Either Way

New York Times crossword Nov. 13 / Constructed by Jeremy Newton and Tony Orbach

A Facebook meme came through my news feed the other day — something about National Palindrome Day — but I didn’t bother to click on it. If I had, maybe I would have figured out the theme of today’s puzzle a little faster.

As it was, the title “Either Way” was a big hint: The theme answers in today’s puzzle read the same backward and forward. Kudos to constructors Jeremy Newton and Tony Orbach, whose palindromes displayed a cleverness and wit that truly awed me, starting with the first one I solved: WARSAW WAS RAW (“Recollection from a winter tourist in Poland?” 68 Down).

Others: PUPILS SLIP UP (“Students err?” 22 Across); PERSEUS SUES REP (“Medusa killer takes his agent to court?” 31 Across); BUTTRESSED DESSERT TUB (“Reinforced ice cream container?” 46 Across); SUB-PAR RAP BUS (“Inferior tour vehicle for Snoop Dogg?” 58 Across); DEROGATIVE EVITA GORED (“Disparaging Argentine leader badly injured?” 79 Across); and GIGOLO’S SOLO GIG (“One-on-one job for a ladies’ man?” 97 Across).

And then there was this gem: “‘Son of Darius, please confirm my dog is male’?” — XERXES, SEX REX (110 Across). Had my husband not stopped the remote on the umpteenth basic cable showing of “300” the other night, I might not have remembered Xerxes was the son of Darius. (It’s actually a very fun and beautifully shot film that two close friends worked on.)

So after solving the grid, I went back and looked up National Palindrome Day. Turns out it’s tied to the recent reversible date of Nov. 2, 2011 (11/02/2011). [And it so happens there was another one not long ago: Jan. 02, 2010 (01/02/2010).] I have a hard time believing Will Shortz wasn’t aware of the proximity of National Palindrome Day when running this puzzle, but there was no reference to it in the clues, so maybe it was coincidence. Although I guess last Sunday would have been more timely.

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: I always thought Temple University had a really cool, unusual mascot that reflected its roots as a night school. Now I know something even cooler about OWLS:  “Their necks can turn 270 degrees” (86 Down). But I would call an exorcist if I ever saw a Temple student capable of that.

Oops Dept.: “Ones who gets things” (emphasis mine, 13 Down) should have read “One who gets things” to yield the answer PROCURER.

Oh, Really? Dept.: This probably isn’t an error, but I’ve never thought of TSP as an “Rx qty.” (10 Down). A baker’s qty., yes, but a pharmacist’s? And while I know the shorthand for suburbs is ‘burbs, I have never heard anyone use URBS (“Cities, informally,” 49 Down). Another bizarre word: UGSOME (“Repulsive,” 90 Down), which seems to be a combination of “ugly” and “loathsome” used in Scotland and northern England. But I’ve never heard it here.

OMG Dept.: “Start of an aside, to tweeters” is BTW (60 Down), for “by the way.” And if you turn the page of the NYT Magazine after solving the puzzle, you’ll find a cautionary Twitter tale.

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