The Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo this week is titled "Taking Out the Middle" and it soon becomes apparent that it's the middle name of famous people that has already been removed to serve as the clue and we are to fill in the rest of the person's name, thus:
23a - ROBERT STEVENSON (Louis)
35a - FRANK WRIGHT (Lloyd)
41a - JOYCE OATES (Carol)
61a - HANS ANDERSEN (Christian)
70a - SARAH PARKER (Jessica)
79a - GEORGE CARVER (Washington)
93a - BILLIE KING (Jean)
107a-ARTHUR DOYLE (Conan)
115a-WILLIAM WILLIAMS (Carlos)
I pretty much breezed through the grid, probably because I knew most of the names to be filled in for the theme answers and was able to fill them in with only the crosses that were already in place as I worked my way through the grid. I did have to wait for most of the crosses to see Joyce Carol Oates, but it clearly is a name that deserves to be recognized: (from wiki) Joyce Carol Oates (born June 16, 1938) is an American author. Oates published her first book in 1963 and has since published over forty novels, as well as a number of plays and novellas, and many volumes of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction. She has won many awards for her writing, including the National Book Award, for her novel them (1969), two O. Henry Awards, and the National Humanities Medal. Her novels Black Water (1992), What I Lived For (1994), and Blonde (2000) were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. William Carlos Williams was also unfamiliar, despite being an accomplished poet: (wiki again) In May 1963, he was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems (1962) and the Gold Medal for Poetry of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. The Poetry Society of America continues to honor William Carlos Williams by presenting an annual award in his name for the best book of poetry published by a small, non-profit or university press. Clearly, I need to read more. I'm almost ashamed to say that I knew Sarah Jessica Parker as I have never seen any of the shows she has performed in, but I guess celebrity news is so ubiquitous that somehow her name got implanted in my store of useless knowledge.
I just noticed a bonus theme answer at 122a, where we get to add the middle name of Justice Ruth BADER Ginsburg - nice!
What struck me most about the theme answers was how familiar the names are with the middle name in place, and how strange they sound when it has been removed. I'm sure there are many more examples but kudos to Frank for finding nine of them of the proper lengths to fit symmetrically in the grid and still be familiar enough to be recognizable. OK, a little post-solve googling revealed dozens of names like this so it seems like he could have avoided Sarah Jessica Parker, but I guess one "pop-culture" answer is not too bad so fair enough.
I didn't notice anything particularly noteworthy about the non-theme fill. GAM (11a - Looker's leg) is a term that I know and filled in with no crosses but I bet anybody under the age of 60 or so had trouble with it as the term is dated slang that I haven't heard in years. Likewise, The Lone Ranger's companion TONTO (24d) may be a reference from long enough ago that there may be a generation or two that are unfamiliar with the name, so being old helped with that, too. "Make AMAN out of (toughen up)" (37a) is another phrase that seems pretty dated but it's probably still used by some and may be familiar to most solvers. My only write-over was having RodS for REOS (69d - Antique cars) - I guess I was thinking of the hot-rods that were popular among young men when I came of age, and sadly those are now antiques, too.
There were a couple of answer pairs that I liked. I thought having ISLETS (18d - Florida keys, e.g.) in the grid along with it's homophone EYELET (102d - Tennis shoe hole) was a whimsical touch, and putting the ALAMO (114a - 1836 siege setting) within shooting distance (figuratively speaking) of TEXAS was pretty creative.
So there you have it and not a single pun or wacky clue to be seen, which leaves me having the blues so I'll leave you with this from Stevie Ray Vaughan (if I've got the blues, everybody gets the blues!):
*(It's a long list - google it)