NYT Mini for Friday, December 25, 2015

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative Difficulty: Medium-Challenging

Theme: None

Word of the Day: MPAA

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is an American trade association that represents the six major Hollywood studios. It was founded in 1922 as the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) to advance the business interests of its members. In its formative years it took on the role of devising guidelines for film content which resulted in the creation of the Production Code, and currently administers the MPAA film rating system.

More recently, the MPAA has advocated for the motion picture and television industry through lobbying to protect creative content from piracy and for the removal of trade barriers. The MPAA has long worked to curb copyright infringement, including recent attempts to limit the sharing of copyrighted works via peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. Former Democratic Senator Chris Dodd is the chairman and CEO. (Wikipedia)

This one works, and I will tell you why: its reach does not exceed its grasp. It knows exactly what it is and what its limitations are. Yes, we get two Christmas-y clues that force you to recognize the current calendar date, but they're not obtrusive, and—far more importantlythey don't cause the rest of the puzzle to suck:

  •  MERRY [6A: "____ Christmas!"]
  • CAREY [3D: "All I Want for Christmas Is You" singer Mariah"]

Since there are only two of them it doesn't feel right to call this a theme, so it's just two answers in a puzzle that namecheck the holiday that falls on today's date. That's fine. I'd much rather a solid puzzle with sly nod to topicality than a trainwreck that tries too hard to be something more holistic. I even like the bizarrely arbitrary specificity of bringing Mariah Carey into it for no discernible reason other than her name rhymes with "merry".

As I said, the rest of this thin is just fine, with fill ranging from passable to good. I always like seeing NEMO [8A: Pixar fish] (nice pithy clue), whether it be the aforementioned fish, the Jules Verne antihero, or even the early 1900's comic strip character. Or, let's say, any other Nemos I'm not remembering right now. It's just a great name.

I love UPEND for some reason [2D: Flip over]. It seems from the letter content like it should be a super-common crossword answer but I actually can't recall seeing it before. I never heard of this DYAN person before [9A: Actress Cannon of "Heaven Can Wait"]. Or that movie or whatever it is.

MPAA is an interesting organization everyone should strive to learn more about [5A: Movie-rating org.]. I even like MUCK [1A: Slime], if for no other reason than I confidently threw in OOZE as an answer and subsequently had to solve the rest of the puzzle to uncover my error. I still slightly prefer 'ooze' as a synonym for 'slime' but MUCK certainly works fine.

So, a mild MMM overall, methinks [1D: "Delicious!"].

Signed, Jonathan Gibson, oozy sliming muck of CrossWorld