NYT Mini for Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: TOOTH

A tooth (plural teeth) is a small, calcified, whitish structure found in the jaws (or mouths) of many vertebrates and used to break down food. Some animals, particularly carnivores, also use teeth for hunting or for defensive purposes. The roots of teeth are covered by gums. Teeth are not made of bone, but rather of multiple tissues of varying density and hardness. The cellular tissues that ultimately become teeth originate from the embryonic germ layer, the ectoderm.

The general structure of teeth is similar across the vertebrates, although there is considerable variation in their form and position. The teeth of mammals have deep roots, and this pattern is also found in some fish, and in crocodilians. In most teleost fish, however, the teeth are attached to the outer surface of the bone, while in lizards they are attached to the inner surface of the jaw by one side. In cartilaginous fish, such as sharks, the teeth are attached by tough ligaments to the hoops of cartilage that form the jaw.[1] (Wikipedia)

No, that isn't the popular Peanuts character Pigpen up there; it's a crossword puzzle. I know, it's hard to tell with all the LITERAL STINK LINES that you can see emanating from this thing, but I looked into it and discovered that yes, it is indeed a 5x5 grid with boxes intended to be filled with letters based on a series of hints or 'clues.' Who knew.

This thing starts of respectably, if unremarkably, with VET [1A: Investigate the past of, as a Supreme Court nominee]. What a quaint clue that is! Ah, the heady days when we were allowed to have Supreme Court nominees be a thing. We were so young and rambunctious then. But things go quickly off the rails after that with IMOFF, which is just yucky and refuses to be parsed by the eye how the constructor intends [4A: "Catch you on the flip side"]. It's a valid entry, yeah, but nothing can make it not look like just a random string of letters.

The constructor then tries to recapture the magic of another, much better puzzle from earlier this week with the whole "identical clues for two different answers" thing, with LATER [8A: "Catch you on the flip side"]. Unfortunately, it falls completely flat here because of just how damned awful IMOFF is (and also because of how barely acceptable LATER is). I'm even overlooking how grating the phrase "catch you on the flip side" is, because we don't even need to get into that. Is the "flip side" element supposed to be a reference to how the two answers are on alternate or "flip" sides of this puzzle? I genuinely hope not. They're not even ON the sides, they're both one answer in from them, so they're really more both in the middle, but that's not even the point because, again, "flip side", IMOFF, UGH.

It's a small consolation that this puzzle's EMMA was not of Austenian derivation [2D: Actress Stone of "Birdman"]. It's a small burst of sanity in this dumpster fire of a puzzle, and a fresh-ish reference to a much better, if slightly pretentious work of art that doesn't feel earned. TOOTH has no bite [3D: Follower of baby or wisdom], and I have no desire to feel the FERN [6D: Plant with fronds]. It's a good thing I get compensated $100,000 for each of these blog posts, because I certainly would not want to spend any time on this kind of crap fro FREE [5D: Gratis].

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, rhetorical stink line of CrossWorld