Military aviators collectively / TUE 6-28-11 / Moonmate of Buzz / 6.022 x 10ˆ23 / Pollster's worry / Explorer of kiddie TV / Former NFL great Junior

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Constructor: Tom Baring

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Famous Numbers — you heard me


Word of the Day: AIR ARM (31A: Military aviators, collectively) —

The aviation section of a national military force, including aircraft, base and support facilities, and personnel (dictionary.com) [hardly any sources online for this term–lots of sources for FLEET AIR ARM, though: "the aviation branch of the Royal Navy"]
• • •

I'm indifferent to the theme, which is just a set of famous numbers, literally clued. Actually, a set of famous numbers that are very familiar terms/phrases, and then whatever PI APPROXIMATION is. However literally correct it is, it's not a familiar or particularly in-the-language phrase. A bit weird to have your actual number take up two letters in your fifteen-letter answer (?). But I guess you had to get a symmetrical partner for (the stellar!) AVOGADRO'S NUMBER, so no harm, no foul. Filled in SPEED OF LIGHT without ever bothering to look at the clue. Only real hold-up was trying to figure out how to spell AVOGADRO'S. I let crosses do the heavy lifting. Aside from a sluggish start, this one played very easy, even with the mysterious AIR ARM in there (31A: Military aviators, collectively), and a more-than-understandable SOILS-for-ROILS mix-up (38A: Muddies).

Theme answers:
  • 17A: 3.14159 (PI APPROXIMATION)
  • 26A: -273.15˚C (ABSOLUTE ZERO)
  • 42A: 299,792,458 meters/second (SPEED OF LIGHT)
  • 55A: 6.022 x 10ˆ23 (AVOGADRO'S NUMBER)


Apparently PI APPROXIMATION does have a life in the phrase PI APPROXIMATION Day, "celebrated" every 22/7 (that's July 22 to you non-Brits). I know the word EXTANT (43D: Not extinct) from studying MSS in grad school. In Middle English studies, the number of EXTANT MSS for most surviving works is 1 or 2, Canterbury Tales and (esp.) Piers Plowman notwithstanding. You know what was popular back then (if EXTANT MSS are any indication)? Saints' lives. Exciting! I should probably note that there's a lot of less-than-gorgeous fill here: REORG, AIRARM, XXI, AGIN, LIAISE (a legit word, I just hate the sight of it), MNO, AIRE, MEDI. Strangely, I love SHORTU (6D: There's one in "puzzle"). It reminds me of a name that some rotund character from a Miyazaki film would have.



Bullets:
  • 5D: It's first on the leaderboard (TOP SCORE) — froze on this one for some reason. Could think only of "TOP SEED(S)"
  • 59A: Ararat lander (ARK) — Like a Mars Lander, only biblical. Ironically, the Mars Lander was named Phoenix—no phoenixes on the Ararat lander. Hard to enter two-by-two when there's just one of you. (If you know what a phoenix is only from "Harry Potter," then back to middle school with you!)
  • 3D: Pollster's worry (BIAS) — I wrote in SKEW.
  • 35D: Cool ___ cucumber (ASA) — who is this ASA Cucumber and what makes him so cool?
  • 53D: Moonmate of Buzz (NEIL) — "Moonmate?" Really? That is the non-wordiest non-word I've ever seen in the puzzle.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

95 comments:

Anonymous 12:16 AM  

So, why wasn't it SPEEDOFLIGHTAPPROXIMATION and AVAGADROSNUMBERAPPROXIMATION?
Or, alternately, not APPROXIMATIONOFPI, which is an actual phrase.

Did Neil & Buzz moon us?

Vincent L. 12:25 AM  

Did not care for TOPSCORE crossing "Top quality" (PRIMO). I had "prime," and could not accept (until I had no choice) that "tep" was "top," since "Top" appeared in an adjacent clue.

davko 12:36 AM  

I had mixed feelings about this one, because it had both glimmers of interesting subject matter, yet plenty of clunkers, too. For example, I hate when re- words are clued by other re- words, even if the prefix for "release" does not imply doing something again, as it does for the word REISSUED (38D). Also, isn't AVOGADRO'S NUMBER an archaism, later to be refined with Avogadro's Constant? Hope retired_ chemist will be checking in later to enlighten us on the nuances.

