The Premier Crossword by Frank Longo is titled "Circular Thinking", which I found to be less than helpful when it came to figuring out the theme of the puzzle. Even after I had several of the long theme answers in place I couldn't see a common feature that somehow unified them in terms of "circular thinking" or any other way for that matter. It was only when I came upon and solved the final long answer, which Frank Longo had helpfully inserted for dense solvers like me, that I finally understood: THINGS WITH RINGS (126a - Theme of this puzzle). So there's no convoluted mind game involved after all, it's a list of items each of which has a different type of ring:
23a - LOOSE-LEAF BINDER (Its sheets have holes in them)
37a - OLYMPIC FLAG (It's raised in some opening ceremonies)
42a - KEY CHAINS (They may be attached to fobs)
63a - TELEPHONES (Mobiles, e.g.)
71a - GYMNASTICS SCHOOLS (Learning centers with many mats)
83a - CIRCUS TENT (Big top)
103a-TREE TRUNK (Stump, e.g.)
107a-JEWELRY SHOP (Bling seller)
That's a pretty good list, I think, and I especially like how each one has a unique kind of ring associated with it. So while the theme eluded me as I was solving I liked it a lot once it was revealed by the constructor. Others probably saw it much sooner, but I was too busy focusing on my own "circular thinking" to notice the obvious (that happens to me often).
As to the non-theme fill it seems to me that Frank jacked the difficulty level up a notch over his usual fare, as I found myself constantly back-tracking to fill in answers that I had left blank when I first encountered them which I don't usually have to do. There were even a couple of entries that left me uncertain they were correct after I wrote them in. DIPLOID (8a - Having two of each chromosome) was particularly problematic because the word was totally unfamiliar to me, and two of the crosses could plausibly have been different: IN BALANCE (9D - Maintaining equilibrium) might have been "on balance", and PHIS (10d - Letters after upsilons) might have been "chis" (I never claimed to know the whole Greek alphabet). The other entry that caused me some mild anguish was ASCUS (22a - Fungal spore sac), mostly because I was not 100% certain of ESPERANTO (16d - Language devised in 1887). Likewise, MAGOG (94a - Revelation nation) was also a total unknown for me, but at least all of the crosswords were solid. None of this is by way of complaint as I enjoy a challenging puzzle, but it definitely provided a different solving experience than I am used to when I do a Premier Crossword.
Other entries that caught my attention for a variety of reasons:
- POO (66d) is a word I don't think I've encountered in a puzzle before, for obvious reasons, but Frank managed to come up with a clue that renders it suitable for the puzzles page in a family newspaper: "Jack-a-___" (hybrid dog).
- "Old dog star" (52d) had me thinking celestial body and then it turned out to be none other than LASSIE - nice misdirection.
-"Ground, as grinders" (97d) had me totally flummoxed until the crosswords made GNASHED inevitable.
- "Wee miss" (39d) is YOUNG GIRL while "Little boys" (98a) are LADS - that's a nice pairing, I think.
- It's Sunday, so my first thought on seeing "Part of AFL" (38d) had me thinking football but I couldn't see how any part of American Football Leagues was going to fit into 5 squares. Good thing for me I've also heard of the American Federation of LABOR.
- I had the first three letters of THWART (103d - Impede) in place and thought I had a mistake but it turns out there really is a word the begins with THW.
- "The "SI" of WYSIWYG" (117a) is pretty cryptic unless you are familiar with the phrase "what you SEE IS what you get".
- EROICA (105d - Beethoven symphony nickname) and Mozart's "Eine KLEINE Nachtmusik" (106d) add a touch of class to the grid.
- MONACO (69a - European country) is never in the news - I wonder why that is? Come to think of it SWEden (99d - Eur. country) keeps a pretty low profile, too. They must be doing something right.
- "A" IS for Alibi" (119a) is the first entry in the "alphabet series" of books by Sue Grafton (I think she's up to "W" is for Wasted). Her titles are very helpful to crossword constructors.
- GYN (101d - Ob-__(delivery doc)) crossing ENT (114a - Doc treating tinnitus) is a strange combination of medical specialties, it seems.
- Have you taken the ALS (33d - Gore and Green) Ice Bucket Challenge yet? Me neither.
- I'll be a MENSCH (54d - Kind, decent person) and quit now.
Here's your puzzle-inspired musical clip for this week: