NYT Mini for Sunday, January 31, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: BYTE

The byte (/ˈbaɪt/) is a unit of digital information that most commonly consists of eight bits. Historically, the byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer[1][2] and for this reason it is the smallest addressable unit of memory in many computer architectures. The size of the byte has historically been hardware dependent and no definitive standards existed that mandated the size. The de facto standard of eight bits is a convenient power of two permitting the values 0 through 255 for one byte. The international standard IEC 80000-13 codified this common meaning. Many types of applications use information representable in eight or fewer bits and processor designers optimize for this common usage. The popularity of major commercial computing architectures has aided in the ubiquitous acceptance of the 8-bit size.[3]

The unit octet was defined to explicitly denote a sequence of 8 bits because of the ambiguity associated at the time with the byte.[4] The usage of the term octad(e) for 8 bits is no longer common today.[5][6] (Wikipedia)

Not much to say about this puzzle. Why? Cause it doesn't completely suck! It certainly isn't good, but it bears very little resemblance to that disgusting soap scum that forms on your bathtub after it hasn't been cleaned for several months on end. Other scums it differs from include pond scum, the Norwegian punk/black metal band Scum, and S.C.U.M.M., the video game engine used in 90's-era Lucasfilm adventure games. I would not personally be opposed if the puzzle were a little more similar to those last two, but I guess I'll take what I can get.

One thing this puzzle has going for it is that almost all of its entries are actual words! I guess you could argue DKNY technically counts as a word since it's a name, but I think that's being generous [8A: Manhattan-based designer label]. It certainly doesn't fall into the category of "words I would be proud to put in a crossword puzzle," at the very least.

Likewise, CRED is on the yucky end of acceptable [5D: Street ___]. But it's fine. Everything else is even more not awful. I like CREAM [5A: Additive to coffee], though the term 'additive' makes it sound like a chemical or something. REALM is good despite the fill-in-the-blank clue [6A: Within the ___ of possibility]EARLY is... well, it's there, in the puzzle [7A: At 5 a.m., say].

I really like the ladder of E-A's running through this puzzle, and that there aren't any other vowels. Definitely doesn't amount to a theme, but it doesn't seem like it's trying to do so (the way so many recent Mini puzzles have). I don't think I even would have noticed it if I weren't composing this bitchin' writeup.

So in the final TALLY [3D: Add up], while I might YEARN for something a little more challenging [2D: Long (for)], this was certainly good for a coffee BREAK [1D: Start of a billiards game], with or without additive.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, "Weird Ed" of CrossWorld