Reason cow swatted herself / WED 3-21-18 / Many single-gear bike / NLer wearing blue orange / Not so intimidating sort of test

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Constructor: Laura Braunstein

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: animal verbs — verb phrases are clued as if they refer to groups of animals:

Theme answers:
  • DUCKS OUT OF VIEW (20A: Why the hunter couldn't shoot the mallards?)
  • FLIES IN THE FACE (25A: Reason a cow swatted herself?)
  • SEALS WITH A KISS (42A: Circus animal enjoying some chocolate?)
  • YAKS ON THE PHONE (47A: Whose conversation might be about shaggy hair and Himalayan peaks?)
Word of the Day: FIXIE (25D: Many a single-gear bike) —
noun
  1. a single-gear bicycle that has no freewheel, so that its wheels cannot move unless power is applied to the pedals. (wikipedia)
• • •

Hey, it's friend-of-the-blog Laura Braunstein. Laura has written for me a bunch, so, you know, full disclosure and all that, but ... this is very solid work. Felt much, much more like a Monday or Tuesday than a Wednesday, specifically in the non-theme fill, but most Monday / Tuesday grids aren't nearly this clean. The problem with early-week / easy grids that are dominated by 3-5-letter answers is that they usually top out at boring. Like, your goals is to keep the worst junk out, and hope your theme is strong enough to carry the day. But here, not only is the theme solid, but somehow the shorter fill is also occasionally interesting. Yes, you've got old standbys like ECRU and ALOU and OLE and AER and ALII, but also FIXIE and PI DAY, which gave the grid some 'zazz. Maybe fewer partial answers (like FIVE-O and AVIV and AVANT) would've been nice. But at worst, the short fill totally holds up, and at best it's playful and fun. The theme is basic but well done. My only frowny-face moment came at the clue for FLIES IN THE FACE (25A: Reason a cow swatted herself?), which is Not Like The Others in that it not only doesn't describe the animal in question at all, but actually refers to an entirely different animal (i.e. the cow). On its own, I like the clue fine, but it does not fit with the pattern established by the other clues, and the introduction of a different animal felt slightly cheap. *But* the puzzle was so easy that this didn't matter at all. If not for the wackiness of the theme, I would've finished this in a normal Monday time. Wackiness put it at a pretty quick Tuesday. I think this should've been a Tuesday, if only to help poor Tuesday out (still the least pleasant weekday puzzle).

[kind of a weird song to have background dancers for, but ... sure, just go with it!]

Weird / interesting / good (?) to see 'HOOD clued in a way that doesn't refer to "homeboys," "homeys" or "boyz" (2D: Home turf). It's still primarily black slang, or it was originally, but it's crossed over pretty well now. Plus, seeing NYT trying to signify blackness is always slightly cringey so ... just play it straight, that works. I wouldn't have used "home" in the clue since HOME is in the grid (TAKE-HOME), but no big deal. Speaking of TAKE-HOME, the clue on that one is the only thing I really don't like about this puzzle (38D: Not-so-intimidating sort of test). As a college professor, I am familiar (I think) with all the various test types. So I was looking for something "not-so-intimidating" and ... couldn't think of what that would be. TAKE OVER? (like a do-over?). TAKE-HOME exams are not "not-so-intimidating." I've had plenty of in-class exams that were very easy compared to TAKE-HOME exams, which can be *rough*, depending on the time limit and expectations. "Not-so-intimidating" is just wrong here. Nothing inherently unintimidating about the TAKE-HOME exam. In fact, the opposite is routinely true. Boo. But hey, nice recuperation of NERD there at 53D: Put-down that nowadays may be worn as a badge of honor. It's nice to see NERD change, over the course of my lifetime, into something people proudly proclaim themselves to be. It was not ... always so. Ask me about the good ol' days some time, children ...

Til tomorrow...

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

94 comments:

Hungry Mother 6:55 AM  

Quick and easy.

Anonymous 7:10 AM  

TILL or 'TIL

Birchbark 7:18 AM  

I'm guessing after the fact that LAILA is Muhammad Ali's daughter = "The Greatest." But Eric Clapton and King Lear were clunking around during the puzzle. Not knowing its neighbor FIXIE and all (some modern day cousin of innie or outie?), basically closed my eyes, stabbed at the keyboard, and got the "Congratulations!" music.

I like picturing YAKS ON THE PHONE. Akin to Dr. Seuss's three fish in a tree. "Fish in a tree? How can that be?" My vote for best missing themer.

ghthree 7:22 AM  

By coincidence,I ran into this post on another site just this morning. Go to the entry for March 18. It has nothing to do with this day's puzzle, but my wife and I found it very appropriate. One person's gimmee is another person's dnf.

http://comics.azcentral.com/slideshow?comic=lu&feature_id=lu

QuasiMojo 7:26 AM  

I'm a big fan of Laura's commentary here and her puzzle did not disappoint. Clever to have HARP next to HAMLET at his death scene. I liked the theme yet agree with Rex's remarks. It felt more like a Tuesday offering and the clueing was a tad too straightforward. I would have enjoyed more wordplay in how they were phrased. YAKS ON THE PHONE seems very apt these days as I see so many of them in cars driving through red lights. The automobile is an IDIOT BOX too come to think of it. REX, thanks for the hilarious video, as usual. I often have moments when watching YouTube videos that I recall having seen that episode live on TV. I think that is the case with this song. It seems preposterous that we all danced like that back in the day.

Anonymous 7:28 AM  

Good puzzle but bocce has alternative spelling of bocci, and disksets could work instead of desksets (although I kept wanting diskettes), so I think there was at least arguably an alternative solution to this puzzle.

Abby B. 7:35 AM  

Easy but fun for sure! (and as a college student, I got TAKE-HOME in a snap - maybe not for my English classes, but boy-oh-boy does that make a math test more palatable!)

Anonymous 7:36 AM  

Fill in the blanks simple. Would have better been as a challenging Monday.

chefbea 7:42 AM  

Fun easy puzzle!!!

'merican in Paris 7:52 AM  

Solved this one in under 40 minutes, which (for me) is quicker than average for a Wednesday. I liked the well-balanced theme, with one bird, one insect, one marine mammal and one land mammal. I'm not sure that DUCKS OUT OF VIEW as an expression is all that common, however.

Got stuck in the far north and north-east, on words that should not have BAFFLEd me (AHEAD and BAR). So figuring out that corner took up half of my time. Once I got those, I entered DESK pETS, so it was several more minutes before I saw SAX and SETS that right.

One nit: while I liked the idea behind "Who's doing this crossword", I would question "YOU" as an answer instead of, say "I AM".

Anybody else notice the subtle traffic sub-theme going on, with MERGE, AHEAD, EXITS, MILE, HOOD, and REST STOP.

First thought for 58-D ("___ Lingus") was not AER.

Thanks for an enjoyable puzzle, Ms. Braunstein!

mmorgan 8:14 AM  

Fun -- theme answers for me were more groany than wacky but still fresh and enjoyable. As a (retired) professor, I agree that take homes are no piece of cake, but I have a hunch that many students indeed assume they are somehow easier and therefore less intimidating.

Mohair Sam 8:22 AM  

Nice one Laura. Loved each and every themer - in fact, the one I loved most (FLIESINTHEFACE) was the one grumpy Rex complained about.

Agree that this should have been placed on a Tuesday (or last Wednesday - PI DAY). FIXIE new to us, and LINDT new to me (I got hollered at for not knowing that one). The ALOUs were gone for a while but back with a vengeance this week. Cut the cord a couple of months back so our IDIOT BOX is a tad smarter.

@Rex - I do believe the word NERD was freed by the delightful flick "Revenge of the Nerds" - or was that a documentary?

Anonymous 8:29 AM  

I remember our final test in university for Western Civ course. We could either do a research paper or take an exam in class. I thought he would be easier on the research paper but I didn't want to do all that work so I just took the test. Turns out that he graded the research papers just as hard or even harder than the in-test exam. I agree that "I am" is a better answer to who is doing the crossword since it sounds more like a question. I never heard of "fixie" either. Fun puzzle. Not dazzling but fun. Fill was unexciting and got more kudos from Rex than it should have.

Wm. C. 8:46 AM  


@Anon8:29 --

I too had the choice of a term paper or final exam in my last semester senior year's Economics class. There were only about ten students in the class, and all but me chose the term paper. So the professor had to construct a final exam and proctor it for me alone. I thought I did pretty well on it, but got a D. I'm convinced he was just P-O-ed at me and gave the grade without even reading it.

I too never hear of FIXIE. Struggled in the NE with KNEE and STOW with only the VI of the horizontal themer in VIEW. With REST in place I confidently put ROOM down until the obvious mule SAL disabused me of that notion.

Enjoyable Wednesday, about average time even with the slowdown in the NE. Nice job, Laura.


PIX 8:52 AM  

@41A concerning Hamlet’s last words, As per the Norton Shakespeare the folio but not Q2 has Hamlet ending with — after “the rest is silence”— “Oh,oh,oh, oh”. Controversial

GILL I. 9:03 AM  

What....No PIGS IN A BLANKET or BATS IN THE BELFRY ???
Cute enough Tuesday.
Agree with @Rex on the clue for FLIES IN THE FACE. Since I didn't know the FIXIE bike, I kept wondering what other name could you give a cow. I kept thinking Elsie.
Nice that each animal followed a preposition. I kept thinking of other animals that would have included an over or before. Pearls before Swines wouldn't work because the piggy is in the rear.
BAR is making its rounds. ODE is also. I miss OREO.
@Rex...Thanks for that link to SEALS WITH A KISS. The go-go dancers needed some thigh high white boots doing the Way Wahtusi or maybe the Mashed Potatoes or even the Hully Gully... all in a cage.
I hope Laura stops by and gives us some insight on her puzzle. Like maybe if the clues had been changed or even if she had planned this one for a Monday/Tuesday...

Nate 9:05 AM  

Good, solid crossword puzzle. Maybe a little on the easy side, but this is the sort of puzzle that I like to start my day with.

I also got tripped up with BOCCI/DISKSETS. I was going to complain that DISKSETS was a lame answer... before I realized my mistake. Whoops.

Some really good words and clues here. I liked all of the themers, which is a rarity. FIXIE, IDIOT BOX, BAFFLE, ENDOR, and FERMI are all great.

Three baseball clues! 'Tis the season... despite the snow on the ground.

I totally disagree with Rex on the TAKE HOME analysis. I think every student knows that take-home exams can and often are tougher than standard ones, but despite the difficulty of the take-home, I think they're much less anxiety-inducing. I recall in law school one of my professors once offered us a choice: either a standard three hour sit-down exam... or a murderously difficult take-home exam that you would have 24 hours to complete. The class unanimously chose the take-home exam. Working in the comfort of your own home is so much less intimidating than a couple hours of torture sitting around a bunch of your peers in an uncomfortably silent exam setting.

Anonymous 9:12 AM  

Surprised that the absence of “of” from themer #2 is getting a complete pass. Enjoyed the puzzle.

TomAz 9:12 AM  

This one felt extremely easy to me but my time was just slightly under Wednesday average. I guess working out the themers took more time than I thought.

Puzzle was fine. Very very clean as Rex noted. FIXIE is fresh fill -- this is a word I have only heard from my daughters (20s) or their friends.

I imagine I am not the only solver who, upon filling in 19A FIVE-O, had that guitar-and-brass theme riff playing in his head. Over and over and over and over.

Two Ponies 9:14 AM  

I suppose if Laura B. was a friend of mine this might have been fun.
Used to be a hard-core cyclist but never heard of a fixie. Perhaps that is because my bicycles were at the other end of the spectrum from a beach cruiser.
Why is ABC a "black-ish" network? I don't get it but it has been years since I watched any network so I'm not surprised.
Cows wish they could swat the flies off their faces but they can't. Their tails are too short to reach.

This was so boring. I wonder what the topic of the day will be.
Gee, maybe we can continue the riveting discussion of the proper way to pronounce sprinkler.

GILL I. 9:16 AM  

@Roo...Late yesterday. Irregardless is indeed a word. The OED and Merriam Webster will verify. It seems to have a stigma of some sort attached to it and scholars don't like it, but it's legitimate...

MBW W 9:18 AM  

Hey. Two Ponies, it’s the name of a TV show.

kitshef 9:19 AM  

Today’s punnery is as pleasing as yesterday’s was poor. Indeed, I liked almost everything about this except for meta at 34A, which was pointlessly cutesy.

Some day I’d like to see the skating jump turn out to be a walley. Just once.

Z 9:27 AM  

Four X’s and four K’s is what makes the fill seem fresher, none of them forced or roman. I do wonder if flipping this and our actual Monday would have been appropriate (with some toughening of the clues for the Weisenberg/Michaels puzzle).

@Anon9:12 - I wanted the “of,” too. But after pondering for a few seconds decided the ofless version past mustard*

@TomAZ & @Birchbark - FIXIE appeared in a puzzle once before. It BAFFLEd me then. I’ve never heard or seen it in the wild. I’ll have to pose it to my 20-something sons.














*har

kitshef 9:29 AM  

@'mericans - I did not notice the traffic theme, but saw the baseball one with ALOU, NYMET, SAX, FLIES, GIANTS, TAKE HOME.

Andrew Heinegg 9:38 AM  

As a world class procrastinator, I too would have been inclined to take the exam over doing the term paper, BUT! Mr. C. When you see the wind blowing that hard in the opposite direction, you have to turn around. Stubbornness must run as strongly in your family as it does in mine.

Anonymous 9:42 AM  

Easy (well under average, only a minute off of record pace), but parts of it felt like a slog.

Wanted lawn darts (not BOCCE) at 14A, wanted unitE (not MERGE) at 61A. FIXIE well out of my wheelhouse. Saw something about a cow at 25A and before I had the first half wanted ...FArm, not FACE, but had had Neanderthals going to rAVES (which is itself a fascinating concept).

Again, pleased with the time but expected it to be worse.

Nancy 9:44 AM  

Oh, is this puzzle ADORBS! So much fun! Everything wordplay should be. Because you're taking a phrase that's in the language and in doing an entirely literal interpretation, you're putting a spin on it that somehow no one has ever thought of. YAKS ON THE PHONE, indeed! What a wonderful image that is! What I most liked about this is that crosses were necessary for all the theme answers; none of them popped into mind with an "oh, yeah, OK, sure" as so often happens with bad pun puzzles that are too obvious.

I never heard of a FIXIE. Even if I were a bike rider, heaven forfend, I wouldn't want to ride anything called a FIXIE.

A word about NERD (53D). The clue would have baffled me completely had I not had a discussion on this very subject with someone on this blog maybe two years ago. She referred to herself as a NERD and allowed that she thought I might be one, too. I sputtered, fighting the impulse to tell her: "Them's fighting words!!!" I said, as calmly as I was able: "I am not a NERD. I'm a tennis player, for heaven's sake!" Surprised by my vehemence, she said: "But that's a compliment." I said: "It's not a compliment. I have never known the word NERD to be anything but a put-down." I have no idea when it became "a badge of honor", but never in my own life's experience have I ever known it to be one. Is it a generational thing? A regional thing? I'd be interested in all views on the matter for anyone who wants to chime in.

PaBear 9:46 AM  

Too easy. Should have been a Monday. To me, the best part(s) were all the words ending in "i".

mathgent 9:56 AM  

Take-home exams have rules. No getting help from anither person, of course. But also time limit versus no time limit, using reference material or not, perhaps others. They all assume the honesty of the test taker. In a course with a competitive aspect, I oppose take-homes.

Didn't care for the puzzle very much. The theme isn't smooth and I found only two clues to be engaging."His last words were 'The rest is silence,' " and "Appropriate rhyme for 'cram.' "

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:08 AM  

I remember taking a TAKEHOME exam freshman year, with people in an adjacent room. When I finished the people informed me that I had sang or hummed or grunted or swore at it the whole way through. I had not even been aware of doing it. Obviously I did nt do that when I took exams in class. I think the noise-making was probably a good anxiety valve.

What's a KNEEhole?

Two Ponies 10:16 AM  

@ Nancy, It seems common now to substitute nerd for something akin to expert. I don't mind calling myself a word nerd.

@ MBW W, Thanks, never heard of it.

Just yesterday I was reading that Neanderthals may not have lived in caves but only used them for other purposes. Cave art is particularly interesting to me. So @ Nancy I might be a cave painting nerd.

Re: take home exams, the clue probably goes on the assumption that an exam would be easier if you could use your text books. Maybe more accurate on high school rather than college exams.

GHarris 10:24 AM  

My only brief hang up was around fixie. Because I had never heard the word before (even autocorrect changed it here to Dixie) and because I was thinking crown inlay in a dental sense and ,thus, wanted gold instead of gems and omit for exits, it me longer to finish than it should have.

Banana Diaquiri 10:29 AM  

a FIXIE lacks an over-running clutch. you'll not likely see one on the street. they're used in velodrome racing.

Jesse 10:34 AM  

@Two Ponies - "Black-ish" is the name of a sitcom that currently airs on ABC.

David Balaban 10:34 AM  

Was having ducky time with this puzzle until someone "fixeed" it.

RJ 10:40 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle. Particular aha moments included taking out ERS and filling in BARS after remembering I've seen tweets of Laura solving at the neighborhood pub. IDIOTBOX is from my childhood and liked seeing PIDAY. I got bogged down in the southeast corner even having PHONE, ENDOR, and EGGO. Still was done in under 10 which is fast for me on a Wednesday.

As a teeneger in the 70s I spent lots of time YAKKINGONTHEPHONE. Girls in high school did this, especially those of us lucky enough to have a pink princess phone extention in our bedrooms.

Dont know what a FIXIE is but will soon. Thanks Laura

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

And very aggressive bike messengers.

cwf 10:44 AM  

FIXIEs (for "fixed gear", natch) became something of a fad here in NYC starting maybe a decade ago. The nuttier adherents would just take brakeless velodrome bikes out on the streets, coasting down the bridges with their feet on the drop bar and their pedals spinning wildly, braking by alternately skidding their rear wheels right and left. Not a fan.

Laura had a nice collaboration with erik agard a couple weeks ago. This one, though, I thought was too easy for a Wednesday.

Anonymous 10:45 AM  

@ greater fall etc: a knee hole is the area under a desk between two sets of drawers where your knees go when you pull your chair up to sit at the desk. and, sing, sang, sung.

i thought it was a monday, misplaced.

zippy

Aketi 10:46 AM  

@Nancy, I think it’s a generational thing. I’m pretty sure my son considered himself to be a NERD, albeit a highly social one.

Tom 10:51 AM  

Hey ‘merican @7:52. Were you thinking of “cunning linguist” for 58d? Me too! Isn’t that the talent it takes to create a good xword? Finished this one in less than half my average, but enjoyed it. Over too soon.

