the right to think it’s a bad clue. I would never presume to argue that position with anyone. I only butt in and defend a clue that’s called wrong if I disagree.

    I agree that the context (an equation with, presumably, both lbm and lbf) is not the best for an lb clue.

  51. Martin says:


    Actually someone else recommended that book, I believe. I haven’t gotten to the test yet so please no spoilers.

  52. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Someone wake me when the discussion of “pounds” is over. People! Have you not said all you have to say on the topic? Unless it’s about today’s crosswords or is a really good recipe for pound cake…

  53. Martin says:


    Joon is probably bothered by the fact that that’s not much of a definition of mass. A body at rest doesn’t have an indeterminate mass, for instance. It’s a measure of the mass of an object subjected to a certain force, which responded with a certain acceleration. It doesn’t say anything about the nature of inertial or gravitational mass, for instance.

    My answer to Joon would be that crossword clues are hints, not definiitions. On a kinetics test, that hint about mass might be quite useful.

  54. Martin says:

    1 pound flour
    1 pound sugar
    1 pound eggs
    1 pound sugar

    Mix and bake until done. (That’s why it’s called pound cake.)

  55. Huda says:

    We could also discuss the hash key ;)

  56. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I’ve greatly enjoyed the lb discussion mainly because I’ll never again feel that I’ve rambled on too obsessively about a tangential issue. But I’m disappointed that I didn’t get 30 posts about the cadenza to the first movement of the Khachaturian piano concerto. (Listen to the cadenza to the Prokovieff 2nd (1st movt.) while you’re at it.)

    Martin beat me to the pound cake recipe. But remember to use exactly 1 lb of force when you mix the ingredients. (Hoping that will generate screams of outrage.) :-) But here’s a hint, which I hit upon decades ago. When you’re cutting butter into flour, freeze the butter first, then grate it with a cheese grater (or better, a Cuisinart) into the flour. Let it melt, mix easily, and VOYLAH — you’ve saved yourself tons of effort and aggravation mixing, folding, cutting, beating.

  57. joon says:

    ktd & martin, “force divided by acceleration” rubbed me the wrong way because in physics, force and acceleration are vectors. you can’t divide by a vector. “the magnitude of force divided by the magnitude of acceleration” would be a proper version of that clue that suffers only from being incredibly clunky.

    martin, it doesn’t bother me at all that it’s not defined for a non-accelerating object. epistemologically, i actually think it’s as good a definition of mass as you can get in newtonian mechanics: the mass of an object is the (scalar) proportionality constant between the net force you’d have to apply to it and the ensuing acceleration of the object.

  58. Martin says:


    Cool. You need to couple that MASS clue with a bad ONED clue to make it right. :)

  59. Bonekrusher says:

    NYT–Brilliant! I will always take some clunky stuff in exchange for a clever rebus or gimmick. And yeah, I’m on Team Pound Is Weight Not Mass (it makes for a very awkward T-shirt), but no matter. Loved this one.

  60. Jeffrey says:

    I’m on Team Amy.

  61. Andrew Greene says:

    Unfortunately, the discussion of phosphorescent swamp-gas emissions in the comments section of today’s blog got sidetracked in a flamewar over the etymology of IGNIS FATUUS.

  62. Daniel Myers says:

    Only for those interested, the dimensional analysis for mass in Einstein’s E=mc^2
    works out nicely, using the metric system: g=grams m=metres s=seconds



    m=(g*m^2)/s^2)/(m^2)/(s^2) The m gets squared here b/c E= F * D


    or m=g*(m^2)*(s^2)


    What do you know? Mass is in grams!

    My apologies to joon and others.

    Perhaps I should write a textbook: “Hooked on Dimensional Analysis”

  63. Sean P says:

    Were there crossword puzzles today?

  64. Howard B says:

    I like pie.
    And pi.

  65. @Bruce: I love Khachaturian’s Toccata, and thanks to your recommendation I’ll listen to his piano concerto, once the migraine I have from skimming through these rapid-fire posts stops p****ing…

  66. Martin says:


    I’m the Martin you want. Anyway, no, I forgot about that puzzle. I’ll have to give it a shot.

