NYT Mini for Monday, December 21, 2015

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: Homophones for 'rowed', I guess?

Theme Answers:

  • ROWED [1D: Manned the oars]
  • ROAD [4A: Homophone of 1-Down]
  • RODE [4D: Homophone of 1-Down]

Word of the Day: BATS

A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning, and may differ in spelling. The words may be spelled the same, such as rose (flower) and rose (past tense of "rise"), or differently, such as carat, caret, and carrot, or to, two, and too. Homophones that are spelled the same are also both homographs and homonyms.[1] Homophones that are spelled differently are also called heterographs. The term "homophone" may also apply to units longer or shorter than words, such as phrases, letters or groups of letters that are pronounced the same as another phrase, letter or group of letters. (Wikipedia)

I appreciate the effort, but this doesn't really work for me. Yes, those three words are homophones of each other and have been arranged together in a crossword grid. I don't get any feeling of satisfaction from that. If it were just a bit of bonus fluff in a good puzzle, I wouldn't mind it. But the rest of this puzzle is not very good either. And besides, RHODE gets left out. Poor RHODE!

So what else sucks? HOW TO, for sure [5A: Genre for do-it-yourself books]. That is a partial disguised as a supposed stand-alone phrase. Regarding HOT, while I [5D: Like jalapeños], I don't like that clue. Boring. Almost as boring as RBI [1A: Baseball slugger's stat], which is just hanging there like the low-hanging fruit it is.

I DO is a big box of meh, and the clue is needlessly specific [3D: When repeated, child's response to "Who wants more ice cream?"]. It's not that I DO as a repeated utterance in that context isn't a thing (it is), it's just that it works perfectly fine in the singular form just as well, and that irks me, because it means the clue is inefficient. And why is it "more" ice cream? Adding that word not only needlessly adds to the length of the clue; it's also make it less apt. Plenty of kids get full after one serving of ice cream. At the very least, we have to recognize that the archetypal dual utterance of I DO is, typically, encountered specifically in the context of the initial, surprise offering of ice cream, and not on any follow up proposition. So the whole thing falls flat on its face.

Gotta love the topicality of BAT [7A: Cruz in the 2016 election]. That guy really rounds out the "crazy asshole" demographic in this year's race. TEDS is a little weird though [2D: Upside-down sleepers]. But I've never seen any Teds in a sleeping state, so who knows...

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, short, dead dude of CrossWorld