Today's puzzle is titled "Primate Center" and before I even started solving I said to myself, "There's going to be apes involved". And sure enough as soon as I arrived at the first long theme answer, there it was, sitting smack dab in the middle of the phrase - an APE! In the end we have eight of the beasts populating the puzzle, along with a bonus MONKEY to start the long answer that Frank suggests as an alternate title to the puzzle. So we have:
23a - Newport News is on it: VIRGINIA PENINSULA
35a - Wife on "The Dick Van Dyke Show": LAURA PETRIE
37a - Post-seminar session: Q AND A PERIOD
58a - They're milder than jalapenos: BANANA PEPPERS
68a - 2012 film taglined "25 events, 2 brothers, 1 champion":
79a - Result in formal punishment: INCUR A PENALTY
103a -Rubberlike gum used as a dental cement: GUTTA-PERCHA
105a -Journalists and the like: MEDIA PEOPLE
117a -Alternate title for this puzzle: MONKEY IN THE MIDDLE
Wow! Props to Frank Longo for finding 8 phrases of suitable length, all with APE exactly in the middle - and in each case the first part of the phrase ends with A and PE begins the last part; that, my friends, took some serious creative thinking! When I discovered the elegance of the theme I started writing APE in the middle boxes of the long answers, which made solving a lot easier until I arrived at the last theme answer where the primate was not an APE in the center but a MONKEY IN THE MIDDLE - hence the messiness in that part of my solved grid.
OK, a couple of the theme answers were totally unknown to me so I need all of the crosses to produce them, and I bet they through some other solvers off as well. I have never, ever heard of "The Do-Deca-Pentathlon" but google assures me it's a real thing, so fair enough (except, sadly, I didn't know "Entertainer Neuwirth" at 65d either so that one box at their cross was a total toss-up between BaBE and BEBE). I didn't know Gutta-percha, either but all of the crosses were solid so I was sure it was right. "Q and A Period" took a while to appear, too, but of course it's a totally familiar phrase to anyone who's ever attended any kind of seminar.
I don't have much to say about the rest of the fill. The answer for 74a, Discharge from the military, informally, might be tough if you don't know that RIF is an acronym for Reduction in Force, which is standard in any government agency. As to 99d, Lobster's cousin, I'm from Maine and I can tell you there's no way a CRAWDAD should be considered in any way even remotely related to what we call lobsters - Frank must have been referring to those warm water critters that are wrongly referred to as "rock lobsters". I don't know what a "Guanaco" is but now I know it's related to both the ALPACA and the LLAMA - I love learning stuff like that from the puzzle. "Polly WANTA cracker" (78d) reminded me of Chad Carpenter's Tundra comic strip today, where the parrot is texting the phrase to the man sitting near him - I guess I'm the only one left who doesn't text if even the parrots are doing it.
If you came here because of the title of the post but didn't do the puzzle, maybe you were looking for this: