This week, the Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo is titled "Two-Channel Connection" and let me just say at the outset if you don't watch U.S. television you are pretty much screwed because, as Frank tells us in the last theme answer, an alternate title for this puzzle could be CABLE LINE-UP (122a). Here are the rest of the theme line-up so you can see what I mean:
23a - BRAVO ENCORE ("Great job, play more!"?)
33a - DISCOVERY SPIKE (Sharp rise in new findings?)
49a - LIFETIME TLC (Perpetual pampering?)
71a - OWN OVATION (Round of applause all for oneself?)
73a - OXYGEN LOGO (Company symbol on a container of breathing gas?)
89a - TNT HALLMARK (Distinctive feature of blasting material?)
107a-NICKELODEON HUB (Quaint theater where everyone hung out?)
So if you are a fan of cable TV you probably breezed through the grid aided by the long theme answers, all of which were wackily clued with a "?". I dumped my CABLE LINE-UP a couple of years ago so I had to dredge the answers up out of the recesses of my memory, which lately has been questionable at best. Most of them were at least vaguely familiar to me, but three of the networks were new to me: OWN apparently refers to the Oprah Winfrey Network which debuted on January 1, 2011, in approximately 80 million homes (according to wiki) - mine was not one of them but at least I have heard of the network, probably due to the media blitz that preceded it. HUB, on the other hand, remained a mystery even after I had it the grid (thank you, crosswords) until I looked it post-solve and learned this (wiki): "Hub Network (originally "The Hub" from 2010 to 2013) is an American digital cable and satellite television channel that is owned as a joint venture between Discovery Communications and Hasbro. The channel targets a dual audience, young children in the daytime with original and acquired children's programs, and families at night with reruns of older television sitcoms, dramas and feature films. The channel, which operates solely on an Eastern Time Zone schedule, is available to approximately 60 million subscribers." I also needed wiki to tell me about LOGO: "The channel launched on June 30, 2005 as simply Logo, as the first advertiser-supported commercial television channel in the United States geared towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. It was founded by former MTV Executive Matt Farber. Its first president, Brian Graden, was named by Out Magazine as the 10th most powerful gay person in America in 2007."
The clues for the theme answers were all literal enough to evoke the answer from solvers who watch enough television to have heard of all of them, I am just not one of those solvers, and maybe they were sufficiently punny to elicit a few GROANS (74d - Bad-pun responses) from those same folks but the wackiness was lost on me. (Late edit: I just looked back at last week's puzzle and discovered that Frank used the pun/groan combination in reverse: They often elicits groans > PUNS. Frank really, really likes puns, I think. I do, too.)
I handled the non-theme fill with only a few problems and write-overs, which are apparent in my completed grid above. I sometimes write in an answer without waiting for a cross or two to confirm it, so when I came to 6d, Cherished, I plugged in "dear" with no hesitation only to have to replace it with FOND which works perfectly if you think of "fond memories". For 15d, Cork-up, as a bottle, I wanted STOPPer, which I thought was a really cool word that I haven't heard in a long time - I even marked it as something to comment on here. The right answer is STOPPLE which I don't think I ever heard before, but it's a perfectly fine word that means exactly what the clue calls for, so there's my new word for the day. Speaking of new words, I sometimes accuse Frank of making up words to go in the grid only to discover the words are fine and I'm ignorant. I learned from today's puzzle that a NONCE word (45a - ...coinage for one occasion) is what I thought he was creating. "A poem by Seamus Heaney entitled "Nonce Words" is included in his collection "District and Circle". (from wiki)" - I mention this because the poet died earlier this week.
- I thought placing DANIELLE (85d - Writer Steele) alongside SINCLAIR (86d - "Babbitt" author Lewis) was ironic because they are anything but a TWINPACK (84d - Pair of identical products sold as a unit).
- TED (44d - WJM anchor Baxter) made me smile because I used to watch the Mary Tyler Moore Show (available in syndication on Cable TV, I would imagine) and he was my favorite character.
- I love DIONNE Warwick (106d) and I haven't listened to anything by her in a very long time, so since I don't have anything ELSE (131a - otherwise) to say, I'll leave you with this: