NYT Mini for Monday, April 11, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: DEBUG

Debugging is the process of finding and resolving of defects that prevent correct operation of computer software or a system. Debugging tends to be harder when various subsystems are tightly coupled, as changes in one may cause bugs to emerge in another.

Numerous books have been written about debugging (see below: Further reading), as it involves numerous aspects, including interactive debugging, control flow, integration testing, log files, monitoring (application, system), memory dumps, profiling, Statistical Process Control, and special design tactics to improve detection while simplifying changes. (Wikipedia)

This is great. I really quite like the central conceit or 'joke' of this puzzle. I'm not going to be so generous as to consider it worthy of  being called a theme, but it's pretty rad nonetheless. I don't always love it when two answers have the same clue, but it really works here. And that's even despite the fact that it's a fill-in-the-blank clue, which I normally hate. I realize that the "battle of the SEXES" is a horribly trite trope, but its juxtaposition next to an actual battle, namely that of the BULGE, in my mind, kind of makes the reference come across as sufficiently self-aware/tongue-in-cheek [4A, 7A: Battle of the _____]. So it's great. It's a simple little thing, but it's just very well done.

 Battle of the MARNIE

Battle of the MARNIE

Actually wanted MARNE at first for the top one, for no reason other than it was the first thing that jumped into my head. After I realized it didn't work with the crosses, I subsequently wanted it for the bottom one instead. Enjoyed being stymied both times. I'm sure there are tons and tons of other five-letter battles that also could have worked in either spot, and I might look them up but the thing is, I'm just so...don't care right now. But I'm sure it would be gratifying to know some of them.

I also liked EXILE [2D: What Edward Snowden is currently in]. I enjoy the super-awkwardness of the clue's wording. The answer seems pretty self-apparently, really, but I enjoy the implication that we could be looking for some sort of physical location for him to be 'in'. It also seems charmingly archaic that there are actually people who are 'in exile', in this day and age, from any nation. Charming, at least, to the extent that horribly tragic things can be charming.

Looking back, the aforementioned material actually covers up a bunch of less-than-ideal detritus which I'm mostly inclined to forgive. GEO is crap, but I like the clue [8A: Prefix with political or thermal]. My stance on the "prefix/suffix with [1st context] or [humorously different 2nd context]" construction is well-known (In this case, I invite you to picture a bunch of politicians inside a volcano. See? Instant funny). I don't particularly like LET GO, which sounds like some kind of iffy partial if not a full-blown mis-transcription of a hit Disney song title [3D: Fire from a job]. Like, I would fire from "a" job whoever left the pronoun out when copying that. I'm not saying which job, but definitely A job.

It gets worse, too. No one really needs me to enumerate what's wrong with SSE, so I won't [5D: Opposite of NNW]OBITS is a hideous thing that I wish I could unsee [6A: "In memoriam" news items, briefly]. Ugly abbreviation no one uses? Ugh. PLURAL of an ugly abbreviation no one uses?? Double-ugh. It makes me want to SOB [4D: Loudly weep]. And I haven't even mentioned the unholy atrocity that is DEL yet [1A: Joe Biden represented it: Abbr.]. Jeez, couldn't even figure out a way to more subtly let us know you're looking for an abbreviation, huh? Why not refer to him as the VP or something? Seems like a no-brainer to me, but what do I know.

The good still overshadows the bad here, but this thing should have gone through a little more DEBUGging before being published [1D: Fix, as a computer program]. As is this feels a bit like a beta version of a great puzzle.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, Chief Assistant to the Assistant-Chief  of CrossWorld