NYT Mini for Sunday, November 15, 2015

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Easy

Theme: GEESE (4A: Animals flying in a V formation)  Circled letters spell the word "geese," plus also the word geese is a regular answer in the grid too, for...some reason.

Word of the Day: TENET

George John Tenet (born January 5, 1953) was the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) for the United States Central Intelligence Agency, and he is Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University.

Tenet held the position as the DCI from July 1997 to July 2004, making him the second-longest-serving director in the agency's history—behind Allen Welsh Dulles—as well as one of the few DCIs to serve under two U.S. presidents of opposing political parties. He played a key role in overseeing the intelligence behind the Iraq War.

In February 2008, he became a managing director at investment bank Allen & Company. (Wikipedia)

Was going to use a still from the Mensa episode, but somehow decided on this one instead.

Was going to use a still from the Mensa episode, but somehow decided on this one instead.

Pass. As in, "the puzzle gets a passing grade," not as in "I'll take a pass on this puzzle." It's totally worth doing. But I'm not head over heels with this theme, such as it is. I don't understand why Joel thought it was a good idea to have GEESE as both the circled letters and a regular answer at the same time. That's a redundancy that just doesn't work for me. Either make it an answer (and theme revealer) and have the circled letters spell a different word relating to geese, or vice versa.

As it is, because this theme Does Not Try Hard Enough, we don't have a "V" of geese, we have an upside-down delta of geese(s). Am I supposed to just LET THIS STUFF GO?? I think not!

But aside from that unpleasantness, this puzzle is ok. Most of the across answers happened to be gimmes for me, and I only got tripped up by putting SUNNY down at 4D (Like a day with blue skies). Did not really think about that one, and I see why CLEAR is a better answer, even if sunniness is almost certainly involved if  'blue skies' are on the menu. But I still resent that clue anyway, because I probably would have finished this bastard in record time otherwise. Good thing that didn't happen, because now I still have that particular avenue of self improvement!

I like the rhyming clue on MENSA (6A: High-I.Q. Crew). I'm probably mistaken here, but I don't think anybody has ever written an ALL-RHYMING set of puzzle clues before, and I think that needs to happen. Is that a good idea? I think that might be a really good idea. Either really good, or terrible; I'm not sure. Anyway, I suppose I should take advantage of the opportunity to post this:

Here's a side note that nobody asked for: Within the fictional universe that Abbott & Costello inhabit, does Abbott really genuinely not understand that Costello doesn't understand whatever it is they're arguing about? Or is he just toying with him to be cruel? If the former, doesn't that make Abbott in actuality 'the dumb one', since despite having the larger vocabulary of the two, he still can't see the glaringly obvious linguistic miscommunication staring him right in the face? If the latter, doesn't that make him kind of an asshole? Might it in fact be fair to characterize their relationship as a form of emotional abuse?

As it turns out, when you start to dissect them, old time radio shows were kind of dark.

I also enjoyed the clue for PEELS (1D: Things in a compost bucket). Just like how open ended it is. Really could be any number of things, not the least of which would be CORES, which might have made an interesting cross-reference with the clue for the neighboring TENET (2D: Core principle). Not that I can think of one. Hmm. Ok, maybe "One with core principles" would make a decent Saturday clue for COMPOSTER?

 I guess the C of E would tell you that it's PEALS that require core principles.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, court jester of Cross World