Pontiac's tribe / WED 3-27-13 / Jungle vines / Ring separator / Hidden water menace / Ole Miss rival / Auto additive with red oval logo / Where some commuter drink

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Constructor: David J. Kahn

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Elevators — circled letters spell out inventor the elevator, OTIS. Two OTISes going down, two OTISes going up, and then a revealer: UPS AND DOWNS (25D: Vicissitudes of life, as for the the inventor named in the circled squares?)

Word of the Day: LIANES (29D: Jungle vines) —
[More commonly LIANAS]
Any of various climbing, woody, usually tropical vines.

[Alteration of French liane, probably from lier, to bind, from Old French. See liable.]

Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/liana#ixzz2Ohcp2oug
• • •

Er ... didn't like this one much. I can see, in retrospect, that the theme is cute in its way: elevators, up and down, OTIS SITO SITO OTIS, what not. But between the asymmetrical, scattered circles and the ultra-choppy grid and the Olde Schoole fill, it was a bit of a mess to look at, and solve. The circles and chopped-up middle of the grid, with all the segments and black squares, made the whole thing too busy. Made my eyes tired just to look at it. I couldn't get traction anywhere at first, and then when I did, I kept running into UGH-y and/or dull stuff with lots of Es and Rs in it. The TERSER AXER and the TIERED REFEREE, the alt-spelled LIANES, ANI and ASI, UPI and UBI, and the REY of them all, ONERS. This puzzle is all theme—everything else suffers for the visual gag. I admire the theme concept, but ... Not on my wavelength, and not my cup of tea. A very old-feeling puzzle. (I mean, Irving Bacheller? EBEN Holden? That one hasn't been out of mothballs in ages).

Theme answers:
  • 3D: Cookers for chickens and franks (ROTISSERIES)
  • 34D: Bank customer, at times (DEPOSITOR)
  • 7D: Ignores others' advice (HAS IT ONE'S OWN WAY)
  • 9D: Stocks in great demand (HOT ISSUES)

Cluing on this is another weakness. It's both dull and vague, most of the time. Or it's imprecise. 35A: What you may call it? (NOUN). You *may* call "it" that, but you're more likely to call it a PRONOUN, because that is what "it" is. Most of the rest of the clues are one or two words, and feel like they were pulled from among the most common clues in a database. No imagination, no sparkle. It would be nice if some effort were put into making the whole grid entertaining, not just the theme parts. When [Ring separator] is by far your most interesting clue, there's a problem. As I look over the clues and the grid ... there just isn't much to say. Uh, let's see ... I thought [Start of school?] was ESS. It was PRE. Nope, that's not interesting ... I've never heard of HOT ISSUES (9D: Stocks in great demand) in the context of stocks, so that's something new ... but still not interesting. I give up. See you tomorrow.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Brendan McNamara 12:10 AM  

    I thought maybe this puzzle has a crosswordese meta theme, since OTIS is kind of a silly thing to dance around your puzzle otherwise. Perhaps Will Shortz is trolling Rex with this one.

    retired_chemist 12:24 AM  

    Medium. Liked it better than Rex. Didn't love it. Workmanlike job, but not exciting.

    Probably would have been a minute faster if I hadn't had to chase down two typos. EMOTED before WAILED, CURB before DUMP, ENRAGE (leading to TENN for 1D) before AROUSE, and AS IF before I BET didn't help either. Wanted _OR_ @ 56D to be PORN, but it wasn't.

    Agree with Rex that the cluing was not zingy. Wasn't thrilled with the circles,which I ignored anyway.

    Evan 12:41 AM  

    Once in a blue moon, I'll finish faster than Rex. Today is one of those days! Even though I'm pretty speedy on Mondays and Tuesdays, I almost always still finish behind Rex. But outpacing the King on a Wednesday? That almost never happens -- not bad for a guy who finished close to 200 spots behind Rex at the ACPT! I dunno, I must have hit this puzzle's sweet spot. Tomorrow I'll probably get owned.

    Yeah, I wasn't really feeling this one myself. A lot of crosswordese, and LIANES really threw me -- I've never seen that as an alternate spelling for LIANAS, but WAED just wouldn't do. I guess in retrospect, it's probably better that the letters in OTIS are consecutive, either normally or backwards, and not mixed up in some random jumble. But even so, the theme entries didn't really sparkle for me -- HOT ISSUES is fine, ROTISSERIES and DEPOSITOR are just okay. I don't really mind ONE'S in a long entry, but I always think of the phrase as GOES ONE'S OWN WAY, not HAS IT (unless it were HAVE IT YOUR WAY).

    I can't help but wonder what the puzzle would look like if the circled squares were split up? I know that's not always the best theme strategy, but who knows what one could come up with that way? BAG OF TRICKS? COMPACT DISC? FOR THE BIRDS? PRESIDENT OBAMA? SAINT JOHN? WASHINGTON DC? Just a thought.

    jae 12:41 AM  

    Pretty clever theme although I'm sure it constrained the fill...AXER, ASI, ANE, UBI, ONERS, EBEN...and, speaking of EBEN, the title was a WOE which forced a choice between AN E or an A.  The one thing that helped was remembering Jon Stewart's imitation of "W"'s chuckle.  Had to be HEH.  Medium for me.

    So, I'm with Rex again, liked the theme and the reveal, but...

    Anonymous 12:46 AM  

    I liked the theme quite a lot. Well worth the trade-offs. Full stop.

    I grant the cluing plaint. NYT cluing tends toward lame and dull. The venue is part of the problem. I often wonder about the effort.

    AXER did stand out. I would have traded TERSER (no winner itself) for TARSAL, taken AXEL for AXER, SAGA for SAGE, and lived with the downgrade of APA from APE. . . . . . But it's not like AXER ruined things for me. I still like it lots.

    OTIS has been referenced in fill forever and a day; pretty cool that he gets his own theme.

    An ABOVE PAR crossword that AROUSED me. Rexy's ASINNE opinion ain't gonna bring me down. I BET lots of people go APE over this one, despite its UPS AND DOWNS.

    Keenan Mahoney 1:09 AM  

    40 minutes... dear god that was painful.

    Carola 1:40 AM  

    Liked it better than Rex, found it on the easy side. Thought the theme was cute. I got UPS AND DOWNS when my only OTIS was the one in ROTISSERIE. So I went and filled OTIS into the other three, thinking that it made things awfully easy - then smiled when I had to reverse two of them.

    Do-overs: OneidA before OTTAWA and rAILED before WAILED.

    UNDERTOW looked a little menacing by BORA BORA.

    Rube 1:57 AM  

    Can't complain about the cluing... thought it fair and acceptable. Didn't particularly like AXER and ONERS but ya gotta take some chaf with the wheat.

    Spent all day last Saturday in a bridge tournament in Santa ROSA. 'Twas a beautiful day and ended up with nothing to show for it. Should have stayed home and worked in the garden!

    Assess Curator Metrics 2:01 AM  

    I was rAILED before wAILED, left in HaH/aBEN, tried SyriNGE before SPONGE and LIANaS/WaED...but
    That's (ABOVE) PAR for the course.

    Why does ASININE only have one S (yet ASSESS gets 4?!)

    Here on NOB Hill commuters take cars...so I was confused thinking "What's a BARCAR?" A limo? Is it driven by a drunk driver?

    STPETE could have benefitted from a timely spring break clue. Do they already dispense hints in the clue to the fact it's shorter already on Wednesdays?

    EARWAX is a gross image, despite the X (lone "Scrabble" letter in today's puzzle, tho, ironically AXER isn't good in Scrabble.)
    That's the kind of thing that gets me in trouble in tournaments...playing a crossword word like ONER or AXER, both nonos in Scrabble (as is nono)

    Carola 2:43 AM  

    @Evan - About splitting up the circled squares: to me, the circles together as a unit looked like elevator cars stopped on different floors. @Rex mentioned not caring for their asymmetric placement, but I liked that, too - I took it as part of the theme.

    travis 3:26 AM  

    Serious question: What exactly is ONERS? Is it really ONE + ER + S? I thought when we made up words by adding an er, the stem had to be a verb. And, um, ONE isn't a verb. Or is there something else going on that I am missing?

    jae 4:01 AM  

    @travis -- It's a pluralized definition #2 and, yes, it sucks.

    oner [ˈwʌnə]
    n Brit informal
    1. a single continuous action (esp in the phrase down it in a oner)
    2. an outstanding person or thing
    3. a heavy blow

    chefwen 4:05 AM  

    @travis - ONERS - one of a kind, unique. I have a personal pet peeve when people say "really unique" How can you be really one of a kind. Drives me batty.

    Liked the puzzle more than Rex, but I usually do.

    Two write overs 52D slav before SERB, can't keep those two apart, and LIANaS before LIANES, that is excusable.

    EAR WAX is a EEEW, but I'll let it go.

    Spent many an hour in the BAR CAR traveling Europe, ahh memories.

    Loren Muse Smith 5:38 AM  

    I actually had a dnf because, @jae, I went with HaH! And I don’t recall seeing the whole REFEREE spelled out or the non-Latin plural for SERUMS.

    I found this pretty easy, especially since I saw the theme right at the beginning, put in the reveal with no crosses, and (@Carola) knew to reverse OTIS because of the T in STOP IT.

    Thanks, David. Cute idea!

    JenCT 5:59 AM  

    Nah, didn't like this one, for all the same reasons as @Rex.

    Did like ASININE and 'BAMA.

    I remember the BAR CARs on the LIRR being noisy, fun places, especially on Friday evenings.

    webwinger 6:33 AM  

    Saturday’s ODIST returns in full glory! Had a lot of fun with this theme; like @Carola thought the placement of the circle groups made a nice visual metaphor. Seeing BAMA up in the NW corner made me wonder, could this have been turned into an Obama-themed puzzle? Like Otis, he’s been too often a bridesmaid, never (at least not to my knowledge) a bride in crosswords. President who’s had his UPSANDDOWNS?

    NYer 6:39 AM  

    What @Carola said.
    Should have had a better time but for a stupid typo; spent around five minutes hunting it down.
    Well done, David Kahn!

    imsdave 6:52 AM  

    I'll sign ACME's petition to get another S in ASININE.

    I don't suppose there's a good trick for remembering whether a word ends in eR or OR? - anyone? CURATOR crossing OLSON (which is often OLSeN) might have gotten me today if I hadn't Julie'd (cheated by asking my wife) it.

    John V 7:19 AM  

    Here's to the long gone bar car on the 5:53 to South Norwalk, MetroNorth New Haven line. Many happy memories.

    HEH/EBEN last to fall. Pretty easy stuff for me, otherwise.

    Otis, is what I'm saying

    Bob Kerfuffle 7:25 AM  

    Hardest part for me was nailing down the spelling of ROTISSERIES.

    MetaRex 7:30 AM  

    I liked this one. Then again, it was a good solving day by MRian standards.

    Don't know what to say about Evan's surpassing OFL...other than to say I promise that in the unlikely event that ever happens w/ MR, he/it will take a one week vacation from posting...

    The solving story w/ insider and crossover ratings is at Beam me up, ScOTtIe

    MikeM 7:45 AM  

    any reason STPETE wasn't clued as an abbreviation?

    Glimmerglass 7:46 AM  

    Pretty easy for me. I agree that there's a lot of old xword stuff, some of it reprocessed. Not a lot of fun.

    Z 7:55 AM  

    Thought this was a little crunchy, but mostly of my own doing. Wanted clubCAR but it was too long, so that kept me on the look out for a possible rebus for awhile. I had to get all the way to Jimmy OLS-N to get any traction. Got DEPOSITOR and ROTISSERIES in close succession, which sped up things quite a bit. Between rAILED and wanting my Balkans to be Slavs, I got stuck for while in the SW. UNDERTOW fixed my Slav problem, which made OWN WAY appear and I was done. So challenging-easy-challenging. Got EBEN correct because I got it wrong before, otherwise it would have been a coin flip between E and A.

    Isn't ABOVE PAR worse than normal? I guess just in golf.

    Anonymous 8:02 AM  

    Pretty easy--ditto what the other person said above--I'll probably get owned tomorrow. 6:16 here or 28th out of 3300+ finishers so far. No checks or cheats. Strange!

    Frank 8:05 AM  

    I think I had the reveal before I had any of the OTIS SITOs. Just from the geometry. Only problem for me was DEIGNED for FEIGNED.

    Mitzie 8:08 AM  


    Anonymous 8:10 AM  

    Then again, I could've been like jgleasn or pbflinn and finished the puzzle in 2:01 or less, thereby finishing in the top 5. You have to wonder what satisfaction people get out of topping an anonymous high score list by cheating. Sad lives they must lead.

    Unknown 8:23 AM  

    Well, I sure wouldn't have wanted to be the puzzle to follow up yesterday's, but somebody had to do it. This one was a bit of a yawner, sorry.

    joho 8:25 AM  

    Well, I'm not exactly jumping UPANDDOWN over this one, but definitely liked it better than
    @Rex. Cute theme. @Carola, love your visual of the elevator cars suspended on their floors at different stops in the grid!

    I was a little disappointed in HASITONESOWNWAY. Wanted that 15 to have more zip.

    Favorite answer: ASININE.

    Paul Keller 8:32 AM  

    I agree with Rex, the theme was not nearly enough payoff for the mostly joyless fill. I would add to Rex's list of nits the appearances of routine answers: APE, DRE, NOB, and MAR, and the awkwardness of "HAS IT ONES ..."

    The theme did a lot less for me than the appearance of a mystical device called "the OTIS" in some science fiction/fantasy I read thirty odd years ago.

    jackj 8:37 AM  

    Nice of David to start us off with a clever bit of Boston lingo as we trudge home to Southie on the BAH CAH.

    This is a puzzle that David Kahn, (who has contributed 153 Times puzzles to date), likely could write in his sleep, but he gives us an active “watch the bouncing ball” type tribute to Elisha OTIS, he of today’s 16 circles and the guy who created the Muzak delivery system, sometimes called the elevator.

    Getting the puzzle’s ostensible raison d’étre, UPSANDDOWNS, out of the way, David proceeds to provide some interesting fill, CURATOR, UNDERTOW, SPINET, FEIGNED and ASININE, as examples, while folding my favorite word of the puzzle, “Vicissitudes”, into the clues.

    But, then we get UBI, TOR and TERSER and the AXER WAILED at EBEN, (and it wasn’t a happy sight), but if we are to have answers we like, like ROTISSERIES, we’ll have to handle those little nasties with no sweat.

    I’d call this puzzle a “tweener”, not a stand up and cheer offering but not a stand up and boo offering either; a serviceable piece of work from a seasoned constructor.

    Thanks, David Kahn.

    Anonymous 8:38 AM  

    @MikeM - STPETE was clue as colloquial (SUNSHINE STATE).

    Anonymous 8:51 AM  

    "What you may call it" isn't referring to the pronoun 'it', it's the lengthened form of "whatchamacallit" - which is, of course, describing a noun. Loved the clue.

    Miette 8:57 AM  

    40 minutes for me too. Ugh!

    Er_or_OR 9:09 AM  

    @imsdave - I just researched the topic the other day, and the short answer is no. The long answer is also no, as counter examples nearly equal the number of obvious examples, but here goes.

    If the word in question as "agentive (the primary causer of the action), default to "er" rather than "er". This sort of gives you debater vs debtor. The rest depends primarily on ancient history, part of which is what language we adopted the base verb from.

    ArtO 9:16 AM  

    Not often I rip through a Wednesday and find a relatively tough rating from our leader. Must be an age related thing. Everything just seemed in my wheelhouse today.

    As a former commuter and rare BARCAR user, it was fun to find that one in the lead position.

    chefbea 9:30 AM  

    This puzzle had its ups and downs..but I liked it.

    I use to have a rotisserie made by Ronco. I would set it and forget it. Would season the chicken with sage and serve with tater tots. Yummm

    Eric 10:06 AM  

    LIANES held me up the longest. Couldn't get TAR from swabbies and the nearby ONERS (they're unique?? C'mon, Dave Kahn, you're better than that) completely stumped me for a few minutes. ONERS? Oy Vey.

    I didn't mind the theme. Always good to see out-of-the-box thinking on proven concepts. OTIS is perhaps a little too common (kind of like building a theme around "epee" or "alai" or "anna"), but still, not bad.

    And I always a love a good vertical 15er slicing the puzzle right down the middle.

    Karen Susan 10:08 AM  

    family first shows values that are the foundation of a nation. family first believes in the importance of values. Values like telling the truth, living within your means, hard work, respect, courtesy, compassion, courage, generosity. But when we see cronyism, wastefulness, backstabbing, price gouging by government agencies (water prices, power prices, land prices) and politicians spending millions of dollars on themselves while hospitals are being closed and pensioners can’t afford to heat or cool their homes, we know there is a lack of values and a failure of leadership.

    mac 10:14 AM  

    Fine Wednesday puzzle, but accept for some pretty words a little workmanlike.

    Liana was the only double take I had to do, otherwise it was smooth as can be. Earwax!

    mac 10:15 AM  


    Darryl 10:20 AM  

    @Nikki Benz - You know your name is Cockney slang for stealing a Merc don't you? Kind of ironic, in that you're telling all of us we need lessons in morality.

    quilter1 10:28 AM  

    More spam!
    I found this easy, probably because of the old skewed cluing/answers. Very hoary indeed. Agree with most of the nits. This could have been much fresher.
    @chefwen, modification of unique makes me crazy too. How can you be more unique?

    jerry k 10:36 AM  

    O TIS was fun while doing the laundry. Figured out EBEN instead of ABEN for the finish.

    lawprof 10:46 AM  

    Easy, but a bit of a BORABORA.

    Two quickly fixed writeovers: DElayS/DEFERS and rAILED/WAILED (like Carola, Acme & Z).

    Surprised by Rex's Medium-Challenging rating (even though my time was probably more than double his) because I solved the puzzle pretty much start to finish without pause (aforementioned writeovers notwithstanding), paying virtually no attention to the theme.

    Anyone notice the odd crossing of STP/STP over by Delaware? Or care?

    Masked and Anonymo5Us 10:56 AM  

    Liked it. More fun than killin' waeds.

    @40+: Chopped up grid? There were 32 black-square jobbers and 74 words. 18 3-letter words. Lots of 6-8 letter what-you-may-call-its. Is that unusually choppy somehow? This thesus needs defending. Or are we just talkin' typo, here? ...SLOPPY? POPPY? FLOPPY? Confuses the M&A.

    ONERS! har. Sloppy.
    Ring separator! Poppy.
    Tater TOTS! Floppy.
    AXER. Choppy. Oh, I get it...

    never mind.

    Matthew G. 10:57 AM  

    This felt like more of a Thursday puzzle, because of both the quirky theme and the difficulty level. The cluing was pretty oblique for a Wednesday, I thought.

    Still, I liked it better than Rex. And I'll defend the clue on NOUN. {What you might call it?} works because you can refer to any NOUN as "it." Rex's write-up seems to read the clue the other way around--using NOUN to refer to "it"--but that's the very trap the clue was setting. The "?" makes it work.

    Tita 10:59 AM  

    Aw, I thought it was cute, that the elevators are on random floors, which is the way it works.
    Yea, OK, not htat you mention it, @Rex, maybe it registers pretty high on the dreckometer, but still liked it.

    ROTISSERIES was my favorite word.
    EARWAX was second favorite.
    EARWAX bubble and 5 year light bulb were 2 of our favorite nouns whn playing Mad Libs.
    (@LMS - this confession puts me squarely in the camp of barely-there erudition, no?)

    @Evan - An elevator car is a thing - one per shaft - would make no thematic sense to split them up...

    Thanks Mr. Kahn!

    Tita 11:06 AM  

    Also forgot to mention the fabulous 1A - back in the day, the BARCAR on the New Haven line was a such a civilized way to HOBnob with the erudite sinners on the way home after a day's work.

    @loren - is that a SPINET?
    (Anyone notices all the S,T, and P's in that section? - oh - lawprof did)

    FearlessKim 11:11 AM  

    Got the theme off the OTIS in ROTISSERIES, and the possibility of reverse OTIS from ASININE and STOPIT. Like @carola, liked the asymmetry of the theme material: it reminded me of the displays in some Manhattan skyscrapers, where you could see exactly where the cars were stopped, or going, and guesstimate how late you were going to be arriving at your office...

    Record time for me on this Wednesday, at only 1.324Rex. Lots of familiar material, including much xwordese, but somehow it didn't bother me -- well, the TERSER/AXER bothered me... Meh words balanced by some fun: ABOVEPAR, OTTAWA, EARWAX, ASININE, UNDERTOW over BORABORA (nice to see the whole word instead of just half).

    Loved BARCAR in the lead position, after years of taking the Harlem line to North White Plains, then the Hudson Line to Glenwood, home from Manhattan. Remember the BARCARts on the platform? Pick up the afternoon Post at the newsstand, grab a Scotch & Soda from the BARCARt, arrive home relaxed and amused (ok, often outraged -- it was the Post, after all -- but still relaxed).

    Notsofast 11:21 AM  

    Calling bullshit on ABOVEPAR being "better than normal".

    JenCT 11:26 AM  

    From the Free Online Dictionary:


    Better than average or normal.

    "His work is above par, so he should get paid better."

    Unknown 11:38 AM  

    +1 to @Notsofast ... That slowed me down a lot. In relation to par it is better to be under rather that over where it really counts ... Golf!

    I enjoyed the theme though!

    Evan 11:57 AM  

    @Carola and @Tita:

    I guess you could visualize the circled squares as elevator cars in a shaft. I just didn't think the theme answers were that great, hence my speculating about splitting the circles up.

    FearlessKim 12:15 PM  

    I'm with JenCT and so is the dictionary:

    above (or below or under) par -- better (or worse) than is usual or expected : poor nutrition can leave you feeling below par.

    on a par with -- equal in importance or quality to; on an equal level with : this home cooking is on a par with the best in the world.

    par for the course -- what is normal or expected in any given circumstances : given the high standards of the food, the prices seem par for the course.
    up to par at an expected or usual level or quality.
    ORIGIN late 16th cent. (in the sense [equality of value or standing] ): from Latin, ‘equal,’ also ‘equality.’ The golf term dates from the late 19th cent.

    What does that say about golf? :)

    OISK 12:17 PM  

    Add doctor dre to the expanding list of rock-rap-pop names that I know Only from the puzzles. This puzzle had just that one, which is fine with me. All in all, I liked it. An appropriate Wed. , thank you.

    OISK 12:18 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    M and A has often 12:41 PM  

    ABOVEPAR is good.
    OVERPAR is bad.
    "English: that'd be too easy, if it made sense".

    Ellen S 12:47 PM  

    @John V, thanks for the Miss Otis link. That was worth the price of admission all by itself But I'm not sophisticated enough to dislike this puzzle as much as @Rex. I have no sense of grid aesthetics, or what's the proper ratio of white and black squares, or word count vs letter count. I agree with others, it was okay (I fell asleep last night struggling with it, woke up this morning and sailed through. "Sailing," for me, is like a canal barge towed by a used-up mule.) I liked @Carola's image of the cars on their various floors. Liked REFEREE. No problem with "What you may call it?" as a clue for NOUN, thought it clever and apt.

    Oh, but speaking of language police, why is it that OFL, an English Professor, is always stumped by the literary references? Including Anna Christie the other day? I know none of us knows everything (I practically didn't know any of the people referenced in today's puz, but all gettable on crosses, since I was confident of CURATOR), but I keep expecting @Rex to be ahead of us on the lit-stuff.

    ONER -- my sainted husband used to always use that to refer to something unique. But maybe he picked it up from crosswords, which he introduced me to.

    @Nikki Benz, the right-wing "personal responsibility" car-thieving robot ("live within your means" -- hah, on a part-time job with no benefits? Don't even dream of college!) should be hunted down and beaten with EELS. It posted the same crap at the end of yesterday's comments. I fear we'll see more of this ... ah, vampire. (my Captcha is "Drocul".)

    LaneB 12:58 PM  

    More of a struggle than most Wednesdays but finished without googling any clues. But ONERS at d23 and DEFEAT at d47? Please! Also agree that "it"is not a noun. Glad to come away happy.

    Bird 1:47 PM  

    Overall, I liked it. Some poor fill prevented me from loving it. AXER is not a thing (AXEMAN is). Didn’t like LIANES. Chuckled at ONERS (can’t remember when I last saw that in a NYT puzzle). Didn’t like TERSER. 25D should have had circles, but how do you get UP and DOWN to spell OTIS?

    HEAP before DUMP and SAN before REY.

    Happy Humpday!

    Lewis 2:01 PM  

    Does anyone ever say ABOVE PAR? Ever?

    I do like STP crossing STPETE.

    @jackj -- you expressed my sentiments exactly... a tweener. I did think the theme was cute, again, a tweener. And I love your elevator definition.

    I learned UBI, and thought about Johnny OLSON for the first time in decades, and could hear his voice in my head. Thank you, David.

