23a - THE MIGHTY AUTHOR (Nickname for a really strong novelist?)
31a - GO BACK FOR MOREAU (Return to get H.G. Wells' title Dr.?)
41a - CUB SCOUT AUDEN (British poet as a young badge earner?)
54a - AUBURN RUBBER (Neoprene produced at an Alabama university?)
68a - PALAU JOEY (Baby kangaroo living on a Pacific island nation?)
75a - AUGUST OF WIND (Very breezy summer month?)
90a - THE HOLY LANDAU (Convertible carriage used to transport popes?)
99a - BEAU OF GOOD CHEER (Boyfriend who's always upbeat?)
111a-AUTRY TO REMEMBER (Singer Gene who should never be forgotten?)
I'm certain a solver could fill in the grid without understanding the gimmick but without that essential bit of knowledge of the chemical symbolism the overall effect would probably be something like "WTF?!" which is probably not the reaction Frank was going for. Even when you get the joke some of the answers seem pretty lame, but that's just my subjective opinion; your mileage may vary. Still, the theme answers all touch on different areas of knowledge from Greek Mythology to classic Country & Western singers so there's something there for everyone - my favorite answer was The Holy Landau which could be another name for what I always called the Pope-mobile.
I had an extra challenge completing the puzzle today because my paper omitted the clues for four answers - I was able to fill them in from the crosswords, except for one square where two of the missing clues crossed. For 36d I had SC_ and 48a was _TS and the correct letter is "I" but I didn't fill it in because I reasoned it could also legitimately be an "H" to produce the abbreviations for "school" and "Heights". That was a minor irritation but I won't let it ruin my day.
I always learn something from the puzzle and today I learned that HAREMS can be used to mean the separate areas of households as well as to the women who occupy them, thus "Wings for women" (27d) is a perfect clue that left me totally baffled.
A couple of late-night TV hosts make appearances with SETH Meyers popping in at 1d and Jay LENO is just passing through at 78a, to be replaced by Jimmy Fallon. Other than those names along with "The Streak" singer Ray STEVENS (45a) and "Friday the 13th" villain JASON (70a) the grid is pretty much devoid of pop-culture proper names (PCPNs) which I regard as a good thing.
NIECE (28a - Many a flower girl) caught my attention only because the same word appeared in yesterday's New York Times crossword, clued as "__ in-law" - that caused considerable consternation among the commentariat, most of whom denounced the clue as bogus. I love it when a puzzle causes that kind of stir among the literati over there.
Looking over my own completed grid I had a few write-overs that rendered it unsuitable for reproducing here, all easily fixed. I tried Guess at 31d, where GAUGE eventually appeared from the crosswords, and I had all the right words in the wrong order when I entered "now I see" but I SEE NOW where I went wrong (87d). I also inexplicably wrote the right answer in the wrong space when I put JUNTA one space over from its proper location (70d). DOlt for DOPE (81d) completed my MIS (40a)-steps.
How can you not love a grid that has POO (68d-__-bah) in it?
I sure would like to know what the clue for DIM BULB (86a) was - anybody?
Time to make TRACKS (122a - Train base) out of here - I think this piece is EDITABLE (83D - Fit to print, after revisions). This clip seems an appropriate way to sign off: