NYT Mini for Tuesday, January 12, 216

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: SWAN

The WonderSwan (ワンダースワン WandāSuwan?) is a handheld game console released in Japan by Bandai. It was developed by Gunpei Yokoi's company Koto Laboratory and Bandai. Released in 1999 in the fifth generation of video game consoles, the WonderSwan and its two later models, the WonderSwan Color and SwanCrystal were officially supported until being discontinued by Bandai in 2003. During its lifespan, no variation of the WonderSwan was released outside of Japan.

Powered by a 16-bit central processing unit, the WonderSwan took advantage of a low price point and long battery life in comparison to its competition, Nintendo's Game Boy Color and SNK's Neo Geo Pocket Color. Later improvements took advantage of quality upgrades to the handheld's screen and added color. The WonderSwan is playable both vertically and horizontally, and features a unique library of games, including numerous first-party titles based on licensed anime properties, as well as significant third-party support from Square, Namco, and Taito. Overall, the WonderSwan in all its variations combined to sell an estimated 3.5 million units and managed to obtain as much as 8% of the Japanese handheld video game console market before being marginalized by Nintendo's Game Boy Advance. Retrospective feedback praises the potential of the WonderSwan despite its low sales and its brief time holding its own against Nintendo in the marketplace. (Wikipedia)

So this doesn't amount to much. I see we've got a couple of Pixar film titles in here. I really hope that wasn't some sort of "creative spark" that begat this steaming heap. Because as far as unifying themes go, it's pretty weak. I prefer to think of it as just two random clues that connect to each other for no reason. Which is cool in a regular sized puzzle, but in this instance it takes up so much of the grid it seems like you're trying to pass it off as a theme.

The bigger problem is that the aforementioned disappointment is actually the most interesting thing about the grid, which is utterly devoid of ambition. There's just a bunch of junky fill and nothing else. It's like a sandwich where the inside is just another slice of bread, and also the bread is all moldy and stale, and also you don't like bread, and also it's not a sandwich at all but a big fist that punches you in the face.

Here are some pithy remarks about the contents of this puzzle:

  • WALL-E [6A: Pixar film] — I told you about this clue already
  • CARS [5D: Pixar film] — Look, I already talked about this. What more do you want?
  • SCARE [4A: Frighten] — a mere 21 letters in your puzzle and you still manage to repeat a 3-letter string??
  • ARLO [2D: Singer Guthrie] — Wow, never seen this guy in a crossword puzzle before!! What a treat!
  • SAT [1A: Took a seat] — As previously mentioned, ambition is not a flaw of this puzzle.
  • SALSA [1D: Dip for a chip] — Whoa, gettin' fancy now! And I was all ready for "Latin dance".
  • ARSON [7A: Pyromaniac's crime] — I guess I can't fault the puzzle for this, but I doubt that most arsonists are actually pyromaniacs. I think it's more that fire is a particularly efficient method of accomplishing various illicit tasks. It'd be more proper to say that ARSON is an apropos crime for a pyromanic. Which I guess is all the clue is saying, but that just proves that a more creative clue would be better. Even something obvious like "Crime for someone with a burning desire?".
  • NSA [8A: Part of the U.S. intelligence community] — I'm running out of ways to say these clues are boring, but man, is this clue boring.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, N-Gage of CrossWorld