NYT Mini for Saturday, February 13, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

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Theme: None

Word of the Day: ROBOT

A robot is a mechanical or virtual artificial agent, usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by a computer program or electronic circuitry. Robots can be autonomous or semi-autonomous and range from humanoids such as Honda's Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility (ASIMO) and TOSY's TOSY Ping Pong Playing Robot (TOPIO) to industrial robots, medical operating robots, patent assist robots, dog therapy robots, collectively programmed swarm robots, UAV drones such as General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, and even microscopic nano robots. By mimicking a lifelike appearance or automating movements, a robot may convey a sense of intelligence or thought of its own (Wikipedia).

The parade of mediocrity continues, but at least there is something significant to complain about.

First off, BB-8 is a DROID. Now obviously that is a specific kind of ROBOT, but you just don't refer to the robots in the Star Wars universe as ROBOTs [6A: BB-8 in "Star Wars," e.g.]. It may be accurate, but it simply isn't done. It would be like pronouncing 2 Corinthians as "Two Corinthians." Everyone knows what you mean, but everyone also knows you're a fraud. The author that penned that clue either knows nothing of Star Wars, or is just trolling. The only legitimate answer to that clue, again, is DROID. Let the word out.

Then we have a classic example of the oft-decried TABOO [2D: Forbidden] of going to the same well twice for no apparent reason. I'm talking about PAWN [5A: Lowly chess piece] and ROOK [7A: Chess piece used in castling]. It's so inelegant it makes my skin crawl. Why would you do this? If you want to make "chess" your puzzle's big thematic idea, you need THREE answers relating to it. Barring that, it just looks like an accident. If you can only squeeze two in there, then at the VERY least, cross-reference them! Give them both the same slightly-more-vague clue, maybe, like "Mating piece?", or clue them via their relationship somehow. It boggles the mind that this was submitted and accepted as-is by the paper of record.

Everything else in this puzzle is just too little too late. SPOOL is [1D: Thread holder]? Yup, that's what that is. A SLOE is a [8A: Sour bluish-black fruit]? Uh huh. Can't argue with that, I guess. And, oh boy, it's the always-scintillating RRS [6D: B&O and Reading: Abbr.]. Seriously, I AWOKE for this [3D: Came to]?? I don't have any words.

Time to go back to bed and watch TNT, or something [4D: "We know drama" cable channel].

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, Bishop of CrossWorld