Monday, March 18, 2013

Constructor: Daniel Landman

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: S.I. UNITS (38A: Basic physical measures ... or a hint to 17-, 27-, 48- and 63-Across) — theme answers are two-word phrases, first word starting with "S," second word starting with "I."

Word of the Day: S. I. UNITS (38A: Basic physical measures ... or a hint to 17-, 27-, 48- and 63-Across) —
n
(Mathematics & Measurements / Units) any of the units adopted for international use under the Système International d'Unités, now employed for all scientific and most technical purposes. There are seven fundamental units: the metre, kilogram, second, ampere, kelvin, candela, and mole; and two supplementary units: the radian and the steradian. All other units are derived by multiplication or division of these units without the use of numerical factors (freedictionary.com)
• • •

This puzzle made me laugh out loud. I don't think I have ever not known the revealer on a Monday. I mean, never ever heard of it!? I just assumed it was one of those weird moments where I don't know something that everyone else does. But since I confessed not knowing it (on Twitter and Facebook), scores of folks have come out of the woodwork and admitted same. I'm sure it's an ultra-familiar term for many, many people, particularly scientists, but my Humanities friends and I were baffled. No big deal, though, as I was able to infer the "I" in S.I. UNITS from just a quick glance at the theme answers. I probably would've guessed "I" even without the theme answers to guide me, but dang if I can ever remember stupid Bob IGER's name. I'm not very impressed with this theme. I haven't tried to come up with "S.I." phrases, but I'm guessing there are many. Or several. The ones that populate this grid ... are not exactly scintillating. But they're fine. They're acceptable. The whole puzzle is acceptable. I did get a bit of a kick out of GRIMALDI (8D: Ruling house of Monaco) and UPTURNED (40D: Like a snob's nose), but most everything else was just 4- and 5-letter OK-ness.

• 17A: Native Floridians (SEMINOLE INDIANS)
• 27A: Denizen of the least populous New York City borough (STATEN ISLANDER)
• 48A: Clark Kent vis-à-vis Superman (SECRET IDENTITY)
• 63A: Stickler's grammatical no-no (SPLIT INFINITIVE)

Aside from the revealer, there wasn't much in the way of resistance today. MICAH is a slightly tough 1-Across (Book after Jonah), but all the crosses were so easy that it materialized quickly nonetheless. I had the tiniest of hiccups at 10A: Floating arctic mass (FLOE — wanted BERG ... might've written BLOG ...) and at 68A: Board game insert (RULES — wanted BOARD ... which never had a chance, really). My wife is highly dubious that anyone has ever actually written the letters "S.W.A.K." on a love letter (69A: Love letter abbr.). She got it all from crosses and then inferred the meaning ("sealed with a kiss"). I didn't blink. Seen it in puzzles before (but only in puzzles). I guess it beats SDAK.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Carola

O MaN, talk about a gaping hole in my knowledge base! Count me among the Humanities "wha'??" group. With everything completed but the reveal, I assumed I was looking for a 2-syllable word: S_ U--NITS. Stared at it, checked and rechecked crosses. Like @Rex, I couldn't remember the Disney guy either, even though we just saw him recently. Finally I saw how an "I" made sense of the whole thing. Then I went and read the Wikipedia article on SI units. What an interesting history, going back to the French Revolution.

@Daniel Landman - Thanks for the fun puzzle and the education!

Evan

I knew of S.I. UNITS. All those years in chemistry and physics classes in college taught me something before I eventually went to the dark side (humanities)!

As for other SI's, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is the first one instantly off the top of my head. I've seen that abbreviated as S.I. plenty of times -- even it's own website has a header called SI.com. But it's too big for a 15x15 grid. Others include SCRAP IRON, SELF IMAGE, SELF IMPORTANCE, SELF INDULGENT, SELF INTEREST (lots of selves), SEVEN IRON, SETTLED IN, SEXUAL INTERCOU-- oh, that one will never appear in the NYT unless I become its editor.

Anonymous

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=SWAK

"Popularized in soldiers' letters home in World War I."
.........................

The theme was a WTF for me too. Finished in ~7:15, then spent a full minute making sure the 'I' IGER was right (always want an 'E' for him). The puzzle was fine; no real objections; though thought STATEN ISLANDER was kind of blah.

I don't think that I've ever heard of SI UNITS. Obviously, it's a very real thing. Not something that I would have considered building a crossword around though. Kind of fails for me as being a good idea, as being something you'd want to do, though fine for what it is I guess.

Evan

And behold the evidence that I don't always look at the pictures that Rex posts before I comment -- he already put up an SI Swimsuit cover when I said something about SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Of all the pictures for me not to notice....

Anonymous

@Rex - I bet you knew that C-Cup, D-Cup, Double D-Cup were also SI Units.

Pete

I wouldn't know how to clue the revealer, but the one used was terrible. There's nothing "basic" about the SI Units, they're just the accepted international standard. Yards is as basic as meters, pounds as kilograms, etc.

Anonymous

"There's nothing "basic" about the SI Units, they're just the accepted international standard. Yards is as basic as meters, pounds as kilograms, etc. "

That is just completely wrong. The international standard has specific basic (or 'base') units.

Mike Ben-Ari

thank you Daniel Landman - superb innovative easy-medium challenge for this beginner who finally solved entire Monday puzzle, hurray

Agitate Came Miss

Hand up for never having heard of SI UNITS

SECRETIDENTITY was fun, the others a bit dull, but I'm just jealous bec my PSILOVEYOU puzzle was rejected and I was told two initials two thin for a puzzle unless the entries wildly sparkled.

These did not (for me)
but SPLITINFINITIVE is sort of nice...
There was a lot that was IFFY for Monday (again, just imo and I'm not an editor)
GRIMALDI, IGER, USURP (maybe) tho those were the most interesting entries, so ...I don't know.
I feel my nose is a bit UPTURNED on this one.

The grid itself tho very very smooth. And of course i love 29D "What's in a ___"?

Heartened to see the turn out for JenCT, hope she reached her goal already! That outpouring was impressive.

And yes, I've signed things SWAK, but I think I was about 11 at the time!

Anoa Bob

The IMAGE I got from SALAMI followed by ECOLI was VILE.

Seems like a lot of crosswordy stuff for a Monday: ARRS, STET, ACAN, ONA, ASLAN, SSTS, IMET, ANAME, ULNA, RCPT, IGER, ILE, GRIMALDI, SSN, ELAN, SANS, RANAT, ESSE; I may have missed a few.

Also another constructing lesson on how to use a POC* to bump up the letter count in a theme entry; here it's SEMINOLE INDIANS.

*Plural of Convenience (formerly called Gratuitous Plural)

Greg Charles

I find the idea that SI units are unfamiliar to humanities majors a bit boggling, like a science major never having heard of Charles Dickens. Anyway, I'm practically positive the term shows up in clues fairly regularly.

Ellen S
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ellen S

When I was in college, I don't think amperes and metres had been invented. Oil lamps don't need none of that electric stuff, and we measured lengths in cubits. But I got the answer anyway. Like Rex, Carola, Anonymous and there will be masses of others, I find IGER very forgettable. Didn't he show up just in the last week? If they rename the theme parks after him, people will forget to go.

But I thought it was a pretty okay puzzle, and thank you Mr. Landman for starting our week with no eels. One snuck in yesterday but I will not speak of it. ... Yes I will after all: the Captcha is "suffirh" which is what I do when I see eels or NLERs in a puz.

Ah, that WAS my captcha, until I deleted the post because I found a typo. The new one is "getsmag." I'll use it in a sentence: "I gets mag when I sees a puzzle with eels in 'er."

jae

OK, I learned something on a Mon.  I now know what SI UNITS are (thank you wiki).  The fact that they have not been adopted in the US may be partially to blame for my ignorance.  I mean, I know what they are, just not that they are referred to as SI UNITS.  Could be that SI has something to do with French?

Any way, a pretty smooth grid with an interesting theme.  Easy-medium for me too and, I liked it.

Davis

Had the requisite science background, knew what SI UNITS were, but it still took me 30 seconds of staring at S?UN?TS to put it all together. I'm embarrassed.

Somehow I hadn't encountered SWAK in a puzzle before, so when I got that on crosses I had to re-check all my crosses. Figured out what it meant after finishing.

Overall, nothing terrible, nothing sparkly. I'd call this a workmanlike puzzle.

One thing I was wondering as I worked through this puzzle: How much longer will SST and SSTS survive as viable fill? 5 years? 10 years? Because somewhere down the line, they're going to have to go the way of the dodo.

SI UNITS? Mexican yesmen? Term is new to M&A, no matter what it means. But, hey -- worst things can happen to yah than to learn somethin' new. Gotta go with the flow, if yer a little slow.

I'm liking all these debut constructors. More fresh blood. Potential budding Manny Nosowskys and Nancy Salomons. Congrats, Landman dude. Stop by and tell us all about yerself. We welcome salami-eating Narnia fans, who go a little postal in the SW corner.

chefwen

M & A Love your explanation for SI UNITS. I'm buying into that!

Thought the puzz was super easy until I came to 38A and just accepted the letters that fell into place, and chalked it up to ignorance on my part. It is what it is.

10A kinda bothered me with floating in the question and FLO in the answer, maybe I'm being too nit picking.

Overall a good start to the week.

Dean

How sad never to get a SWAK letter. Maybe it's a generational thing. I got them all the time as a teenager and young adult in the 70s, from female friends and relatives as well as girlfriends. My now- sister-in-law sent one to my brother, the flap filled with S.W.A.L.B.A.K.W.S. (sealed with a lick because a kiss won't stick).

webwinger

Agree that the term SIUNITS is somewhat obscure, but some awareness of the units themselves and their significance and history really should be in the mind of every educated person. This is a perfect example of the phenomenon described by British writer C. P. Snow (identified in his Wikipedia entry as a “scientist and novelist”), who more than 50 years ago in a famous lecture and essay called “The Two Cultures” decried the lack of scientific literacy among types like @Rex and his “humanities friends”. I see similar signs regularly in this blog, when, for example, answers like ELASTIN and SERINE, both found in everyone’s body, evoke groans of non-recognition, while ALAN PAGE appears to have achieved near total cultural penetration for his hardly earthshaking accomplishments, not to mention the many low ranking pop-cult figures who are crossword staples. Don’t know what if anything can be done about it, but it’s sad. (Also, agree with @Dean that it’s sad SWAK has faded so much from consciousness in the years since our youth, though hardly on the same order…)

Thought the puzzle was pretty good, actually. After getting the theme was disappointed not to find the names of units embedded in the answers, but very much liked SECRETIDENTITY and SPLITINFINITIVE. (I’m with @Evan—s*xual i*tercourse would have been a gas!) Fill was mostly quite decent. Agree that IGER is one of the most forgettable names ever (no NACIO Herb Brown he!) Interesting how unironic use of the once ubiquitous MISS has been more or less banished to the ghetto of pageantry. (Luckily for crossword constructors, the same has apparently not happened with SENORITA or SRTA.)

The Bard

Romeo and Juliet > Act II, scene II,

JULIET: 'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

ROMEO: I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.

Anonymous

Still racked by guilt over having left Evil Doug without means of entry to ACPT! Thinking, what better way to appease the hurt puppy than to help out with @JenCTs new pup? So the “All Events as a Non-Competitor (beginning Saturday morning)” fee is now on its way to the Ollie fund. I feel better already…

OTD

Easy puzzle, but thrown for a loop at SIUNITS. Being in the Humanities I had absolutely no idea. Did know Iger, tho', so got the answer but couldn't relate the theme answers to it. Oh well, did learn something new in a Monday puzzle.

loren muse smith

Congratulations, Daniel, on what seems to be your debut and for educating maybe tens of thousands of us on SI UNITS. Big relief to see the reveal was the WOD!

Loved SPLIT INFINITIVE – what a crazy VILE grammar RULE – I split’em all the time. (And while I’m at it, a preposition is often the perfect thing to end a sentence with. If you go there, the “. . .with which” route, you can sometimes just sound like an ARRS hole.) Bishop Robert Lowth. A NAME I’ll always remember.

@Ellen S– funny, funny, funny!

@M & A – You had to love UPTURNED and USURP. I did. And I second your motion for Daniel to stop by here today.

@Anoa Bob – in my margin I noted that S on INDIANS and thought maybe you’d say something. That plural for me is fine; it feels natural to refer to a group of INDIANS (and SI UNITS, for that matter). On the other hand, the ER or STATEN ISLAND feels more forced. But I’m not from there; it could be totally fine.

@Evan – here are some more: Steam Iron, Self-Involved, Scotch Irish, Spitting Image, Spice Islands.

If I hadn’t discovered this blog, I’d be going around today SECRETly ashamed that I didn’t know SI UNITS. Thanks, everyone. Group hug.

Milford

Easy, breezy Monday, and yes I was a science major, so definitely know that SI UNITS are a thing. I even remember learning that some official standard units are stored somewhere in a vault in France (something like that).

Quick family poll showed that I and my high school daughter taking chem and physics knew what SI UNITS were, but Econ husband had no clue.

Agree with @webwinger that an SI UNITS themed puzzle would have been way cooler with the actual units embedded in the theme answers.

Liked GRIMALDI, ICERINK, DIGITS, and VILE.

@chefwen - FLOE also threw me - thought it had to be berg, because of "float" in the clue. I guess they must have completely different roots.

Was really impressed by all the lovely support for JenCT here yesterday.

Glimmerglass

SI was new to me, but easy to infer from the theme answers. In prep school I got some letters with SWAK on the envelope flap. Of course, I was 13 and it was the 1950s. My roommate got them with lipstick kisses on the flap, but his girlfriend was "faster" than mine. How about an update on the Ollie fund?

Z

I'm one of those humanities types who gets Science News every two weeks and Scientific American every month. I cannot recall ever seeing the term SI UNITS in an article. Once I filled in the "I" it looked familiar enough, but I doubt I would have come up with it SANS the theme answers.

Lots of Ss today (both SSN and SSTS) but lets not start a war on POCs. Especially on a Saturday, POCs and past tenses are often my footholds into sections. Get rid of them and I may never finish a Saturday.

captcha - inkmarys - what religious tattoo artists do

Z

I'm also one of those humanities types who read CP Snow during freshmen orientation. My group was lead by a math prof and a music prof. Something must have stuck.

Elle54

Guess I have to admit not knowing SIUNITS. Most of my science was in the bio area. Got it right though. And yes, SWAK was used a lot in Jr. High writing letters to friends at camp.

Nancy in PA

Count me among the "never heard of SI units" set. But I love that they include kelvins, candelas, and steradians!
And today this will be running through my head:
Yes, it's gonna be a long, lonely summer
But darling, I promise you this
I'll send you all my love every day in a letter
Sealed with a kiss

Susan McConnell

Like jae said, SIUNITS is something you know, but don't know that you know. Finished with no write overs, and learned something in the process. What else can you ask for on a Monday?

Gill I. P.

I never did SWAK - xoxo is my favorite mode of transportation.
I also thought this theme might be synonyms??? Can't SEMINOLE INDIANS and SECRET IDENTITY sort of be one - and did I just split my infinitive?
This was just a fine puzzle but a bit on the difficult side for a Monday newbie.

joho

Well, this was certainly easy enough for newbies who could finish I would think, only to end up scratching their heads over SIUNITS. Which, BTW, could be a tribe distantly related to the SEMIOLEINDIANS.

It's always good to learn something so thank you, Daniel Landman!

Notsofast

Nice first , Daniel. But add me to the "S.I. Units" WTF crowd. "Floating arctic mass" best describes a BERG, as a floe is more like a section of an ice sheet; but who cares. I think the problem with "S.I.Units" is it's just not sexy enough, or even...interesting.

MetaRex

Yes, we should care about science. But the reveal in this puzz duz for MetaRex what MINAS-MULETAS did for Rex...a rare MR rant is at Swimsuit Islands

efrex

To all those poets who balked at SI UNITS: fie, feh, and phooey unto thee! Us science nerd cruciverbalists need love too, you know. This son of a high school chemistry teacher was highly pleased with the theme revealer, even if it meant acknowledging Staten Island as part of New York City.

Enjoyed the FRIENDS clue, although I'll never be able to think of the theme song without recalling Rob Paravonian's hysterical takedown of it.

A fine Monday puzzle in any unit system, Mr. Landman! Thanks much!

mac

Nice easy-medium Monday, not too obvious a theme, but by the time I got to the reveal I had already noticed the theme answers were s--- i--- terms. Just like Mrs. Parker I was much more puzzled by SWAK.

Wow, 7 of the fifteen West-most squares are SS's.

ArtO

SWAK is kinda dated. But, with lipstick laden lips it was physically evident and possessed a certain thrill for those in the early adolescent years.

amateur solver in London

I loved "split infinitive" and "secret identity." And when I was 16, my boyfriend and I wrote letters all the time that had SWAK on the envelope.

Here is a funny story about international standards of measurement, focusing on the pesky kilogram prototype, which, annoyingly, weighs more than it used to:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/world/europe/13kilogram.html?pagewanted=all

Susan McConnell

Forgot to mention one nit that needs picking...I did not care for the SEMI in SEMINOLEINDIANS and the SEMI that appears 6 rows directly below it.

chefbea

hand up for not knowing SI units.When I saw "basic physical measurements" I thought Waist, bust, hips and looked for those letters in the theme answers!!

lawprof

I thought the revealer was supposed to help with the theme answers. Today, just the opposite: e.g., the clue to 17A should read "Native Floridians, or a hint to 38-Across."

Otherwise, a solid, enjoyable Monday. Off to a flying start, and now to wallow in March Madness.

jackj

“SI Units The International System of Units (abbreviated SI from the French Le Système International d'Unités) is the modern form of the metric system.”

Fuhgeddaboudit, Mr. Landman, Mr. Shortz, frustrated science buffs, mathematicians, architects and all other buttinski parties from around the world, we won’t play in that sandbox!

Now, if you want SI Units to refer to those “units” featured in Sports Illustrated’s annual Swimsuit Issue that’s fine (a Swell Idea, actually, nothing wrong with Sexy Images), but if all you’d want to do is convert those splendid 36-24-36 measurements into metric equivalents, then fuhgeddaboudit.

It was alright to call “1, 2, 3, 4, etc.” DIGITS and “Like 2, 4, 6, 8, etc.” as EVEN in the puzzle but the similarity of the clues seems suspiciously SI oriented so please don’t push your luck (or your envelope).

We’ll accept the outréness of the House of GRIMALDI, out of deference to its late member by marriage, Princess Grace (nee Kelly, of the Philadelphia Kelly clan, you’ll recall), but don’t take a hopeful message from that acceptance.

We still think you’re here to AGITATE while pretending to be FRIENDS but you can only SPEW so much SALAMI until we smell a VILE SCAM, intent on sneaking back with hints of kilos, Kelvins and moles, but rest assured, we are ready for your insidious forays so take the hint and fuhgeddaboudit!

With UPTURNED noses and a touch of irony, we wish you and your SI UNITS a snarly adieu.

(Such Idiocy; SECRETIDENTITY, indeed!)

FUHGEDDABOUDIT!!

Pete

@Anon 1:07 - No, all units of measurement have basic units. The imperial system has inches, ounces (both fluid and volumetric), seconds, degrees, etc. The only thing that differentiates the SI Units from Imperial units is that SI Units, more or less, use a decimal system. They use kilograms as a shorthand for 1000 grams, we use 10lbs as a shorthand for 160 ounces. SI has 1 centimeter, we have 1/4 inch. They can't say that it's a decimal system, which would be a useful distinction, because one minute is sixty seconds, their 'basic' unit of time.

Cluing SI Units as meter, gram, etc would be fine, as would cluing Imperial Units as inch, ounce, etc. They're the basic units for each system.

I don't care that Wikipedia has "basic" as a key part of their write-up.

dk

Off to buy the 2013 SI swimsuit edition as I note there are some units that need checks… thanks to Rex's post < insert rutting and squealing about here>.

Last ski day of the season today and it looks like we will get 4-5 inches of new snow. My guess is we could ski into mid April, but the skiing public is ruled by a calendar not reality. In short wrong S.I. Units for the situation.

📏📏📏 (3 Rulers) A fine start to the week.

Rob C

Really liked the non-Monday GRIMALDI in the Monday puzzles. Every early week puzzle should have a little non-early week fill.

Speaking of non-Monday, how many times do half the solvers not 'know' the theme. I didn't know SI UNITS had a collective name, but inferrable.

Most STATEN ISLANDERS are just ex-Brooklynites making an interim stop on to their ultimate life in New Jersey.

Tita

Great comments today. Sure, SI may be something we ought to know, but a bit "meh" as a centerpiece.

It was fun to me, though, since this French-leaning puzzle helped recall last Thursday afternoon at Wollman ICERINK with my ILE de France-born para-nieces, one of whom was celebrating her 18th birthday.

BTW - I get that Trumpp can paint his name all over the rink walls and even the zamboni...he paid for the place. But do I *really* need to see his VILE face on the bottled water??????? That really AGITATEd em,

Horace Fawley

Ellen S FTW! Hilarious. Frannie and I have actually started a little "EEL" fan club. We get such a big laugh out of seeing it so often that we're a little disappointed when it doesn't show up.

Tita

...AGITATEd *me*...

Gov Chris Christie

@Rob C - No, they're on their way to their ultimat life in Joizee.

Tita

@Ellen S - ROTFLMAO - thanks!
3/out - that was quick...

Two Ponies

I'm glad to learn something on a Monday. This will stick with me much longer and possibly be of more use than some pop/rap celebrity I'd rather forget.

quilter1

Didn't know SIUNITS either, but inferred from the theme answers.

I SWAKed on letters to future hubby when he was in basic training. Everything else was right in my memory bank, too.

retired_chemist

[rant]I am dismayed, but not surprised, at the negative aspects of the comments on SI UNITS. if you don't know it, fine, nobody knows everything. But those who seem to think it isn't WORTH knowing provide the disappointment.

When my University started its undergraduate program in the early nineties, I was Chair of the Faculty Senate. We set the University core requirements to include some humanities, some science, and some math for everybody. Soon after we got an Engineering School, and things started to fray around the edges. The latent hostility of the Arts and Humanities students (and some faculty) for math and science and that of the Engineers en bloc for the humanities drove those groups into an alliance which in essence gutted the core requirements. "Be a wholly educated person if you choose on your own time, via electives, but even though we are a University with aspirations of excellence we aren't going to require it of you. And, by the way, we aren't going to give you very much time for electives."

The Two Cultures indeed. I'll offer the usual paraphrase of my favorite muckraker and fellow Golden bear, Lincoln Steffens: "It is possible to get an education at a University, but it is not often done." You have to check out the link to see the exact quote. [/rant]

The constructor could easily have avoided this revealer by using SI SENOR. But I find the discussion salutary, and maybe that was his point.

Easy-medium puzzle fits here. Don't know Narnia so SIMBA @ 46A had to be transmogrified slowly through MULAN to ASLAN. Wanted XOXO for SWAK as did others.

Thanks, Mr Landman.

Sandy K

Found SI UNITS Slightly Irritating as the theme title. The theme answers, however, were Somewhat Interesting and led me to SI Units.

Liked @M&A's SI UNITS better! SI SI!

@Rob C- Staten Island definitely the way to NJ!

retired_chemist

Lost the Lincoln Steffens link somehow.

Bob Kerfuffle

From my (comparatively) scientific side, no problem with S I UNITS. But I did think someone from the humanities side would raise a hesitation about 63 A, "Stickler's grammatical no-no" for SPLIT INFINITIVE, in that the so-called rule against that S I was a Victorian Era mistake (trying to align English with Latin structure) which has long since been abandoned by serious grammarians. (Or was that the implication of "stickler"?) (@loren muse smith states her defiance of the rule; I say it is no rule at all. :>) )

Definitely an above-average Monday puzzle.

Pmdm

@Pete 9:27 was absolutely correct in reprimanding @Anon 1:07. Let me try it explain it just a little differently.

There are three standard systems for expressing measures. Let's take temperature for an example. We express temperature in degrees in units of Fahrenheit, Celsius (formerly Centigrade) and Kelvin. Probably everybody is familiar with the first two, but the last is best known to physicists and scientists. While it's not relevant here, for those who are interesting, the only difference between the last two are which temperature is assigned to zero degrees, For Celsius it's the freezing point of water and for Kelvin it's the lowest possible temperature, the temperature at which there would be absolutely no movement, something that is not really possible. Fahrenheit assigned the freezing point of water to his scale and assigned 100 degrees to the temperature of his slightly feverish body, thereby making the difference between the boiling point of water and the freezing point of water not 100 degrees but (about) 200 degrees. (Of course, it's not that simple since boiling and freezing points vary with atmospheric pressure, but after all this is a crossword blog and not a science blog.)

In each system, you have to define certain basic units so that you can be when someone gives a measurement you know exactly what he means. Let's says you decided that length and time will be basic units. Then velocity (which is distance divided by time) is a derived unit. It's value is determined completely by the values of the basic units. If you wanted, you could have decided to make length and velocity to be basic units. Then time would be a derived unit.

Regardless of the system, it makes sense to balance out the desire to have the fewest basic units as possible (it's not simple to set accurate standards) and to use standards that are the easiest to measure. It turns out that you need seven basic units out of which all other units can be derived (you can look them up). The science world has agreed that length, mass and time units will be used to distinguish the three different systems mentioned above. (We're getting close to why this is relevant to crossword solvers.)

In America, we use the foot-pound-second system. The old "metric" system, the one that uses Celsius for temperature, uses the centimeter, the gram, and the second as the basic length-mass-time units. The new "metric" system, the one that uses Kelvin to measure temperature and the one you now know is called the SI Units system, uses the meter, the kilogram, and the second for its basic units. Very frequently for the two metric systems, and less frequently for the American system, you will see the system called by the first three letters of its basic units. I am surprised not to see the following three letter combinations frequently in crosswords. So, if ever you see something like one of the three clues below, you will know the answer. [Crossword constructors take note.]

"American measurement system", or "non-metric measurement system" - FPS

"Former measurement system" or "retired metric system" - CGS

"Standard international measurement system" - MKS

Sorry to leave such a dry comment, but given that so many of you were not familiar with SI Units I hope some of you would have a positive response to my explanation.

Leglegl

Used SWAK on the back flap of envelopes when I was 12 or 13

jberg

My first reaction was that this theme was semi-interesting; but that was before the revealer, which @Sandy K beat me to the punch in finding sorta irritating. Fortunately, scientist wife knew the letters - though she thought they stood for "Standard International" units. The problem is that SI is French, but units is English - in English we would say International System, right? But I gather that SI units is the idiom among scientists.

And @Pete, the clue doesn't say that they are any more basic than yards or inches - just that they are basic units, which they are in the sense that all other metric units are derived from them.

But .. radians? Isn't a radian a ratio? Is there actually a standard radian in a vault somewhere?

One slight quibble at 17A. The SEMINOLE INDIANS as a group are not native Floridians; they are descended from Creeks, escaped African slaves, and others who fled to the swamps of Florida to escape the Europeans sometime during the 18th century. (This is from Wikipedia, I'm not quite old enough to remember it).

I agree that FLOE is too close to the definition - and of course agree that BERG would have been a much better answer! My great grandfather had something stonier in mind when he made up the name, but I'll take what I can get.

p.s. Nice to see those LETTS from yesterday settled down in their capital city at 57A.

SI UNITS = 0-K skiing events? I could conceivably medal, in one of those jobbers.
@Loren: Oh yeah. Always pleased by the double-U entries.

Just saw General Sherman the sequoia. Most massive tree on earth. Squat-lookin' varmint.

M&A

Lewis

@Mike Ben Ari -- Congrats, and keep up with this. There are many gifts in store for you.

Davis -- excellent point on SST

Wrote in OOH for TRA, but the puzzle quickly got filled. Never heard of SI units, but happy to learn about them. I thought Disney's chief's last name was REAN.

Daniel, keep this up. This is a tough crowd, and aside from pleading ignorance on SI units, there have been few complaints about your puzzle. This felt just right for a Monday puzzle.

JenCT

Really overwhelmed by the outpouring of support yesterday. I'm so proud to belong to such a caring, generous, and compassionate online community! (Just FYI - the \$ amount shown only gets updated manually on Fridays (?!) - this keeps the \$ going to the client, instead of to credit card fees.) Thank you all so much! And a very special thanks to Rex.

OK, the puzzle - no idea about SI UNITS - the laugh I had was seeing the SI cover on the blog.

Evan

@efrex:

Funny stuff -- if you like that, then you'll probably like Ed Byrne's classic takedown of Alanis Morisette's "Ironic."

@Susan McConnell:

For what it's worth, Will once told me that it's okay if two different words in the same grid share a consecutive string of four letters if the words aren't related in meaning. Case in point, the words ERAT and ERATO have been known to appear in the same grid. That's why I'm okay with SEMI and SEMINOLE INDIANS -- the first can be either a truck or a prefix, the other is a proper noun derived from "cimarrón," the Spanish term for "wild men." They're two different things.

It'd be bad if, say, you had SEMI and SEMI-CONDUCTOR (but maybe you could get away with it if the first were clued as a truck). I think it'd be even worse if the two of them crossed one another at the repeated SEMI.

Evgeny

S. I. UNITS, gettable but hard, much harder than, say, Minas or, say, Muletas, especially to those leaning towards Humanities :-D

Nigel

I laughed at the commenter who asked how long SST would last. Just ask ASTA or ILSA.

syndy

When I was in grade school a science teacher told the class that America was going to have to convert to Meters.I silently vowed to resist to the death.Refusing to truckle to french standards does not a sciencephobe make!Hand up for berg

Sparky

Me too re SI. Like @lawprof got the answer for the revealer from 17 and 27A. Remember when STATEN ISLAND was Richmond?

Sparky

Me too re SI. Like @lawprof got the answer for the revealer from 17 and 27A. Remember when STATEN ISLAND was Richmond?

Bird

Meh. Solved without issues or pauses, but there is a lot of stale fill. I new the S, but not sure on the I.

Writeovers in the NE (BERG & EYES) made that corner a mess. Is the RIM the part of the camera that holds the lens? Also had STEAL before USURP at 54A.

I liked the clues for 50D and 61D. Cute.

M and A's Last SI-lver Bullet

FWIW dept: This was a real rare occasion when the puz's U-count exceeds its O-count. How's it feel, O -- missin' that usual respect? I-count was 22, which is off-the charts huge for that typically 4th-seeded vowel. So, lots of extra vowel movements, today. Enjoyed.

JFC

I know it's odd when the revealer is harder than the theme (I managed the two I's in the revealer from looking at the theme answers) but I think that adds to the puzzle's charm.

This is not only 27 year old Mr. Landman's debut it is also the first puzzle he's ever constructed!

http://wordplay.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/ill-be-there-for-you/#postComment

JFC

Harrison

Me, I use the HARRISON system or weights and meaures, where many units are based on me. Distance in the xy plane is measured in HarrisonXY, the length of my average step. Vertical displacements are HarrisonZs, my height. 1 HarrisonZ = 1.99234*HarrisonXY. Time is measured in Harrison'sAge, roughly 59 SI years. Temperature is Harrison'sHotness, with zero pegged at the triple point of water, 1 at my body temperature. Volumetrically, one HarrisonVol is my volume and, trust me, it’s appreciable ‘cause I’m one fat dude.

We use only an octal system in HARRISON, so 10 HarrisonXYs = 4HarrisonXYs + 4HarrisonXYs. Fractions may only be expressed as n/8 Harrisons, n/64 Harrisons, ... No, you may not reduce your fractions, except in instances of 1/8, 1/64, ..., e.g. 4/8 may not be written as 1/2. Good luck with writing out 1/3 HarrisonXY.
The standard is set at values determined on 3/18/2013.

Arby

Am I the only one who found the NYT Premium Crossword page serving up a link to the Sunday March 17 puzzle under "Today's Puzzle"? I had to copy the URL for the Across Lite file and manually transmogrify it to get my Monday puzzle. (Which I liked, and did not object in the least to the theme revealer).

chefbea

@arby Can you explain transmogrify?? Never hear of that word. Is it related to Siunits???

ksquare

How can KILOGRAM be a basic unit? The GRAM provides the definition of mass and a thousand of them is/are(?) a derived unit.
Also @Sparky: Staten Island borough is still Richmond COUNTY in NYCity.

Davis

@ksquare -- The reference mass (an actual, physical thing) is a one-kilogram prototype. All other SI mass units are defined in relation to the mass of this fancy paperweight.