    Remember, though cryptics from the 40s play quite fast and loose with the rules… by today’s standards.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the book. It’s a real tour-de-force, IMO.


  67. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Pretty sure the only Khachaturian I know is “Sabre Dance,” which I heard on Chicago Public Radio this morning. The pianist was 9-year-old Joshua Mhoon (seen here:, who started playing piano at age 7 and won a music competition just 3 months after he first began (the competition was open to those with 3+ years of playing experience).

    @Andrew wins today’s thread with his 2:46 pm post.

    If you’ll pardon me, I’ve got to get back to a busy day of dividing by vectors. Maybe Joon can’t manage to do that but I’ve always been able to. Sort of a vectorial prodigy, you might say.

  68. Daniel Myers says:

    Ah yes, Martin, do rootle around and find the book. I’d be interested in hearing how you do It’s easy to do the puzzle right in the book. It’s Figure 51 on p.180 in my copy. Yes, very fast and loose! Shortz, nor any puzzle editor in America would publish such a mega-crypto-conundrum of a puzzle!

    I thought the book, as a whole, was great. It’s just that, having been published 13 years ago, the last chapters on computer cryptanalysis are already out of date.

  69. joon says:

    amy, i have a meme for just this occasion, courtesy of wired.

  70. Martin says:


    Is this familiar? Maybe starting around 0:51.

  71. pannonica says:

    I’ve read all the comments, and feel thoroughly pounded.

  72. Martin says:

    In a good way, I hope.

  73. Jared says:

    Andrew saved this from being The Worst Thread Ever. Well done.

  74. Daniel Myers says:

    Is there a difference between worsted thread and worsted yarn?

  75. Gareth says:

    @Bruce: i didn’t know of another way than the butter grating method. It’s the one used in a quiche recipe i have that’s fabulous. The units are largely metric.

  76. Old Geezer says:

    2 lbs sugar? Really?

  77. Martin says:

    Make one butter.

    Don’t tell anybody, but 2T scotch doesn’t hurt. Followed by 4-6T taken orally.

  78. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Martin H: Nope, that music isn’t at all familiar.

  79. Lois says:

    Maybe Martin H. wants to point out that the music at 0:51 sounds like “My Way.” I heard this music on the radio lately and hadn’t been familiar with it, and I wondered if “My Way” was based on it. But I Googled “My Way” just now and the music seems to be derived from a French song, no mention made of Khachaturian.

  80. Lois says:

    I meant to say that I looked up the Wikipedia entry for “My Way.”

    I was one of those stymied by the upper left corner of the NYT puzzle, but I have to say in retrospect that there was a big fat hint for Equus, as in the lower right corner in the corresponding position there was another short answer, easier for me today, muumuu. That should have indicated a search for w = uu for the Tony play clue.

  81. seahedges says:

    Although American towns and cities often use “Street” and “Avenue” interchangeably, French odonomy is more precise and hierarchical, avenues being considerably broader and more important thoroughfares than mere streets (rues.) Parisians call the Champs-Elysees a rue? Rue the day.

    The same sort of hierarchy is at play in French hydronomy, where rivieres flow into fleuves, which in turn spill into seas or oceans. In French, the riviere Ohio joins the fleuve Mississippi. Like rue and avenue, riviere and fleuve are far from interchangeable.


  82. pannonica says:

    That’s a more rational system, seahedges. New York City, my eternal point of reference, for the most part follows that scheme, so it seems natural to me. Kind of my reaction to the rest of the U.S. in general. (But of course I’m guilty of snobbery.)

    How does “boulevard” fit into the French scheme?

  83. seahedges says:

    How does “boulevard” fit into the French scheme?

    Rue, avenue, and boulevard all are urban designations. Descriptively, boulevard and avenue are indistinguishable: both are broad, often tree-lined, and may be divided. All boulevards are important thoroughfares, as are many avenues. Avenues significantly outnumber boulevards.


  84. Martin says:

    Actually, French boulevards tend to be circular and either follow the outline of ancient city walls or are concentric with them. The word shares an etymon with “bulwark.”


    You find quotes like “Une avenue est une rue bordée d’arbres” online. Do you consider these incorrect — that an avenue cannot be described as a kind of large rue?

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