NYT Mini for Sunday, February 21, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium-Challenging

Theme: None

Word of the Day: SQUAB

Squab is an unincorporated community in Napa County, California.[1] It lies at an elevation of 33 feet [≈ wavelength of the lowest VHF and highest shortwave radio frequency, 30 MHz] (10 m).[1] Squab is located on the Southern Pacific Railroad, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west-northwest of Napa Junction.[2] (Wikipedia)

Doesn't suck. It's not great though.

So it's pretty nice, no black squares, that's a thing, yadda. Yes, just one 'yadda'. It's a mini; deal with it. I'm not super keen on some of these so-called words and/or answers though. UNDID is technically a word but it's just so obviously not trying, isn't it [7A: Reversed]? At least, not quite as hard as its partner LED ON, which is barely even there [3D: Gave false hopes]. Fortunately, I did not *start* this thing with false hopes, so we're clear on that score.

I thought I had, in fact, heard the word SQUAB exactly once before in my life, and indeed that is the case, specifically in the 1992 PC point-and-click adventure game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis [1D: Young pigeon]. Great game. Did not realize it had anything to do with birds, so it did not help me solve this crossword puzzle. Actually, to be honest that B was pretty obtuse to me. Thought it pretty plausible at one point that the word for a juvenile pigeon might actually be SQUAK. It makes sense, right?? That, and I have no idea who or what Amanda BYNES and/or "She's the Man" is and/or are [9A: Amanda who starred in "She's the Man," 2006]. This despite that the clue basically explains both and/or all of those questions pretty clearly. So I basically would not have been able to finish this puzzle without running the alphabet, so... I guess it was an important B.

 This is as much effort as I'm willing to put into this joke

This is as much effort as I'm willing to put into this joke

Speaking of which, I absolutely kinda cherish the clue for QUEEN, though [6A: Important bee]. That's quite humorous! If you want to start a band with that name, I will send you money to accomplish this. SEINE is fine, too [4D: River that runs through Paris], though that clue is a bit simplistic for my taste. Continuing the geographic theme we have ANDES, right next door to Paris, oddly [5D: World's longest mountain chain]. Who knew, but France is actually secretly in South America now. It's true, go look it up.

AUNTY is an answer that feels weird but is probably unassailable [2D: Nickname for your uncle's wife]. I've always seen it spelled AUNTIE, but apparently Google says that the Y is more common. So I grudgingly approve of this answer.

I wanted some form of GUAC for SALSA [1A: Tortilla chip dip]. For some reason I don't think of SALSA as a dip, despite the evidence to the contrary. I feel like SALSA is in a category all its own. Like, if someone said there was going to be 'chips and dip' at a meal I would be very surprised to learn that 'dip' to referred to SALSA. That would be weird for reasons. But I'm not faulting the clue because it is obviously accurate.

 Yup, that's a dip.

Yup, that's a dip.

Signed, Jonathan "something about Freddie Mercury and vaccines" Gibson