NYT Mini for Monday, March 14, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: OLIVE

The olive Listeni/ˈɒlɪv/ or Listeni/ˈɑːləv/, known by the botanical name Olea europaea, meaning "european olive", (syn. Olea sylvestris[1]) is a species of small tree in the family Oleaceae, found in much of Africa, the Mediterranean Basin from Portugal to the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and southern Asia as far east as China, as well as the Canary Islands, Mauritius and Réunion. The species is cultivated in many places and considered naturalized in Portugal, Spain, Algeria, France (including Corsica), Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Malta, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Albania, Crimea, Egypt, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Argentina, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Lebanon, Java, Norfolk Island, California and Bermuda.[2][3]

The olive's fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the Mediterranean region as the source of olive oil. The tree and its fruit give their name to the plant family, which also includes species such as lilacs, jasmine, Forsythia and the true ash trees (Fraxinus). The word derives from Latin ŏlīva ("olive fruit", "olive tree"; "olive oil" is ŏlĕum)[4] which is cognate with the Greek ἐλαία (elaía, "olive fruit", "olive tree") and ἔλαιον (élaion, "olive oil").[5][6] The oldest attested forms of the latter two words in Greek are respectively the Mycenaean 𐀁𐀨𐀷, e-ra-wa, and 𐀁𐀨𐀺, e-ra-wo or 𐀁𐁉𐀺, e-rai-wo, written in the Linear B syllabic script.[7][8] The word "oil" in multiple languages ultimately derives from the name of this tree and its fruit. (Wikipedia)

Today's puzzle is ALL KINDS of average. It is almost completely without character or flavor of any kind. It's most distinctive attribute is the near complete absence of any kind of sensation as it slides over the palate on it its way to being swallowed whole, like a slimey, norovirus-ridden oyster.

Sorry, I meant to say "swallowed WHOLE[1A: ____ Foods]. I believe my stance on fill-in-the-blank clues is well documented, so I don't think we need to dwell on this one. The thing is, WHEN I encounter this kind of uber-low effort dreck it... god dammit! [1A: "_____ Was Your Man" (2013 hit #1 hit for Bruno Mars)]. That one's even worse because it couldn't even stand on its own if you wanted it to. Plus, that sounds like a totally dumb song. Anyway, having those two partials right at the beginning of this thing was a bit of a kick in the nuts, and the puzzle never recovered after that.

Not that it didn't at least try to do so. HELIX is almost good, and has a nicely terse clue [6A: DNA half]. There's also INERT, which does a nice job continuing the science trend [9A: Nonreactive, chemically]. I guess you could add LITER in there as well, kinda [4D: Soda bottle size]. But the LITER isn't the SI unit for volume, so it doesn't feel quite right. Plus if you're a real scientist you'd spell it the other way anyway.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the marvelous HELEN [2D: Mirren of "The Queen"]. Certainly an ELITE maven of the cinematic arts, if ever there was one [7A: Best of the best]. She's basically NEVER not good [8A: Not even once], and thus shall henceforth be forever welcome in all the crossword grids in the land.

I have some OLIVEs [3D: Martini garnish]. I am going to have a martini now.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, lemon twist of CrossWorld