NYT Mini for Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: MOSUL

Mosul (/moʊˈsuːl/; Arabic: الموصل‎ – al-Mawṣil (local pronunciation: el-Mōṣul); Syriac: ܢܝܢܘܐ‎ – Nînwe; Kurdish: مووسڵ‎ – Mûsil) is a city of normally about two and a half million people (2014 est.) in northern Iraq, illegally occupied since 10 June 2014 by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[4][5][6]

Mosul is completely ruled by the Islamic State terror group headquartered in Al-Raqqah, Syria.The legitimate government of Iraq stopped paying salaries soon after the city was overrun by militants.[7] (that ISIL allegedly exploited by stealing a generous percentage)[8] which it had previously paid to city workers including nurses, doctors,[9]

Located some 400 km (250 mi) north of Baghdad, the original city stands on the west bank of the Tigris River, opposite the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh on the east bank, but the metropolitan area has grown to encompass substantial areas on both the "Left Coast" (east side) and the "Right Coast" (west side) as the two banks are described in the local language.

n the early 21st century, the majority of Mosul's population was Arab, with Kurdish, Assyrian, Iraqi Turkmen, Yazidis, Armenian, Shabaki and minorities. The city's population grew rapidly around the turn of the millennium and by 2004 was estimated to be 1,846,500.[10] An estimated half million persons fled Mosul in the second half of 2014, and while some returned, more fled in 2015 as ISIL violence in the city worsened.[11] (Wikipedia)

 Image of Mosul replaced by much cuter standin

Image of Mosul replaced by much cuter standin

Today's puzzle feels very heavy, what with all the SLAG [9A: Refinery waste], and the carb-heavy PASTA [7A: Carbo-loader's option]. And that's not even getting into the depressing subject matter of MOSUL [3D: Major Iraqi city that's currently occupied by ISIS]. Great Scott, this thing is heavy. Which one is YANG [6D: Opposite of yin]; is that the bad one? No, apparently it's the good one. It's also the male one, because apparently those things are synonymous? Goddammit, Chinese. Why you gotta be so gender-normative?

But at least this puzzle is competently put together. Nothing feels EXTRA [4D: When repeated, cry before "read all about it"], per se, except perhaps the rather prosaic APPS [1D: Smartphone downloads]. I will say I like the happenstance of having ACME up there, at the ACME of the grid [1A: Wile E. Coyote's go-to company]. Don't know if intentional but appreciated nonetheless.

And yet, as a whole this puzzle feels a bit incomplete, like it's only serving as a PROXY for some other, more interesting puzzle [5A: Stand-in]. I would have preferred to be solving that other puzzle instead, but I don't begrudge this puzzle's existence. It's doing the best it can, so don't SPURN it [8A: Give the cold shoulder].

At least today's effort feels like Joel gives a few CRAPS [2D: Casino dice game].

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, Hudsucker Pasta of CrossWorld