Scaly anteater / WED 8-12-15 / Roman equivalent of Rhea / 19th century Midwest railway hub / Word after which parent might interrupt child / Monster encountered by Aeneas

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Challenging ... for a Wednesday

THEME: SELF-REFLECTION (11D: Activity on Lent or Yom Kippur ... or a quality of every letter in the answer to each starred clue) —theme answers have mirror symmetry within themselves, i.e. bilateral symmetry, i.e. every letter's right half is a mirror image of its left half (or, better, every answer will look exactly the same if you hold the puzzle up to a mirror—try it!)

Theme answers:
  • TOMAYTO, TOMAHTO (3D: *"Same difference")
  • "MAMMA MIA" (4D: *Musical that includes the song "Take a Chance on Me")
  • "OUT WITH IT!" (31D: *"Stop hemming and hawing!")
  • "WHAT A HOOT!" (8D: *"That sure was funny!")
  • THATAWAY (38D: *Where "they went," in old westerns)
Word of the Day: PANGOLIN (20A: Scaly anteater) —
noun: pangolin; plural noun: pangolins
  1. an African and Asian mammal that has a body covered with horny overlapping scales, a small head with elongated snout, a long sticky tongue for catching ants and termites, and a thick, tapering tail. (google)
• • •

So I guess the trick here is to a. make theme answers out of only the letters A H I M O T U V W X and Y, and then b. have no other Down answers that do the same (b. is probably not strictly necessary, but it allows for a more elegant expression of the theme, I think). Some of the Across answers (i.e. MAHI MAHI) technically have mirror symmetry on the individual letter level, which is all the revealer clue requires, but I think the point is that if you hold the puzzle up to a mirror, you can still read the whole entry just fine (or, if you fold the answer lengthwise back upon itself, the two halves of each letter will match up perfectly). What do I think of this theme? I don't know. It's OK, I guess. You get some interesting theme answers, that's for sure. Mostly I think this is a just-OK super-sized (16-wide) puzzle with an overabundance of very short fill (3s and 4s) that makes it occasionally a mild nuisance to fill. But, as I say, there's some interesting stuff in here, and it was challenging (for a Wednesday, for me), and compared to yesterday's puzzle, this is Caravaggio-level artistry, so I'm reasonably content. I'll take back-to-back TOPEKAs over back-to-back NABOBs *any day*!

[Gershwin! "Shall We Dance"! I just watched this movie for the first time last week!]

This played quite hard for me. Wicked hard clue on the 3-letter 1-Across, and many things thereafter were far from straightforward. TOMAYTO TOMAHTO, for instance. Yikes. Creative, but took me many crosses to pick up. GLORIOUS is an [Adjective for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un] only if you are forced to call him that. Nothing in the clue about the literal inaptness of the adjective, so I needed many crosses there too. GOLF was cross-referenced, so more work there. I've never ever Ever heard of a PANGOLIN (looks like the name of some "Lord of the Rings" creature), so that was bananas. Thank god I didn't see 63A: Roman equivalent of Rhea (OPS), 'cause I have no idea what that means. When I google "OPS" my first hit is the should-be-most-common OPS definition: the baseball statistic "on-base plus slugging." Everything else is "Call of Duty"-related. Nothing about this alleged Roman being. So she's the wife of Saturn. Fertility goddess. Alrighty then. ANYWAY, the upshot is, this puzzle was both bigger and harder than your average Wednesday.

Loved several of the themers, most notably "OUT WITH IT!" and "WHAT A HOOT!" I am also pleased with the high-currency colloquialism that is 'STACHE. Someone (I forget who) was just telling me a story that involved his family recalling his uncle's having had a "porn 'STACHE" in the '80s. This discussion resulted in the uncle's getting very embarrassed and defensive, as he was hearing "stash," not 'STACHE. Easy mistake to make. "Uncle Bob, remember that porn stash you had in the '80s!?" "What the ... I did not .. how did you ...?" Etc.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Whirred Whacks 12:03 AM  

Fun puzzle. I got SELF-REFLECTION almost immediately, and from the clue figured out that all of the letters would have bilateral symmetry. Which made for a quicker than average solve.

Has Will Shortz ever heard of the comedian Louis NYE? He'd be a great change of pace clue.

Interesting clue for EPA: "Org. whose resources go partly to waste." Coincidentally, the EPA is in the news today:
The EPA dumped 3 million gallons of contaminated mining waste into a Colorado river recently.

Which raises the question: Is there an EPA to protect us from the EPA?

Perhaps BP will be hired to do the cleanup.

Enjoy your Wednesdays!

jae 12:07 AM  

Medium-tough for me.  Not sure I would have figured out the theme without the reveal. 

WOE. @Rex PANGOLIN  If I've seen it before it got ERASEd.

Subtle, clever, pretty smooth, liked it.

wreck 12:13 AM  

I found this a tough Wednesday as well. I didn't catch the conceit until I saw the write-up at xwordinfo. I still bet the average solver enjoyed yesterday more than today's. Nice write up!

Elle54 12:21 AM  

Symmetrical, oh I get it

Music man 12:22 AM  

One of my favorite write-ups in a while, not sure why. Had a tough time with sections of this one as well, but yes, STACHE seemed to be my favorite answer as well. Had to state at the puzzle for a while after finishing to understand the theme. Cute.

George Barany 12:24 AM  

Amusing writeup from @Rex about @Tom McCoy's puzzle, identifying some of its joys and pointing out some of its sticking points too. Worth reading, where @Jeff Chen grudgingly concedes being scooped, and the constructor shares some of his methods. Plus, the puzzle stimulated the creativity of @Hayley Gold, who selected it as the point of departure for this week's webcomic.

