NYT Mini for Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: SUPER Tuesday—stuff relating to today's political observation

  • SUPER — [1A: _____ Tuesday]
  • POTUS — [3D: White House VIP]

Word of the Day: POTUS

The President of the United States of America (POTUS)[7] is the elected head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces.

The President of the United States is considered one of the world's most powerful people, leading the world's only contemporary superpower.[8][9][10][11] The role includes being the commander-in-chief of the world's most expensive military with the largest nuclear arsenal and leading the largest economy by real and nominal GDP. The office of the president holds significant hard and soft power both in the United States and abroad.

Article II of the U.S. Constitution vests the executive power of the United States in the president. The power includes execution of federal law, alongside the responsibility of appointing federal executive, diplomatic, regulatory and judicial officers, and concluding treaties with foreign powers with the advice and consent of the Senate. The president is further empowered to grant federal pardons and reprieves, and to convene and adjourn either or both houses of Congress under extraordinary circumstances.[12] The president is largely responsible for dictating the legislative agenda of the party to which the president is enrolled. The president also directs the foreign and domestic policy of the United States.[13] Since the founding of the United States, the power of the president and the federal government has grown substantially.[14]

The president is indirectly elected by the people through the Electoral College to a four-year term, and is one of only two nationally elected federal officers, the other being the Vice President of the United States.[15] The Twenty-second Amendment, adopted in 1951, prohibits anyone from ever being elected to the presidency for a third full term. It also prohibits a person from being elected to the presidency more than once if that person previously had served as president, or acting president, for more than two years of another person's term as president. In all, 43 individuals have served 44 presidencies (counting Cleveland's two non-consecutive terms separately) spanning 56 full four-year terms.[16] On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama became the 44th and current president. On November 6, 2012, he was re-elected and is currently serving the 57th term. The next presidential election is scheduled to take place on November 8, 2016. On January 20, 2017, a new president will take office. (Wikipedia)

This puzzle gets me wholly on its side even though the theme is not as well executed as it could be. I think 90% of the reason for that might be the fantastic I SUCK [8A: Admission of ineptitude]. Not only is it wonderfully contemporary; it also lends the impression that the puzzle is aware of its own shortcomings and is apologizing for them, which makes me want to cut it some slack. Plus, I'm kind of a fan of SUPER Tuesday, so even if perhaps far more could have been done to round out the theme, I'm inclined to give it a pass.

I would perhaps have buttressed POTUS with a clue a skosh more obviously thematic, say something along the lines of "position vied for by today's combatants". Since I care about theme cohesion, I would also give this thing MORE THAN TWO THEME ANSWERS. Some of the other words in here could easily have been made to relate with some creative cluing. RISK [5D: Global conquest board game] could be "apt childhood interest for a three-down," for instance. ASST [9A: Helper: Abbr.] could have been "campaign staffer, e.g."

Heck, even EMOJI [6A: Smiley face with hearts for eyes, e.g.] could work, with something like "common tool in a certain front-runner's favorite medium." Maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but my favorite attribute of this puzzle is its playfulness, and it seems to me that that could and should have been taken further. It's just a shame former congressman and UMASS alumnus Peter G. Torkildsen isn't running for president, because that bit of trivia would have lent itself to this theme quite nicely [2D: Amherst campus, briefly].

Anyway, that's all for me. Happy SUPER Tuesday, ladies and gentlemen! I wonder who (if anyone) will be EJECTed from the presidential race after today [4D: Kick out]?? And whose campaign headquarters will be awash in champagne and PATES [7A: Cracker spreads]?? Years from now, when this campaign is ancient history and today's contest is but a SEPIA-colored memory [1D: Tinting option on Instagram], I hope somebody will raise a glass, and remember the cruciverbalists.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, Ash Wednesday of CrossWorld