NYT Mini for Sunday, December 20, 2015

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: OKRA

Okra or Okro (US /ˈoʊkrə/ or UK /ˈɒkrə/; Abelmoschus esculentus Moench), known in many English-speaking countries as ladies' fingers, bhendi, bhindi, bamia, ochro or gumbo, is a flowering plant in the mallow family. It is valued for its edible green seed pods. The geographical origin of okra is disputed, with supporters of West African, Ethiopian, and South Asian origins. The plant is cultivated in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions around the world.[2] (Wikipedia)

I'm not particularly whelmed by this puzzle. There's just not much of interest going on in the answers or in the clues, which when you think about it are kind of two places of your crossword where you would rather like to have some interest. It's not terrible, it's just not at all good.

The dreck in this thing really calls attention to itself. OPT seems like the Blandest Ever [1D: Pick, with "for"], and yet it clearly isn't because we've also got HAD [7D: Possessed], which clearly blows it out of the water. And the clues for both of those abominations are, let's be honest, just in-your-face lazy. It's as if they're in a banality competition with their corresponding answers. Dull words need better clues than interesting words do, people. It's not like you have to make them match each other in terms of their mediocrity or something.

Then there's stuff like ASEA [8A: On an ocean voyage], which is probably a high ranking member of the Crosswordese Hall of Fame. I won't complain about the clue per se, as there aren't really a whole lot of different ways to clue that word. But that pretty much illustrates the problem with putting it in there in the first place, doesn't it? I rest my case.

Even the marginally ok words in this thing are brought down by similarly lazy cluing. ROUSE is just a synonym for [3D: Awaken], just as [4D: Modify, as clothes] is basically a plain dictionary definition (one of them) for ALTERKORAN is kinda fun to see, I guess, but it's clued in a frustratingly pedestrian way [2D: Book that begins "In the name of Allah..."]. I've never seen "The Big Bang Theory", but I understand it's somewhat controversial amongst actual NERDs (Something about "nerd blackface" or something? ) [9A: Many a character on "The Big Bang Theory"], so I have mixed feelings about it by default.

OKRA is great [1A: Gumbo veggie]. That is, the vegetable. That is, to eat. That is, when other people cook it. I haven't figured out how the hell to do it yet. Seems impossible. It's one of those foods that always ends up sucking when you do it yourself. Probably because I didn't grow up in the South or something. Anyway, as a crossword answer it's strictly ok, and the clue is decidedly lame.

POOL is pretty pathetic [5A: Lifeguard's workplace]. I did try to squeeze BEACH in there for a while, but the TRUTH is it sadly does not fit [6A: "Three things cannot long be hidden: the sun, the moon and the ____": Buddha]. What's up with that Buddha quote? Seems like a pretty pedantic quote for Buddha; I mean it barely qualifies as zeugma which I think is what it's going for... Anyway it's kind of a long quote to go to for not that much of a payoff. As the saying goes, brevity is the soul of.

Now that's good zeugma.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, asea in CrossWorld