NYT Mini for Monday, May 9, 2016

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: None

Word of the Day: TRASH

Municipal solid waste (MSW), commonly known as trash or garbage in the United States and as refuse or rubbish in Britain, is a waste type consisting of everyday items that are discarded by the public. "Garbage" can also refer specifically to food waste, as in a garbage disposal; the two are sometimes collected separately. (Wikipedia)

What a perfectly contrived paragon of averageness. This puzzle exemplifies basically all of the common bad decisions a constructor can make. We've got rampant duplication for no apparent purpose, uninspired dictionary definitions, cruddy abbreviations, and clues that seem like they're meant to pithy and clever that are anything but. It's a veritable smorgasbord of mediocrity.

I'm glad Rosalind Franklin is getting a little recognition here, despite the fact that it's basically as cover the undeniably junky fill that is DNA [1A: Molecule studied by Rosalind Franklin]. It's not super fortunate that the fact that this is occurring 50+ years after the fact and in what's basically the junior version of the NYT puzzle is an apt metaphor for how she was treated by the scientific community. Probably best to LET the whole thing go [8A: "___ there be light"], I suppose.  It's not like I know anything about HER other than the broad strokes, anyway [5D: That woman].

ASSET was in the Mini just a few days ago, so to this entry I say fie [3D: Something in the plus column]. Fie, I say! I'm willing to assume this was Will's fault and not Joel's, so it will be the former's voodoo doll that gets the pin on this one. It would a great ASSET in an editor not to make a mistake like this. Perhaps he's spread a bit too thin these days...

 double whammy

double whammy

Really, really really, really not enjoying the double state capital whammy today. That is BOISE [6A; Capital of Idaho] and DOVER [7A: Capital of Delaware]. I've said this more times than I can recall, but I'll say it again: You need at least THREE occurrences of any thematic duplication; otherwise it just looks like oversight. I'm not saying that inserting three of these clues would be good; it wouldn't be. But it would be acceptable, in the sense that we would have some reasonable confidence that the constructor was both awake and not a totally incompetent buffoon. In the present case, it's ambiguous.

Better/worse than that, we've got both TRASH [4A: What the wastebasket icon represents] and DROOL [1D: What a baby's bib catches]. Those are adequate clues, to be sure, but they shouldn't both be the same puzzle like this. I wouldn't bat an eye if this happened in a full-size grid but it doesn't work in a Mini. That's just too much grid real estate to devote to a winky duplication. Unless you're willing to go all the way and use the same construction for all the clues. That would be fine. Even good, maybe.

It's like off-color notes in jazz that sound wrong until they're repeated and emphasized. It's only the clarity of conscious intent undergirding the act that serves as the catalyst for any potential artistry arising from it. Accidents can surely be beautiful, but they cannot be art. Crosswords are art. Call me NAÏVE [2D: Unaware of how the world really works] but it's the case. Learn this fact and learn it well. It is all I can teach you.

And that, as they say, is that. This will be the final entry in this series of daily posts about the Mini. What's next for this blog?

TBD. [4D: Not yet established: Abbr.]

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, grand poobah emeritus of CrossWorld