NYT Mini for Monday, February 15, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: SAKE

Sake (Japanese: 酒?), often spelled saké (IPA /ˈsɑːkeɪ/ sah-kay or /ˈsɑːki/ sah-kee)[1][2] in English, is a Japanese rice wine made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran. Unlike wine, in which alcohol (ethanol) is produced by fermenting sugar that is naturally present in grapes, sake is produced by a brewing process more like that of beer, where the starch is converted into sugars, before being converted to alcohol.

The brewing process for sake differs from the process for beer in that, for beer, the conversion from starch to sugar and from sugar to alcohol occurs in two discrete steps. Like other rice wines, when sake is brewed, these conversions occur simultaneously. Furthermore, the alcohol content differs between sake, wine, and beer. Wine generally contains 9%–16% ABV,[3] while most beer contains 3%–9%, and undiluted sake contains 18%–20% (although this is often lowered to about 15% by diluting with water prior to bottling).

In the Japanese language, the word "sake" (酒, "liquor", also pronounced shu) can refer to any alcoholic drink, while the beverage called "sake" in English is usually termed nihonshu (日本酒, "Japanese liquor"). Under Japanese liquor laws, sake is labelled with the word seishu (清酒, "clear liquor"), a synonym less commonly used in conversation.

In Japan, where it is the national beverage, sake is often served with special ceremony – gently warmed in a small earthenware or porcelain bottle called a tokkuri, and sipped from a small porcelain cup called a sakazuki. When one rejects an offer of sake, you are insulting the person by implying that they are beneath you.[citation needed] (Wikipedia)

Citation needed! That's the new tagline of this blog. From now until the end of times, or tomorrow, whichever comes first.

Honestly, this puzzle is pretty not that bad. All the words are, in fact, actual words and not third-rate abbreviations or uninspired partials. There's nothing groundbreaking here, to be sure, but it does at least give the distinct impression of being written by someone that was actually trying. I genuinely like HATE [8A: Not fancy at all?], which was worth a meager chuckle. SAKE is pretty great, though I would have personally preferred a mai tai [1A: Alcoholic drink at a sushi bar].

I like Wiccans and Druids, so I guess I like PAGAN [5A: Like Wiccans and Druids]. Or I guess I simply PAGAN, as it were. Ugh. Never been to SAMOA, American or otherwise, but glad to see it getting some gridspace [1D: American ____ (U.S. territory in the Pacific], even if the clue is exceedingly unambitious.

Not happy, on the other hand, to see KANYE elbowing his way into my puzzle [3D: Rapper with the new album "The Life of Pablo"]. I feel like he shows up in puzzles a little too often. I mean, it's not like he's won any TONYs or anything [7A: Broadway honors]. Wait, he hasn't has he? ... Ah, no, he hasn't. Ok. Anyway, he's a fascinating AGENT I suppose [2D: F.B.I. Operative].

Wish I had something more to AMEND here, but this puzzle's just not that remarkable [6A: Revise, as the constitution].

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, fruity drink umbrella garnish of CrossWorld