    Sparky 2:59 PM  

    Started by just ignoring circles. 25D a shoo-in though so was able to fill in the OTIS letters. Gave me a smile. ANI could have been a crow and really be an oldie.

    Thanks @JohnV. I remember Eyde Gorme for Miss Otis. @EllenS. Fifteen Days on the Erie Canal.

    ROADKILL yesterday, EARWAX today, whatever happened to the breakfast test?

    syndy 3:05 PM  

    guessed The OTIS from the visual.I had 2.036Rex so Rated it easy!My only seekanddestroy was OLSeN/CURATeR-@ER/OR you lost me!!.I'll take an ONER over a RAPPER any day

    Sparky 3:22 PM  

    @EllenS. Nikki Benz is not a robot. Click on it. She/he has set up a gmail blog thingy just like you and me. Alas, the privileges of free speech. Family First is a religious organization. Apparently they think we sinful crosssword folk need their help. The Bronx, no thonx.

    retired_chemist 3:57 PM  

    @ Lewis - above par: a security trading above its par value. Or, simply, better than average. So, yes, ABOVE PAR is in the language.

    Liane Hansen 4:03 PM  

    How quickly they forget! Why could 29 D not have been clued for me and my sister LIANES and leave the jungle vines as lianas? I only stopped hosting your beloved Will Shortz every Sunday morning a couple of years ago, and I have even been the blow-by-blow broadcaster at the ACPT finals! You remember kings and popes from the 11th century, entertainers from the 19th century, silent movie stars from the 20's and 30's -- but I am out of your word list?!?

    P.S. - Well, maybe not the Liane Hansen. :-}

    sanfranman59 4:07 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 10:08, 10:22, 0.98, 44%, Medium

    Top 100 solvers

    Wed 6:23, 6:16, 1.02, 56%, Medium

    Finance guy 4:18 PM  

    @retired_chemist - in securities, par is the face value of a stock or bond. Most stocks have par values of $0.01, or no par. Bonds usually have par values as multiples of 100, but that has nothing to do with its average value. A long term bond paying 20% interest would likely have a value of around. 3*par, yielding 6-7% interest. A long term bond paying 1% interest would have a value of 4 or 5*par.

    Nameless 4:43 PM  

    If you're above par, you're above average. Very much in the language.

    This puzzle was par for a Wednesday.

    TERSER, AXER, LIANES all ugly.

    The lack of symmetry can be taken to represent the locations of elevators in a building. How often do you see them on the same floor?

    ileen 4:45 PM  

    Do not take grooming tips from NYT crossword - swabs are not to be inserted in the ears to clean wax. If your mother never told you that, Lena Dunham on Girls made it painfully clear a couple of weeks ago.

    Milford 5:19 PM  

    @Sparky - I'm too scared to click on the blogger link to Nikki. Maybe if we all ignore her she'll stop.

    OK Wednesday, I like the idea that the elevators are at different floors, but wish they were spaced differently. DNF for choosing the HaH/aBEN up top. Oh well. I seem to get hung up at these humorous HEH, hah, hee, har variants.

    Hand up for never being sure of -OR vs -ER endings like CURATOR, DEPOSITOR (what a weird word - is there also a withdrawler?)

    Had a great dog named OTIS, not named after the elevator guy.

    Z 7:02 PM  

    Ms. Benz looks an awful lot like a stock model shot. No info, no email, just the too pretty picture. Meanwhile, the family first link takes you to a Family First - Australia web page. Yep - I'm pretty sure they aren't looking for too many voters among the NYX solving crowd. My captcha is "iidgets" - very appropriate.

    mac 7:38 PM  

    @Ileen, maybe we should use that sponge located right above it.

    Thoracic 7:51 PM  

    Look Nikki Benz, put your family first by all means, but leave my happily non-traditional one alone. We Canadians are a little more tolerant of people's freedoms as a rule.
    I felt like the puzzle was fairly easy but when I looked at my time it was pretty crappy. Perhaps I dozed off whilst the clock was running! Pretty happy to get thru early week with no googling or cheating. Thursday is often the start of my sad descent into outside help!

    spinnity 8:25 PM  

    Re the spam at 10:28 - that is apparently the name of a porn star. Cannot recommend searching for her name or clicking thru. Spam bot.

    M and A 8:48 PM  

    Yeah, @40+, where's yer lack of values and failure of leadership, when we need 'em in the family first? Nikki the Penthouse pet of the year (2011, as I recall) wants to know.

