NYT Mini for Sunday, February 28, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: NOVAK

Novak (in Serbo-Croatian and Slovene), Novák (in Czech and Slovak), Nowak (in Germany) is a Slavic-germanic and Ashkenazi name,[1] both used as a given name and surname, derived from the word for "new" (e.g. Polish: nowy, Czech: nový, Serbo-Croatian: novo) meaning something similar to "new man", "newcomer", or "stranger" in English. The name was often given to someone who came to a new city, or a convert to Christianity. It was also used for newcomers into an army and as an occupational surname for people who used the slash-and-burn method to create new arable land—novina.[2] It is pronounced almost the same way: the main difference is that in Slovene, the stress is on the last syllable, while in all other cases it is on the first one.

Novák is the most common surname in the Czech Republic,[3][4] Poland[5] and in Slovenia[6], and it is the sixth most common in Croatia. It can also be found in Romania and Moldova in the Novac form. (Wikipedia)

I was all ready to call foul on NOVAK Djokovic, bemoaning the illegitimacy of choosing him over any of a number of more famous people named NOVAK, including, huh, Serbian journalist NOVAK NOVAK according to Wikipedia. I mean, come on, we're talking about the sixth most common surname in all of Croatia here! But apparently this particular NOVAK is a NOVAK that is actually pretty famous, among NOVAKs, and has even been in the news pretty recently; NOVAK NOVAK NOVAK [6A: 2016 Australian Open champ Djokovic]. So I begrudgingly accept your sports reference. But still, that remains probably the GNARLiest thing in the grid [4D: Twist out of shape].

Hey, 'cause of the Y from KEY [7D: Annoying item to lock in a car], the word 'gnarly' is actually in there, in the grid, and it is, itself, GNARLy. In at least two different ways. Lock that in your car and smoke it!

The YIN / YANG pairing is nice [1A: Philosophical opposite of 1-Down / 1D: Philosophical opposite of 1-Across]. Transparent, but fun. Thought of FAWN instead of MARE for [8A: Colt's mother], knew it was wrong but couldn't move it out of my head long enough to get the right word to enter. Saved by crosses about three seconds later. GNARL in particular was an ALLY to that end [9A: Friend in war].

Other than that, this thing was pretty quick. It had a nice enough AROMA to it, pleasing to all two of my nostrils, but the actual taste was a trifle bland [2D: Enticing smell]. Looking forward to tomorrow's fare.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, gnarly ally of CrossWorld