NYT Mini for Monday, December 28, 2015

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: ALIEN

Alien is a 1979 science-fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto. The film's title refers to a highly aggressive extraterrestrial creature that stalks and kills the crew of a spaceship. Dan O'Bannon wrote the screenplay from a story he wrote with Ronald Shusett, drawing influence from previous works of science fiction and horror. The film was produced by Gordon Carroll, David Giler and Walter Hill through their Brandywine Productions and distributed by 20th Century Fox. Giler and Hill made revisions and additions to the script. Shusett was executive producer. The eponymous Alien and its accompanying elements were designed by Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger, while concept artists Ron Cobb and Chris Foss designed the human aspects of the film. Alien launched the Alien franchise and is chronologically the first of the main series, with the prequel trilogy set in an earlier timeframe. (Wikipedia)

A plus. Wait, did I say 'A plus'? I meant to say 'A o.k.'

This puzzle am pretty good n stuff. There's one thing I actively don't like, and that's the clue for JOLIE [1D: Fan of Pitt?]. While I get the reference to the Celebrity Power Couple™ that is Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, I don't really understand the specific semantic meaning of this clue. I mean, "?"–style clues typically signify a secondary, 'wacky' reading of the words is necessary in order to get the intended answer, but here I don't understand what is going on, really on either level. Let's break this down, shall we?

 Yeah, Angelina. I'm a fan too.

Yeah, Angelina. I'm a fan too.

  1. First of all, what is the non-silly reading of this phrase? it's not a phrase! For contrast, let's consider the clue "One getting an across-the-board promotion?" (for PAWN) from James Mulhern's recent regular Saturday puzzle. The reason that "?" clue works is that there's a plain-text (idiomatic) reading of the phrase 'across-the-board' in addition to the WACKY (literal) version relating to chess. It's FUNNY. At least, to the kind of nerds that do crosswords. With "Fan of Pitt?" though, I don't know what the plain-text reading is supposed to be. Is it still referring to Brad Pitt? Or is there something going on with "fan"? I don't know what to do with this phrase.
  2. Secondly, what is the joke reading? The idea that Angelina Jolie is a 'fan' of her husband is just weird, at least in this context. Like, sure I imagine she likes the guy, and perhaps admires his work too, but where's the wordplay? Where's the "aha" moment where you think "Oh, I thought the clue meant this, but actually it means that"? There isn't one. All I can think of is that is it's just trying to play on the 'joke' of being a fan of your spouse, which is extraordinarily thin. It's not that there might not be some potential for humor in that concept, but it's not the kind you can effectively mine in a crossword clue. You could, say, reference somebody famous who made such a joke in a pithy quip, but it doesn't work to try to create it from scratch in your clue, least of all a "?" one. It just muddles the issue.
 Sadly not a real ERB

Sadly not a real ERB

Other than that, I like the rest of this. ALIEN is colorful, and a gimme for me [6A: 1979 film with the tagline "In space, no one can here you scream"]. As far as artistic and cultural influence, the one-two punch of Alien and Blade Runner constitutes the most impressive consecutive directorial pair of films I can think of. Plus, Alien is my absolute favorite installment in the Metroid series.

What other juicy stuff was there to sink our teeth into in this thing? Oh, of course, STEAK [3D: It might be ordered medium-rare]. If it's medium rare, at least, it'll be juicy. I like PITA, which is good with steak in it [7A: Hummus scooper-upper]. Especially with hummus! Wait, let's make it not just steak, but a TON of it [4D: Truck scale unit]. I would like, in the very near future, to be eating that. Perhaps I will consult an APP for that [6D: Snapchat or WeChat]

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, scooper-upper of CrossWorld (and litter boxes)