NYT Mini for Monday, April 25, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: AC/DC

The War of Currents (sometimes, War of the Currents or Battle of Currents) was a series of events surrounding the introduction of competing electric power transmission systems in the late 1880s and early 1890s including commercial competition, a debate over electrical safety, and a media/propaganda campaign that grew out of it, with the main players being the direct current (DC) based Edison Electric Light Company and the alternating current (AC) based Westinghouse Electric Company. It took place during the introduction and rapid expansion of the alternating current standard (already in use and advocated by several US and European companies[1]) and its eventual adoption over the direct current distribution system. Three aspects have been conflated together into the "war": open competition involving large electric companies and their developing systems, a general fear in the public's mind of death by accidental electrocution from high voltage AC leading to a debate over its safety and regulation, and the debate and behind the scene maneuvers associated with the introduction of the electric chair.[2] (Wikipedia)

This thing isn't just a passenger on the midnight dull train from Dullsville, it's the goddamn conductor. There's literally nothing here that isn't terrible. Nothing. The only variety in this low-effort jubilee is precisely how each entry in terrible. So let's dive in, shall we?

 Oh, right. That Amos.

Oh, right. That Amos.

First off, we've got a metric shit-ton of ultra-common words clued via what is transparently the most obvious possible manner. There isn't any more straightforward way to clue AC/DC than [1A: "Back in Black" band], and the same can be said of DORA [5A: Explorer of children's TV] and AMOS [8A: "Famous" cookie maker]. Go to any online database of crossword answers and I guarantee that those are all the first clues listed for each word. Surely there are more interesting things you can mention about AC/DC, a band that's been around for over 40 years and has a Wikipedia article that's 11,000 words long. It's deplorable that it only ever gets clued in reference to the one specific album title, and pretty much inexcusable in a Mini.

Then there's the just plain dictionary definition stuff, which is arguably worse. CO-PAY is a semi-uncommon word (certainly the closest thing this puzzle has to one anyway), and yet it's clued with the appallingly unambitious [2D: Insured patient's burden]. Look how sad that clue is. It's a testament to the fact that the constructor went to the painstaking length of actually thinking about what the word means. Shock! Even worse, you've got CAROL, clued with the name of....a CAROL [4D: "Deck the Halls", e.g.]. I think by 2016 we should all be able to admit that the 'e.g.' clue construction is a tool in the toolbox of the lazy or unimaginative constructor.

The short stuff is worst of all. I won't lay into ESE [7D: Opposite of WNW] too much since it's a regrettably common bit of fill. If the rest of the puzzle were at all good it would be pretty easy to overlook, but since that's NOT the case, I'm noticing it. ADS [1D: What Spotify Premium removes] is maybe the worst thing in here, because it's more or less just an ad for Spotify Premium. Yes, ADS is an ad. How do you like that? You do not like that, I hope.

Finally, a word about SPARE [6A: Strike's counterpart, in bowling]. I don't think 'counterpart' is the correct word there, because while both strikes and SPAREs occur in the context of bowling, they're not really opposite or complementary to each other in any way. In baseball, I think you could say a strike and a ball are counterparts, since they together compose the totality of possible outcomes of a pitch (I think). But in bowling, there are all kinds of outcomes besides strikes and SPAREs, and a SPARE does not complement a strike in any way. It complements the first throw that didn't knock all the pins down. I just don't see any reasonable argument for saying that the two things are counterparts.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, philosopher thing of CrossWorld