Constructor: Joel Fagliano
Relative Difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: JONAS
In late January 2016, a winter storm prompted multiple states across the Mid-Atlantic United States to declare a state of emergency. Evolving from a shortwave trough, the system consolidated into a defined low-pressure area on January 21 over Texas. Regarding it as a "potentially historic blizzard", meteorologists indicated the storm could produce more than 2 ft (61 cm) of snow across a wide swath of the Mid-Atlantic region and could "paralyze the eastern third of the nation". Winter weather expert Paul Kocin described the blizzard as, "a top-10 snowstorm".
On January 20–22, the governors of eleven states and the mayor of Washington, D.C. declared a state of emergency in anticipation of significant snowfall and blizzard conditions. Approximately 103 million people [≈ population of Philippines, nation] were affected by the storm, with 33 million people [≈ population of Nepal, nation] under blizzard warnings. More than 13,000 flights were cancelled in relation to the storm, with effects rippling internationally. Thousands of National Guardsmen were placed on standby and states deployed millions of gallons of brine and thousands of tons of road salt to lessen the storm's effect on roadways. A travel ban was instituted for New York City and Newark, New Jersey, for January 23–24. The storm was given various unofficial names, including Winter Storm Jonas and Snowzilla. (Wikipedia)
This skewed challenging for me because while I've heard the news about the big snow thing in the Northeast, I've not heard it referred to with the name JONAS before [6A: Nickname for the snowstorm that paralyzed the East Coast]. I've no problem with the topicality of this reference, but I'm not sure about the use of an unofficial 'nickname' to refer to it. Seems a little bit shaky to me. Add to that the inevitable confusion of the multipart clue for AWAY GAME [1A/5A: It isn't played at home] (not hard at all, but still requires a couple seconds to suss out the relationship between the two clues, which are of course not written the way I've helpfully written them here. You're welcome.) and you have a slightly above-average challenge in this Mini.
I never saw ANTZ, but it was still pretty obvious [7A: 1998 animated bug movie]. I could imagine the Z being a hangup if you'd never heard of the film. Hang on, didn't we have the other bug movie from 1998 in the puzzle recently? ... Yeah, we did! It was yesterday, in fact. 'ANT', clued as "Lead bug in "A Bug's Life". I guess that's remarkable?
Weird to think of the NASDAQ and the NYSE as 'competitors', but there they are [8A: NASDAQ competitor]. I guess it's technically true? I don't understand any of that shit. I do know that NYSE is pretty trite crosswordese. YES, it's true [4D: Thumbs-up], I would not be inclined to give it a thumbs-up, as an answer. Or YES, for that matter.
I guess I would classify this puzzle overall as marginally closer to AGONY [1D: Ecstasy's counterpart] than AMAZEment [3D: Knock the socks off], given that my socks appear to be rooted firmly on my feet at present.
Signed, Jonathan Gibson, Dow Jones of CrossWorld