NYT Mini for Friday, March 18, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium


Theme: None

Word of the Day: MATCH

A match is a tool for starting a fire. Typically, modern matches are made of small wooden sticks or stiff paper. One end is coated with a material that can be ignited by frictional heat generated by striking the match against a suitable surface.[1] Wooden matches are packaged in matchboxes, and paper matches are partially cut into rows and stapled into matchbooks. The coated end of a match, known as the match "head", consists of a bead of active ingredients and binder; often coloured for easier inspection. There are two main types of matches: safety matches, which can be struck only against a specially prepared surface, and strike-anywhere matches, for which any suitably frictional surface can be used. Some match-like compositions, known as electric matches, are ignited electrically and do not make use of heat from friction. (Wikipedia)

Well this was wholly unsatisfying. Too many abbreviations and, oh look, it's everyone's perennial favorite, the fill-in-the-blank clue. Today we have have THREE of them, which is also 30%, just so we're all on the same page. MED is, incredibly, an abbreviation within a fill-in-the-blank, which has got to be some kind of unholy nexus of mediocrity [1A: ___ school]. And it's not like the other ones are much better.

There's absolutely no reason, for instance, why MATCH [1D: ____ Day, when students find out their postgraduate residency programs] needs to be a clued that way. I mean, just look at that clue! it's a mess. It's convoluted, overly wordy, and just an incredible obtuse and strangely specific cluing for a common, everyday word. Terrible clue. POOH [4D: Winnie-the-____] is strikingly acceptable in comparison.

I can see what's going on here with MDS [5D: Hospital workers, briefly] and DOCS [6A: Hospital workers, informally]. I'm not particularly impressed by it, but I do in fact see it. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that all this medically-oriented stuff was supposed to constitute a theme, but it's such a pitiful attempt I'm not sure it merits much attention. Of particular derision is is the laughably inept EYES [2D: Optometrists' interest], which is the kind of stretch that makes you wonder why all the clues weren't rewritten as tangential doctor-y type stuff. Also, I'm not at all sure that possessive needs to be plural.

So....not a good puzzle. Not quite enough to make me cancel my DSL service so I can stop doing these altogether [3D: Internet connection that largely replaced dial-up], but definitely one that makes me want to supply the constructor with a resounding SHH [7A: "Be quiet!"].

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, convoluted overly wordy obtuseness of CrossWorld