NYT Mini for Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium-Challenging

Theme: None

Word of the Day: SNAKE

A plumber's snake is a slender, flexible auger used to dislodge clogs in plumbing. The plumber's snake is often reserved for difficult clogs that cannot be loosened with a plunger. It is also sometimes called a toilet jack or electric eel. (Wikipedia)


This played a little harder for me than it probably really is, for a couple reasons. First is that I'm not particularly good with Italian numbers. I know you are all probably shocked to hear this about me, but it is true. Thus DIECI was a little difficult to suss out, despite being totally inferable from a Romance-y standpoint [6A: 10, in Italian]. Moreover, TAJ MAHAL was not as immediately graspable as it appears in retrospect [1A/4A: Indian tourist mecca].

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As noted previously, any time you have an answer spread across multiple clues in a puzzle this small, the extra mental processing time it takes just to figure out what's referencing what and which word is supposed to go where actually makes a huge difference. 3-5 seconds is nothing in a regular puzzle, but in a mini it's an eternity. Plus the term 'mecca', although used colloquially for tourist targets of any kind, had me racking my brain for a specifically muslim landmark, and I hadn't realized that the TAJ MAHAL of course IS such a site. Yeah, turns out I don't really know much about it. Probably should have made it the word of the day. Oh well.

Don't much care for JACKS [3D: Deck foursome], which feels off somehow. Sure, there are four of them in a deck of cards, but I don't think of them as belonging to "a foursome" for some reason. I think it has to do with the way cards work, what with the shuffling and the randomness being the entire point of it all. Obtaining four of them may be a good thing (in most games), but they don't act together as any kind of foursome; they all occur individually according to the whims of chance. It just seems artificial to refer to them as a foursome. Combine that with the fact that there are 12 other such 'foursomes' this term could be referring to and the clue just doesn't sit right.

TDS [8A: Fantasy football boons, for short] is unnecessarily verbose. "Football boons" is already correct. Why do you need me to read those extra words? I got places to be, man! Furthermore, I'd rather not have TDS and MDS in the same puzzle if AT ALL possible [4D: They work in ERs]. Had RNS there at first, which has a nicer poetic resonance with 'ERs', I feel.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, deck tetrad of CrossWorld