Foreign relief org created by JFK / WED 5-28-14 / Kingly name in Norway / Aladdin's monkey pal / Singers Green Jardine

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Constructor: Tim Croce

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: animal similes —

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: LESLEY Gore (27A: Gore who sang "It's My Party," 1963) —
Lesley Gore (born Lesley Sue Goldstein, May 2, 1946) is an American singer. At the age of 16, in 1963, she recorded the pop hit "It's My Party". // Gore was born in New York City. She was raised in Tenafly, New Jersey, in a Jewish family. Her father, Leo Gore, was a wealthy manufacturer of children's clothes and swimwear.
Lesley was a junior at the Dwight School for Girls in nearby Englewood when "It's My Party" became a #1 hit. It was later nominated for a Grammy Award for rock and roll recording. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. (wikipedia)

• • •

Another puzzle with impressive theme density. This one's stronger than yesterday's, but still wobbles a bit in couple theme answers, and still has that spotty fill that theme-dense puzzles often seem to have. I thought I would sail through this in record time once I saw the theme was just animal comparison idioms, but then a couple things happened. First, when I got to 49A: Quite cunning, I had no idea it was a theme answer (I'd already encountered two Downs and could see another Down in the center, so the Across took me by surprise). Thus, I never considered the now-obvious fox answer, and so that corner was a tad (tod?) harder than it would've been otherwise. But the big slow down, for me, was the central themer—an idiom I have never heard. I did not even know a "coot" was an animal (a bird, for my fellow ignorant folk). None. Zero. I know coots as codgers. Foolish old men. Perhaps this meaning was only ever an extension of the baldness of the damned bird-coot, but that original, avian coot-ness is something I did not know existed. Jarring to go from such ultra-familiar expressions as SICK AS A DOG and BLIND AS A BAT to BALD AS A COOT. I had BALD AS A COO- and honestly didn't know what letter went there. "Are coons bald?" I wondered, knowing the answer.

I see that the coot idiom is a real thing, though the fact that it's not Nearly in-the-language as most of the others is, as I say, jarring. Worse for me, though, was FAT AS A COW. I can imagine someone's being called a "fat cow," but FAT AS A COW could just as easily have been FAT AS A PIG, FAT AS A HOG, or FAT AS A WHALE (which googles better than all the others I just mentioned combined). BIG AS A WHALE has significantly less currency than FAT AS A WHALE, though I have no problem with BIG AS A WHALE because of the special B-52s dispensation.

TRASH CAN before BIN. DECAMPS before ENCAMPS for some reason. No idea Monet painted anything with SNOW in the title (13D: Monet's "___ Scene at Argenteuil"). Barely heard of an OSAGE orange. I think that's it for hiccups. Overall a decent puzzle, but kind of like a balance beam routine with several significant wobbles and a not-totally-stuck landing.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    jae 12:12 AM  

    Easy-medium for me.  Delightful!  Pig before COW was my only erasure.  Not sure @Rex if I've heard BALD AS A COOT before but Google seems to like it.

    Really liked the theme which makes up for some to the not so fine 3s.

    LESLEY immediately followed up that hit with "It's Judy's Turn to Cry".  That song and "My Boyfriend's Back" by The Angels were the songs of the summer in '63 back when it was all Rock and Roll.

    Zeke 12:21 AM  

    Actually, cows are rarely fat. Bulls & steer, yes but cows no. Cows have only one of two jobs - to make calves or milk, neither of which are conducive to getting fat. Further, it takes quite a bit of grain to fatten cattle, and it's just not necessary for a cow.

    gifcan 12:31 AM  

    My times bounce all over the place on Wednesdays, I haven't really established an average yet.

    This puzzle played easy for me though I'm probably the only one who has never heard of PSY though has heard of Gangnam Style (42D). I got it from the crosses but that was my difficult spot.

    BASS ALE anyone? YES, LETS.

    RnRGhost57 12:32 AM  

    Some of these may be regionalisms. "Fat as a cow" was pretty common in southwestern Ohio when growing up there in the 1960s-70s.

    @Rex, thanks for the Bats video, a band that deserves much more than its three-decade cult status.

    Clark 12:43 AM  

    BALD AS A COOT was familiar to me. The coot looks sort of like a duck but the proportions are wrong. When they dive, unlike a diving duck that just tips forward and down, the coot does a little jump up and then down. Here's a very short video of the characteristic coot dive.

    Moly Shu 12:51 AM  

    Put me in the "heard of BALDASACOOT" column. Might be a southern expression. hog before COW, didn't consider pig, @Jae. Same idea though. Of course, hop in my Chrysler, it's as BIGASAWHALE. Terrible song, great lyric.

    Really liked the theme, there were a lot of them and they helped with the solve.

    I was reading yesterday's posts at work, sitting by myself in the cafeteria when I happened upon @Evil and his abject boredom comment. I laughed out loud and got a few looks of "what a dunbass" from coworkers. Then I got to @MohairSam's post about finding crossword tips on WebMD, and spit my soda all over the table. Thanks guys, for confirming in all my coworkers minds, that I'm a nut job.

    Moly Shu 12:54 AM  

    "Dumbass" of course. Just more confirmation.

    Steve J 12:58 AM  

    Very similar solving experience to Rex for me, down to briefly wondering if COOns were BALD, then remembering there is such a thing as a COOT. I've never heard BALD AS A COOT before that I can recall, and I had FAT AS A hOg rather than a COW (also new to me).

    I filled in the NW nearly instantly, where I had forced-plural ADOS and ugly ENUF staring at me. I thought I was in for a lot of unpleasant, eye-rolling fill. Thankfully, things got a lot better than that and was balanced out by a strong theme. I'm not ordinarily impressed by theme density - on its own, it means nothing, and it frequently results in too much ADOS and ENUF to make it worth the extra theme fill - but it worked today. Even with the odd (to me) couple examples, the theme answers were all good. Plus there was some nice stuff like MOTIF, BASS ALE and the LOCAL PUB.

    Very quick Wednesday for me, finishing like a slightly long Tuesday. But definitely enjoyable.

    Benko 1:19 AM  

    Coots live all over the Amsterdam canals. I use to feed them my leftover bread, and I called them all "Fred".

    JTHurst 1:35 AM  

    Similar problems' for me: 'Fat as a hog' then changed to sow then realized Eris Holder is not right. Had 'big as a house' which impeded the solution until i spelled Psy's name right and the whale appeared. Wanted 'Peace' corps for JFK's foreign relief org. Misspelled Lesley's name as Leslie giving me a batter's asset as 'eee'.

    It's not easy to use so many apostrophe's but I tried.

    TomAz 1:44 AM  

    Record Wednesday time for me. Felt like a Monday. All the similes just came to me. Paused for ~1 sec on COOT, but then got it. Just luck I guess, I bet Rex was still 2 mins faster.

    Jisvan 2:01 AM  

    This was almost Monday easy for me, which is rare, even on Mondays! Only blip was BIG AS A horsE, but when I reluctantly took it out, WHALE appeared instantly and I have to admit, that is orders of magnitude larger. Me, too, for thinking of COOT as an old man, or maybe someone who is the source for COOTies! (We all knew it was boys, in the first grade, ergo, YADAYADAYADA.
    Writing this on the first day of my epic vacation, in the middle of the Mohave, at a Motel 6 where we paid 2.99 for wifi so I could read this blog! It was 102 degrees at 9 pm when we checked in. It's a long way from my foggy beach, but just the first step of a much much longer journey.
    To be continued, if I have connectivity...

    John Child 2:06 AM  

    Fun puzzle here. The number of theme answers is impressive, and there wasn't much junk to groan at. Brief trouble in two corners because OSAGE was hard to conjur up and FAT AS A hOg was hard to let go of. Just about exactly a normal Wednesday time for me.

    Unknown 2:29 AM  

    Tuesday easy here. Does FATASACOW pass the breakfast test? If so, then please pass the sausage and pancakes.

    scAlES before PLATES. TRASHcaN before TRASHBIN. ilL before AIL. COOT came fairly quickly, but with some irritation of non recognition. BASSALE was the last to fall as I kept wanting Bodington's, somehow.

    Comments on the plural of MS: MSS? Not pretty, but MSes rarely are.

    Oscar 2:42 AM  

    Theme interlock is much more impressive when every answer doesn't have the same 3 letters in the middle. Ugly black squares, too, and this guy loves OHSAY much more than he should (3 of the 8 uses at xwordinfo are his).

    chefwen 2:44 AM  

    Pretty easy for me too. Wanted BIG AS A house and BALD AS An eagle. Obviously, those were not going to work as hard as tried to squish them in. Finally had to rethink and the rest fell into place rather easily. Probably the fastest I have ever completed a Wednesday puzzle.

    Biggest ? was COGNITO, crosses filled it in.

    I LOVE a Nicoise Salade.

    George Barany 3:00 AM  

    What a delight to see the byline of new cyberfriend Tim Croce grace today's New York Times puzzle, for the 29th time in just a little over 4 years. Fabulous theme density, and who among us can claim that not a single one of the "X as a Y" comparisons has never applied at least at some points in our lives!

    Given that the majority of Tim's published puzzles have been themeless ones appearing later in the week, today's (Wednesday) puzzle showcases his creativity and versatility. Less than two months ago, something truly extraordinary occurred in the world of sports, and Tim was kind enough to respond to my invitation with Ladies and Gentlemen ..., a wonderful 17x17 tribute that some of you may enjoy if you would like further evidence of Tim's ability to fill a grid with interesting theme material.

    And as long as I am touting the work of new cyberfriends, allow me to also share with you Plastic Surgery, a Sunday-sized punfest by Todd Gross. Hope you like that one too!

    chefwen 3:35 AM  

    @Moly Shu - You need to hang onto Dunbass, it's a keeper. I went out for a few cocktails with some co-workers many moons ago. The bosses kid was not a good drinker and after a couple of beers he announced that he had to go home because his Nips were Lum. Still laughing about that 30 years later.

    Anonymous 4:04 AM  

    This seemed easy for a Wednesday. My only hiccup was having house instead of whale. No problem with coot, osage or psy.

    Danp 5:42 AM  

    I had to look up "bald as a coot" as a coot doesn't look bald to me in the least. Turns out that the "bald" refers to the white spots on its head. It has nothing to do with lack of hair. It's just an old version of piebald. So I guess people who use this expression aren't really as smart as a whip after all.

    Loren Muse Smith 5:54 AM  

    No real problems here other than looking at the grid, seeing Tim's name, convincing myself that we had some grid art – two EYEs, I thought – and solving with that in mind. Didn’t help that two of my very early entries were EYE and BLIND AS A BAT. When other themers fell, I started picturing

    0 : 0 (as in blank is to blank. . .)

    or something like that, convinced I was the only one not seeing the picture. Oh well.

    That whole nw corner, with it's hapless guy, drunk as a skunk after his BELT of BASS ALE at the LOCAL PUB, the ensuing ADOS. . .Well. ENUF. TSK.

    This was fun and brought to mind all the dozens of such expressions -

    Hungry as a bear
    Free as a bird
    Naked as a jaybird
    High as a kite
    Mad as a hornet
    Obsequious as a pewit

    The most mysterious to me is the Happy as a Clam one. Really? How can you tell they're not all depressed or pissed off or something? I've never seen one that was expressive enough to signal anything. And. I've. Looked, people.

    I bet these comparisons are cultural. It'd be interesting to see other countrie's expressions. Willful as a wombat, mercurial as a mongoose. . .

    When kids say, "Oh, its you! You're a nice sub." I say, "Well, if you think about it, that reaction is a bit of a red flag, isn't it? (read – they get away with anything). A sub is kind of like a grandma – I can come in and be all nice and then leave. If I were your regular teacher, I'd probably be mean as a snake."

    @Benko – there's this bold, hungry seagull at a café in Maine where we vacation who begs shamelessly. He's Fred, too.

    YESLETS – small, clipped, perfunctory assents – not your full-blown enthusiastic ones.

    Happy humpday, folks. May you all stay loose as a MOOSE.

    Thanks for the similes, Tim!

    (Ahem. Some people should check there email.)

    jberg 6:46 AM  

    Rats! I put in LESLie and never checked it -- I mean, I didn't think batters needed EEE shoes to be good, but the alternative just didn't occur to me. Worse than that, I knew 24D was LENT and somehow didn't notice that I had something else written in there.

    Aside from that, nice puzzle; particularly nice to see ERGO two days in a row, if this time only as a clue.

    But ... right, coots aren't bald (they just have little white face PLATESvabove their bill; if they were moorhens it would be red), and probably clams aren't happy, either. In fact, they're often steamed.

    @Clark, thanks for the coot video! All I have to offer is this story about Scotland's fattest hedgehog.

    Glimmerglass 7:04 AM  

    Easy. I'm familiar with "bald as a coot," but I don't think I connected with the bird. As you can see in @clark's video, coots are not bald (I don't see any white spots either). Vultures, yes. Eagles, from a distance, yes. I think I always had the image of a scrawny, bald old man.

    GZA 7:20 AM  

    Wanted "Fat as a Feminist Issue" but didn't have the squares.

    And I highly recommend checking out Monet's haystacks if you stop through Chicago. Lovely capture of sunlight in different seasons (including frosty winter) and at different types of day.

    Unknown 7:33 AM  

    What Rex said, from beginning to end...including and especially the B52s reference.

    Anonymous 7:49 AM  

    Sly as a fox was my second fill. I've also heard of bald as a coot, an expression my Dad used. He was fourth generation Californian.

    Leapfinger 8:06 AM  

    After reading today's musings, not much needed to say. Made a great start to the day.

    In general, clams are keeping mum, but I do have one idea about the clam's [clams'? -- I 'm not sure if this holds for ALL clams] overall satisfaction with Life. You know how clams locomote, don't you? They stick out their foot, plant it in the sand as far away as they can reach, then drag the rest of their moist selves 'n' shells to that spot. [The foot is just one big mussel.] It's pretty much the same as when you sit on the floor and bottom-hunch your way across the room.

    Try it and see if you don't think it's a lark.

    Unknown 8:09 AM  

    Played like an easy Monday for me. Way below avg Wednesday time. COOT is vaguely familiar enough for me, and the crosses nailed it.

    AliasZ 8:12 AM  

    When I saw Tim Croce's byline, I was happy as a camel on hump day. Or as a lark. It started off easily with BASS ALE served at a LOCAL PUB, COGITO ergo sum and NOIR ON blanc. Got a little slower further on, but quite comfy and smooth throughout.

