NYT Mini for Sunday, February 14, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: CILIA

A cilium (Latin for eyelash;[1] the plural is cilia) is an organelle found in eukaryotic cells. Cilia are thick protuberances that project from the much larger cell body.[2]

There are two types of cilia: motile cilia and nonmotile, or primary cilia, which typically serve as sensory organelles. In eukaryotes, motile cilia and flagella together make up a group of organelles known as undulipodia.[3] Eukaryotic cilia are structurally identical to eukaryotic flagella, although distinctions are sometimes made according to function and/or length.[4] Biologists have various ideas about how the various flagella may have evolved. (Wikipedia)

This is acceptable. There are no glaring inelegancies/inaccuracies in the cluing I can see, and, unusually, there was a real competition for the word of the day. In the end, CILIA won out, because science [3D: Tiny hairs that help amoebas move]. But, let me tell you, FOIST was right up there as well [1D: Force (upon)]. Just an all-around great verb, that. I actually wrote in hOIST initially, for no good reason, except that sometimes I forget words, you know?

Luckily, FACTS bailed me out at the end, and I got the coveted happy pencil symbol at last [1A: Things found on the back of Snapple caps]. Perhaps I'll reward myself with some delicious, 100% natural product placement. Though I'd rather have a bowl of French ONION soup [6A: French ____ soup]. Hey, is that a low-effort clue I see there? I think it is!

Continuing the semi-obscure verb trend we have SLINK, which seems to be one of the words almost exclusively applied in reference to cats [8A: Move stealthily, like a cat]. See? Right there in the clue. I also would have accepted SKULK, which I think it more accurate when it comes to my cat, personally. But I don't mean to TEASE [9A: Make fun of]. Jeez, lots of verbs today, period. Could have added ANGLE to that list, were it clued as such [2D: Each one in a square is 90°]. But I'm not complaining; math is right up with science on the list of subjects I like to see in my puzzles.

I wonder if anyone had trouble with SNOKE [5D: Evil Supreme Leader in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"]? I imagine there's a fair bit of overlap in the venn diagram of "people who have not seen the new Star Wars movie" and "people who do the Times crossword" for some reason, so it would not surprise me.

I'm going to assume the inclusion of SNOKE today is an effort to apologize for yesterday's utterly botched BB-8 reference, in which case, Joel, I accept. But you're still walking on thin ice.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, Taco Supreme Leader of CrossWorld