NYT Mini for Thursday, March 3, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium-Challenging

Theme: None

Word of the Day: DIVAN

A divan (Turkish divan, originally from Persian devan[1]) is a piece of couch-like sitting furniture or, in the UK, a box-spring based bed.

Primarily, in the Middle East (especially the Ottoman Empire), a divan was a long seat formed of a mattress laid against the side of the room, upon the floor or upon a raised structure or frame, with cushions to lean against.

Divans received this name because they were generally found along the walls in Middle Eastern council chambers of a bureau called divan or diwan (from Persian, meaning a government council or office, from the bundles of papers they processed, and next their council chambers).

Divans are a common feature of the liwan, a long, vaulted, narrow room in Levantine homes. The divan in the sense of a sofa or couch entered the English language in 1702 and has been commonly known in Europe since about the middle of the 18th century. It was fashionable, roughly from 1820 to 1850, wherever the romantic movement in literature penetrated. All the boudoirs of that generation were garnished with divans. They spread to coffee-houses, which were sometimes known as divans or Turkish divans, and a cigar divan remains a familiar expression. This is preserved today in Romanian as divan,[2] Bulgarian and Russian as диван (divan).[3]

Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic couch was a divan, draped with a heavy Iranian rug and cushions, given to him as a gift from a patient. (Wikipedia)

This is some solid, serious crossword construction on display here today. Fagliano, a seasoned constructor, is truly at the top of his game in this offering, and his steady hand at the cruciverbalist till goes a long way toward reminding us all of the lofty heights of which his CRAFT is capable [8A: Artistic skill]. Oh wait, that's a huge exaggeration. It's... pretty good.

Nice, obscurant clue for BRIDE [6A: One in front of a train?]. Couldn't figure out what the clue was going for on the first pass through; it was only after having a couple crosses in that the answer became basically obvious. That 'I' was actually my last letter in the grid, mostly because I couldn't figure out how DIVAN was spelled [3D: Backless sofa]. Not a word I have cause to read or write frequently. Though I do, factually, use it in every single conversation I have. (NOTE: I do not recommend this.)

DELTA is not only a [5A: U.S. airline that's also a river feature], it's also a symbol in math. Put that in your potential energy equation and calculate it.

Did not know that ADVIL was considered a hangover remedy, per se [7A: Medicine that helps alleviate hangovers]. I mean, it makes sense, but when you think of hangover cures you think of exotic, complex, or otherwise absurd eye-of-newt type stuff, not boring, traditional (read: evidence-based) medicine. So that answer took me somewhat ABACK [1D: Taken _____ (stunned)]. How far ABACK? Probably approximately 60% ABACK. But it's good knowledge to have, certainly. That and the spelling of DIVAN have done a good deal to EDIFY us today [4D: Spiritually enlighten].

I like the characterization of DR. DRE as having a "professional" title [2D: Rapper/producer with a professional title]. I could say that since rap is literally his profession, his entire name is a "professional title", not just the 'Dr." part. By this standard all rappers could be said to have such titles (even East Coast rappers!) and hence, it is not a very useful usage. I hereby withdraw it.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, Braniff Airlines of CrossWorld