the gemara says that the blocks were the shorter amah in length so that they did not exceed the area on the mizbe'ach in the mishkan - but if this was a square area, shouldn't the shorter amah have been used in length as well as width - the walkway around the pyre needed to be left free for the kohanim to walk in all directions?
moshe rubin, brooklyn, ny
(Please forgive the delay in response. Technical problems prevented the mailing of a number of responses.)
The shorter Amah indeed was used for width as well. The Gemara here states that the more generous Amah was used for the thickness of the block but the Gemara does not talk about what Amah was used for the width.
This can be seen also in the Rambam (Hilchos Isurei Mizbe'ach 7:3) who does not distinguish between the Amah used for the length and the Amah used for the width, while he indicates that the thickness is of a larger Amah.