Too bad about having to cite an NFL "Great" with such a troubled past; SEAU (39A) did some serious time for battery and also drove his car off a cliff. O.J. Simpson was "great" too, but I think discretion should be the better part of valor in these cases.

Did like the AIELLO/EIEIO touch, though.

Anonymous 12:44 AM  

The speed of light and Avagadro's number are finite numbers while Pi is not and can only be approximated. I'm such a nerd and proud of it, even though it totally embarrasses my children.

chefwen 12:47 AM  

I found Monday's puzzle very easy and this one more on the challenging side, opposite of Mr Parker. But, then again, as I may have stated before, I AM NOT a numbers person and other than SPEED OF LIGHT and ABSOLUTE ZERO, I had to get the others using the downs. AVOGADROS NUMBER was totally Greek to me, even Googling after the fact it still doesn't make sense. Maybe in my next life...

thursdaysd 12:53 AM  

I'm with chefwen on this. Got AVOGADROS from crosses (although DORA was a guess) and went "huh"? Wikipedia does say it's archaic. Also had PRIMe before PRIMO, and am unfamiliar with SEAU and AIELLO.

Nice to see Crete, where I trekked through the Samaria Gorge despite being ancient, but nothing else really stood out.

Tobias Duncan 12:59 AM  

@chefwen or anyone else that could use a refresher,this guy gives youtube lectures aimed at high-school kids.He sort of takes the place of that bright uncle that many kids do not have.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsqEkF7hcII

DJG 1:00 AM  

I think what @Anon 12:44 meant to say is that the decimal expansion of pi contains infinitely many digits (without repeating in any sort of pattern). Pi is most definitely a finite number.

PK 1:03 AM  

Nice try at bringing the Sudoku crowd to the Puzz, but I'm sorry, I'm with chefwen and thursdayd.
55a should have been Avada Kedavra - then I might have had a chance of knowing it!

PurpleGuy 1:18 AM  

@TobiasDuncan - I love Math, and even took all the courses in high school(I won't go into how long ago!!), but I am with @chefwen and @ thursdaysd - I have never heard or encountered Avogadro's number. It was a big WTF and made this puzzle more of a slog. Did not enjoy.
Will I remember this term ? NO !!!
Do I care ? NO!!!!!

I really can't find anything I liked in this puzzle to talk about so I won't.


Shant-
Bob/PurpleGuy

retired_chemist 1:37 AM  

Can't believe that with all the obviously nerdy theme entries that my time was actually only about my average for a Tuesday. I had to use crosses for PI APPROXIMATION, but the rest just went right in. 37 gift squares - wow. I am not surprised, though, that some found the theme difficult. Not in everyone's wheelhouse.....

What Rex said about ugly-ish fill. But there is a substantial variety in the solid stuff: history (LENIN, ENOLA, NEIL, XXI), culture/arts (SERT, DECO) stage/screen (BRENT, AIELLO, MIA, ELSA), mythology (TROY, CRETE), bible (ABEL, ARK), current pop culture (TANGO, APPS, REBATE, DORA), slang (CAT, DIS, VEG, REORG), and sports (AT BAT, SEAU, TOP SCORE). Even the obligatory sop to Simpsons fans (STU). So, something for everyone .*

Thanks, Mr. Baring.


*(in comedy tonight)

Rube 1:58 AM  

Us scientist/engineer types enjoy this type of puzzle. Only writeovers for me were __ION/PIAPPROXIMATely, ROILS/sOILS and PRIMO/PRIMe.

With the possible exception of DORA the explorer, I don't think there were any pop culture questions. Wait, there was also Disco STU. Still 2 is not many. Rats, there is also ELSA, the lioness. Aw, forget it. The puzzle still went super fast. I see that @R_C was more complete in his analysis of the content.

Enjoyable puzzle, IMO, despite the dumb AIRARM.

avogadro crete michaels 2:06 AM  

Why I religiously read this blog:
""Moonmate?" Really? That is the non-wordiest non-word I've ever seen in the puzzle." :)

No idea what anything was, yet the puzzle seemed to smoothly go down, tho practically by all downs...
only writeover: PIAPPROXIMATely.

So non-sportsy that I couldn't even parse 1A "opportunity to hit" without all the downs!
SEAU??? Seau what, for me.

Do math nerds have weird jokes about AVOGADROS NUMBER and Spanish lawyers who eat avocados?

@VincentL.
Totally with you about PRIMe bec TOP-quality in clues crossed TOPSCORE in grid! Bad!

@Thursdayd
Samarian Gorge my favorite walk in my life 30+ years ago (at age 20 with some random English waiter who may or may not have been named Ian).

retired_chemist 2:23 AM  

@ A. C. Michaels - yes. As in Dubya's Atty. General Alberto Gonzales. Everyone thought Dubya called him "mi abogado," but actually he was saying "mi avocado." That was because Gonzales was green, soft, and would go with just about anything.

Greg 3:10 AM  

Sailed through this one. I majored (at various times) in Both math and chem, and I live in San Diego so I'm familiar with the linebackers. I even managed to spell Aiello without stumbling. Everything came together. Makes up for a rugged Monday.

Avogadro's Number is in fact important in chemistry, as much as pi is to math. BTW, all numbers are finite. I think the term you're looking for is rational.

jae 3:21 AM  

I'm on vacation in Yosimite at the Alwahnee (hence the wifi) and I can't skip the ads on Letterman. So, an opportunity to comment on an early week puzzle.

1. Liked it more than Rex.

2. No idea about AVOGADROS, and still no idea after the comments so far, but am too lazy to look it up, especially after chefwen's post.

3. Yes for PRIME.

4. SEAU is not OJ by a long shot, and, although his recent problems are sad, he did not do "serious time."

DJG 3:45 AM  

"BTW, all numbers are finite."

I and the ghost of Georg Cantor disagree with this statement.

Glimmerglass 7:40 AM  

I hate LIAISE and most other modern back-formations, from "consense" (v., to reach consensus) to "refudiate." AVOGADRO'S NUMBER, on the other hand, is a wonderful word. I looked it up on Wikipedia (after I'd finished the puzzle, of course). It seems to be some kind of green dressing for moles (I seldom eat moles; it takes so many to make a meal).

Z 7:49 AM  

If you don't want to listen to lectures - check out some of the web comics listed by David Brin. My personal favorite is Tree Lobsters.

I liked the theme fine. I had a few write overs, pCS for ACS, Stood for SATUP, and AVOGArdOSNUMBER, all of which slowed me down a bit but were easily fixable, but otherwise it seemed like a typical Tuesday.

joho 7:56 AM  

This went down amazingly fast for somebody with not one mathematical bone in my body.

My only write over was lowSCORE before TOPSCORE. Mini golf theme here with PAR and maybe ACE as in hole-in-one.

The only way to get AVOGADROSNUMBER was through the downs. I knew it had to be right but it looks so wrong.

This was definitely different!

PanamaRed 7:56 AM  

Re finite - if pi can't be ended, it can't be finite, eh?

Otherwise, enjoyed the puzzle - hand up for PRIME before PRIMO.

And never heard of that AVOGRADOSNUMBER, had to get that with crosses, and still couldn't believe it was right, but there was Mr Happy Pencil.

fikink 8:21 AM  

How delightful! Not the puzzle, but the comments this morning:

Thanks goes out to @Tobias for his lecture link, @retired_chemist for the Sondheim, @Z's science humor link and @Rex for the illuminated manuscript. Already, I've spent too much time on the computer this morning.

@Glimmerglass, did you notice how long AVOGADRO's name was?

Loving the finite/infinite debate as I envision the head of a pin.

balto 8:21 AM  

Loved this! It's nice to have crosswords with answers that someone who doesn't know what the hell "Piers Plowman" is can actually answer.

I agree with the forced PI APPROXIMATION -- EULER'S CONSTANT would have been better for example -- but I think this was selected because it's one of the few math/science numbers that civilians would actually recognize.

Even when I was taking chem, I would often misspell AVOGADRO as AVOCADO.

balto 8:26 AM  

On the finite/infinite thing -- PI is a finite, irrational number. The number of digits needed to define it is infinite -- and this is equivalent to being an irrational number -- but pi, the actual number, is finite.

Infinite numbers are huge, pi isn't.

efrex 8:36 AM  

Flew through this one at about twice the speed of yesterday's, since 3 of the 4 theme answers went right in without crosses. I don't quibble with PIAPPROXIMATION, but having PRIME made TOPSCORE impossible to suss out, especially since I didn't know from Jose SERT.

Nice to see Ararat used in a clue instead of an answer, and I agree that the less-than-sparkling fill was at least well clued.

Well done, Mr. Baring!

