NYT Mini for Thursday, December 24, 2015

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium

Theme: XMAS — Three answers relate to XMAS in some way

Theme Answers:

  • MASS [1A: Midnight ____ (Christmas Eve Service)]
  • XMAS [9A: Dec. 25]
  • SANTA [4D: Traveler on Christmas Eve]

Word of the Day: SEISM

a less common name for earthquake
Word Origin
C19: from Greek seismos, from seiein to shake (Dictionary.com)

Okay, I guess so. This meets the bare minimum in terms of quality. Not flashy, not particularly insightful or inspiring, just a notch up from the tripe of the last couple of days.

I was thrown by MASS, mostly because I was thinking "service" referred to "the supplying of utilities or commodities" (thanks again, Dictionary.com!) rather than a ceremony of some kind. All I could think of was overnight shipping service, which is the only service I might feel compelled to appeal to on December 24th.

The Christmas thing... rather pedestrian in its execution. I think it's a bit clumsy to have "Christmas" in two of your clues and then have XMAS be in the grid. It's obvious that the term was avoided for that clue specifically, so why not avoid it for all three? It's an odd choice. I think employing the calendar date exclusively would have been preferable here.

There's some blah fill here, most notably in the form of EST'D [8A: Abbr. on a historic building] and EDS [7D: Actors Burns and Asner]. I'm pretty sick of ONE-A, even though I still can't always remember that it in't A-ONE [5A: Prime draft status]. And the less said about O NINE the better [6A: First year of Obama's presidency, slangily].

SEISM is pretty good though [3D: Earthquake]. Such a great word that you don't see on its own often enough. And I do enjoy the clue on the otherwise pedantic MOO [1D: Stock quote]. You can see some genuine effort there. And say what you will about ANNEX (and I know you will), but at least it's a real word and not a lame partial or abbreviation [2D: Building add-on].

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, lame abbreviation of CrossWorld