NYT Mini for Friday, April 22, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: FLARE

A flare, also sometimes called a fusee, is a type of pyrotechnic that produces a brilliant light or intense heat without an explosion. Flares are used for signalling, illumination, or defensive countermeasures in civilian and military applications. Flares may be ground pyrotechnics, projectile pyrotechnics, or parachute-suspended to provide maximum illumination time over a large area. Projectile pyrotechnics may be dropped from aircraft, fired from rocket or artillery, or deployed by flare guns or handheld percussive tubes. (Wikipedia)

Eh, this is fine, I guess. I don't see anything particularly atrocious to complain about. Which means this is going to be a tricky blog post, because I've kinda gotta do that, don't I? Let's just hold hands and see if we can't get through this together.

Really, I'm used  to having something obvious about which to SCOFF, but nothing's really jumping out at me here [1A: React derisively]. I suppose I could complain that the clue for OUTED doesn't say anything about the impetus for the revelation being another party's, and thus really only implies the simpler OUT [3D: No longer in the closet]. Or that no motorist in the history of right now actually keeps a FLARE in their car as the clue implies; it's rather a tool of rescue authorities [4D: Stranded motorist's distress signal]. I could even go on a tirade about how no audio engineers actually use physical boards with real sliders anymore, putting a bit of a damper on FADER [5D: Sliding knob for an audio engineer]. But those things are really just minor stylistic quibbles. If there were any actual problems in this puzzle I wouldn't have found any reason to notice them.

I like the slightly contemporary references in this thing, like THERE [8A: "_____ Will Be Blood"] Sure I guess it's almost a decade old by now (fuck!), but it's a great film and a great way to turn what is by far your puzzle's most boring entry into something pleasant. PAULA Deen is *kinda* current, I guess [6A: Celebrity chef Deen]. I think she's supposed to be starting her own network now or something. I guess I can't call SEDER contemporary, except insofar as it is, in fact, still a thing that people do [9A: Meal at which bitter herbs are dipped in salt water]. So let's go with that.

The one word I think should have been clued as a contemporary reference that wasn't is OCTAD [7A: Group of eight]. Given this puzzle's already evident predilection towards the celluloid arts, I think a Hateful Eight-themed clue would have fit in nicely. "'Hateful' group in a recent film, numerically" or something along those lines. If you wanted to get fancy it could be "Film group that's just a bit more than 'magnificent.'" That'd be fun.

So that's all I have. Nothing terribly interesting. No CACHE of incisive wit or pointed barbs [2D: Secret stash]. It's a terrible shame that this puzzle wasn't worse. Maybe we'll get lucky, and tomorrow will see something truly awful heaved our way. Fingers crossed!

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, PC load letter of CrossWorld