    The X AS A Y theme was cute as a kitten. From BIG AS A WHALE comes a favorite Las Vegas phenom: the WHALE, who rarely leaves the city without dropping a few hundred thousand dollars in his favorite casino, while his entire stay is comped.

    Will Shortz seems to be obsessed with high theme density. TOO BAD the fill always suffers. Not even a Tim Croce can pull off a squeaky-clean seven-themer. I am waiting for a puzzle in which every single word is a theme entry. Impressive, yes, but at what cost?

    I am not convinced this is the right direction for crosswords to go. For me, three (at least two of them grid-spanners) or four (plus a possible revealer) are just the right number of theme entries. Look at some of the UGAliness that comes along with seven: MSS, ALS, ABU, ADOS, ENOS, ENUF, OHSAY (I almost entered JOSÉ but it didn't have enough letters), ETC. LOLL and LOP made me think of a lollipop. UGA should have been clued as the sound a Model T's horn makes.

    Be that as it may, this was an easy Wednesday for me, it didn't make me feel dumb as an ox.

    Speaking of which, I heard my favorite X AS A Y from one of my coworkers some DECADES ago, describing another coworker: "He is as strong as an ox and twice as smart."

    ART DECO and NOIR ON prompted my musical offering today. This beautiful work for two pianos is called En blanc et noir by Claude Debussy.

    Happy hump day.

    joho 8:16 AM  

    I've loving @Rex's recent positive write-ups! He sounds as wise as an owl!

    @Loren, I couldn't decide if one takes a BELT of BASSALE but your comment convinced me! That corner really is great with LOCALPUB and the possibility of drinking like a fish and becoming SICKASADOG.

    I so wanted FATASApig. Which I changed to sOW. Then finally COW.

    I also wanted BALDASAbilliardball. Which, of course, is too long and more importantly, not an animal.

    I did learn a the new to me BALDASACOOT today which is always good.

    I kept parsing NO IRON as NOIR ON and wondering what French phrase I didn't know.

    Fun theme, lots of theme ... thank you, Tim Croce!

    Arlene 8:17 AM  

    I enjoyed my preferred sequence of puzzle-solving by doing the fill-ins (partials?) first. From there, one thing led to the next . . . .
    Except at first I had AGENT orange - and that wasn't working out (you can tell what era I grew up in).
    Only error was not knowing LESLEY - had WESLEY because WEDS on a watch readout still made sense.
    Nice Wednesday puzzle!

    Lewis 8:19 AM  

    Quality feel to this puzzle, and an easy solve. I thought the cluing was a bit too direct for a Wednesday; would have liked it a little more on the SLYer side. I do love the word LOLL. Also DIP and LOP.

    I kept thinking 86 was the number of keys on a piano (it's actually 88) so I was unsuccessfully going in that direction for a bit on 57A.

    Good blue collar puzzle -- enjoyed it!

    Leon 8:21 AM  

    My favorite Snellen Chart.

    Anonymous 8:25 AM  

    Lovely theme. But never heard of "BALD AS A COOT". My undoing was in the SE corner. Confidently entered "TRASHcan" instead of "TRASHCAN" and never considered the alternative. Then I forced the illogical "BUSY AS A cat" and got stuck. The brain can do some tricks on an old guy. But I can do better than that.

    evil doug 8:27 AM  

    "Not much needed to say," but of course that won't deter me from displaying my invaluable knowledge of clam locomotion....

    Here we go again,

    evil doug 8:34 AM  

    Also, that's not my definition of "bottom hunching"....


    Mohair Sam 8:38 AM  

    Fun Wednesday. For those keeping score: Put this old coot in the Never-Heard-It column on BALDASACOOT.

    OSAGE orange brand new here, but easy from crosses. I've always felt that Lesley Gore's hits were proof of the existence of Payola.

    @MolyShu (that coiner of words)- Glad some dunbass appreciated my post yesterday.

    @leapfinger - Cannot believe you pulled the Monty Python skit from my comment. Nice one.

    Carola 8:41 AM  

    Super easy and fun. Two hang-ups: having to change "pig" to COW and staring helplessly at "Denier's contraction." For me "denier" says "hosiery," and I couldn't see how that would be contracted; then I thought, "Denier - a French city I never heard of?"

    @jae - I bet there are a lot of songs we could sing along with together.

    @Clark and @jberg - Thank you for the fauna lore!

    @GZA - LOL - awesome!

    evil doug 8:43 AM  

    I was thinking of offering a dissertation on bottom-hunching, but my wife would probably spank me. Which, actually, is part of the bottom-hunching scenario, right before the "clockwise swirl"....


    Carola 8:46 AM  

    @joho - Speaking of taking too many BELTs in the LOCAL PUB, there's also the ALE/ AIL cross :)

    Leapfinger 8:53 AM  

    Careful, @Evil, yer making my day.
    Times three. [Did you like the 'mussel'?]

    Shure ENUF, on a Wednesday, I should have said 'bottom-humping', but Fodder has limits.

    Good thing I steer clear of emoticons

    Ludyjynn 8:56 AM  

    This one felt like a meh med. mid-week while solving. Oddly, only after it was done and I went back over it, did I appreciate it more. Still not crazy about all of the themed animal analogies, as Rex discussed, and the fill, as some of USAID, but overall, okay.

    BTW, the apostrophe snark is now dead AS A doornail, IMHO. ENUF said, already.

    Leapfinger 9:07 AM  

    @M-Sam,as I said, it's a favourite. Was so hoping that I wasn't being terminally insulting to Mrs. Mohair.

    @Carola, me too on 'denier'; whenever the topic is climate-change deniers or some such, I'm thinking they should stuff it in their stockings.

    @Evil: You'll be owing me royalties any minute now. Happy to oblige --- UP NEXT, sea urchins.

    Horace S. Patoot 9:16 AM  

    Around these parts it's "FAT AS A tick". Especially this time of year. And especially this year.

    Z 9:16 AM  

    Flew through this one solving counter clockwise. Got up to FAT AS A C-- and threw down CAT. This gave me that famous Impressionist work, "SNOt Scene at Argenteuil." Personally, I loved Monet's use of green in that one. Impressionism, nothing to sneeze at.

    @Moly Shu - Terrible song?!? Made me want to get up and dance this morning. You just have to shimmy with the right people. Tin Roof. Rusted.

    quilter1 9:19 AM  

    Only hiccup was the COW. Otherwise quick and easy. I knew the COOT phrase, too. Good puzzle for Wed.

    lawprof 9:22 AM  

    That the theme was similies came quickly; that it was ANIMAL similies dawned more gradually.

    Initially had BIGASAhouse, but that was my only writeover (apart from correcting my misspelling of LESLie/LESLEY). Also wanted FATASApig and BALDASANegg, but resisted until crosses put me aright.

    Otherwise, a pretty snappy, fun Wednesday. What we've come to expect from Tim Croce.

    chefbea 9:31 AM  

    Great puzzle - especially 31Down!! And I love salade nicoise!!

    Loved the clue for Eric!!

    Have always heard of fat as a pig or hog

    AnnieD 9:33 AM  

    This felt a lot more like a M or T puzz to me. But it was light and fun. Never heard of psy gangnam style. And wuss always disturbs me as I think it's vulgar.

    I knew of coots, but not the expression bald as a coot. Of course coots are not bald and bats are not blind and cows are not fat, though calves can be fatted, and dogs are not sick and bees are not busy except when they are. But whales are pretty big and foxes can be very sly.

    There is gaudy as a butterfly but Asa Butterfly might take offense.

    And though zonkeys are rare, I rarely hear rare as a zonkey.

    evil doug 9:40 AM  

    As dead as an acetominophen junkie....


    oldbizmark 9:42 AM  

    easy easy for me. not a whole lot to this other than theme density. all the theme answers with the exception of "bald as a coot" were gimmes. only slowdown was in the NE corner with "cogito" and "moose." otherwise, a bit too easy and disappointing for a wednesday.

    mac 9:47 AM  

    Nice Wednesday puzzle, but the cow was a new one for me. In this area I hear "big as a house" instead of whale. Have to admit that my visual for the bald coot was a little old man....

    @Benko: yes, lots of water fowl in Holland, among which the meerkoet.

    retired_chemist 9:49 AM  

    Never heard about bald coots, though I had heard of the bird. Like others I looked it up: "Coots have prominent frontal shields or other decoration on the forehead, with red to dark red eyes and coloured bills. Many, but not all, have white on the under tail. The featherless shield gave rise to the expression "as bald as a coot," which the Oxford English Dictionary cites in use as early as 1430." (Wikipedia)

    Nice puzzle. Before I saw that the similes all involved animals, 10D was BIG AS A housE. Ali as Aladdin's monkey pal didn't last long. Nor did STn @ 4D. Knew LESLEY Gore but a 50+ year old song that didn't get a huge amount of play in the intervening years may be a trip-up for younger solvers. Advantage, 63A.


    retired_chemist 9:50 AM  

    Sigh. Advantage, 61A.

    Anonymous 9:52 AM  

    Pretty simple puzzle except for PSY. Ugh to all rapper clues. It normalizes a genre (I can't call it music) of misogyny, bigotry and vulgarity.

    Z 10:12 AM  

    @Anon9:52 - Listen closer and you will find misogyny, bigotry, and vulgarity all over the place. Not a fan of Rap, myself, but music it is. More to the point, Psy is not a Rap Artist. I see from Wikipedia that he has been niched into "K-Pop," "Korean Hip Hop," "Dance," and "Hip House." Given that "Gangnam Style" is intended as social commentary I am hard put to find much misogyny or bigotry in it, although some who feel that everyone should love America have found fault with the man. As it is a work that was intended for the masses and is well liked world wide (you will hear it at every Tiger home game this summer, for example) it is the very epitome of "vulgar."

    Now, time to take two aspirin and call my doctor in the morning.

    Fred Smith 10:18 AM  

    Even after I got ERIC on crosses, I didn't grok to the fact that "Holder" was capitalized was NOT due to its lead position in the clue.

    So there I am, wondering if the ERIC was Eric Holder, and why he was singled out as a holder (small h) of a cabinet position.


    Anonymous 10:19 AM  

    TOO BAD the only SLY clue was 'Holder of a cabinet position.'

    Me three for thinking DENIER was hosiery-related til that DIDN'T fit with the 's and a Wed. clue.

    mathguy 10:54 AM  

    chefwen: Your "My nips are lum" line reminds me of a complaint I once made that still amuses my family. "My eggs are laking."

    Hartley70 10:59 AM  

    Played like a Monday/Tuesday to me but I enjoyed it. Eric Holder was my fave. He spoke at my undergrad graduation 40 years late. My class of '70 got kicked off campus in the middle of finals and sent our diplomas by mail. Someone must have noticed that our "giving" was close to non-existent, so we were offered a graduation ceremony in 2000. My kids insisted we all go and it was a hoot. We were just as rowdy as we would have been in 1970, flowers in the caps, singing "Give Peace A Chance", and flipping the peace sign as we got our "diplomas". Gray hair and Birkenstocks galore!

    JenCT 11:05 AM  

    FAT AS A COW reminds me of a joke in the upstate NY town I once lived in: "What's the difference between a _____________(insert town name) townie & a cow?......About 100 pounds." Ouch!!!

    @chefwen: "...Nips were lum." I'm going to borrow that phrase!

    Being such a bird nerd, I knew about COOTs.

    Masked and Anonymo4Us 11:45 AM  

    Work of art.
    Started to do my daily cleanup chore, of U-retwerking the corners, to bump up the U-counts. Got yesterday's puz up to 10 U's, with said rework. Good constructioneerin practice.

    Anyhoo, immediately discovered that today had SatPuz-like corners! Stacks. This is like holdin up a cross, to the vampires of corner U-twerkin. There's only 72 words in this thing! And seven themers! I'm sorry, red-horned macflyboy, but that there rates a ten day-um salute. This took some doin, to pull off. Desperation -- sweet, unbridaled desperation -- ensued...

    Let's hear a chorus from the weejects section, first:
    * UGA - Nasty good. A self-flagulatin weeject.
    * ABU - Talk about yer pretty bookends: UGA/ABU. Two meritorious saves of a puz's U-count.
    * STA - My first entry into the puz. A flamin gimme, altho slight naggin concerns remained that it could be STN.

    And now bring in a pitsaccato from the midrange section:
    * ENUF - See that, @muse? How a pro phills evonn the mozdt impossable gridde: with mayd-up wurd spellins. Sweet.
    * PICT - Missed opportunity, not havin URE as a weeject, elsewhere in the grid. But think of the runtpuz theme possibilities, therein, @muse.

    And, finally a crescendo, from the big (as a) wailers:
    * YESLETS - Could really goose up the concerto, here, with a "Small agreements??" clue. The coveted double-??; think about it, Shortzmeister.
    * COGITO - As in cogito ergo sum, by Descartes. Why it took two Descarte dudes to come up with that, I'll never know. But I digress. While I'm goin here, QED.

    Fun puz. Incredible build. Thanx, Constructor Tim.


    p.s. I notice lately that some of my gerunds are endin up with the dreaded -ing suffix. Do not be alarmed. All the fault of autocorrect, I assure you. Day-um thing keeps wantin to change "puz" to "pus", to boot...

    Benko 11:45 AM  

    @lms: They do seem to be Fred, don't they? And @mac:
    The Fred's (coots, meerkoeten) were pretty cute, especially when they had babies. They would swim over quietly when they would see me at the window of my houseboat. The rude, pushy beggars were the swans. Swans are jerks.

    JTHurst 12:33 PM  

    I feel dumb as a wooden watch because I do not know what hump day is or means. Someone please explain.

    Also, I expected Questinia to reveal to us the metaphorical conjecture of the simile.

    Hartley70 12:42 PM  

    Wednesday is the middle of the week and it's all an easy downhill from there, theoretically of course.

    Unknown 12:44 PM  

    It's "O say," not "Oh say." That one miffed me.

    mac 12:48 PM  

    @Benko: You lived in a houseboat, how fantastic! I just saw an ad for one of them for sale, and its name was Meerkoet!

    M and Also 1:06 PM  

    p.s. One more.
    * SALADE - Always luv it, when the little kids set up a sal-ade stand in our neighborhood.

