NYT Mini for Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Challenging

Theme: None

Word of the Day: Ovule:

In seed plants, the ovule ("small egg") is the structure that gives rise to and contains the female reproductive cells. It consists of three parts: The integument(s) forming its outer layer(s), the nucellus (or remnant of the megasporangium), and female gametophyte (formed from haploid megaspore) in its center. The female gametophyte—specifically termed a megagametophyte—is also called the embryo sac in angiosperms. The megagametophyte produces an egg cell (or several egg cells in some groups) for the purpose of fertilization. After fertilization, the ovule develops into a seed. (Wikipedia)

Whoa. This was genuinely difficult. Lots of stuff that was confusing or felt ambiguously clued. Fairly so, I think, for the most part. I think we might tentatively say that this is, in fact, a good puzzle.

Though it's not without its faults. I'm not a huge fan of COP [1A: Member of "New York's Finest"]. That clue is just pining for an "e.g." at the end. I mean, I think other cities have police forces too, right? I immediately thought of COP as the answer but assumed it had to be wrong because of the clue's phrasing. So no help there. Then, after that, nothing. Couldn't figure out a single answer correctly for an eternity. I stupidly put TRACK in where REMIX was supposed to go [7A: D.J.'s creation]. I guess I just latched onto the first DJ-related word I could think of. TRACK would work if the clue were "D.J.'s selection". Not "creation" though.

I've never heard of DRAKE [8A: "Hotline Bling" rapper, 2015], so that one went right by me. The clue for OVER [2D: ___ the top] was just ambiguous enough to be a problem, as was that for  EXEC [Corp. higher-up]. Clearly there are other possible words than can go there. I was totally flummoxed (at still am) by CORD [1D: Something "cut" by those dropping cable]. Again, the phrasing here feels misleading to me. The clue really makes it seem like it's referencing a common cultural turn of phrase in "cutting the cord" and while I think I've actually heard that phrase used in regards to cable TV, I think it's FAR more commonly used in reference to abrogating some sort of financial or emotional support, typically a familial one (the actual 'cord' invoked being, of course, an umbilical cord). The cable TV usage seems less logical as well as less popular, and hence the clue feel inelegant.

OVULE gave me some trouble. It's a word I've seen and heard but I guess I didn't really "know" know it because it was the last word in the grid. Maybe the fact that it has to do with plants makes it seem weird and counterintuitive. Then there was PUMAS [3D: Alternative to Nikes].  The only thing I could think of was ADIDAS, which wouldn't fit of course, but I did spend several long seconds trying to cram it in there anyway.

I should have known the PUMAS had come over to visit.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, rugged railroad man of CrossWorld