So in fact a gram is by definition 1/1000 the weight of the reference kilogram. But Wiki tells us that there are proposals in place to move away from this rather silly method of defining SI units of mass.

loren muse smith

In my historical linguistics class (or was it phonology?), we were introduced to The Great Vowel Shift that started in the fourteenth century –(one of the reasons we have strange pairs like dear/pear and charm/warm, by the way, and those pairs might not be the result of this shift . I just pulled them out of the air.)

@M & A – I’ll always be secretly, childishly jealous that it was T. Carter, and not I, who raised his hand and asked Dr. Bouma, “Could one also refer to that as The Great Vowel Movement?”

Pete

@jberg - I wasn't saying basic was wrong, just that it seemed to provide a false specificity for SI UNITS. As Pmdm said clearly, and Harrison absurdly, any system must have basic units, hence the false specificity. I don't expect that on Monday.

DigitalDan

Hey guys, the science labs were just down the hall or on the next floor from where you liked to hang out. Not on a different planet or anything. And what they do there is often kind of fun and a lot less baffling than Beowulf. Oh, well. 'Course, I didn't even know that entry was in there because Mr. Happy pencil showed up after I entered all the downs, and ...

The nice thing about metric units is that they don't have to be the law of the land in order for one to use them and find them useful.

Anonymous

@chefbea: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/transmogrify

evil doug

Say, could somebody do me a favor and just kill me now?

Evil

Long time lurker

Post #1: Evil Doug - The clue for WILCO is just wrong. When the tower radios with instructions, the pilot repeats the instructions, e.g.
--- Tower: Flight Delta 123 climb to 20,000 feet and proceed on a heading of 315 degrees.
--- Pilot: Delta 123 Roger, climbing to 20,000 and proceeding on 315.
Post #2: Anonymous @ED - You know people use roger/WILCO in much more colloquial terms, and not always as pilots.

Post #3: Evil Doug - @Anonymous you moron - you always have to repeat the instructions to confirm that you've received them correctly. WILCO doesn't imply that.

Post #4: Anonymous @ED - So, you're a CBer and your buddy tells you to have a good trip. You can't just say WILCO?

Repeat every time WILCO comes up in a puzzle.

sanfranman59

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

Mon 5:50, 6:10, 0.95, 23%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:39, 3:41, 0.99, 41%, Medium

This probably says more about me than it does about the term SI UNITS, but I've got a science background (statistics, clinical trials research, epidemiological research) and had to look up what the SI stood for.

MetaRex
This comment has been removed by the author.
MetaRex

See

Should MetaRex Stop Ranting and Enjoy the Swimsuit Issue? for a cri de coeur not seen since Ivan Karamazov returned the ticket...

retired_chemist

Favorite unit of measurement: The SMOOT. From Wikipedia:

The smoot (pron.: /ˈsmuːt/) is a nonstandard unit of length created as part of an MIT fraternity prank. It is named after Oliver R. Smoot, a fraternity pledge to Lambda Chi Alpha, who in October 1958 lay on the Harvard Bridge (between Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts), and was used by his fraternity brothers to measure the length of the bridge.

retired_chemist
This comment has been removed by the author.
retired_chemist

Actually the whole article on Mr. Smoot is pretty interesting reading. Mr. Smoot graduated from MIT with the class of 1962, became a lawyer, and later became chairman of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI and president of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The Smoot is an optional unit in Google Earth.

Arby

@chefbea: anon@3:58 beat me to it, but:

trans·mog·ri·fy
/transˈmägrəˌfī/
Verb

Transform, esp. in a surprising or magical manner.

Synonyms
transform - alter - change - transmute - metamorphose

(BTW: NYT has fixed the link. Phew. I know you were all on edge waiting for this issue to be resolved...)

John V

Bringing up the rear, from snowy Albany. Hand up for not ever hearing of SI Unit and not thinking for a minute that it is in the language. Stared at IGER for EVER until deciding it had to be I because that fit with the revealer, not having a clue what I was doing. Rating meh.

michael

I am surprised by the vehemence of the science folks insisting that everybody ought to know what an s i unit is. I know the metric system just fine, was a math major, took chemistry and physics at a fine university (admittedly a long time ago) and did not know the term s.i. unit (probably not spelled here).

Maybe it's become more common terminology these days...

I do get irked when Rex and others mock math clues as unanswerable when they assume a common knowledge of the Simpsons and 1980s music,..

Nonetheless, s.i. units is kinda obscure for the revealer on a Monday...

JenCT

@evil 4:14: LOL

Tom

Newbie to doing these -- thank God for this site. But this was the easiest puzzle I've faced down yet in the Times. Finally felt like I was cooking with gas.

Staph infection
Steep incline
Spanish Inquisition (too long, but still)
"Sorry, I don't do that" -- great line from Sixteen Candles

Bird

@JenCT - re: @evil 1:14 - LOL indeed

Bird

Sh*t

@evil 4:14

Looks like I picked the wrong night to stop getting high.

sanfranman59

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. 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 5:51, 6:10, 0.95, 25%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:35, 3:41, 0.97, 29%, Easy-Medium

MetaRex

Uncle. No mas. I concede.

My reasoning, such as it is:

MetaRex surrenders

Ellen S

Nobody except the syndicated people will see this but anyway, @Nigel, I think SST will be around for a while. @Davis asked when it would go the way of the dodo -- which has been extinct for about 350 years.

@Harrison -- I love your measurement system. HarrisonXYs sound much more useful than cubits.