    @Z: I got a fever. And the only prescription is more cowbell. N'est-ce pas? har.

    p.p.s.s. For those without wisdom, in the ways of the cowbell...


    Fred Romagnolo 1:11 PM  

    @chefwen: ditto on cognito, and for you and @mathguy: the Reverend Spooner's immortal toast, "Here's to our queer old dean." The usual generational - never heard of Lesley Gore or Psy. This bald coot was only too familiar with the expression; and @Benko, what's with the Freds?

    Doc John 1:34 PM  

    ...and how many people are playing "Love Shack" in their heads right now?

    Z 1:43 PM  

    @M and Also - better for your liver, too, I hear.

    GILL I. 2:04 PM  

    All the words have been taken except YVES....Talk about a yummy in your tummy... And sadly speaking of...RIP Maya Angelou. I sat across from her on a flight from San Francisco to Dallas. She was the most charming ethereal woman I've ever met
    Tim Croce I really enjoy your puzzles. They are always fresh and sassy.
    OH say O SAY debate goes on...I think the original words were O SAY and then some smarty pants came along and added an H.
    @M&A...I got me laugh back - HAR!!!
    "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to" sung at the top of my lungs with my BIG ASS WHALE of a sister.....

    Moly Shu 2:22 PM  

    @Z, just my opinion, of course. Play me Rock Lobster or Private Idaho, and I'll dance with you all night long. Love Shack? Pass.

    ahimsa 2:36 PM  


    Aww, how can UGA be a weeject when it's the official name for the University of Georgia mascot? Look at all these photos of bulldogs and see if you don't change your mind:

    As they say in Georgia, love them dawgs! (not from Georgia but my dad lives there now)

    Benko 3:22 PM  

    @mac: I saw that ad too, just now when I searched "meerkoet" for pictures! I'm coming back in August/September for a few weeks, and will be staying in a houseboat for much of that time as well. Love life on the canals!
    @Fred: The first time a Eurasian coot swam up to me, I felt I had to say "hello", and for some reason it struck me as being a "Fred", so I said, "Hello, Fred." From then on, I called all the Eurasian coots "Fred". At first because I didn't know what they were really called, then just out of habit.

    Loren Muse Smith 3:27 PM  

    @leapfinger (and ED) – much to my kids' dismay, I tried it! It is fun, dragging yourself around. Ok. I didn't really. Your story reminds me of a morbidly- obese dachshund we had, Corvette, who would perform this charming maneuver, but only when we had company for a fancy dinner. Dad called it The Agony Drag.

    @joho – I was thinking you could only BELT liquor, but I ran with it anyway.

    @Z – Hah! Love that title! You might think it's gross but itsnot.

    @M&A – "U-retwerking the corners, to bump up the U-counts. . . Good constructioneerin practice." Good idea! I may try that. I've been messing around with grids and have a runt ready if we can tag-team so you can publish it. Hey, no pressure – I've just been working night and day on my homework is all.

    @ahimsa - my sister went to UGA, so I've heard stories about their mascot, UGA, for years. In the most famous, legend has it that, as was (and is) customary, UGA was trotted out to the fifty yard line before kickoff. Unfazed, he sat down and began, uh, licking himself the way dogs are wont to do.

    Radio announcer 1: "Man, I wish I could do that."
    Radio announcer 2: "Bob, that dog would bite you. . ."

    There's a similar story of two people sitting on a porch, but the punchline is "Give him a biscuit and he'll let you."

    Z 3:33 PM  

    @Moly Shu - Whatever you do, don't go on the patio.

    @ahimsa & @Moly Shu - UGA -> Athens -> B-52's and REM. Radio Free Europe.

    sanfranman59 3:53 PM  

    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)

    Wed 8:15, 9:54, 0.83, 12%, Easy

    Top 100 solvers

    Wed 5:22, 6:11, 0.87, 15%, Easy

    M and A the Third 3:55 PM  

    @ahimsa-- Sorry, I meant no doggie disrespect. Any dog whose name starts with a U is especially aces with m&e.

    @Gill I.P.: Excellent. I do like the way that U laugh.

    @muse: Just tell me where U parked a copy, and I be loadin er up. Also, send an author's comment to Jeff Chen at xwordinfo, if U like. And I promise not to U-twerk **yer** grid, darlin.

    @Z--No liver probs, but I swear I bust a gut, everytime I watch that cowbell video.

    @63--Nice writeups, lately. Fair and balanced reportin. "Sunshine came softly. thru my. window to-day..."


    jdv 4:01 PM  

    Medium. I would've posted a fast time if LESLIE knew how to spell her name right.

