This week's Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo, titled "A Step Backwards" is yet another straightforward solving experience with no puns, no gimmicks and not a "?-clue" in sight. Consequently, it didn't produce any chuckles or groans for me as I worked my way through the grid and frankly, I could use a chuckle, or even a groan, to improve my mood this morning. But that's a personal issue, so let's move on.
I pretty much flew through the puzzle with not many hang-ups or delays and I was oblivious to the theme, in fact I forgot there should be one, until I arrived at the last across clue, "Word hidden backwards in this puzzle's eight longest answers" (123a), which the down answers had already filled in to produce PACE. So the title is a literal description of what's going on in the grid, and it may have been helpful in solving if I had read that clue first because knowing ECAP is going to appear somewhere in each long answer narrows down the possibilities considerably. I didn't need any help, though, and I had already had the long answers filled in thus:
23a - STORAGECAPACITY (Datum for a hard drive)
35a - ICECAPADES (Defunct figure-skating show)
42a - KATECAPSHAW (Actress married to Steven Speilberg)
64a - IMAGECAPTURE (Camera-to-computer upload)
71a - STATECAPITAL (Jackson or Lincoln, e.g.)
89a - TIMECAPSULE (Voyager Golden Record, e.g.)
97a - AYECAPTAIN (Sailor's reply)
113a-PICTURECAPTIONS (Snapshot go-withs)
I just noticed as I listed them that the "step backward" is consistent in each answer as it starts with (or maybe ends with, depending on which way you look at it) the terminal E of the first word of the answer and the second words all begin (necessarily, of course) with CAP. It seems like one could make a pretty long list of phrases that meet those criteria, but I'm sure it was no easy matter finding suitable ones that are both "in the language" enough to be inferrable and of the proper length, and them get them in the grid symmetrically (15-10-11-12-12-11-10-15) - but that's what Frank A, Longo does so well, isn't it?
There's really not much else to say about the theme answers - they're not funny or punny, they're just there. Well, I did learn that apparently the Ice Capades are not performing any longer - my parents used to take me to see them a very long time ago so there's a nice memory EDUCEd (74d Draw out) by the puzzle. My favorite clue was "Jackson or Lincoln, e.g." to yield State Capital as the answer - there were several directions that could have gone until a few crosses revealed the real meaning. Now that I think about it, I like being reminded that the Voyager Golden Record is a "time capsule" that is continuing it's journey through space - in fact, this news item is just in from Forbe's: "Voyager 1 was launched in September of 1977 – and now nearly 36 years later, it’s on the cusp of being the first human-made object to ever leave our solar system." That is really, really cool. In fact I enjoyed learning that so much that I'm not even going to complain about having to come up with the name of Steven Spielberg's wife (42a - Kate Capshaw) to solve a theme answer.
I had a couple of mis-steps in the non-theme fill that needed some straightening out, but nothing too serious and all easily corrected. I seemed to be having feline problems as my Kitty (36d) was a pussycat until the crosses made me change it to POKERPOT, which is a whole different thing - I suspect that was an intentional misdirection by Frank and I'm probably not the only one who fell for it. Then my Tricolor cat (93d) was a tortie before it became a CALICO, but that's just plain bad guessing on my part. My only other, non-cat related, writeover was having my Continuing dramas (30d) be Soaps, which I still think is a great answer, before SAGAS. Again, I suspect clever mis-direction. Oh yeah, I wanted Robin's place (37a) to be Sherwood Forest but since it wouldn't fit into the space allotted for NEST I didn't write it in.
I've already mentioned one recent news item and I spotted a couple of others. In the national news celebrity cook PAULA Deen (25d) has been in the headlines, not in a good way, for reasons that I won't detail here; let's just say, she regrets her past remarks very much. In local news, I heard what I though might be a SONIC boom (104d) early Tuesday morning but it turned out to be a propane explosion that completely destroyed a duplex residence in a nearby town - one man died and several families were left homeless due to damage to nearby homes.
Let's end on a happier note, a video suggested by 81a, SHANGRI-la (utopia):
Or maybe this by the Shangri-Las is what I was thinking of: