NYT Mini for Saturday, January 30, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: ATLAS

In Greek mythology, Atlas (/ˈætləs/; Ancient Greek: Ἄτλας) was the Titan who held up the sky. Although associated with various places, he became commonly identified with the Atlas Mountains in northwest Africa (Modern-day Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia).[1] Atlas was the son of the Titan Iapetus and the Oceanid Asia[2] or Clymene.[3] According to the ancient Greek poet Hesiod Atlas stood at the ends of the earth towards the west.[4]

In contexts where a Titan and a Titaness are assigned each of the seven planetary powers, Atlas is paired with Phoebe and governs the moon.[not in citation given][5]

Hyginus emphasises the primordial nature of Atlas by making him the son of Aether and Gaia.[6]

"Atlantic Ocean" means "Sea of Atlas", while "Atlantis" means "island of Atlas". (Wikipedia)

 Nope, no Atlas Shrugged pic for you.

Nope, no Atlas Shrugged pic for you.

Sigh. Why do I continue to torture myself with this substandard fare? I could be continuing my slow trudge through Brendan Emmett Quigley's excellent "Sex, Drugs, & Rock 'n' Roll Crosswords" at this very moment, but instead I'm doing this garbage just so I can complain about it for you people. I hope you're happy. Incidentally do check out Quigley awesome book. Seriously, check it out. One Amazon reviewer recommends it with the words, and I am not making this up, "It's NOT like he's taking a poop in your living room." [emphasis mine]

Ok, so you know the drill here. We've got two clues/answers that are OBVIOUSLY meant to pair with each other, but because there's only two, we're left to wonder: Is this supposed to be... a theme?? Or just two answers that go together? What kind of beast is this? What ontological qualities does it possess? Did its creator even bother to ponder such questions, or did he toss this thing off while taking a shit and talking to his agent on the phone at the same time? I will let you be the judge. No, mine is not to decide whether regular New York Times crossword constructor Joel Fagliano is categorically "worse than Hitler", so please do not expect me to do that.

Let's talk bullets:

  • BRICK [6A: Effective building material in "The Three Little Pigs"] - It's a small quibble, but the story is pretty clear the house is made of "bricks", plural, not just the material "brick". The houses are made of straw, sticks, and bricks. Would you describe the "sticks" house as being made of wood? Seems sketchy to me. Honestly this wouldn't have even occurred to me if not for the botched theme attempt.
  • STRAW [1D: Ineffective building material in "The Three Little Pigs"] - And that's it. No "moderately effective" or "mostly ineffective" building material for us. Think how much that would have made this thing pop, and think about how much its absence drags the rest of this puzzle down.
  • ELITE [2D: Upper echelon] - As usual, the coolest word in the puzzle isn't actually in the puzzle, but in one of the clues.
  • CACHE [3D: Stashed supply] - I hate it when the cache is stashed in the upper echelon.
  • CATHY [7A: Comic strip about a shopaholic] - I keep waiting for Cathy to become "cool" and "retro." It hasn't happened yet.
  • ATLAS [4A: Google Maps in book form, basically] - I like the implication that GMaps is the more ubiquitous thing for which the other thing is the metaphor. "It's like Speed 2, but on a bus instead of a boat!" 
  • SKY [5D: Where to see a vapor trail] - Hmm, not sure about that. Let's see what Neil Peart has to say about that.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson,