NYT Mini for Thursday, December 3, 2015

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: PTSD

Posttraumatic stress disorder[note 1] (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, terrorism or other threats on a person's life.[1] Symptoms include disturbing recurring flashbacks, avoidance or numbing of memories of the event, and hyperarousal, continue for more than a month after the occurrence of a traumatic event.[1] (Wikipedia)

LARRY is correct; this puzzle is probably a smidgen above average (6A: Main character on "Curb Your Enthusiasm"). There's nothing groundshakingly interesting here, but we at least get a smattering of solid words, ranging across a decent variety of sources. Even PTSD, the lone abbreviation, is more or less acceptable (1A: Affliction for returning soldiers, for short). I can't remember seeing that before in a grid, though it's quite probable I have. Gives me the opportunity to drop a George Carlin clip, so it kinda wins by default.

The bit holds up, but now that I'm older and marginally more well-read, I understand that the original term 'shell shock' had legitimate flaws of its own, and really kinda stands as a testament to how poorly mental health conditions were understood back then (unlike today, where everything is perfect). They actually thought at the time that it was  the shells themselves doing something physically to soldiers' brains (through the vibrations or something). The unintended consequence I think was that the condition itself carried a connotation of illegitimacy to it, and hence often went untreated. But I think Carlin's larger point still stands. Even if the hyphen has since been discarded, if Wikipedia is to be believed.

Perhaps TORTE would make a good treatment for PTSD (2D: Rich cake)? I think it has potential, unless of course the cake is a lie.

I like that we get a nice mix of high and low culture, with SHREW (3D: One "tamed" in a Shakespeare title) crossing the aforementioned LARRY. See, this is a good example of how to employ clues strategically to add variety to a puzzle. Neither of those words intrinsically denotes anything special, but the way they are clued suddenly gives them a lot of contrast. Yay effort.

Got stuck on ANTES (7A: First chips in the pot), because my brain refused to see produce any meaningful interpreation for 'chips' other than 'wood chips'. The T ended up being my last letter in the grid, and even then I couldn't parse the answer right; I thought it was the Spanish word for 'before', until I reread the clue. PLANK is well clued (1D: Pirate ship feature). I like thinking of it as 'feature' in the sense that a salesman might tout, which I'm sure was the intent.

Yes, pretty good.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, feature of CrossWorld