NYT Mini for Saturday, December 5, 2015

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: TOQUE (Come on, what else could it be??)

A toque (/ˈtoʊk/[1] or /ˈtɒk/ is a type of hat with a narrow brim or no brim at all.[2]
They were popular from the 13th to the 16th century in Europe, especially France. Now it is primarily known as the traditional headgear for professional cooks, except in Canada where the term is primarily used for knit caps.[2] (Wikipedia)

Whoa, check out TOQUE [3D: Chef's hat]! I never even saw the clue for this one because I tore through the grid so quickly because I am so awesome, so when I sat back and examined the completed grid, the reveal of TOQUE was quite a treat. I had no idea there was a name for a chef's hat, beyond 'chef's hat' (though, come on, of course there's a word for it). What a cool word. It looks so much like 'torque', and yet it's not. If google image search is to be trusted, it looks like they are not (at least nowadays) EXCLUSIVELY associated first and foremost with the culinary world, referring also to the fashionable, non white variety (You have to add the word 'chef' to get many results of the culinary type).

That's fine, fine. I don't mind that the clue references the more specific version, because it's pithy enough to pass the Substitution Test. If one hears a sentence with TOQUE in it while in a professional kitchen, one isn't going to be confused about what it means, is what I'm saying. Unless, of course, one doesn't know the word. See, but that's why we've just learned it! In summation, this is the best word ever and I crown this puzzle king of the universe for the next ten minutes.

Do you know why TOQUES are traditionally white? I do because I looked it up.

Rest of the grid is solid. Got tripped on BETA right out of the pencil box for some reason [1A: What software bugs are often found in]. Wanted BETA right away but thought it didn't fit for some reason. I always found the use of Greek letter in software release names interesting. Why don't they use alpha, delta, theta, etc.? Let's see.... Oh, I see they do use some of them. Still, it's kind of disappointing they don't get the whole alphabet in there. I'd feel really badass testing an Epsilon version of something, wouldn't you?

As a general fan of athletes who are famous for things other than doing sports, I like Yogi BERRA [1D: Quotable Yogi]. Even if he "didn't say everything [he] said."

I do wonder if he isn't perhaps a little misunderstood as this supposed paragon of unintended wisdom through ignorance. I find it hard to believe that he didn't carefully plan and cultivate that persona, at least after some point in his fame. But maybe nobody is actually claiming that he didn't?

Slight confusion on my part at least with ETAIL [2D: Shopping with virtual carts]. I read the clue as a participle phrase rather than a gerund phrase (SHOCKING, I know), so I was looking for some other sort of adjectival answer. All the other stuff went in fast enough that it didn't really matter though. Anyway, E-TAIL is definitely not the absolutely worst E- word I've heard or seen. I had almost forgotten about Operation IRAQI Freedom [6A: Operation ____ Freedom (code name for a 2003 invasion)], so thanks for reminding me about that, puzzle.

That's good enough. I'm gonna put on my TOQUE and make some healthful DIPS [5D: Hummus and guacamole] to help me DETOX [5A: Drug rehab process, informally]. If that doesn't work, I will offer them up for SALE [8A: Post-Christmas store event].

Nobody will buy them though; they're too popular.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, epsilon-test of CrossWorld