NYT Mini for Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: PHENOM

noun, Slang.
1. a phenomenon, especially a young prodigy:
   a twelve-year-old tennis phenom. (Dictionary.com)

...And now, back to the usual crud. This puzzle wasn't particularly horrible, but it's a little bit of a disappointment after the greatness of yesterday's inspired effort. None of the answers are even that bad, though it is telling that we were forced to mine the clues for an acceptable word of the day. WHIZ just doesn't inspire the imagination somehow [1A: Phenom].

I BEAT [8A: Something to rap over] this puzzle in pretty average time, despite being, by all accounts, something of an IDIOT [3D: Birdbrain]. But at least I'm an IDIOT who's finally figured out how to spell HYENA, which used to give me trouble for some reason [2D: Animal in "The Lion King"]. Not too many words that start H-Y I guess. There is HYDE, of course [5A: ____ Park, home to University of Chicago]. I hate how there are so many different HYDE Parks in the world; it makes things really confusing for solving crosswords. But I shouldn't WHINE I guess [1D: Moan and groan].

Ah, ZEN [4D: School of Buddhism]. By far the best school of Buddhism. Waaaay better than all the other ones I could but am not going to name.

What would complete this puzzle write-up? Ooh, how about a product TIE-IN of some kind [6A: Marketing connection]? You know, when I get done with a long, hard day of filling in little white squares with letters, I like to enjoy a nice, cool, refreshing TAB [6D: You might pick it up at a bar]. But how, you ask, can one calorie taste so good? Because it's carcinogenic, kids! It's true, I read it on WHIZnews.com.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, Totally Artificial Beverage of CrossWorld