NYT Mini for Monday, February 1, 2016

ConstructorL Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: VIXEN

noun  vix·en  \ˈvik-sən\

Popularity: Top 20% of words
1:  a shrewish ill-tempered woman
2:  a female fox
3:  a sexually attractive woman

I barely even noticed doing this puzzle. I'm still not sure it really happened. It's only now, looking back at it that I'm noticing all the crappy stuff in it.

I don't think anybody's heart is racing over stuff like ELM [6D: Sturdy tree]. Why? Because it's terrible! Even worse is SSN, which we should just go ahead and retire from crosswords right now [4D: Nine-digit ID]. Is it really as bad as all that? Look, I shouldn't have to explain this to you; why are you holding me down and forcing me to write this review?

I know I'm supposed to be impressed by all the X's in EXXON [6A: Gas company that merged with Mobil], but the fact is I am completely numb to those X's. The plain fact is I have seen so many X's in my life in crosswords that at this point they have no effect upon my cold, dead shark eyes, which just glaze over in disinterest. The brain just PLODS along, on autopilot, filling in the letters as if by rote [3D: Trudges along slowly]. The puzzle offers no resistance, no flair or MOXIE to speak of [1D: Gumption]. It OILS neither the intellect nor the imagination [5A: They're extracted from peanuts, coconuts and olives].

All is a monochrome sea of bland monotony. No linguistic MVPS stand out from the crowd to punctuate the endless tedium. There exists nothing in the universe save the relentless onslaught of mediocrity. Even VIXEN, by far the most interesting word in the grid, gets the most boring clue possible [2D: One of Santa's Reindeer]. What have we done to deserve this affront to common decency? I'm asking you, Will! What is it?? You implicitly stamp your seal of approval on this dross; why is it you have LIED to us [7A: Clicked "I have read all the terms and conditions," usually]?

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, "Cold, dead shark eyes" of CrossWorld