Brian 8:54 AM  

I had fun with it. Maybe because on a first glance when I saw 17A and 55A, I thought, "Oh God not numbers," but then it turned out that the clues were accessible, with the exception, of course, of AVOGADRO'S NUMBER.

I liked the vowel heavy names: AIELLO and SEAU and I'll throw EIEIO in there as well.

And I liked the long fill BREASTBONE and NAILPOLISH.

I thought this was a great example of a puzzle that has multiple entry points for the solver and yet wasn't so easy as to have no pauses for contemplation.

So, good job, Mr. Baring!

Glitch 9:11 AM  

Given the clue is *3.14159*, it is pi rounded to 5 decimal places, thus an *approximation* of the actual value of pi.

The *answer* doesn't *say* pi is an approximation, just that the clue is.

.../Glitch

ArtO 9:17 AM  

disagree with rex rating for tuesday. speed of light usually taught in U.S. as 186,000 miles per second. as for avogrados number, could only get with crosses.
primo (e) a stumbler for nw.

John V 9:27 AM  

Easy for me, easier than yesterday. None of the numbers caused any grief, for reasons I cannot explain. Hate liase, too, loved @retired chemist's avacado/Gonzales joke. A fun one.

chefbea 9:34 AM  

Tough puzzle for a Tuesday. Never heard of Avogadro, still don't know what it is so guess I'll have to ask Mr. Google.

Lots of cucumbers in our garden. yummm.

If you want a good app.. look up
EAT ROME.

jackj 9:36 AM  

I’ve never seen an AVOGADROSNUMBER, I never hope to see one, but I can tell you anyhow, I’d rather see than be one!

It gets worse; look up Avo’s number, (we’re friends now and that’s his nickname), and the M-W Collegiate definition tells you it is the ”# of atoms or molecules in a mole of any substance”, so, then, you look up “mole” which says it is short for “Molekulargewicht” and then, clueless and shaken, you quickly go back to 1 across in the puzzle and recall that it was ATBAT and all’s right in your world again.

Nerds 1- Civilians 0.

eric 9:41 AM  

Puzzle just o.o. for me. Also did not get PRIMO until I finally gave up on PRIME.
BTW can someone really post a 1:59 time on the NYT site and expect me to believe that's just not data entry speed?

Rex Parker 9:44 AM  

@eric,

Yes. I can expect you to believe it. Fastest folks can solve (not just transcribe answers) on computer in under 2.

rp

tptsteve 9:44 AM  

A nicely balanced Tuesday.

Never did I think I'd be writing Avogardo's number in a crossword. I'm just happy it popped into my head when I saw the clue, since my last chem class was more than three decades ago.

While Pi Approximation Day may be soon approaching, my daughter's school celebrates Pi Day on March 14.

@RP- what is MSS that you studied in grad school, that is related to extant.

Judith 9:53 AM  

I did yesterday's puzzle at the SPEED OF LIGHT, today's took sooo much longer. I think I need so many o's on that so that I can only approximate it here.

eric 9:56 AM  

@rp Thanks, now I feel really, really bad about my standard 9 minute Tuesdays. The tournaments must be really impressive.

Rex Parker 10:02 AM  

@eric,

Very, very few people can solve that quickly. I don't think anyone's ever been under 2 at a tournament (where all solving is done on paper). But under-3 times happen every year, I think.

chefbea 10:02 AM  

@Jackj that was great!!!

@TPTSteve...Is Pi day the same as cobbler day???

Mel Ott 10:36 AM  

Fun puzzle, I thought. I knew the first 3 theme answers, but AVOGADRO'S NUMBER was totally new to me. Gettable from the crosses, tho.

I Googled it after solving but my head started hurting two sentences into the explanation.

The stack of threes down the middle is offset by some very nice long downs.

DBGeezer 10:42 AM  

I found today's puzzle easier than Monday's, and was able to do it quickly ( 15 minutes - I know I'm not in the league of some of you who can put a decimal point between the 1 and the 5 )

Circular logic 10:44 AM  

@Mel Ott - Avagadro's number is very simple. It's the number of atoms or molecules of x in a mole of x. A mole of x is Avagadro's number of atoms or molecules of x. What's so hard about that?

evil doug 10:50 AM  

Uh oh. Numbers.

Here comes the march of the mathematicians---the "absolute zeroes", socially---debating finite vs. infinite ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Well, after a lackluster week of posts---relatively low in number and relatively high in tediousness---I guess even geek-powered comments are better than nothing.

Carry on, math club alumni! God speed!

Evil
14A: Hawaiian beer

Bob Kerfuffle 10:53 AM  

Super-easy for me (for once!)

After using some crosses to suss out PI APPROXIMATION, I could have entered the other three theme answers on the spot, except for a regrettable uncertainty regarding the vowels in AVOGADRO.

Sparky 11:01 AM  

Muddled through somehow. Natick at AC-/-EAU. Had pEvED for 40D and never caught it. PRIMe meats and such. When is PRIMO used? Checked downs over because couldn't believe AVOGADROS was correct.

@RetChem and @Glimmerglass, that's quite a meal. @chefbea can provide the PI.

TM 11:09 AM  

Gives me a chuckle to see the non math/science people squirm at the numbers. How is it different than some of the other obscure History or English words? Today is 2pi day :-) In the news I read about tau being a new constant being equivalent to 2pi "to make calculations easier."
Anyway, happy 2*Pi Day (or Tau Day as it were) :-)
Got stuck on PRIMe and did not like AIRARM wanted AIRmen.
peace.

Matthew G. 11:17 AM  

Even though it's been almost 20 years since I took high school chemistry, AVOGADRO'S NUMBER was a throw-down for me. I could never forget such a nifty-sounding phrase. Chemistry was the only science class I was ever any good at, anyway. ABSOLUTE ZERO and SPEED OF LIGHT were also gimmes (I agree that I'm not used to seeing the latter expressed in terms of meters/sec, but c'mon, what else is that fast?). PI APPROXIMATION is clunky, but not enough so to do the puzzle, which is a pleasant change of pace, any real harm. Thumbs up.

Toughest entry for me today was AIR ARM. Never heard that expression before.

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

left prime and thought tepscore was some sports term i didn't know. doh. avogadros, sert and seau i got from crosses all new to me. loved disco stu! having an error on a tues. makes it challenging to me! but i like a little resistence early in the week.

thursdaysd 11:42 AM  

@acme - I hiked Samaria five years ago, but my random companion was an Irishman. He'd done it before at speed with a hangover and this time he wanted to slow down.

I'm still puzzled by the appearance of this Avo guy (thanks @Jackj) - Pi, absolute zero, and speed of light are all seriously mainstream concepts, but does anyone really think Avo is in the same class? Were my chemistry studies just too basic?

Not so fast 11:46 AM  

@ArtO

My (American) science courses used the more universal metric system almost exclusively, so I think of c = the speed of light = 3 * 10^8 m/sec - as an approximation ;)

P>G>

Rich 12:00 PM  

Hate to add to the math nerdfest here, but just want to differentiate between number and numeral. A number is a value and pi is a specific value: it's the number of times you can wrap the diameter of circle around its circumference.

Numeral is the notation of a number. The fact is that MOST numbers, including pi and the square root of any non-perfect square, cannot be notated accurately in our fraction/decimal systems. They're called ir"ratio"nal because they can't be expressed as a ratio. Irrational numbers are no less specific in value than rational numbers; they just don't fit into the fraction/decimal numeral system. Just sayin'...

retired_chemist 12:01 PM  

Sigh.....

AVOGADRO'S NUMBER is indeed the number of molecules in one mole of something, but a mole is not defined circularly. It is the quantity of a compound having a mass in grams equal to the molecular mass. The molecular mass is determined by the sum of the atomic masses of the constituent elements, each multiplied by the number of atoms in the molecular formula. So, H2O is 18 - hydrogen mass 1, oxygen mass 16, sum - 18. All rounded off.....

If I seem testy here, it is because the A/C is out and the puppies, heat sensitive at this age, are teething and noisy and uncomfortable on both counts.

tptsteve 12:10 PM  

@chefbea No, it isn't. But apparently there are separate days for National Peach Cobbler Day and National Cherry Cobbler Day.

I'm just waiting for 'buckle' to make a dessert appearance.

syndy 12:37 PM  

Such a FUN puzzle -I just loved it! had the PRIME?PRIMO write over and am new to AVOGADROSNUMBER but so enjoy learning new things!!MNO did give a little reflux but what the heck-small price! AND Rex didn't hate it!!! oh FRABJOUS DAY!!

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

@acme: Seau is pronounced "Say Ow".

Martin 12:50 PM  

The clue for the speed of light is not an approximation. The definition of the meter is the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 second, making the clue precise.

Similarly, the clue for absolute zero is precise.

I would have like to have seen a "..." on the Avogadro's number clue, since it is an approximation and the only other approximate entry is specified by the fill.

Lojman 1:24 PM  

Avogadro's number (aka 1 mole) is a number just like dozen is a number or gross is a number. It's just a number that is useful in certain circumstances. You can have a mole of eggs, and one day Bill Gates might be a mole-aire!

Thinking of a mole is useful in understanding how freakishly small atoms and molecules are. Using @retired_chemist's example of water, a mole of water molecules weighs 18 grams. So, measure out just over a tablespoon of water. The write "6" followed by 23 zeros. There are that many water molecules in that tablespoon.

Cheers!

Stan 1:34 PM  

Nice follow-up to the Fibonacci Series puzzle. Now if we get one with Planck's Constant, all of my knowledge in this area will be exhausted.

Anonymous 1:49 PM  

Nice puzzle. On paper it took me about 5 minutes, but only because of PRIMO/PRIMe and ROILS/sOILS. Having an engineering degree didn't hurt.

Some of the fill is ugly - MNO, MEDI, AIRE, etc. Too bad because I enjoy doing crosswords.

Will Shortz should reject all puzzles containing made-up abbreviations and other INANE fill. All constructors should refer to the OED, or other legitimate dictionary. If the word is not in the book, then keep working the puzzle.

retired_chemist 1:50 PM  

ABSOLUTE ZERO is a conundrum. It has a physical meaning - that temperature at which entropy is a minimum, i.e. at which no kinetic energy remains in matter and one has only zero point energy. Yet, Wikipedia points out that it is defined as 0 K or -273.15 C. Surely this definition is an (arbitrary) approximation. I don't believe that the universe chooses to conform its physical absolute zero to a human measurement scale.

So, IMO, ABSOLUTE ZERO, as Martin explains it, is measurement-driven, while in my mind it is driven by the physics.

Sfingi 1:50 PM  

Pi is rational since it can be expressed as a ratio, i.e., its fractional form, and that is not infinite. But, if you insist on dividing the 22 by the 7, you could go one infinitely.

Avogadro's number is also an approximation, constant and ratio.

And there's an Avogadrdo's Number Restaurant in Ft. Colins, CO.

Hated the sports.

Martin 1:58 PM  

@Sfingi,

PI is not rational and it cannot be expressed as a ratio of integers. 22/7 is not PI, although attempts have been made to legislate that it is.

Avogadro's number is the only of the four entries that's an integer. We just don't know all 23 digits. That's why we must approximate it. That's different than why we must approximate PI -- we can never know all the digits because there are an infinite number of them. 23 is a much easier problem to deal with. Avogadro's number is not theoretically unknowable, just practically unknowable.

Anonymous 2:00 PM  

DNF - never heard of avogadro's number, do not want to hear of it, way too hard for a Tuesday, got everything except the number thing, so hated it.

ksquare 2:06 PM  

Trader Joe sells a guacamole that he calls Avocados Number which contains at least 6.02 x 10^23 molecules of avocado plus spices.
also, there is the concept of 'significant figures' that says you don't need more than five decimal places after the 3 in Pi for most calculations because the other numbers being used are not usually any more precise. Adding more decimal places will not change the result.

Martin 2:07 PM  

@retired_chemist,

There is no arbitrary approximation involved in the kelvin. As with the meter, the unit is defined in terms of the universe. The kelvin is derived from the degree Celsius, which in turn is defined in terms of the physical absolute zero.

Anonymous 2:10 PM  

Those who claim to never heard of Avogadro's Number or Absolute Zero must have never taken high school chemistry and shame on them.

Neither number is used in everyday society, but shame on them anyway.

jberg 2:24 PM  

Fun puzzle, especially because of all the chances to make jokes about moles. Also because of the chance to get really nerdy, as in my one quibble: absolute zero, tne speed of light, and Avogadro's number are all physical concepts. Pi, however (even as an approximation) is just a mathematical abstraction - so it didn't quite fit.

I told you that was really nerdy!

RMS 2:54 PM  

@tptsteve:I guess Rex isn't going to answer you, so I'll try. MSS=manuscripts. Extant manuscripts--still existing, not lost. Guess a lot of them were about saints. That part I'll leave to Rex.

@Anonymous at 2:10: I took high school chemistry, aced it in fact, and still never heard of Avogadro's number. Of course, that was in 1966, maybe before Avo's time.

Glad to see Asa Cucumber make the puzzle.

Fun puzzle even if literature, not numbers, is my thing.

sanfranman59 3:11 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Tue 8:38, 8:55, 0.97, 48%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:37, 4:35, 1.01, 58%, Medium

Mel Ott 3:44 PM  

@Circular: Thanks a lot!

@Ret Chem: Actually I think I understand your explanation, so thank you.

My head still hurts.

CoffeeLvr 4:11 PM  

@Rich, thank you very much for explaining ir"ration"al numbers; the word in every day language implies they don't make sense, but even I can see the sense in Pi, for example.

@Anonymous 2:10, I took HS Chemistry and have no memory of Avogadro at all. Possibility #1 is that I forgot; it was 1970. Possibility #2 is that it was not taught; this is very feasible since the day I learned the most in that class was when Coach Whatshisname was out of the room for twenty minutes and Mike S. stood up and explained things in a way we could understand.

And in no way am I ashamed of any of that!

I did know the rest, and all of it was easy enough with time and crosses. I thought I posted last night, but it isn't here.

"Primo" is an adjective I have heard applied to the quality of certain illicit substances.

Anonymous 5:00 PM  

I took HS Chem in 1980 and remember Avo's #, pv=nrt and that's about it. Oh, and the teacher spit when he talked.

My cucumber is PRIMO. No, not that cucumber you gutter-heads.

Agree with @Anon 1:49 - Mr. Shortz should accept puzzles with real answers.

andrea carla molecules 5:00 PM  

@Anonymous 12:42
Seau is pronounced "say ow", really?! Wow, that takes the cake (pi?) in bad anglicization...now my ears are bleeding along with my brain from the math-talkl.

Hmmm, now I'm contemplating making one of those definitions-in-the- grid puzzles I don't even like, just to get all the weird meanings of MOLE in there:
The chemistry term, the animal, the chocolate sauce and that thing on my face that I really should see a doctor about!

nanpilla 5:07 PM  

@andrea carla molecules -

Best moniker and comment of the day.

Get your puzzle in the pipeline now, and it will be ready for National Mole Day on October 23rd!

Howard B 5:12 PM  

I thankfully remembered Avogadro's number from high-school Chem.

I understand Avocado's number as an approximation of how many chips full of good, homemade guacamole one can eat before regret (or indigestion) sets in.

Badir 5:41 PM  

As a mathematician, I blazed through this one and got my second-fastest Tuesday ever. Well, actually, it's mostly physics, but I almost double-majored in math and physics.

Data!

Stan 5:43 PM  

Andrea -- re: MOLE. There's also that meaning popularized by John LeCarre: highly placed double-agent who has wormed into the other side's intelligence structure. You might have a Sunday there!

It's 'Say Oh' (like the actress).

@RMS: Yes, you're right. Scholars actually use MS and MSS (no periods) all the time. The funny thing is, MSS clues often refer to the publishing industry. As if some editor would tell you "Hey, could you grab some MSS from the slush pile and take them home over the weekend?"

fikink 5:45 PM  

@Andrea, don't forget the spy.
xo,
Deborah Say,"Ow!"

Jenny 5:53 PM  

I'm with chefwen and thursdayd and others. Yesterday's puzzle felt easy, and this one took me what felt like forever... needed lots of crosses for AVOGADRONUMBER, for example. I'm not a mathematician, and I do know pi, but didn't get the 'approximation' part until I had crosses. In any case, I enjoyed the challenge.

Stan 6:34 PM  

Ooops I'm wrong about Seau. Say Ow, as everyone said.

Tobias Duncan 6:54 PM  

Andrea, I think that is actually a really cool idea for a puzzle. I hope you take a crack at it.

Anonymous 10:03 PM  

As a physicist this was very easy. Got all the numbers instantly (although I work with units where c=1) and this was the fastest Tuesday in ages.

Suzanne 10:08 PM  

Haha! Have been with my preschool grandkids for five days and read "Moonmate of Buzz" and could not get past Buzz Lightyear.

PK 11:45 PM  

@ret_chem: Are you holding out with the puppy pics or what??? Hope the A/C is fixed - brutally hot here.

Cheerio 11:48 PM  

Wow - have so many people not heard of Avogadros number? Interesting. It seems much less obscure to me then lots of typical trivia in NYT crosswords. And I did not take to chemistry, to say the least.

Anonymous 11:54 PM  

@andrea - ha ha a skin cancer joke.

sanfranman59 1:46 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 7:18, 6:52, 1.06, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 8:40, 8:55, 0.97, 49%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:48, 3:40, 1.04, 67%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:28, 4:35, 0.97, 48%, Medium

Pippin 1:45 PM  

Love the blog today!

Am with @Vincent L. and @thurdaysd on Prime before PRIMO and with @thursdaysd, @chefwen et al about AVOGADROS. I kept wondering what a TEP SCORE was....

@glimmerglass, @retired_chemist and @jackj - thanks for the laughs!

@Howard B - agree with your definition. Homemade guacamole is the best.

Only took one semester of Chemistry - back in the dark ages I could take Latin and 2 other Sciences instead of Grade 13 (Canada) Math and Chemistry (I did say back in the dark ages!)as requirements for University, but got all the references from crosses.

I liked the puzzle - seemed like a Monday to me.

Nullifidian 3:30 PM  

In from syndication-land:

I have a complaint to lodge about this crossword. Josep Maria SERT is Catalan, not Spanish, and this sort of distinction is important to Catalan people. Their culture was largely suppressed during the Franco years, since Catalunya was one of the main centers of resistance against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War, and IMO that entitles them to recognition of their specific cultural history, rather than having it disappear under the generic term "Spanish".

The theme was weak, as you note, but on the other hand there's not much wacky cluing one can do with AVOGADRO'S NUMBER. Incidentally, not only did I know how to spell it, but I was able to fill it in right off the bat just by recognizing the number. That's one of the rare times it has served me to be a science nerd while solving the NYT crosswords.

Bad crossing where AIRE intersects with AIR ARM. Very clunky. VEG out kept me confused for longer than I'd like to admit.

Lastly, LAS Cruces made me smile because of a mental association to an acquaintance's website. It had an ad bar at top advertising things to do in Las Cruces, NM. The only two things advertised on the front page of the website that I was redirected to were mall shopping and its golf courses. Now, ever since the Las Cruces airport stopped being a passenger airport, the closest city one can fly to is El Paso, TX—which, if one is so inclined, has its own malls and golf courses, so there is no need to rent a car to drive 40 minutes to Las Cruces for these amenities.

Deb @ RoomscapesDecor.com 4:11 PM  

Hand up here for the PRIME/PRIMO error.

AVOGADRO'S NUMBER was a gimme, but only because of the restaurant by that name that's been a Fort Collins mainstay for the college crowd for over thirty years. I only recently learned that it was a mathematical term. (And I'm pretty sure I learned that as a result of googling something obscure from a NYT crossword puzzle.)

I had a heck of time in the dead center where VEG, MEDI, and VEXED just didn't want to reveal themselves to me.

captcha=botleds: cute little robotic LED lights that hustle themselves to where ever you need a little extra illumination. (Someone really needs to get to work on this invention.)

Anonymous 4:47 PM  

17a = MIKE MARSHALL ERA...almost.

Waxy in Montreal 5:29 PM  

My local newspaper printed the clue for AVOGADRO'S NUMBER simply as 6.022 x 1023, thus reducing the number of molecules in a mole in one fell swoop from 602,214,152,700,000,000,000,000 to 6,160.51. Approximately.

East sac girl 8:06 PM  

Checking in from Syndi land - breezed through this one except never heard of AVOGRADOSNUMBER. Was just lucky enough to get all crosses. Pretty typical Tuesday puzzle

Dirigonzo 8:13 PM  

RP dismisses "Moonmate" as a non-word, but I think it is a fine word, or at least it should be, with the definition as suggested by the unanswered question asked by @anony 12:16 am (the very first comment).

@Waxy - my paper did likewise but I'm pretty sure I would still have needed all of the crosses even if it had been clued correctly. Pretty astute of you to point it out, though.

unmeater - anyone?

Anonymous 12:41 AM  

A moonmate would be someone with whom one is joined at the hip.

Anonymous 8:46 PM  

Somewhere around 1995 a group of college students successfully sued a professor or their college over being forced to use Avogadro's number in an assignment. There was a Wall street Journal article which I can't seem to pull up.

The number also comes up in discussions about homeopathic medicines (diluted until no molecule of the medication remains?)

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