NYT Mini for Sunday, December 6, 2015

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Easy

Theme: None

Word of the Day: ION

An ion (/ˈaɪən, -ɒn/)[1] is an atom or a molecule in which the total number of electrons is not equal to the total number of protons, giving the atom or molecule a net positive or negative electrical charge.

Ions can be created, by either chemical or physical means, via ionization. In chemical terms, if a neutral atom loses one or more electrons, it has a net positive charge and is known as a cation. If an atom gains electrons, it has a net negative charge and is known as an anion. An ion consisting of a single atom is an atomic or monatomic ion; if it consists of two or more atoms, it is a molecular or polyatomic ion. Because of their electric charges, cations and anions attract each other and readily form ionic compounds, such as salts. (Wikipedia)

I'D SAY ["If you ask me"] that this puzzle was OKAY [2D: Green-light], but that might be juuuust a bit of an exaggeration. Truthfully, this is pretty not OKAY. It's hard to get excited by a puzzle that stacks those two answers next to each other, along with the dreadful NAYS [3D: Anti votes], especially with cluing that is that strikingly unimaginative.

The one thing I genuinely like here is the clue for VODKA [4A: Spirit of Russia], which had me thinking of the wrong kind of spirit for a while. That and, I guess, ION [1A: It comes with a charge], the clue for which just barely clears the hurdle for 'wordplay'.

Everything else, though, is just rote, paint-by-numbers crud. Stuff like OSLO [5D: Capital of Norway]TOY [8A: Item in Santa's sack], and VEST [4D: Crossing guard's wear] is not nearly interesting enough to hold a puzzle together, at least not without some decent cluing to pair with it. Which NONE of those have in the slightest. Even ESSAY [6A: David Foster Wallace piece] is just bland as all get out – and I can't even remember who that is!

Real artists do not wear shorts.

Real artists do not wear shorts.

That answer seemed practically like an autonomic response. "[so-and-so] piece" pretty much screams ESSAY, doesn't it? You know, in the same way that the phrase 'pop artist' ONLY ever means Andy Warhol?

I guess technically 'piece' could refer to a piece of music or a painting or something, but there are so many other, more specified words a constructor can use for those things, whereas there isn't really another word for a piece of writing that doesn't give away the answer. Hence, it kind of gives away the answer.

Oh, right, you're wondering who David Foster Wallace is? Yeah, Wikipedia says he's a novelist. I don't recognize any of his books. Apparently he once threw a coffee table at a woman he liked.

OHHHH. He's the guy that Jason Siegel/Jesse Eisenberg movie is about. Yeah that looks interesting. I guess the answer could have been NOVEL.

If it had, it would have been the only novel thing in this grid. 

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, crossing guard of CrossWorld