Constructor: Joel Fagliano
Relative Difficulty: Easy
Theme: STAR WARS—That's one of the answers, and apparently that's significant today for some reason...
STAR WARS [1A / 8A: Franchise with a noted 12/18/15 release]
Word of the Day: TUBER
Tubers are various types of modified plant structures that are enlarged to store nutrients. They are used by plants to survive the winter or dry months, to provide energy and nutrients for regrowth during the next growing season, and as a means of asexual reproduction. Some sources define the term "tuber" to mean only structures derived from stems; others use the term for structures derived from stems or roots. (Wikpedia)
This is acceptable, as meaningless nods to ephemeral pop cultural occasions go. If I hadn't been distracted by a fire-related situation right when starting this puzzle, it might been taken down in record time. As it was, I "did not see any of the down clues," as the saying goes.
I don't think the clue for CURE is complete as-is [5A: Holding your breath or gargling with ice water, for the hiccups]. Those are only purported cures, as hiccups famously *don't* have a reliable cure. But at least the word does immediately spring to mind. HUBBY is pretty transparent [6A: Wifey's partner], even if "wifey" doesn't really feel on a par with "hubby" in terms of legitness.
There's no other word that can fit for [7A: Follow orders] than OBEY, and one- and eight-across are taken up by the "themer", so.... that's basically it. No need to read any of the down clues, when you think about it.
But I'll go the extra mile for you, dear reader, and read them anyway. Let's see... SCUBA kinda fits for [1D: Explore a coral reef], though I'd be more comfortable if there was a ", say" at the end of the clue. Odds are, SCUBA is the method you're going to find yourself utilizing to accomplish that task, but not necessarily. TUBER is an enjoyable word [2D: Rutabaga or potato], so let's enjoy it together for five seconds... Ok, that's enough. ARBY'S could have had a MUCH better clue than the low hanging fruit it gets [3D: Fast food chain known for its roast beef]. In my experience Arby's is much better known for 'having terrible food that makes you sick', but what do I know, having never actually eaten there.
I do think "Rutabaga or potato?" should be a question they ask you on airplanes.
HOW did REY manage to work its way into this puzzle [6D: Incredulous question after a magic trick] [4D: Singer Lana Del ____]? How did HOW make it in, come to think of it? Those answers suck, and it's shouldn't be necessary by this point for me to point out how much they suck. Fortunately, I didn't see them until five seconds ago, so the solving experience was relatively ok.
I'm gonna go don my SCUBA gear and eat some ARBY'S TUBERS while I watch the new hit film epic, HUBBY WARS. I'll let you know how it is.
Signed, Jonathan Gibson, coral reef of CrossWorld