So with all that stimulating commentary, not much original for me to add. I chuckled after noticing OMAHA and TOPEKA cross at the A, and observed that had MAHI_MAHI run down, that could have been a theme entry too. I originally considered KOREA for 1-down, but abandoned that idea after reading the clue for GLORIOUS. Fortunately, I knew both OPS (as clued) and HARPY, which cross at the P; solvers who are rusty on their Roman mythology might stumble on that, at least briefly. Finally, 3-down had a certain "je ne sais quoi" quality about it, but I won't object to anything that allows us to revisit the Astaire-Rogers duet that @Rex embedded in his post.

jp flanigan 12:27 AM  

I liked this, didn't have much trouble. Although i stupidly and too quickly put in USGA for GOLF, and even after that i wanted to shoe-horn in DELIRIOUS for 34 across. Thankfully i had all the crosses for PANGOLIN, yeah...i don't know what that is.

mathgent 12:37 AM  

The symmetry of the letters is a challenge for the constructor but it didn't increase my enjoyment at all. Nor did it help in the solving. It did lead to there being 32 three-letter entries -- a major annoyance. TOMAYTOTOMAHTO wasn't enough.

AliasZ 12:48 AM  

Neat idea for a puzzle theme that I do not remember seeing it before. I rarely think of individual letters that are symmetrical, I usually notice entire words or phrases (palindromes). Today we have entire phrases that look the same way in a mirror placed vertically to the left or right along the Downs.

Vertical symmetry would be more difficult because only B, C, D, E, H, I, K, O and X have it. It would be tough to come up with phrases containing only these letters. Single short words yes, phrases not so much. H, I, O and X are symmetrical along both axes, so OHIO, HO-HO-HO, OXO (maybe a few others) work both ways.

As it is, the SELF REFLECTION was an apt revealer, but at first I couldn't figure out what was reflecting. It wasn't until I stared at the completed grid for a few minutes that I noticed the trick was in the letters themselves.

I found a few other potential themers if they were spelled vertically: MAHI MAHI, OMAHA, AWAIT, MAW, TIM. Any others?

I never heard of a PANGOLIN, but it was good to learn about this cute critter. After I got it from the crosses, I was looking for Captain Corelli somewhere. Oh, he had a mandolin.

Is JETS OFF for real? I had runSOFF for too long, never thinking JETSOFF would be correct. George Jetson JETSOFF -- I don't like the sound of that.

Happy Wednesday.

Anonymous 12:53 AM  

Being a, you know, adult, and not writing in childlike box letters, all in caps at that, this theme was lost on me.

DanL 12:58 AM  

Interesting that this played hard for you, as I think this was my fastest Wednesday solve in quite some time.

Surprised you didn't mention the actual worst clue I've seen in some time: "15-Across backward" (62A). It's... different, I guess, than yet another "Important period" or similar clue, but it just feels so lazy.

Trombone Tom 1:26 AM  

Enjoyable and fairly easy except for my getting hung up on TOMAYTO-TOMAHTO for the longest time and failing completely to tie in the theme with vertical symmetry of the letters until SELFREFLECTION showed up via the crosses.

Thank you Tom McCoy for the pleasant romp.

Steve J 1:52 AM  

Wasn't crazy about this one. I didn't get the theme, even when I was finished. I looked for reflections of the word "self" at first, but those clearly weren't there. Then I looked for palindromes. Also clearly not there. Never in a million years would I have considered that the letters all had left-right symmetry.

Not getting the theme is my fault (although, I'd argue there's a case to be made that it's a little too obtuse). But there were things that were definitely the puzzle's fault. The incredibly disjointed grid is a big one. Credit for keeping the plethora of three- and four-letter fill fairly clean, but it's still an excessive amount of short fill, making for a very choppy puzzle. The theme revealer's clue is also off. Both Lent and Yom Kippur are primarily about atonement and self-reflection. I suppose there's some connection - it's tough to truly repent without reflecting on what you've done - but they are different concepts and aren't really synonymous.

And then there's quite possibly the lamest clue in the history of crosswords at 62A.

Theme answers were actually pretty good, but overall this was pretty joyless.

JTHurst 1:52 AM  

I am one who is reluctant to rant (Questinia may disagree) but some of the comments over the past two days, especially, yesterday, overcame my pusillanimous nature. The response from several bloggers about, "Why does Rex expend so much energy critiquing the M, T & W puzzles as they are trite and so simple, who cares?"

I could see that if you do a puzzle in 3 minutes you might not care how many SKEE, MINOT, UELE, CEE, ECRU, ONEA, OLEO, LAPP, OSHA, MANO are used but to denigrate us, the ingenuous, early week solvers, is fustian and I applaud Rex in his fervour to ensure even that the Monday puzzles are of the highest standard.

Today's puzzle was harder than yesterdays but the quality, as Rex said, was so much better. Though not a constructor of puzzles I could make a puzzle of proper names, abbreviations and Rap artists that no one could solve in a year.

An easy puzzle made competently is much more difficult and time consuming to do than making a hard puzzle. And I think we should demand this of the editing staff of the NYT to give us a proper puzzle with some forethought. Thanks again Rex for defending us, the green and guileless solvers who take thirty minutes to solve a puzzle.

Enough rant and now to the puzzle. While the bridge of the River Kwai does go into Myanmar (no longer Burma - get used to it) it is located in Kanchanaburi Thailand and you can take a tour of it from Bangkok.

Pangolins are endangered here in Asia but the Chinese love to eat them (I do not know how or why). Hardly a week goes by when you will see a picture in the newspaper of twenty dead pangolins hanging from a pole trying to be smuggled into China.

The Glorious Leader has decided to change the time zone of Pyongyang to a half hour behind South Korea's and Japan's time zone. He stated that the Japanese during WW II established the time zone and he refused to be dictated to by them. His rhetoric towards Japan is more vitriolic than towards America.

Moly Shu 1:57 AM  

Holy crap, this is what passes for a theme? Answers that contain letters that are symmetrical? Yuck. Did not like.

chefwen 2:35 AM  

Color me red, by the time we finished the puzzle I was just glad that we were done and totally forgot to go back to figure out the starred clues. Oh well! I guess my mind was done by that time.

34A made me shudder in horror, I can think of many more adjectives to describe Kim Jong-un and that would not be one of them.

PANGOLIN was my learning word today which I will probably forget in 10 minutes.

Charles Flaster 4:03 AM  

Liked this easy/medium puz with its symmetric theme.
Phonetic spelling of tomato was nicely woven.
MAHI MAHI with a little TARTAR is a personal fav.
Liked cluing--AWAIT and TOE HOLDS.
Two write overs--OPTions-->OPTSFOR
SEed--> SETS.
Not too much CrosswordEASE.
Team finished 4th out of 10 in a weekly trivia contest-- could not name the 14 states the Appalachian Trail runs through!
Thanks TM.

Thomaso808 4:26 AM  

Really liked this Wednesday opportunity. Fresh theme that took a while to figure out and worthy fill with a lot of noble threes / weejects.

What, no mention by either Rex or the constructors of

Loren Muse Smith 4:43 AM  

Wow. Not only was this pretty hard (and a dnf because I had "yaw" for MAW and hence never saw MET for "came across."

But I had everything else and just didn't understand the SELF REFLECTION deal. With magnificent disregard for the wording of the reveal's clue, I was focused on the meanings of the entries rather than the letters' appearance. And I was mystified. Especially since TOMAYTO TOMAHTO shows that you're kinda self-reflecting on how you say something. Now that I understand the conceit, I agree with Rex that this is cool.

Haven't we recently argued about how you would write out the entry for "wifey?" I'm with those who wouldn't write "The MRS" but rather "The Missus."

And I've said here before that ANYWAY for me doesn't indicate a change in subject but rather a (merciful) return to the subject after a digression. Oh, right. I ate PANGOLIN once, and let me tell you - we were at this inn in Topeka after a miserable 12 hour drive when I was in a bad mood because my doctor and I had not succeeded in tweaking my thyroid medication so my heart had started racing and I was sweating even though it wasn't that hot and my back was killing me because I had forgotten my lumbar pillow and the car was a sty because The Mr hadn't cleaned out the McDonalds detritus and in fact still had french fry crumbs in his stache and my Ipod Touch battery had died so I couldn't listen to my book on tape and was subjected to the kids' bickering over which radio station to listen to – ANYWAY, I ordered the braised pangolin strip, and it was pretty good once I added some tartar sauce.

Rex – the "Porn Stache" story is a classic!

Tom – your first name fits the bill, huh? I've never really thought about letters this way, so thanks for the food for thought as I sit through an Entire Day now of going over policies for Calhoun County schools.

Thomaso808 4:51 AM  

I really enjoyed this Wednesday puzzle. Fresh theme and worthy fill.

No mention by either Rex or the constructor about 31A OMAHA or 43A AWAIT right in the center of the grid that both also qualify as self reflective themes. Five letter words also have feelings!

OMAHA should have been clued as "47D's brother's favorite audible" for all the times Peyton has yelled that word on live TV in front of millions for who knows what reason.

I assume today's clue for UNO does not offend anyone.

@M&A got me counting weejects and I see 32, which I think must be a pretty high count. All are good fill, except OPS as clued. Sorry. Wrong. My favorite is UNO, which is hereby redeemed from yesterday's ignominy.

Fun puzzle with a good theme and a little challenge.

Roberta Weiner 5:44 AM  

Enjoyed starting the day with Fred and Ginger. Thanks!

optionsgeek 6:49 AM  

Roughly agree that the puzzle was a cut above, especially compared to recent stuff. Amazed by theme density. However it played easy medium for me.

Roo Monster 7:08 AM  

Hey All !
Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday Dear me
Happy Birthday to me!

Hah! Nothing like a little self adoration!

This was an odd puz. Symmetry in a mirror... alrighty then. What's the significance of being 16 wide? Why couldn't it have been regular size? The way I write my Y on the printed out puz, ruins the symmetry as I use the lower case y. Far too many threes, even for a bigger grid. 32 of them. Ouch.

Really wanted asshole for the Kim Jong-un clue. Really. Tell me the clue couldn't have been something else. There is some nice entries, though. MIASMA, TOEHOLD(S), STACHE, JETSOFF. Agree with Rex on the PANGOLIN being a WOE. I rate this A LITTLE too clunky.

OH NO, I FUMED when I saw the grid. Hoping theme made up for it, BUT MAN, didn't do it for me. NYE. Time to JETOFF.


Z 7:10 AM  

The mirror thing won't work if you use an italic font or have messy handwriting. Just sayin'.

@M&A - Ulee's uvula! Apologies for suggesting the removal of U. Nicely undone.

@Leapy - the Donald fascinates lots of people until they start looking closely. The closer people look the less they like. People who have a special passion for looking closely at Pols like him less sooner. I just saw a "why do you like the Donald" poll and the answers weren't idiotic, just very surface level. Does my metaphor make sense now? It took me a second to parse what you were saying because it seemed so odd a response to what I meant to say.

Now off to feed my pet PANGOLIN. (Actually hitting the road to the UP, so it's not that I'm ignoring you, it's just that I'm ignoring you all)

Susierah 7:11 AM  

Wow. This was different, definitely challenging, but very interesting! Glad the word of the day was pangolin. I've never seen that word before. A nice puzzle!

Glimmerglass 7:19 AM  

Congratulations to all of you who knew that SELFREFLECTION could also mean bilateral symetry. It was lost on me, and so I solved this as a themeless, which made it a bit harder for me. But then, for me, hard is good (provided I eventally prevail). The theme, after I had it explained in the blogs, was interesting. Horizontal bilateral symetry (O, I, H, X, B) would be a bigger challenge. BOX?

elitza 7:39 AM  

Sailed right through this one. PANGOLINs are personal favorites--so weird! so cute! so, so weird!--nice to see them in here. TOMAYTO TOMAHTO came relatively easily but led me to look for a theme involving commonly-differently-pronounced words. Which it was not. Still, fastest Wednesday in a good long while for me. NYT Crossword app on my iPad had me coming in over five minutes faster than average for a Weds so this was evidently in my wheelhouse.

Z 7:42 AM  

Hey - a whole bunch of comments appeared before I left...

@Steve J paragraph 2 - there are times where I wonder if we are the same person ('tho I did parse the theme - so I guess not).

@LMS - Nice STARR avatar. Please don't eat my pet PANGOLIN with tartar sauce. Madeira sauce would be so much better. ANYWAY...

@THomas808 - UNO complaint, I put in gin first because I dont have UNO filed under "card games." Hmmm, now I'm wondering if a nice pesto might not be better. UNO momento while I ponder this....

@WW - The only thing worse than government regulation is no government regulation (which this disaster is unfortunate proof of). So much clean-up to do, we'll be paying for the pollution sins of our forefathers for three or four generations at least.

Okay, I'm guessing everyone will be out of bed before anymore comments are moderated. Toodles.

Billy C 7:46 AM  

Is poi the most common vegetable? I, for one, have had enough of it.

Jamie C 7:56 AM  

@LMS, it appears you conflated MAW and "yap" to come up with "yaw." While I have seen some people whose pie holes seem to rotate around a vertical axis when they speak, it's probably not synonymous with a "big mouth."

Aketi 7:57 AM  

I think someone FUMED about TOo many TOs and GOs in a recent puzzle. Counted 6 TOs If you read the words forward and 2 if you read the words backward, which is what I was doing to try to figure out the theme. A mere 3 GOs.

As for Lollapuzzoola, I definitely wasn't up to the challenge this year. I'm clearly never going to be an express train solver and even the local category is a bit of a stretch. the way I solve puzzles is often more like one of those who sometimes misses a transit stop or gets lost in the wrong borough because I read the map. So I think next year I will get the TO GO cup and head to Central Park or the new hammock park on Governor's Island.

GOt TO GO. Prepping for the start of college tours with trip NO1 to Ithaca and, yes, Binghamton TOo.

evil doug 7:57 AM  

So many puzzles are weakened by the theme. Kind of refreshing today that the theme is irrelevant, because the fill is mostly good enough to stand alone as sort of an easy Friday.

Yeah, a clue that says to reverse another answer is unacceptable. I'm betting that's on Shortz.

Good trivia on Burma.
[Elaine groans in frustration as Kramer enters.]

Kramer: Hey. (notices Elaine) What's wrong?

Elaine: Oh, Peterman ran off to Burma, and now he wants me to run the catalog.

Kramer: Where?

Jerry: Myanmar.

Kramer: The discount pharmacy?

Miasma, toeholds, harpy, tomayto/tomahto, twig, glorious (it's what he calls himself, not how we consider him, people; relax), allies, array, swirl: nice stuff.

After yesterday, I'll bet 'mericans wanted 'rocks off' instead of 'jets off'.

Mike D 8:03 AM  

Best use of OMAHA, in anything, ever:

white sushi chef

dk 8:14 AM  

🌕🌕 (2 mOOns)

Just not my cuppa. My high point: PANGOLIN and MIASMA was in second place. Otherwise I was just filling in stuff that made little sense to me.

I have been emersed in puzzle world for a week or so and have to say we sure do whine a lot about something that is supposed to be fun. As expected it is largely personal or perhaps merely personified by our trade craft moon towers (see streets of Austin for this loose association). Rex rails on Will, Will rails on constructors and Rex, constructors rail on Rex, the low pay for puzzle, lack of syndication rights and solvers complain about other solvers, constructors, Rex, solving online vs. the paper and on and on. What a MIASMA!

Time for a little 11d.

I miss the posts by the love Doctor who saves marriages, etc.

Anonymous 8:19 AM  

@anomymous 12:53

...well, if you do your puzzles in cursive like a grown-up, I see how you'd run into problems.

quilter1 8:25 AM  

Easy-medium for me, but i really enjoyed all of it. So much better quality than recently. Good for you, Tom.

joho 8:26 AM  

I loved this one!

Finished last night and thought the theme was mirror related what with SELFREFLECTION, but didn't take a good look (in the mirror) until this morning. I actually did hold the puzzle up to a mirror ... how much fun was that! OK, so I'm easily amused. Reading TOMAYTOTOMAHTO in the mirror made my morning!

All the theme answers are fresh and so actively verbal ... I spoke all theme answers to add to my puzzle participation (after my earlier mirror reading exercise). To the outlaw being interrogated,"OUTWITHIT! Where did they Go?" Outlaw,"They went THATAWAY!"

MAMMMIA! Thank you, Tom McCoy! What WHATAHOOT!

'mericans in Paris 8:29 AM  

Really great write-up from Rex today. Witty, fair, and interesting. Thanks!

Dshawmaine 8:31 AM  

DNF because I had "hut" over "uni" instead of STY over TRI, leading to halfREFLECTION and other missteps in the NE corner. BUT loved the clue for 1A and got it instantly. Did not get the theme til reading Rex's write-up, since I was trying to see a first-half/second-half reflection of some kind. Once revealed, the theme is different and creative. Overall, an enjoyable puzzle.

Geno Smith 8:51 AM  

OH NO I hear IK Enemkpali is OFF the JETS because he FUMED and punched the QB Geno Smith (AKA Bubba G) in the MAW and broke his jaw, all because the QB didn't JET OFF to a football camp for linebackers. I guess his next gig will be with the OMAHA Nighthawks or the TOPEKA Kansas Kayotes. Sounds like he oughta TRY A LITTLE SELF REFLECTION!

NCA President 8:55 AM  

This was easy-ish for me. What Rex called a "wicked" clue for 1A BUT, was a no-brainer. I have interrupted many a time sentences that my kids have started with "But..." Nope. No buts, or ifs, or even ands.

I didn't care for the shout out to the GLORIOUS North Korean leader. This guy is as much of an a-hole as Hitler. Indiscriminate killing, oppression of an entire nation, childish tantrums that involve hurling nuclear missiles into the sea, etc. If he is mentioned at all it should be in the same way Trey Parker and Matt Stone did it to his father in "Team America." A complete and utter send up of how ridiculous this man is. I'm pretty sure no one in North Korea finds this man to be glorious in any way shape or form. There needed to be some kind of nod of sarcasm in the clue, IMO.

Count me in on not knowing OPS or PANGOLIN.

MAHIMAHI, sort of self-reflective in its own way, along with being an outlier themer, should have been mentioned somehow. As it is, it sort of dilutes the theme. The ARE/ERA self-reflection was just weird.

TIM reminds me of one of my go-to shows in the 90s, "Home Improvement." "I don't think so, Tim." I may sound like an old grump here, but I'd much rather see sitcoms make a comeback and replace the plethora of reality TV crap that's around.

Anyway (changing the subject), decent puzzle for a Wednesday.

Tita 9:01 AM was really late, and I was really tired...explains why I was wrongly looking for some palindromic symmetry in what I wrongly thought were themers, like MAHIMAHI and TARTAR. There was a TOT and 2 ATAs...

So, had to come here...oh...I like it...uncommon.

Bananagrams has supplanted Scrabble as my mom"s favorite game...a visit with her requires at least one round. And, it fits in her know what that means...!
My favorite surrealist wordnerd moment was at my first ACPT, sitting in the hotel bar, playing rowdy rounds while normal people furtively stared then slowly walked away...

@EllenS...what were you told about jigsaw puzzles and card games, btw... Mom, who is 92, always has a jigsaw, solitaire, and crossword going.
Analog, mind you...she's tried all of the above digitally, but feels that they all become too two-dimensional, losing the gray-matter benefits along the way.

Thanks Mr. McCoy, for a novel Wednesday.

Mohair Sam 9:04 AM  

Absolutely loved this Wednesday toughie. And as for @Steve J's demand for penance on Lent and Yom Kippor (the grouch) - this is Will's penance for yesterday's atrocity.

Totally new theme idea that actually worked without straining credulity. Nice. And how neat was TOMAYTOTOMAHTO. We actually stared at it for a while wondering what the hell it was before a laughing aha moment.

1a a great clue. HARPY a random monster in our memory banks or we would have double naticked on IRA and OPS. Never heard of PANGOLIN, had to fill every letter (@lms - the species is probably endangered, the EPA will need you to identify the inn).

Fun write-up from @rex today, although we enjoyed this one even more than he. And, yeah, loved the STACHE story.

Nancy 9:04 AM  

Puzzle: You had me at TOMAYTO TOMAHTO. Loved both the answer and the ambiguous way it was clued. After that, it didn't matter to me in the least whether certain letters self-reflected or not. But if Rex is right: if, in fact, the constraints of the theme are what produced some unusual and interesting fill, then the constraints are a good thing. As for the solving experience, they made absolutely no difference to me. But I thought the puzzle was both lively and very challenging for a Wednesday.

Small note: For 34A, what I really wanted was a synonym for "nuts" or a synonym for "fat" or a synonym for "intellectually challenged."

Don McBrien 9:14 AM  

Too bad I solved today in lowercase.

Hartley70 9:16 AM  

I rate this one a Wednesday easy according to the completion time on the phone, and yet it was most enjoyable. The puzzle felt fresh. One PANGOLIN is just enough education early in the morning to edify sans irritation. I have no inclination to eat one.

I like the look and sound of MIASMA. I hadn't heard that epithet for Buffet, nor that Ringo had a self-named band. The long themers were great. Relaxed is the word that comes to mind. SELFREFLECTION was obvious, although how that related to the themers was beyond me. I liked the puzzle enough that I didn't care. Now that I see, I say cute, not earth-shaking, but cute. Perhaps a more clever revealer clue could have given the solve some extra punch. But still, a good job, Tom McCoy!

Leapfinger 9:19 AM  

@George, me too, going first for the plain old TOMATO, but saw soon that it wouldn't work as an ANsWer, cause I couldn't tack a PEON to ANtWerp. Suffix it to say I also had a bit of a merry-go-round with SELFREFLE(x)CTIve/-Ing/-Ion


Point of interest (maybe): When I took my first Genetics course, all the students were asked to give hand- and foot-prints for a departmental researcher who was investigating the heredity of same. That's how I learned I have a somewhat unusual lateral crease on the soles of my feet, apparently due to A LITTLE TARTAR in my genome. Explains the occasional urge to invade Asia Minor.

Note to all hangers-on: FingerHOLDS OUTLAST TOEHOLDS. Really. Rarely does one get those spasms in the palm of the hands.

STACHE, STACHE, GLORIOUS STACHE! Must admit I had no clue about that till I hit @Rex's stash, but I do love me a good MIASMAMIA!

For real, I have plans to rip out the kitchen floor (well, to have someone rip it out for me). Not sure yet whether to replace it with wood or tile, but either way, I know I'll never suffer a PANG O'LINoleum lost. [Sooner or later, those hours of poring over nature books do pay off.)

A most entertaining Wednesday. Thanks to all the usual suspects.

(btw, does everyone know that Leonardo da Vinci wrote his notebooks backwards so they could only be easily read in a mirror? This puzzle would have been piece of cake for him.)

jberg 9:26 AM  

I was bothered more than @Rex by OHNO, MAY, OMAHA, AWAIT, MAHI MAHI, and MAW. I get his explanation that the whole answer must be reflectable - only the clue refers to "a quality of every letter in the answer." If it had been "a quality of every answer," I might have figured it out!

I've never eaten PANGOLIN, but I did manage to dredge up the word after 'echidna' and 'armadillo' didn't work. Not OPS, though. I didn't even know that Rhea had a Latin name.

@Loren, your story is brilliant!

chefbea 9:27 AM  

too tough for me!! and it's wednesday?????

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

Yes, @Molly @ 1:57, this is a theme. A coherent set of clues and a clever revealer. You and Rex share the same problem: a theme has either been "done many times before" or it is a bad theme. When you construct the 30 gazillionth puzzle ever made, those seem to be your choices.

Laurence Katz 9:53 AM  

Who ever said "jets off"?

OISK 9:59 AM  

Finished it - slightly more difficult for me than an average Wednesday, but I thought the cluing was fine and clever. However, I did not get the theme until I came here. Oh, the LETTERS contain the symmetry. Not the way I wrote them! There was really an "All Starr Band?" Anything to do with Ringo? (the only rock drummer I can name).

Liked this one. But I liked yesterday's as well.

Honeysmom 10:02 AM  

Potayto/Potahto, Tomayto/Tomahto? Who cares? Didn't get the theme, and didn't need to -- easiest Wednesday ever for me!

Honeysmom 10:07 AM  

Easiest Wednesday ever for me! Didn't get the theme and didn't need to. Real life is complicated enough without looking for complications in a puzzle, for goodness sake!?!

Haiku Nerd 10:11 AM  


Bob Kerfuffle 10:13 AM  

Tough but fun puzzle.

Didn't "get" 3D until almost every letter filled by crosses; didn't get theme until I read Rex's explanation!

But, sorry, PANGOLIN was a gimme, got it off just the final N, honest.

Noam D. Elkies 10:30 AM  

Not supersized, because there are only 14 rows, so the total area is basically the same (224 vs. 225, remember the (a-b)(a+b) identity).

There's quite a few horizontally symmetrical words too (CHOICE, EXCEED(ED), DIOXIDE, COOKBOOK/CHECKBOOK, KICKBOX(ED), OKEECHOBEE(!)), but possibly none long enough to span the grid.


Jyqm 10:32 AM  

This was a tale of two puzzles for me. Really enjoyed the theme, on a few levels. The individual answers were mostly great, and as I moved across the puzzle from left to right I couldn't figure out what on earth the theme might be (though I did notice all of the repeat letters), so the reveal was a nice "aha" moment. On the downside, there are all those pockets of 3-letter fill that are just boring and frustrating almost by definition. Yucky all over, though the theme goes a long way in making up for it.

For those of you who had never heard of PANGOLINs before today, enjoy them while they last! The poor things are allegedly the most trafficked mammal in the world, as it is a popular belief in some Asian countries that their scales have medicinal properties:

Steve J 10:40 AM  

Gah, part of my comment last night ended up saying exactly the opposite of what I wanted (although, it seems what I meant still came through). I meant that Yom Kippur and Lent are primarily about atonement and repentance. Not SELF REFLECTION.

@AliasZ: (Warning, extreme typeface geekery ahead) B, E, H and K don't have vertical symmetry in most typefaces. The center line in type is usually above the literal halfway point, leaving the horizontal marks in those letters above center. When I was learning about the mechanics of how human read many years ago, the fact we don't look at whole letters was illustrated by showing a passage where the bottom half of a block of text was blocked out. You could still tell what was written by just seeing the tops of letters that extended above the center line. If you blocked out the top and tried reading only what was below the center line, it was impossible to tell what was written.

Carola 10:44 AM  

Nice puzzle! Like some others, I looked for SELF-REFLECTION in all the wrong places (internal palindromes, synonyms for the SELF) until I reread the reveal clue after finishing. Aha! Add admiration for the construction onto the fun of the solve.

Loved seeing the PANGOLIN, one of my favorite you-won't-find-this-in-Wisconsin creatures; middle-school fascination with mythology put HARPY and OPS in my memory bank.

Several times, entries would not snap into focus for me: TO MAY TO...wha? OUTWIT...who? For Kim Jong-un, I had ...RIOUS: first ideas were uproaRIOUS and deleRIOUS (not seriously; I just didn't think about his SELF-apellation).

ANYWAY, super puzzle. Loved the challenge and the lively answers.

Whirred Whacks 10:47 AM  

@Z Regarding the answer for 33A: EPA
Good comments: What you say is very well true -- we will be cleaning up our environment for generations. And yes, we do need some regulation. However, there are times I believe the EPA takes care of the environment as well as the VA takes care of veterans. (Remember: the EPA is part of the team tasked with saving us from global warming.)

I wish this EPA dumping story would get more media coverage. If the fracking industry polluted 3,000,000 gallons of contaminated day-glo-colored waste water into a river, the MSM would be in wall-to-wall "lost airplane" mode.

It's clear the EPA needs help. Maybe they can get the world's experts at containing and preventing leaks -- the fracking industry -- on board!

Once again, thanks for a delightful puzzle Tom McCoy!

mac 10:49 AM  

Easy Wednesday, mostly. A couple of crunchy bits. For a moment I thought Wifey was the IRS! Related to big brother, maybe?

Pretty word, Pangolin. I bet it tastes like chicken.

Liked stache and toeholds, surprised by are/era.

Ludyjynn 10:57 AM  

Mmm...MIASMA, worth the price of admission (hi, @Hartley).

Ran the alphabet for the 'H' in STACHE and 'P' in HARPY. Still couldn't make sense of it...put down the paper, found my lucky puzzle-solving pen, and voila, both words materialized. YES! GLORIOUS finish.

Thought for the day: Do we really need an official holiday to remind us of the benefits of SELF REFLECTION?

Gotta GOGO. Thanks, TM and WS.

Arlene 11:03 AM  

Yes - I got it! Looked at SELF REFLECTION - and all those theme clues and pondered.
And then had my AHA mirror moment. YAY!

Andrew Heinegg 11:18 AM  

Played very easy for me for no other reason other than just being in my wheelhouse; I thought it was a decent effort but, it did have the flaws that Rex and others have pointed out, e.g. era cluing. I also did not like the clue for 24a. Jets off does not conotate (to me) leaving in a hurry but rather going off to somewhere distant. But, since that was my only write over perhaps my criticism is ego driven.

Joseph Michael 11:18 AM  

Tough Wednesday. Managed to avoid a DNF with a lucky guess at the "G" in PANGOLIN. And didn't understand the theme until I came here. But liked the puzzle overall.

Think this is the first time I've seen a 14 x 16 grid in the NYT. I guess it's what happens when you can use only self-reflecting letters in the themers.

Favorite themer: TOMAYTO TOMAHTO

old timer 11:36 AM  

I liked this puzzle just fine. But had to come here to see that there was a theme based on letters that look the same in a mirror. Glad to learn of the PANGOLIN too -- it was my last answer, as I had not quite remembered the GOGOS.

You know, the first set of across answers looks like English, almost:

"But may twig sty. Uno are Ohno ere RPM, Mrs. Pangolin! Miasma jets off anyway, AKA strip."

Maybe the AKA is referring to the mysterious Tim Omaha, Viscount of the Crossworld.

I don't suppose any parent had trouble with the clue for 1 Across.

pmdm 11:43 AM  

One of the above comments got me to thinking. The M in Momma Mia is upper case, while the letter M in Tim is lower case. Because of crosses like these, I would guess using upper case for all letters is the norm.

But the theme only works if you print [in caps]. If you use script, it doesn't work. I would have liked one clue to read "How to print the answers in this puzzle" with the correct answer "ALL CAP"S.

Lewis 12:13 PM  

@rex -- terrific writeup with which I greatly identified.
@aliasz -- MAY fits also
@jberg -- I'm with you regarding the across answers that also fit the reveal clue, and there are five of them. The puzzle would have been more impressive if they were counted as theme answers.

Tom McCoy's cluing is usually not clever, in the sense of clever wordplay, but it is tricky -- he's really good at making clues that fairly make the solver work to get, and when you get them, they make perfect sense. His puzzles make my brain think differently than other constructors, and I've grown to love it. Although, the clue for ERA made my jaw drop a little -- it's one step off from cluing ERA "The word ERA". I like the little mini theme of TAR-TAR and MAHI-MAHI, and the wannabe GO-GOs.

Can someone please explain "Came across" for MET?

I liked STACHE, MIASMA, and WHATAHOOT, and enjoyed the battle on this one. Thanks, Tom!

Lewis 12:34 PM  

Factoid: Many Japanese GOLF players carry “hole-in-one” insurance. In Japan if you hit a hole-in-one it is customary to share your good luck by throwing a party complete with gifts for all your friends. Typically, the insurance costs $65 a year for a $3,000 payout. You can also get this insurance here in the U.S. (And, by the way, do not forget that golf is the only sport ever played on the moon.)

Quotoid: "It is very difficult to be taken seriously when you're introduced at a party to somebody as the fourth MRS. Rex Harrison." -- Welch actress Rachel Roberts

Leapfinger 12:45 PM  

@Lewis, I never MET a man I didn't like.

However, I came across six horizontal candidates, not five: MAY MAW TIM AWAIT OMAHA 2x(MAHI).

@mac, lolled at your 'tastes like chicken'.

GILL I. 2:18 PM  

@JTHurst. Good rant - totally agree.
@SteveJ: Your first post had me nodding yes, yes, that's what I meant...
Didn't feel the bilateral symmetry groove for this puzzle but I still enjoyed it.
PANGOLIN? I have a very old and worn out crossword dictionary compiled by Edy Garcia Schaffer. Whenever I feel something sounds oldy moldy or out in left field, I'll turn to my dusty copy. Sure enough, right between AARDVARK and TAMANDURA, the cute little PANGOLIN appears.... they say in TOPEKA...apy verde tu ju.!

Moly Shu 2:46 PM  

@Anon9:31, first and foremost, it's Moly, one l, rhymes with holy. Secondly, I'm glad you enjoyed the puzzle, I did not. I'll politely disagree with your use of the word 'clever'. Why is not liking something a "problem"!? It's just my opinion. I don't think you have a "problem" because you liked this puzzle. We just disagree.

@Roo, Happy B-Day !!

michael 3:03 PM  

Topeka is not in the "Midwest" in my mental map. It is in the Plains. I once sent out a Facebook query asking what people thought was the "Midwest." There was not much agreement except for a few core states -- Iowa and Illinois and Indiana. And even then there were comments about how the southern parts of Illinois and Indiana weren't all that "midwestern."

Nancy 3:52 PM  

@Lewis -- @Leapy has a different, maybe better explanation, but my thought upon reading your query was "came across" as in MET one's obligations. But I got home much too late to be first :)

Leapfinger 4:18 PM  

Argh. That's what I forgot. Hoppy birthday to Roo!!

Pass it on, Darrin V. This will be The Year!!

RAD2626 4:39 PM  

Enjoyed the puzzle and understood the theme correctly but thought I had to be wrong. The JETS are more than OFF. They are done. Only surprising part is that the Dolans do not own them.

Masked and Anonymous 4:48 PM  

Very self-reflective, for a Wednesday puz. Also, different kinda theme -- which I really like.

@Roomeister! -- I am taking my special occasion wishes off-line, at the address below. (Hope that's ok with everybody, as I've owed him one of these, for a real long time.)


for roo:

David IN CA 4:54 PM  

Just to be nit-picky would observe contrary to OFL this was not an oversize puzzle: 15x15 > 14x16
Liked it myself, though DNF on the HAR_Y / O_S cross.

mathgent 5:46 PM  

I'd like to hear what constructors think of this idea.

Create a grid with very few three-letter entries, ten or fewer. Each of these three-letter entries can hold any letters, whether they form a word or not. Maybe QLR or SGM. And these entries would be unclued because these nonsense letters would already be written into the grid when it is published. No lame three-letter entries for the solver to fill in.

It would seem that being able to use these wild-card letters would give the constructor a lot more flexibility. He or she would be able to put fresher entries in the rest of the grid. KenKen puzzles routinely have digits already written into the grid when it is published.

Orange 6:47 PM  

@mathgent: Dreadful idea. Rewriting the rules to allow utter crap fill does nothing to improve crosswords.

Roo Monster 7:09 PM  

@M&A, just did it! Awesome!Thanks, bud.

I appreciate the time it took to find a ROO answer in an August 12th puz!

As an aside, I stopped making Runtz once @Lewis changed "the site", as I couldn't find mine anymore.


Z 7:24 PM  

Listening to Sgt. Peppers as we drove north today it occurred to me that if STARR is in the puzzle than a link to an article praising fill by STARR should appear in the comments. This is one, do a little digging and you will find more. Basic idea in all of them, sure Paul and John were geniuses, but don't underestimate what the drum fill did to make those songs great. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

@michael - I subscribe to the idea that the Midwest includes only states that were part of the Northwest Territory as set by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

@oldtimer - And yet you can find Italian restaurants by that name all over.

@WW - It's the old "necessary evil" paradox. We must never forget that government bureaucracies are necessary nor forget that they are prone to evil. I don't know what you watch, but MSNBC was berating the EPA big time last night and this morning.

Okay, time to go catch a sunset behind the Mackinac Bridge, so back to ignoring you all.

PS - Hoppy Birthday Roo.

Teedmn 7:46 PM  

PANGOLIN! Was leaning towards PANGOLia, evidently being swayed by PANGlossia. But I waited a moment and my brain came OUTWITHIT (the N, that is). Still, when viewing the picture @Rex provided, it did not reinforce my AKA momento.

@Roo, Happy Birthday to you. The 3rd line of your SELF celebratory song could be changed to Happy Birthday Dear Leader and we'd be singing to Kim Jong Il, however GLORIOUS that wouldn't be. I don't know if son Un calls himself that also.

This puzzle played hard for me too, with a veritable MIASMA of black ink writeovers. And when I got the theme, I thought so WHAT. But after reading Tom McCoy's comments at Wordplay and realizing the themers could be read in the mirror made me indulge in some SELF REFLECTION and change my mind. Nice one, TM, nice write-up @Rex, and fun story @LMS.

@Leapfinger, (per Douglas Adams) if you have a penchant for wearing pointy hats, that's the clincher on the TARTAR genome.

Hartley70 8:44 PM  

Happy Birthday, Roo!

Aketi 9:18 PM  

@Roo happy BDay.

Lewis 9:34 PM  

@roo(7:09 p.m.) -- Now... what did I do???

Mohair Sam 9:37 PM  

@mathgent - Nah, you'd no longer have a crossWORD puzzle, and we'd lose the joy of complaining about junk fill and crosswordeze. Besides, Yoko Ono would be lost to history. On the other hand, you'd have new databases full of three letter combinations so cruciverbalists could complain "that's the eighth time in the past three months that opw has appeared in the NYT puzzle, has Will no standards?!"

@Moly Shu - Was tempted to call you @Mollie Shoe and ask you "What's your problem?" - but feared it wouldn't get by censorship board.

Tita 9:45 PM  

@leapy...happy belated birthday. And since you asked, wood. Glasses and plates bounce of wood, shatter into a zillion pieces on tile.
I am right-handed...if I write with my left hand, without thinking about it, it comes out mirror-image. How fun is that?!

@SteveJ...awesome geekery...thx.

@roo...happy birthday'

NCA President 9:49 PM  

@michael at 3:03pm: I have often wondered why there is no "mideast" in the US. That would include basically everything east of Chicago and west of, say, Philadelphia. Of course, all of that would be north of Kentucky. But if there was a "mideast," then there could be a midwest...everything west of Chicago and east of, say, Montana....and north of Texas to Arizona.

But as it stands, even though there is no geographical possibility that Columbus is in the "midwest," if people insist on it, then yeah, my home state Nebraska would be considered a plains state. Or, :ahem: "flyover" country.

Anonymous 10:25 PM  

During Lent, or maybe in Lent. Not on Lent.

robert phillips 10:34 PM  

63A equivalent to Rhea being Ops. A minor Roman divinity, so hardly a gimme for most. Was for me, but as a professional Roman historian I've written about her and her kind. A lot. She was many things, but one thing she was NOT was “alleged”. %%robert

Roo Monster 11:06 PM  

Oh, sorry Lewis! I meant to say @ralph. For some odd reason I always confuse you two!
I mean, your names are so similar! :-)


old tim4r 11:14 PM  

Growing up in California,I thought of everything between Colorado and Pennsylvania as the :he "Midwest" But as a History buff, I realized that the old Northwest was everything north of the Ohio as far as Minnesota, and the old Southwest was everything west of Georgia south of the Ohio, including (by extension) Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

I never understood where the Midwest is, and still don't. Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, for sure, and probably Iowa. But why not Nebraska and Kansas, too, in which case Topeka is right.

Anonymous 1:19 PM  

Not to be overly picky, but the clue for the themer made no sense. You don't self-reflect (or do anything else for that matter) ON Lent. Lent isn't a day, it's a 40-day period starting on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter. So you self-reflect IN lent or DURING Lent.

Kelly Thatcher 2:52 PM  

Sorry to be so late with this but I'm not a daily solver. The puzzle was fine, but I was stunned at the 'way off revealer clue…no, Anonymous, you're not being picky at all! As you pointed out, it's DURING Lent, not "on" Lent (sheesh). And SELF-REFLECTION isn't a feature of Lent at all…prayer, fasting, almsgiving, yes, but SELF-REFLECTION? No. Love this blog, by the way.

Burma Shave 10:13 AM  

Gotta love any puzzle that starts 1d BURMA


WHATAHOOT when I hear her, “OUTWITHIT MAN, THATAWAY there’s no misdirection.”


rondo 10:44 AM  

Not challenging whatsoever. I buzzed through this puz as though it were Monday, slowed down only ALITTLE by TOMAYTOTOMAHTO. ANYWAY, it was alright.

Shout out to @BURMA Shave in the NW, also alright.

Before the now demolished Metrodome was built in DT Mpls, some politicians here claimed that without it the Twin Cities would become a cold OMAHA. With or without, they were obviously half right.

I wonder at how many RPM MRS PANGOLIN plays her grammophone. Or if she puts ALITTLE TARTAR on her MAHIMAHI?

I’LL admit I had the 1980’s porn ‘STACHE, and small stash. Neither OUTLASTed a previous girlfriend.

TOEHOLDS all over this puz; ALITTLE surprised at OFL’s rating.

spacecraft 10:55 AM  

Two days in a row my first impression is: weird. Starting in the NW, I thought the whole grid was going to be jammed with M's, with perhaps a theme relating to extra-wide type. I got the basic idea for 3-down right away, but had to wait on exactly how the spelling of each "tomato" would play out. My only other hangup was PANGOLIN, (red line; go figure!) but otherwise this puppy practically filled itself in. I make it midweek-easy.

The theme could almost have been "self-repeating," with MAHIMAHI and TARTAR along with those twin tomaytoes (I don't know a soul who actually says "tomahto"). ANYWAY, WHATAHOOT! B+.

Anonymous 1:07 PM  

Agree with Rondo & Spacecraft. this one was an easy Wednesday, and I don't understand Mr. Parker's rating. There simply wasn't any challenge at all but I still don't understand the theme. What theme?

It was good to learn a new word (Pangolin) as I've never seen one at a zoo. Will check out Wiki later.

Ron Diego, La Mesa, CA

(My bevy of writers couldn't think of anything today. I'm gonna fire them all).

Anonymous 1:47 PM  

From Syndication Land

I loved this puzzle! The answers were full of zing! I totally couldn't figure out the theme until I came to this blog, then I had the added bonus of holding my puzzle up to a mirror! This was so much fun! More like this please.

Anonymous 3:20 PM  

Same syndi comment as above - Not that tough today
Funny @BURMA, no missed what?

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