NYT Mini for Saturday, March 12, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: ATLAS

An atlas is a collection of maps; it is typically a map of Earth or a region of Earth, but there are atlases of the other planets (and their satellites) in the Solar System. Furthermore, atlases of anatomy exist, mapping out the human body or other organisms.[1] Atlases have traditionally been bound into book form, but today many atlases are in multimedia formats. In addition to presenting geographic features and political boundaries, many atlases often feature geopolitical, social, religious and economic statistics. They also have information about the map and places in it. (Wikipedia)

This grid is pretty clean, overall, if uninspiring. But the cluing is something else altogether. I just don't even know what you're going for with something like SETS [8A: Tennis match make-up]. Like, I get that "make-up" here refers to a match's constituent elements and not the 'supplemental' sense I initially ascribed to it, but I'm honestly uncertain whether that was an intended misdirect or not. If it was, then the resulting phrase should be more satisfying, instead of just hanging there the way this clue does. If it wasn't, then this choice of words is all the more bizarre. Baffling.

Even stranger is THETA [7A: This Greek letter: θ], which is just a bonkers way of putting words together. Why not just clue it as "θ" and be done with it? Why would this kind of redundant phrasing ever even occur to you to you?* Even something like "The Greek letter θ" or "θ (Greek letter)", while frustrating, would at least be defensible. But "THIS Greek letter: θ"??? Also baffling.

ISLET feels weird to me [2D: Tiny bit of land in a lake]. Maybe it's just me, but I feel like people normally tend to apply that term only to tiny land bits on the ocean. I've spent a fair amount of time on lakes and I've never heard or used ISLET to describe such a bit. I think because on a lake ALL the islands are necessarily small (by comparison). 

I don't think I have any other complaints. I'm getting a little weary of seeing ELSA in my crosswords [4D: Queen in Disney's "Frozen"], but that's about it. LIKE [1A: Facebook button with recently added "reactions"] is pretty prosaic, but at least it's topical. And we do have some nice classical flavor with the likes of ATLAS [6A: ____ Mountains, range from Morocco to Tunisia] and KEATS [3D: "Ode on a Grecian Urn" poet]. So this is fine. It's just those couple perplexing clues that mar an otherwise decent puzzle. Hey, at least we had something to talk about.

Ok, that's it for me today! Until then, please enjoy this humorous photo mashup of Ted Cruz and his father with a still from one of the shitty Star Wars movies I forgot to post yesterday.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, THIS Greek Islet of CrossWorld

*This was an actual typo.