NYT Mini for Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: Politics — Stuff related to politics, however loosely

  • BID [1A: Presidential ___]
  • VOTE [4A: What residents of Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio will do today]
  • DEM [3D: Blue, politically: Abbr.]
  • REP [5D: Red, politically: Abbr.]
  • VETO [4D: Political anagram of 4-Across]
  • BOAST [1A: I will be the greatest jobs president this country has ever seen," e.g.]

Word of the Day: VETO

A veto – Latin for "I forbid" – is the power (used by an officer of the state, for example) to unilaterally stop an official action, especially the enactment of legislation. A veto can be absolute, as for instance in the United Nations Security Council, whose permanent members (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States of America) can block any resolution. Or it can be limited, as in the legislative process of the United States, where a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate may override a Presidential veto of legislation.[1] A veto gives power only to stop changes, not to adopt them (except for the rare "amendatory veto"). Thus a veto allows its holder to protect the status quo.

The concept of a veto body originated with the Roman consuls and tribunes. Either of the two consuls holding office in a given year could block a military or civil decision by the other; any tribune had the power to unilaterally block legislation passed by the Roman Senate.[2] (Wikipedia)

Did not notice the theme here, and very nearly blew right past it in this writeup. That's not necessarily a bad thing, particularly in a mini, and when your theme is of the "stuff related to x" variety. It's not meant to be obtrusive or revolutionary, but rather just a nice thing you notice after the fact that makes you appreciate the puzzle more. And that's certainly the case here.

With the exception of BOAST, these are all pretty elegant, in that they are words with obvious intrinsic connections to politics. Consequently that one tends to stand out, but again that's not necessarily a bad thing. While you could easily make the theme tighter by getting rid of it—that is to say by giving it an unrelated clue—it's not actively harming the puzzle as is. My personal inclination would be to either get rid of it, or to go much farther in this direction by giving ALL the entries theme-related clues.

POT would be pretty easy, as that is a word with obvious political relevance [7A: One calling the kettle black]. In fact I'm a little surprised that apparently didn't occur to the constructor, as it seems way more obvious than the BOAST clue to me. I'm sure you could work out something political for REARM, relating to foreign policy [5A: Give more weapons to]. As for I TRY [2D: "Lord knows _____!"], I just did 15 seconds of googling and constructed this clue which would have worked great: "'_____ to pay as little tax as possible ... It's a little tax,' (comment by a certain frontrunner)". Right?? That would have been awesome.

The only one I'm having trouble with is ETSY [6A: Online market for handmade crafts]. Since I don't really understand what ETSY is, the first thing I thought of was maybe something relating to the (obviously political) Hobby Lobby case. But that was almost two years ago at this point, plus it looks like they aren't really competitors anyway. It does look like John Oliver is selling his amazing Trump t-shirts on ETSY, so that's a tenuous but justifiable route you could use.

So in the end, actually a surprisingly good puzzle with one extraneous forced theme clue that makes me wonder: if you're going to go there why not go all the way? Still a largely satisfying puzzle though.

Catchphrase signoff!