@Retired_chemist. The excerpt in the link suggests Lincoln Steffens didn't take any science classes. I didn't read his books except one chapter of Boy on Horseback that was in some magazine when I was a kid, so I don't know if in the full Autobiography there is some science. But so what? I didn't know what SI UNITS are but I was able to easily get it from crosses and inference. I was a math major, did take a chemistry class or two in college before switching to history, but you know what? That SI system (it says in Wikipedia) was set up in 1960. Hmm, that's when I started college. I think it takes a little while for undergraduate classes to catch up to the Latest Thing in any discipline. But still, it was easier for me than characters from The Simpsons, or pretty much any rap artists. So I wouldn't expect non-science types or possibly even science types who haven't kept up to know what SI Units are. I would expect them not to complain any louder than I do at 1980s song titles.

mac

A little late:

MetaRex

A final thought on this one...

the Last Word in Salamis

rain forest

Good puzzle, and revealing. People who say "I'm a Humanities type, so I don't know SI Units", are no different from a "Science type" not knowing Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia. Kind of weird that people are so willing to box themselves in like that.

NM Robin
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NM Robin

knew SIUNITES but I was a Chemistry Major with Biology/Math minor. @webwinger: you said it best.

@davis: DODO is still used in crosswords. SST will probably be used just as long.

I did not know what SWAK meant until reading this Blog. That is why I come here.

Great puzzle. Finished in good time. I do not time myself but it went down fast and easy. Thank you Mr. Landman.

Spacecraft

Hand up for not knowing the revealer on this one; in fact the first I was a natick, but since I did manage to notice that all of the theme answers were two-word phrases that started with S and I, that one was't much of a problem.

A bit more of a problem was the SE--because my paper never printed the clue for 65d! One writeover: for some reason I wrote SECondIDENTITY at first. These hiccups were quickly resolved.

SEMI located directly below SEMINOLE...etc. seems close to some kind of infraction. Yellow hankie alert!

I agree with OFL about the long downs. Pretty spIFFY. An interesting solve, for a Monday.

Syndi Solver

I'm a bit saddened to hear that anyone would have hostility for an area outside one's own expertise. My husband and I both have engineering degrees, and we had careers in high tech, and yet we also love reading, theater, art museums and so on. There's no need to make any artificial divide.

Okay, on to the puzzle. Except for the center area I thought it was almost too easy but very cute! I know SI UNITS but it still took me a few seconds to parse the answer correctly. I was a bit unsure about the start of IGER and the end of GRIMALDI. But I enjoyed that little Aha! moment when it all made sense.

@Ellen S - what you said about starting college in 1960 (when SI UNITS were new) reminds me of my father. He has an EE degree but he laughs about only spending two weeks on transistors. They were still very new when he was in college in the mid-1950s.

centralscrewtinizer

Actually knew SI units, but was looking at 'semi', 'stat', 'sec', and 'split' and going wtf? Didn't see S-I in the answers because I was looking for units. Sometimes a hint is just a hint, or a whiff.

DMGrandma

The fun part of today's puzzle was all the comments! I came here for help solving the theme which I found inpenatrable. Didn't help that I thought the Disney guy was eGER. What I found was a fun lesson from @Pmdm in terms even I could understand. Thanks. I am one of those who sticks with fps because, having grow up with it, that's how I think. Additionally, like @Harrison, I tend to measure things by my height. How far to an object you are photographing? How many times could i lie down between here and there?

What really made my day was @Ellen's comments. We must have gone to the same college! I also was a math major in the days when all those strange "foreign" measurements were just that. Nobody ever taught them. Then, my required physics class used them!! I managed to survive but the experience did nothing to endear me to meters and grams and such. Her later post notes that the SI thingie originated in 1960. By then I was several years out of school, working as a mathematician. The SI system? No way. I was dumped into the emerging computer world and had to learn the languages and terms that went with it. Now I happily use computers others program in languages I can't begin to fathom. Tempest fugit!

Solving in Seattle

I'm red-faced to admit I had no knowledge of SI UNITS before this puzzle. So Intimidated. It was a natick for me, also not knowing who Disney Chief Bob Iger is. Simply Irked.

Saw (almost)Immediately the SI theme so when I got to the revealer I had S-UNITS and miss-parsed it thinking I was looking at S-UN ITS. OH! UNITS! Doh. Stuck in I and turned out right. Kind of tough for a Monday.

@Diri, osprey are back, beautiful as ever.

Ginger

Like many others had never heard of SI UNIT, then learned from this blog, that it was invented after I graduated. My first instinct was SqUNIT, thinking some kind of area, but what that did to qGER was, well, funny.

Back in the day, sealed many a letter with SWAK or tststsa; I'll leave you to figure that one out.

The comments about JenCT caused me to check Sunday's blog. Wow, this is such a special community. I'm sorry I didn't have the opportunity to donate, but will make up for it to OFL.

Dirigonzo

The snob's nose at 40d was inTheair before it was UPTURNED - fortunately the A student straightened that out quickly. I was positive that I had spotted something that would set the puzzle-police screaming when ID appeared in the clue at 9d and was followed by IDS in the grid at 34a, with an echo in secret IDentity at 48a. Not a puzzle felony probably,but maybe a misdemeanor?

@SIS - You've reminded me to see if the live web-cam on our local pair is active. The local paper yesterday had a striking photo of an osprey with a fish he had just caught.

Solving in Seattle

@ginger, if you want to see the osprey they're at the Hidden Valley park in Bellevue above the south ball field.

Anonymous

thanks for share.....

Anonymous

Don't get the paper on Mondays any more so I missed this puzzle, but went back to check the blog after reading the SALAMI SAGS link posted Saturday. And when I first looked at the grid, I assumed the clue for the center answer/reveal must ave been "Swimsuit Issues, eg., ...or a hint (etc.)."

I'm somewhat shocked that it wasn't, on a Monday.

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