Whatsername 10:52 AM  

I thought this was great fun and while pretty easy, still perfectly fine for a Wednesday. It made me smile instead of cringe which is a nice change from some recent days. Well done Ms. Braunstein!

jb129 10:52 AM  

Easy, fun & over too soon!

burtonkd 10:55 AM  

The complaint about the flies and cows is my least favorite kind of complaint - Notice something specific about the themers, i.e. refers to the animal used as a verb, then complain that one of them doesn’t meet this criteria that is not the criteria of the theme - animals used as verbs.

FIXIE is totally a thing, short for “fixed gear”, as opposed to free-wheel - popular among hardcore messengers in NYC. Originally used for track racing in velodromes as someone mentioned. It is a very disconcerting feel not to have the freewheel. Think about going fast on a kids tricycle where the pedals spin with the wheel no matter what. Some don’t have any brakes and some just on the front for nerds:) who don’t fully trust “back-pedaling”. It is really cool to see fixie riders do a track stand where they rock fore and aft and don’t put their feet down at red lights (when they stop for them).

For anyone wanting further research, PREMIUM RUSH is a fun movie that goes deep into the culture:

For bike messenger Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), dodging speeding cars, evading crazy cabdrivers, and blowing by millions of cranky pedestrians is all in a day's work. Wilee is one of the best in a dangerous job, and his bike of choice is a Fixie, a lightweight, single-gear unit without brakes. Though Wilee knows that one day he may end up as a smear on the pavement -- he is unprepared for what happens after his last run of the day turns into a life-or-death chase through Manhattan.

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

@humblebrag2ponies. a fixie is just a track bike.

we have cows with tails long enough to swat the flies on their faces. www.nuclearfalloutdairy.com

hoping tomorrow's puzzle is harder.

R. Adioactive

Joseph Michael 11:01 AM  

Good one, Laura. Fun theme with some nice bonuses like PI DAY and IDIOT BOX.

Enjoyed being reminded of HAMLET's last words. Never heard of a FIXIE but it was easy to get from the crosses. Amusing to see OFIVE under FIVEO.

Fantasies about carnivoran mammals - BEARS IN MIND

Invasion of short-legged omnivores - BADGERS CONSTANTLY

Charles Flaster 11:02 AM  

Liked this one but thought it was well placed as a Wednesday.
Only write over was EXITS for omITS.
Being called a NERD implies the caller is jealous to the nth.
Thanksgivings LB

Hungry Mother 11:04 AM  

I’m a mathematics and computer nerd (or geek or dweeb). I tried most of my life to be one of the cool kids, but still a straight A student with interests in mathematics and science. I wanted the outside world to mostly notice my taste in clothing and prowess in sports. It took me a long while to realize that knowing stuff and being able to solve problems are the most cool things. Maybe even a chick magnet?

Roo Monster 11:18 AM  

Hey All !
Cool phrase-as-actual-thing puz. Interesting grid positions, as all four are 14's. Puz doesn't suffer from dreck, and any puz with IDIOT BOX and EGGO can't be BAD. :-)

@Gill I
Enjoyed your two extra themers. PIGS IN A BLANKET - Swine's bundles up from the cold? Har. Also, the case of that word is irregardless. :-)

Once I got PIDAY, I too thought it should've been run last week! Didn't we have a PI DAY related puz then? The ole brain can't remember.

When I saw 22D clue, I immediately thought Hawaii! Duh! Good stuff. Had my one letter DNF at FImIE/EmITS. Dang. Couple of other writeovers, lyRe-HARP, meek-nIce-KIND. Nice to see our old friend ECRU again. ALI_, wait on crosses. HOOD maybe can be clued as Head covering?

YOU IMP
RooMonster
DarrinV

Roo Monster 11:29 AM  

Just looked it up, last week's puz was the mixed up MARINARA ingredients. No PI! (Could have been mixed up pie ingredients... :-))

Roo

JC66 11:32 AM  

We had the same discussion on 2/20/2016 re: FIXIE.. It's surprising so many regulars don't remember.

Charles Flaster 11:32 AM  

Thanks LB

Kimberly 11:33 AM  

Not bad, pretty easy. FLIES IN THE FACE rankled a bit not because it related directly to the situation rather than being punny, but because it’s the only themer that isn’t a stand alone-phrase. FLIES IN THE FACE is always followed by “of.....(something.” It felt awkward and was one of those “one of these things doesn’t belong here.”

I agree it was misplaced on a Wednesday, but it was a nice and rational puzzle.

mathgent 11:46 AM  

@Hungry Mother (11:04): I guess that we all wanted to be one of the cool kids when we were in high school. Being good in mathematics certainly didn't help. Like you, I tried to dress like the cool kids. Most of the cool kids were good athletes so I spent hours playing basketball.
Plus it was fun. Doing mathematics wasn't fun. I didn't enjoy mathematics until I discovered number theory as a graduate student.

Kath320 12:10 PM  

I've never played bocce ball on grass (lawn), nor have I ever seen such a bocce ball court. It's always crushed oyster shells, sand, or some similar crumbly mix.

Shza 12:25 PM  

Finished this one faster than yesterday’s, which I finished faster than Monday’s. Not sure how much of that is my particular wavelength versus these puzzles truly appearing in total reverse-difficulty order this week. This one seemed truly easy though - 7:50 for me, which is 10 seconds off my Wednesday low. Monday, on the other hand, was a disaster — almost 100% slower than my average.

cwf 12:30 PM  

@JC66. color me abashed.

puzzlehoarder 12:30 PM  

FIXIE may technically be a debut but I just looked up that 2/20/16 puzzle and it did appear as FIXIEBIKE. Either way the term is familiar to me thanks to living in Chicago and being somewhat familiar with bikes. Personally I can't think of any reason for them to be an advantage. Being able to coast is the best part of cycling.

LALIA is a bit of crosswordese I could use a little more familiarity with. Other than that just another Wednesday.

jberg 12:31 PM  

Fun puns, fun puzzle -- I thought the outlier was YAKS ON THE PHONE, which should have been clued as yaks actually being ON the phone -- e.g., what leaves hoofprints and long hairs on the dial? But close enough.

For some reason I thought the witch of ENDOR was in Hamlet (nope, the Bible) and wondered why it was clued with Ewoks, but OK. Anyway, if you are ever in the DC area -- the Synetic Theater in Arlington VA did a famous production called "Hamlet: The Rest is Silence" in which there was no spoken dialogue.; They've gone on to do many other Shakespeare and other plays the same way -- much, much better than you would think it could be. I stumbled upon them while walking through the Crystal City underground mall, and now look them up whenever I'm in DC.

A few years ago my son was debating whether to get a FIXIE. He called it a 'track bike,' but once you know the concept the term is easy to imagine. He's in his 40s, by the way, so they've been around for some time.

Once SAL (15 miles on the Erie Canal!) had corrected area to STOP, I confidently put in MOI as the puzzle-doer. I figured maybe there was some expansion team named the emmys or ommys -- but that made it tough to get FLIES IN THE FACE. But it did give me Maui before OAHU.

Two Ponies 12:32 PM  

@ R. Adioactive 10:57, I guess my lack of awareness of fixie is because my bike routes were very long and required lots of gears.

As for long-tailed cows from a nuclear fallout dairy? I'm afraid to ask.

Yaks on the phone sure sounds like a Far Side cartoon.

Three and out.

Masked and Anonymous 12:38 PM  

Primo theme idea, Laura Sorceress.
One for Laura, since she didn't have a NYTPuz to solve today ...

{Looks at some wild pitches over the church's roof??} = ? *

Especially enjoyed the DUCKS and the FIXIE. Does Fisher-Price make a fixie? … Then FISH OR PRICE FIXIE coulda been a themer contender! Too desperate? … yeah … kinda thought so.

Also admired Beam Me Up SCOTTY. If it was James T. Kirk givin an order just for hisself, he coulda worded it as … "Jim Beam me up, SCOTTY!"

Had very little ado during the solvequest. This unfortunately often indicates a lack of luvly gridfill desperation. Did appreciate the timeout for weeject stacks, in the N and S central areas, tho. Lil darlins. staff weeject picks: ILE & OLE. Better clue for both: {Off types of ale??}.

Many thanx again for the fun, Laura darlin.
[Sealed with a duck,]
Masked & Anonymo3Us

* Answer: BATSINTHEBELFRY.

a little somethin more for Laura to solve:
**gruntz**

Mohair Sam 12:53 PM  

The reason so many of you can't picture a cow swatting flies with its tail is that a lot of dairy farmers have had their cows' tails "docked" for sanitary reasons. Anyone who, like I, has stepped in a cow pat will understand - and people who have hand milked tell stories of shit filled tails smacking them in the kisser if they're not alert.

Anonymous 12:58 PM  

My NERD son rides a FIXIE so that was easy for me.

John Hoffman 1:09 PM  

I knew LAILA Ali because she was recently a participant on the television show Dancing with the Stars. She did very well!

Z 1:14 PM  

@JC66 - Has it really been over two years since FIXIE BIKE? I’m surprised it stuck enough not to cause me problems today. I wonder if I’ve also run into it in some other puzzle.

@cwf - I looked at your 2016 comment. Your opinion of FIXIEs hasn’t changed.

@Mohair Sam - I’d scream “breakfast test” except it’s after lunch here, so I’ll just say, “TMI.”

Ms. Goldberg 1:14 PM  

I agree with the comment on "Who's doing this crossword" because "you" is patently wrong unless the crossword itself is answering the question. Also, I challenge anyone to find a cow who can swat flies that are in her face! More likely it's "flies on her ass".

Paul 1:22 PM  

Talking about take home tests. I had a graduate level class in which the professor gave the final on the first day of class. It had four math proofs. One imstruction - When we were able answer to answer we would know what everything that was to be taught in that course.

We needed the entire semester.

William Coddington 1:38 PM  

As a formerly avid, sometimes rabid cyclist, I take exception with your comparison of a “fixie” (called a fixed-gear in these parts) to a beach cruiser. Only the baddest of bad-asses pedal a fixie as you must keep churning at all times, even downhill. I was once coasting rapidly downhill on my mtb and a fixie rider passed me, pedaling furiously to keep up with his wheel’s rpms. I genuflected before him at the next stop.

FrankStein 1:57 PM  

I thought the “you” doing the puzzle was Laura. She’s the one who did it.

'merican in Paris 2:13 PM  

@Tom: You're a mind reader!

Here's another idea:

WEASEL OUT OF IT -- Small mammal avoids reassignment to the computer geeks?

A Big, Strong Tupper 2:34 PM  

Not to RAM THE POINT HOME too strongly Mr. 'Merican, but the weasel would have to be reassigned out of the IT department for your clue to work.

Stephen Minehart 2:46 PM  

I am a Gen-Xer, so not that young anymore, but in my generation, nerdiness was definitely regarded as badge of honor, at least by nerds themselves. I am proud of my nerd-hood, and doing my best to raise nerdlings. Maybe, just maybe, even in high school, we now have a critical mass of society that realize intellectual accomplishments are more substantive than athletic ones.

GILL I. 3:06 PM  

ANTS IN YOUR PANTS >=...Social insects taking up residence in your trousers.
SNAKES IN THE GRASS>=...Cold blooded reptile frolicking in sod.
BATS IN THE BELFRY>=...Hits a ball in the church steeple.

Not easy...but fun!

Cunning Linguist 3:10 PM  

I thought a FIXIE was a dude who had his vas deferens snipped.

Carola 3:24 PM  

I loved this puzzle. After getting the idea with DUCKS..., I couldn't wait to see what would come next. Each was a delightful surprise, with the YAKS indeed being the pièce de résistance - a priceless image. And I thought the construction was ingenious - 4-word phrases, each following the same pattern and rhythm and fitting the crossword symmetry requirements. And I noticed there were no other entries using prepositions (like a possible BARKS at). Plus grid treats like BILOXI over IDIOT BOX.... Great job, Laura - such fun, such a lot to admire.

semioticus (shelbyl) 4:20 PM  

Neither the theme nor the fill (mostly) was Wednesday material. Now, that's not the constructor's fault, so judging her for that would not be fair. That being said, I cannot help but feel a little let down. This is the most torn I feel when I'm grading crosswords: not that anyone cares, but I have that uneasy feeling and it is what it is.

But the positives: X's definitely helped this puzzle. When you're filled with long-time Crosswordistan residents like ALOU ALII AVIV AER you need to have some reward in return, and stuff like IDIOTBOX definitely checked that box. Also, the theme was not exciting at all, but it was a theme alright. Oh, and thanks for Put-down that nowadays may be worn as a badge of honor.

Nonetheless, this is still an average puzzle. There's not much to dislike about it, but not much to be delighted by either.

GRADE: C+, 2.85 stars.

Joe Dipinto 5:46 PM  

Eh. I agree with what OFL said about FLIES IN THE FACE, besides which it requires a prepositional phrase to complete it, whereas none of the other themers does. Also, one Hershey Kiss won't go far with multiple seals. And ECRU is a wedding dress shade?

It's always nice to get to the very last answer and discover that it's a Star Wars clue. <sarcasm

sanfranman59 5:56 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 1/2/2018 post for an explanation of my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio & percentage, the higher my solve time was relative to my norm for that day of the week. Your results may vary.

(Day, Solve time, 26-wk Median, Ratio, %, Rating)

Mon 4:42 4:14 1.11 79.7% Medium-Challenging
Tue 5:27 5:22 1.01 55.4% Medium
Wed 5:14 6:00 0.87 27.7% Easy-Medium

We had a marinara sauce theme last Wednesday. I wonder why Will didn't choose to run this puzzle last week on Pi Day? FIXIE's not in my lexicon, but it was easy to get from crosses. My solve time would slot this puzzle as a Medium Tuesday. No complaints here, but I can't help but think that with all the shortcomings Rex raised in his review, he'd have been a lot harder on other constructors.

Joe Dipinto 6:13 PM  

@A Big Strong Tupper 2:34 -- and that is precisely the point of 'Merican's clue. Duh?

BIG JAKE 6:42 PM  

Fixies? Those are for hipsters too dumb to shift gears let alone own a motor vehicle.

A Big, Strong Tupper 7:19 PM  

@Joe Dipinto "Weasel out of IT" implies the weasel was in, and got out of, IT where as the clue says avoids getting assigned to IT. I suppose there's a way to lawyer the two to agree, but the straightforward reading as a conflict between the two. And, honestly, it was just an excuse to use RAM THE POINT HOME in a post.

So, feel free to retract your "Duh?". 'Cause, you know, accuracy and context.

Joe Dipinto 7:46 PM  

@ABST -- on my device, 'Merican's clue says "...avoids REassignment..." Maybe we are in parallel universes where the second tone of the musical scale sometimes disappears. RAM THE POINT HOME is good though. :-)

JB 9:22 PM  

Not a professor: https://www.binghamton.edu/english/faculty/profile.html?id=msharp

Z 10:31 PM  

@JB - “Lecturer” is one of those terms some places use to distinguish between tenure track positions and non-tenure track positions. Since Rex has been a “lecturer” at SUNY-Binghamton since 1999, this distinction is more a black mark on the University than on Rex. Unfortunately, there is very little incentive for SUNY to do the right thing by their “lecturers.” SUNY gets a Doctor of Medieval Literature with maximum flexibility for the institution and probably for comparable $ as they’d have to pay an inexperienced prof out of grad school hired into a tenure track position. I’ve sometimes wondered why Rex stays. I would think his eclectic blend would be desired at many good or even elite liberal art schools. Plus, nothing makes your current employer appreciate you quite as much as a job offer from elsewhere.

Lillian Cole 9:58 AM  

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spacecraft 12:05 PM  

Solid work????? XED??? And DUCKSOUTOFVIEW a "familiar phrase?" Wow, friend of the court indeed. It's good to have an in with the blogmaster. I thought the theme was okay, and some of the longer fill zippy; but if I have to pay for IDIOTBOX with XED...no. I'll wait till it goes on sale. Tons of BAD crosswordese, including ALII, and you want to call this solid work? Pass.

No contest for DOD: LAILA Ali. Without the extra I. Bogey.

rainforest 2:26 PM  

An easy romp today with a decent theme even if a cow might have difficulty swatting FLIES IN THE FACE.

"Hides the pecans". Squirrels away the nuts. No?

I rode a FIXIE once when I was about 11. I found it scary, with pedals that continuously rotate and no brakes. Made for interesting moves at intersections. Not for me.

I think ENDOR is in Macbeth, the bible and Star Wars. Pretty good for a fictitious place.

I had a straightforward solve except for briefly thinking "dental" for the crown inlay.

leftcoastTAM 2:40 PM  

Checked to see if my problem with the sense of one of the themers was the same as Rex's. It wasn't.

My pick was YAKS ON THE PHONE, while Rex's was FLIES IN THE FACE.

I can imagine FLIES IN THE FACE of a cow that turns its head to flick its tail at them. That completed action makes sense. So do the DUCKS flying OUT OF VIEW, and someone SEALing a love letter, say, WITH A KISS.

Can you imagine those shaggy haired YAKS sitting up there on top (not to speak of a peak) of a PHONE? Not I. Makes no sense as do the others.

No question that a lot of crosswordese helped glue this puzzle together.

rondo 3:11 PM  

A bit on the unremarkable side IMHO. Cows swat with their tails, so if a cow had FLIESINTHEFACE, that’s one damn long tail. Too bad this puz originally ran a week after PIDAY.

There is a small eatery in the HAMLET of Grand Marais, MN on the north shore of Lake Superior called Sven and OLE’s. On this morning’s commute I saw two bumper stickers in the unmistakable Swedish blue and yellow for Sven and OLE’s. Go there for the pizza, OLE recommends it.

Nail on the head for yeah baby LAILA Ali.

Something less exciting than today’s puz? Picking LINDT from you navel. Something more exciting? LINDT from LAILA’s navel.

Diana,LIW 3:30 PM  

Like @Rainy, my crown was dental, as I got several of them last year, if you remember, I remember. 28 of them.

But I have the other kinda crown, too.

This puzzle was fine fun for a Wednesday. Loved picturing all the animals - even on the phone. Beats cows watching the BoobTube.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Burma Shave 4:32 PM  

BAR EXAM

LAILA DUCKSOUTOFVIEW feeling germy,
what FLIESINTHEFACE makes her squirmy,
some KIND AHEAD from that miss
that she SEALSWITHAKISS
on her KNEEs will TAKEHOME AXEL’S FERMI.

--- ELIOT LINDT, CEO

leftcoastTAM 6:34 PM  

@Burma Shave--Hard to see how you get past the censors, but no question about your wicked cleverness.

strayling 6:56 PM  

I read TAKE HOME as referring to medical tests.

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