    Dayum, what a blog.

    Sfingi 9:17 PM  

    Agree with Rex, esp. about it being a pronoun. I guess I would have liked more than just OTIS going up and down.

    Googled for OLSON, EBAN, BAMA (sports), and OTTAWA.

    Didn't understand DEFEAT.

    Wanted sinkhole before UNDERTOW.

    EARWAX - well, it could be worse; there's an expression, "bitter as EARWAX," which is way gross, involving 2 senses. But it's past dinner, now.

    @ileen - what do you use Qtips for? Why buy them? Fess up.

    sanfranman59 10:08 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 5:52, 6:07, 0.96, 30%, Easy-Medium
    Tue 6:56, 8:20, 0.83, 5%, Easy (9th lowest ratio of 173 Tuesdays)
    Wed 10:04, 10:22, 0.97, 43%, Medium

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 3:29, 3:41, 0.95, 18%, Easy
    Tue 4:15, 4:54, 0.87, 9%, Easy
    Wed 6:01, 6:08, 0.98, 44%, Medium

    Nigel 11:22 PM  

    I am no fan of AXERS. I don't think a single lumberjack has ever been called that - it's there only because the constructor couldn't get something better to use. LIANES - nope, do not like. I got the OTIS/SITO thing early, and kept expecting to see Miss Otis regretting something - maybe like using AXER. I managed to go through two other war gods before I got ARES - Thor and then Mars. Liked UNDERTOW, REFEREE and SPONGE. Finished in 20:52 - nowhere near 3:27, I guess I'm not quite ready for prime time.

    Spacecraft 10:49 AM  

    You can practically sign my name along with OFL's under his blog, and I have more groaners:
    --> "Hospital fluids" are SERA about 1,796 times; SERUMS, once.
    --> His favorite clue, "Ring separator," read to me as "one who separates rings." I did get it OK, but the clue felt...dishonest.
    --> I get "Best--" as in "He 'bested' a tough field," but worst?? Let's see, if you "bested" me, then I "worsted" you. Did I sell you a scratchy suit??
    --> "Concern" can sorta mean MATTER, I guess, but I certainly wouldn't define it that way.
    --> Again, I won't deny that a CURATOR occasionally "puts on a show," but to clue the word thus is just plain poor. ASI see it.

    I got through it, as the Breakfast Club got through detention, though I rAILED before I WAILED, which made me spend even more time that I didn't want to on this ASININE grid.

    --> Who the hell are Felipe and Fernando? And EBEN (near-natick)?

    Waxy in Montreal 1:31 PM  

    Very surprised to see that this puzzle garnered so much criticism as I found it another breezy, pleasant, rather easy effort much like yesterday's. 'Nuff said.

    NM Robin 1:55 PM  

    I completed this puzzle fairly quickly. I do not time myself so I have no idea how long it took. I liked the puzzle - not great but not horrible.

    Favorite answers were CURATOR and ROTISSERIES. Did not like HAS IT ONES OWN WAY. I have never heard anyone say that.

    Felipe and Fernando are kings of Spain. Rey is spanish for king.

    DMGrandma 2:29 PM  

    Had to accept that LIANES must be some kind of variation and that R rating was for GORE not pORn, but other than that found this one smooth. Then I came here to find that HaH was wrong, so again a one square DNF, think that's getting to be my trademark. Was looking for the rest of Mr. OTIS' name hidden somewhere, but it was not to be.

    Dirigonzo 4:06 PM  

    I'm with @Waxy, this was an easy, fun puzzle with more ups than downs.

    @DMG, pORn would get an X-rating because apparently explicit sex is more disturbing than explicit, graphic images of bodies being blown apart - go figure.

    strayling 7:42 PM  

    Finished with a feeling that the compiler wanted to write a cryptic but didn't quite dare. Enjoyable enough in retrospect.

    Ginger 8:40 PM  

    Spent many happy days as a kid swimming in the ocean, always on alert for the UNDERTOe, the current that sucked the sand out from under my toe. Here we are, oh these many years later and I discover I had it wrong all this time.

    I liked the visual of elevator cars stopped at various floors, (but of course not the one where I was waiting, HEH).

    Re Spam, they're not worth the time and energy of a response.

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