NYT Mini for Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: E-FLAT

E♭ (E-flat) or mi bémol is the fourth semitone of the solfege.

It lies a diatonic semitone above D and a chromatic semitone below E, thus being enharmonic to D♯ (D-sharp) or Re Dièse. However, in some temperaments, D-sharp is not the same as E-flat. E-flat is a perfect fifth below B♭, whereas D-sharp is a major third above B.

When calculated in equal temperament with a reference of A above middle C as 440 Hz, the frequency of the E♭ above middle C (or E♭4) is approximately 311.127 Hz [≈ Redline of Formula-1 race car]. See pitch (music) for a discussion of historical variations in frequency. (Wikipedia)

What an absolute joy this puzzle was! What style! What panache! What élan! What brio! What vigor! What gut-busting balls-to-the-wall swagger (B2tWS)! Those are all things one might say when doing a good crossword puzzle, which is not a pleasure I've had in some time. Outside of Brendan Emmett Quigley's book of course (veritable trove of B2tWS that it is). 

This puzzle, as it would turn out, was no such a delight. All throughout its AREA lie cruddy words with not spark, no joie de vivre [2D: Region]. No LIFE, you might say [5D: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious ____?": Mary Oliver]. And what's with that quote? It's way too long for a crossword clue. I think half my solve time was spent just reading that clue in full. You've gotta choose your quotations carefully, constructors, especially in a Mini. They should be pithy and memorable. It also helps if your poet is something more than nobody has ever heard of (poetry enthusiasts, please, I welcome your ire in the comments section).

SADLY, this puzzle doesn't have much going for it [1D: With a heavy heart]. Much as I enjoy the works of FEY [8A: Tina with a spot-on Palin impression], her surname is not exactly titillating crossword fare. Not to mention the oddly subjective "spot-on" in there, which just feels like unnecessary editorialization, even if I agree with it. As with the over long Oliver quote, you're sacrificing brevity for no distinguishable gain. Even if you feel a descriptor is necessary here, you should at least go with something a bit less opinionated, like "renowned". It just feels weird and off-putting otherwise.

 E Flat

E Flat

E FLAT is a pretty nice pitch class [7A: D sharp equivalent], and for the first time ever I have no complaint about the veracity of the music theory employed in a crossword clue! As Wikipedia can attest, the two pitches aren't necessarily equivalent, but let's be honest: That's only if you're not using equal temperament, which is a thing only an asshole who thinks they're still living in the 1400s or something would do. Also maybe string players? Whatever.

I get SAM Shepard and Tom Stoppard mixed up, for Totally Understandable Reasons [1A: Playwright Shepard]. I mean, they're both playwrights, they have similar names, they both played Spud Jones in the 1989 film adaptation of Steel Magnolias, the list goes on and on. I did notice looking at his filmography that Shepard wrote a play called Suicide in B Flat", which is another great key/pitch class. Two bad that couldn't work out as a cross-reference, but they were off by a fifth.

Which is exactly how much liquor you would need to drink to forget how bad this puzzle was.

 Classic element

Classic element

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, Track Palin impersonator of CrossWorld