NYT Mini for Friday, May 6, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: SYNOD

A synod /ˈsɪnəd/ historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not. It is also sometimes used to refer to a church that is governed by a synod.

The word "synod" comes from the Greek "σύνοδος" (synodos) meaning "assembly" or "meeting", and it is synonymous with the Latin word "concilium" meaning "council". Originally, synods were meetings of bishops, and the word is still used in that sense in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

Sometimes the phrase "general synod" or "general council" refers to an ecumenical council. The word "synod" also refers to the standing council of high-ranking bishops governing some of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches. Similarly, the day-to-day governance of patriarchal and major archiepiscopal Eastern Catholic Churches are entrusted to a permanent synod. (Wikipedia)


 
 

This is fine I guess. I wish I was still impressed by the concept of a puzzle with no black squares, but the novelty has worn off by this point, and in a 5x5 grid it's just not that admirable a feat anymore. It does mean, happily, that there can't possibly be any words shorter than five letters. That's not necessarily the same thing as there not being any junky fill, but on balance it definitely augers toward there being less of it. In this case, the grid is pretty solid, with nothing outright objectionable in sight. The worst thing by far is I MEAN [3D: "Know what  _____?"], which is not all that bad. Even less so if you take it as an Ernest reference.

On the other hand, the vocabulary on display here is hardly groundbreaking. SYNOD [9A: Church council] is great; everything else, less so. I could probably do without the dreadfully vanilla REPLY [2D: _____ all (email option)], or the uncompromisingly prosaic ENDED [5D: Concluded]. I'm not certain there isn't some connection to be drawn between the quality of this puzzle and one alternate meaning of the word LEMON [6A: Sour fruit].

Every once and a while you remember that Drew Carey is hosting The Price Is Right and how weird that is, and that The Price Is Right is still a thing and how weird that is [1A: Guess on Drew Carey's game show]. Then you forget both of those things and the world goes back to normal for a time. But seriously, how is that show still on? Aren't people tired of it by now? How many times does one need to watch some asshole in a smelly t-shirt win a CONDO by reciting arbitrary numbers [4D: Time-share unit, often]?

GLADE [8A: Big name in air fresheners] manages to be both dull and obnoxiously commercial. I wasn't aware there were any "big names" in the air freshener industry, but I guess you live and learn. PLUGS is kinda nice, but the clue is unambitious [1D: Things inserted into power strips]. I would have preferred a more hair-oriented clue I think.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, Vern of CrossWorld