NYT Mini for Thursday, March 24, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: ALIEN

The Alien and Sedition Acts were four bills passed by the Federalist dominated 5th United States Congress, and signed into law by Federalist President John Adams in 1798.[1] They made it harder for an immigrant to become a citizen (Naturalization Act), allowed the president to imprison and deport noncitizens who were deemed dangerous (Alien Friends Act) or who were from a hostile nation (Alien Enemies Act), and criminalized making false statements that were critical of the federal government (Sedition Act). The Federalists argued that they strengthened national security during an undeclared naval war with France. Critics argued that they were primarily an attempt to suppress voters who disagreed with the Federalist party, and violated the right of freedom of speech in the First Amendment.[2] Three of the acts were repealed after the Democratic-Republican party of Thomas Jefferson came to power. But the Alien Enemies Act remained in effect, was revised and codified in 1918 for use in World War I, and was used by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to imprison Japanese, German, and Italian aliens during World War II. Following cessation of hostilities, the act was used by President Harry S. Truman to continue to imprison, then deport, aliens of the formerly hostile nations. In 1948 the Supreme Court determined that presidential powers under the acts continued after cessation of hostilities, until there was a peace treaty with the hostile nation. The revised Alien Enemies Act remains in effect today. (Wikipedia)

Not pictured: Sedition

Not pictured: Sedition

Well, this was strikingly acceptable, if I may say so. Wholly indisposed to the inspiration of strong feelings of any particular kind, but rather the kind of prosaic, muted desperation I was probably feeling already. It does nothing to justify its mediocre existence, and that is its most audacious quality.

The One Ring really helped Hover screw over all those poor people.

The One Ring really helped Hover screw over all those poor people.

The only real hangup for me today was LEVEE [6A: "When the  _____ Breaks" (Led Zeppelin song)]. I thought all of LZ's songs were about hobbits, but apparently this is not the case. I do kinda recognize this song title now, but my mind came up with BOUGH at first. Honestly, I have to tell you it's at least as plausible inasmuch as those are both previously extant idioms to begin with. It's just that the actual Zeppelin song is apparently about the Mississippi River flood of 1927, while the one I made up is a cover of a nursery rhyme. But why speculate as to the song's subject matter when we could just post it right here?

Whoops! That's Frankie Yankovic rendition of Arthur Richardson and Ross McLean's "Too Fat Polka." How did that get there?? Oh well. Anyway, I get the SENSE that not a whole lot of time was put into this puzzle, judging by the depth of its answer set and clues [5D: Fashion _____] (Hey, there's a great example right there!). It's all just a bunch of simplistic junk, is what I'm saying.

HELLO [2D: "Wassup," more formally] strikes an odd note with me. I just don't think of "hello" and "wassup" as belonging to vastly different tiers of formality. Unless you add a bunch more U's to it, and say it while making devil horns and sticking your tongue out, "Wassup" is just saying "what's up" quickly, and the latter is not inherently less casual than "hello." Without any information regarding inflection, they're pretty much on the same level, i.e. neutral. If it had been "'salutations', less formally", I think the shift of formality tiers would be far more definitive.

Had slight trouble with SLEDS [8A: They go down in the winter]. Had S_EDS and thought SEEDS for a moment. Obviously no good. People definitely plant some seeds in wintertime (Peppers, maybe? Fuck if I know), but it's not especially a thing.

It's down there somewhere, Charlie!

It's down there somewhere, Charlie!

Not totally sure I buy that this is a valid clue, semantically. Sleds more or less spend as much time going up, by necessity, don't they? I mean, I guess the going up part is, in a sense, auxiliary, while the going down part is motion that's directly connected with the activity with which they are associated (one might even say the one by which they are defined). So I can see the argument in favor of this phrasing. And yet, the way this clue is worded there are plenty of other things that more purely fit the description (snowflakes, temperatures, moods, the list goes on...). I am clearly overthinking this clue, but I believe I've proved that it was underthought by the constructor. And that's really why I got up this morning.

Whoa, gettin' fancy with the use of ALIEN as an adjective [7A: From another planet]. I take it all back; this is literally the best puzzle ever made. Everybody NEEDS to recognize this [4D: Food, shelter, and clothing].

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, Underthought of CrossWorld