NYT Mini for Saturday, May 7, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: MWAH

The air kiss is a ritual or social gesture whose meaning is basically the same as that of many forms of kissing. The air kiss is a pretence of kissing: the lips are pursed as if kissing, but without actually touching the other person's body. Sometimes, the air kiss includes touching cheek-to-cheek. Also, the gesture may be accompanied by the mwah sound.[1] The onomatopoeic word mwah has entered Webster's dictionary.[2] (Wikipedia)

Was this puzzle constructed in a D.C. area airport?? Cause it's the DULLES thing I've ever seen.

That may be an exaggeration, but it's only a slight one. I can't explain in human word language how unexcited I am by MWAH, which I'm apparently claiming is the most interesting thing in this grid [1A: [air kiss]]. Onomatopoeiae in general are never especially welcome in crosswords, I think, and that one in particular is kind of ugly. Plus I'm not sure I totally buy the way the clue is constructed, I mean can you really just replace anything you want by the sound it makes, in brackets? I dunno, seems thin to me. But I guess, hey, whatever WORKS [2D: "Hey, whatever _____"]. And whatever else you want to say about MWAH, it's light years more interesting than that clue.

I do kinda like MOUSE [1D: Something that squeaks... or clicks]. I guess I almost always like clues that ask me to consider two (or more) different semantic ideas. If nothing else, it shows that the constructor did so, which I appreciate as it does tend to reduce the rage factor on my end a bit. I would absolutely love to unfold every and every day's puzzle and discover that kind of forethought at work in an entire set of clues instead of just one.

 I don't get this meme, but it includes TWO puzzle words so it stays in

I don't get this meme, but it includes TWO puzzle words so it stays in

But I suppose great wordplay is something of a dying ASSET in the toolkit of the your average constructor these days [3D: Useful quality]. I'm not totally certain most would even be able to pass the verbal section of an SAT TEST [8A: What the "T" of SAT once stood for]. And since SAT apparently no longer stands for what it stands for, that last statement was not as redundant as it would seem.

Lot of dull stuff rounding out the middle of this puzzle. GOOSE [5A: Mother _____ (noted story teller)] is lame fill-in-the-blank crap, NURSE [6A: Hospital worker] and ASKED [7A: Posed the question to ] are just half-assed dictionary definitions. The combined effect is very irritating; in fact I'd say this entire puzzle has a distinctly GNAT-like feeling to it [5D: Annoying flying insect]. I'd ask it to go away, but that's clearly not a request it's going to HEED [4D: Pay attention to]. So the only thing left for me to do is create some kind of scathing blog post about it and hope that has some kind of palliative, balancing effect on the universe. So I guess I'm gonna go do that.

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, half-assed onomatopoeia of CrossWorld