NYT Mini for Thursday, March 10, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium-Challenging

Theme: None

Word of the Day: PUPAE

A pupa (Latin pupa for doll, pl: pupae or pupas) is the life stage of some insects undergoing transformation. The pupal stage is found only in holometabolous insects, those that undergo a complete metamorphosis, going through four life stages: embryo, larva, pupa and imago. (For a list of such insects see Holometabolism).

The pupae of different groups of insects have different names such as chrysalis for the pupae of butterflies and tumbler for those of the mosquito family. Pupae may further be enclosed in other structures such as cocoons, nests or shells.[1] (Wikipedia)

 Nobody wants to see a pupae photo, so here's a puppy instead. You're welcome.

Nobody wants to see a pupae photo, so here's a puppy instead. You're welcome.

Hmm. I think this is not horrible, but it's hard to tell. After some of the fare we've been served of late, it's difficult to remember what a decent puzzle even looks like. I'm not sure if this just looks ok by comparison or if it's actually good.

 You probably can't tell from this picture, but this thing has 102 keys. Your clue is WRONG!

You probably can't tell from this picture, but this thing has 102 keys. Your clue is WRONG!

Maybe I just really like PUPAE, and that's all it is [1D: Cocoon dwellers]. Man, was that answer hard to see. You see, when you're solving in Minimode™, you're just simply going too fast to bother considering things like irregular plurals, so when they turn up it's a small but genuine mindfuck. Good thing KEYS, a total gimme, was there to save my ass [8A: A piano has 88]PEAR was difficult to see as well [1A: Fruit with a "check the neck" ripeness test]. I have never heard of this supposed test, but I can tell you several things about it:

  • Number one, it sounds completely fucking weird out of context. I mean, come on, "check the neck"? If you don't know the botanical/culinary application it sounds like a test you would rather not have to carry out, and certainly would not like to have performed on you.
  • Number two, I googled this phrase and it turns out that it is indeed a legitimate phrase in the pear-lexicon, as confirmed by, among others, the (I have to assume) extremely well-known website USAPears.org—which is, of course, the online presence of the Pear Bureau Northwest, the largest non-profit marketing organization for the promotion of pears grown in the Pacific Northwest. So I think they know what they're talking about. They even put a little ™ after the phrase: "Check the neck.™". You know what? Look, I'mma let Britney explain it for you:
  • Number three, and speaking of the "I'mma let..." construction, the only non-pear-related hit in the first page of Google results for "check the neck" is, for some reason, a song by Kanye West. The next part of that line is "check the wrist," so I don't think he's talking about pears. Incidentally the same song contains the line "I'm bill droppin', Ms. Pacman is pill poppin'." So there's that. It's always nice to see 80s video game nostalgia represented in hiphop.

Did I mention UPPER yet [6A: New York City's ____ West Side]? That clue is terrible. It's trying to make a boring answer seem more legitimate by pretending it's part of a proper noun. It isn't. It's a crappy word clued as an even crappier partial. Lose it. But EMPTY [2D: Like some calories and promises] is pretty good. Kind of depressing, but good.

RORY was 100% opaque to me [4D: One of the Gilmore Girls], but what are you gonna do? It's the WB! DUMBO [5A: Disney character with big ears] should have been a gimme, but I put in GOOFY instead. I guess I was thinking more along the lines of recurring characters rather than one-off (as far as I can tell) film characters. When you think about it, almost ALL Disney characters have oversized ears.

Here's some more VG-inspired hip-hop to brighten your day.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, Kenji Yamazaki of CrossWorld