    Unknown 5:22 PM  

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    OISK 7:05 PM  

    This old coot drinks a lot of Bass ale (my first choice, and they serve it at Citifield, where I go often to weep and moan…) and with one exception, this one was right in my comfort zone - exceptionally smooth for a Wednesday. The exception, of course, was the rapper, PSY. Lucky I know who Yves Montand was or I'd have been Naticked. As it was, I breathed a PSY of relief. Never heard of Love Shack, Private Idaho, or Rock Lobster. The "Tritsh-tratsch polka" is more my kind of dance music…
    Very enjoyable puzzle

    Anonymous 8:25 PM  

    Evil is all wet. Clams are officially gastropods -- they walk on their stomachs, not their bums

    mac 9:47 PM  

    @M&A, thank you for the Donovan memories....

    mac 9:49 PM  

    @Benko: I'll be in Holland August 12-26, probably, hopefully as well!

    sanfranman59 10:02 PM  

    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 no data
    Tue 7:37, 8:46, 0.87, 13%, Easy
    Wed 8:17, 9:54, 0.84, 12%, Easy

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon no data
    Tue 4:57, 5:21, 0.93, 22%, Easy-Medium
    Wed 5:07, 6:11, 0.83, 7%, Easy

    Sfingi 11:23 PM  

    Though I didn't have to Google, there were some things I didn't know, esp. Korean pop singers, and BASSALE, USAID, UGA. I thought Yale had the bulldogs.

    There were some words I had to change: hOg for COW, maCrO for SOCIO,
    agent for OSAGE, but I enjoy that in a crossword.

    This crossword was outstanding for having only 2 abbrevs. and one sports. SO, I liked.

    Leapfinger 11:33 PM  

    @MnA MnA -- Thanks for link; as an added bonus, I found the midriff mm,mm,mmesmerizing.

    @MMuse -- that may be the Great Dog Denominator. No idea whether dogs picked it up from kids in diapers or vice versa. The difference is, dogs pick carpets and kids pick bare floor -- Slick! Secretly, I think they're both doing the same thing.

    I heard that joke with a Lady Dog on the football field and 3 coeds from Southern states in the stand:

    FL: Eee-e-w! That's disgusting!!!
    GA: I dunno...Kinda looks like fun...
    MS: GURRL?? That dog would BITE yew!!

    Phil 2:31 AM  

    FATASANAMERICAN was a bit too long.

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    Anonymous 5:30 AM  

    Many beef and dairy cows can be very fat - if they aren't milking as they are in their dry period - not healthy for them, especially Holsteins, can lead to liver dx. I thought at first that answer could be 'fat as a hog' having filled in Roto

    Scott 11:54 AM  

    @John Kimmel

    I wondered if I anyone else had noticed that mistake on 39-across.

    It's "O! Say...", not "Oh say".

    spacecraft 11:23 AM  

    Hand up for the COOT thing; me, I'm bald as a bowling ball. The east gave me fits; I know nothing about nicoise, or Aladdin's pet, nor have I even heard of USAID, though that was, fortunately, inferrable. Then, of course, there's the "rapper" clue, which instantly glazes over my eyes. The S was nothing more than a natick guess for me. Some might say I'm DUMBASASTONE. Is that dumber than a box of rocks?

    Another thing People Never Actually Say: ENCAMP. They simply camp, or more likely camp out. I'm not saying it isn't a bona fide word; just not in use.

    418 = 13. *sigh* Hit me again.

    Anonymous 12:09 PM  

    Good, pleasant, entertaining and tight puzzle. Thanks, Mr. Croce. I'm old enough to have heard all the "sayings" so it came easy for me. It does my heart good when I read comments rapping "Rap." God, do I hate it. And...I'm a very easy going, tolerant sort.

    Ron Diego 9:05 7/2/14 PST

    rain forest 2:45 PM  

    @Ron Diego - To (sort of) quote Austin Powers, "There are only two types of people I hate: those who are intolerant of others...and the Dutch".

    @SIS I've heard of Suncadia. Might consider it for our Fall Tour instead of Desert Canyon and Big Bear Ranch. About the same distance.

    Great Canada Day yesterday.

    The US had a strong late surge against Belgium, but if not for Tim Howard, the score might have been 6-1.

    Oh, the puzzle! Sorry. I'm starting to emulate many of the realtimers. I liked this one with all the themers and minimal lesser fill. Easy, but enjoyable.

    Baccarat: 324 = 9

    DMG 3:00 PM  

    No real problems here. Tho I come from BIGASAhouse and FARASApig territory, the "variations" were easy enough. Thought UGA looked pretty weird, wanted a Yale association there.

    Ethics new game doesn't like me, 104= 5.

    DMG 3:03 PM  

    That was supposed to be THIS new game.... But to emphasize the point, this time I got 1505=11=2!

    Dirigonzo 4:51 PM  

    Rapper PSY might have been a problem if the much more familiar YVES had not come along. Fave clue was "Holder of a cabinet position" - seemed too obscure until it wasn't. I've heard lots of "BALD AS A ..." expressions, none of them ended in COOT. TOOBAD directly over OLDAGE seems harsh.

    8215 - make of it what you will.

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