NYT Mini for Sunday, May 1, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: VAN HALEN

Van Halen is an American hard rock band formed in Pasadena, California, in 1972. From 1974 until 1985, the band consisted of guitarist Eddie Van Halen, vocalist David Lee Roth, drummer Alex Van Halen, and bassist Michael Anthony.[5]

The band went on to become major stars, and by the early 1980s they were one of the most successful rock acts of the time. 1984 was their most successful album. The lead single, "Jump", became an international hit and their only single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The following singles, "Panama" and "I'll Wait", both hit number 13 on the U.S. charts. The album went on to sell over 12 million copies in the U.S. alone. In 1985, the band replaced lead singer David Lee Roth with former Montrose lead vocalist Sammy Hagar. With Hagar, the group would release four U.S. number-one albums over the course of 11 years. Hagar left the band in 1996 shortly before the release of the band's first greatest hits collection, Best Of – Volume I. Former Extreme frontman Gary Cherone was quickly recruited as lead singer to replace Hagar, and Van Halen III was released in 1998. Cherone left the band in frustration in 1999 after the tour due to the poor commercial performance of the album. (Wikipedia)

Did not care for this. I kind of feel like I was supposed to like it, what with the astronomy-themed, double-answer MILKY WAY [6A/4D: Our galaxy], but I just can't seem to get excited about that. It's an almost exquisite example of dull cluing ruining what was a perfectly good opportunity to liven up a puzzle. In fact when you think about what a mind-bogglingly amazing thing our galaxy is, it's surprising how boring it becomes when it's clued as "our galaxy". Pfffft. What a waste.

It's unclear what happened with the deeply unsatisfying SHOW [1A: "The Good Wife" or "Broad City"]. So your cluing strategy is just listing shows? How is that a thing that occurred to you to do? Yes, those are shows. How utterly boring. At least with the MILKY WAY situation described above, the base answer is an interesting word, and hence the overall result is a net neutral one. Here, the word being clued is completely asinine to begin with and so we've nowhere to go from there but down. What a rough start to this puzzle.

Things don't get much better. NANA is not a particularly satisfying answer [5A: Grandmother, affectionately]. Although it was easy enough to guess, I never even heard this term until I was an adult, and then only in fiction. To this day no one I know in the real world refers to their grandmother as NANA. It feels like a totally fake nickname. I was also marginally thrown by EPEE [7A: Olympic sport with blades], which I actually thought was only the name for the blade itself and not the sport as well. That's on me. I won't DENY that [8A: Refuse]. Nor will I refuse it! On the other hand, SNIPE probably should have felt more rewarding, but it just feels perfunctory somehow [1D: Outbid at the last moment on eBay].

As a singer, I absolutely reject the notion that ON KEY is synonymous with [3D: Singing well]. As any undergraduate voice teacher knows t's entirely within the realm of possibility to sing right on key and still be completely awful. In fact (and this is allowing for the assumption that we're even speaking specifically in a tonal context to begin with), I'd say "on key" is actually synonymous with "singing adequately." But what do I know? I've only studied this shit for the better part of three decades; I'm sure the constructor thought about it for at least five minutes.

Then we get to [2D: Rock's Van _____] HALEN, and all is forgiven. Great puzzle!

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, almost exquisite example of CrossWorld