NYT Mini for Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Word of the Day: UMAMI

Umami (/uˈmɑːmi/), a savory taste,[1][2][3] is one of the fivebasic tastes (together with sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness).

A loanword from the Japanese (うま味?), umami can be translated as "pleasant savory taste".[4] This particular writing was chosen by Professor Kikunae Ikeda from umai(うまい) "delicious" and mi (味) "taste". The kanji 旨味 are used for a more general sense of a food as delicious.

People taste umami through receptors for glutamate, commonly found in its salt form as the food additivemonosodium glutamate (MSG).[5] For that reason, scientists consider umami to be distinct from saltiness.[6] (Wikipedia)

Yeah, ok. This is pretty good. No irritating abbreviations or arcane sports/school trivia. Plus a bona fide new word for a lot of people, I would guess. I've definitely heard of UMAMI before, but I'm pretty sure I learned from a previous crossword, and I still needed most of the crosses to get it now (6A: Taste that's not sweet, sour, bitter or salty). Maybe next time I will remember it.

 Umami-less tongue map sticks out at you in its ignorance.

Umami-less tongue map sticks out at you in its ignorance.

Umami is definitely not up there with the other four basic tastes in terms of popularity, probably because we were all horribly misinformed by our substandard science education or something. It definitely wasn't on any of those awesome tongue maps you used to see, is what I'm saying. Which is enough to make me glad they've been thrown out.

Nice clue for the otherwise pedestrian DAYS; it's a shame that the term fortnight isn't more part of the common vernacular because it seems highly useful (8A: There are 14 in a fortnight). I like the idea of measuring time exclusively in fortnights or fractions of fortnights. For instance, a microfortnight (millionth of a fortnight) is about 1.2 seconds, and that unit is actually used in some computer operating system you've never heard of called VMS. At this point I feel compelled to mention that we're living in a society in which there are Wikipedia articles called both "List of Unusual Units of Measurements" AND "List of Humorous Units of Measurements." You will be gratified to learn that microfortnight is on both of them, although for some reason beardsecond is not, even though I would personally classify it as *both* unusual and humorous.

I'd love to visit TAMPAITALY sometime (1D: Florida city on the Gulf Coast and 2D: Where Fiats are made). Or Tampa, QATAR, for that matter (5A: 2022 World Cup host, barring a corruption scandal). Maybe I'll read some CAMUS while I'm there (3D: "The Stranger" novelist), after which I'll grade it an A PLUS (7A: Top-notch). Unless it sucks. Does it suck?

Can't think of anything else to say about this one, so here's another VSauce video that alludes to the Banana Equivalent Dose (BED), which is now my favorite unit of measurement.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, Tongue-Map of Crossworld