NYT Mini for Sunday, March 13, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: VEELA

The Veela are a race of semi-human, semi-magical humanoids reminiscent of the Sirens of Greek mythology. Little is known about their biology; they appear to be young, beautiful humans. Their looks and especially their dance is magically seductive to almost all male beings, which causes them to perform strange actions in order to get nearer to them.

Veela were the mascots for the Bulgarian National Quidditch team during the 1994 Quidditch World Cup, which indicates an Eastern European origin, although the Delacours, who are from France, are proof that they can be found all over Europe. (Harry Potter Wiki)

I read all the Harry Potter books, and I don't remember the VEELA at all [3D: Siren-like creature in the Harry Potter books]. But the wiki says they are featured in three of the seven books, so I guess I clearly should. Presumably they also occupy key SCENEs in the films as well [7A: Screenplay unit]. In any case, it's fair game. Which is good because it's by far the most interesting thing in this snoozefest.

We'll start with LEVI [1A: ____ Strauss jeans], an uninspiring clue if ever there was one. Why fill-in-the-blank clues are anybody's idea of acceptable when there are clear alternatives is beyond me. It's not the subject matter that's the problem; if you made it something like "Jean maker Strauss" I would have absolutely no problem with it. But leaving it as a fill-in-the-blank just shows me that you didn't take the time to properly phrase your clue. Highly frustrating.

Frustrating in a totally distinct way is U. PENN [5A: School founded by Ben Franklin, informally]. Here the clue is fine, verging on interesting. I learned something I didn't know about Ben Franklin. Super psyched about that. But I freaking hate abbreviations, so it's hard to be satisfied on balance. At least this is one that isomorphically maps to a jumble of vowel and consonant sounds people actually pronounce (as opposed to something like "sch." for "school" for instance). But it's still an abbreviation and I am philosophically opposed to abbreviations wherever possible.

INNER [4D: Word before tube or monologue] is actually kinda nice. That clue takes a boring word and tells me something I didn't know about it. It hadn't occurred to me before now that those two other words were related. What a SCENE! Also halfway decent is NEST [6D: Destination for a return flight]. Nicely vague, smack-your-forehead obvious in hindsight.

There's not much else of interest here. HOLES [8A: Problems with old socks]? Pretty bland. TART [9A: Tasting like Granny Smith apples]? Utterly basic. EPCOT [2D: Disney theme park]? Yet another basic definition standing in place of a thoughtful clue.

Yet another intellectual charade in place of real insight.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, Jean maker Mahler of CrossWorld