This week Frank Longo offers up a Premier Crossword titled "What Am I...?" and even when I had all of the long theme answers filled in I still had no idea what was going on as the only common feature I could spot was that they all contained the letter V. Then when I solved the reveal answer at the end of the puzzle I finally had the "Aha!" moment that I always hope for from a puzzle.
23a - MOSELLE RIVER(It flows through Metz)
31a - MONTPELIER VERMONT (Least populous state capital)
41a - CIVIL RESISTANCE (Nonviolent protests, e.g.)
60a- DEVIL RAY (Manta, e.g.)
72a - SAVILE ROW (London street known for tailoring)
83a - BURL IVES ("The Big Country" co-star)
101a-CRITICAL REVIEWS (Scholarly evaluations)
108a-COVER ILLUSTRATION (Noted New Yorker feature)
124a-CHOPPED LIVER(!) (What can be found in the answers to this puzzle's eight starred clues?)
So, as it turns out the theme completes the old-timey question begun in the title, "What am I, chopped liver?". It's a phrase that I haven't heard in quite a while so it's possible the joke will be lost on some solvers, although I did find the phrase explained in the Urban Dictionary so it must be in current usage in some circles. As I said, it gave me a satisfying "Of course!" moment, and then as I went back a found the chopped liver in the answers I was impressed to discover that in every instance the letters are contiguous and span both words of the answer. When you consider that the eight answers plus the reveal answer are symmetrically placed in the grid, that's some pretty nifty constructing to go along with the cleverness of the theme.
My solving experience was not without some mis-steps as you can see from my grid, but they were easily (if messily) fixed by the crosswords and didn't detract a bit from my enjoyment of the puzzle. I think I did produce a pristine grid once but it's definitely not my norm - I like to try to out-guess the constructor and I'm not always successful, but I still have fun.
If the theme involved an OLDEN (115d - Long-past) phrase, some of the fill was definitely geared to more modern technology. We have student's playing with their mice in the PC LAB (7a), downloading the latest APP (62a) for their MACS (30d), sharing PDF (86a) files (from ADOBE(S) (62d) obviously), hitting the ESC (84d) key (or whatever Macs have) when required. The closest experience I could relate from my school days was sitting in the language lab listening to the latest music while we were supposed to be learning French - but that was a long time ago, so let's not go there.
I did have an anxious moment in the lower left corner of the grid but I eventually got the crosswords to produce RED SHIRT (121a - Keep off a varsity team for a year), a term which was unfamiliar to me. It took me far too long to remember SLY STONE (132a - "Every Day People" lead singer) but I was glad he came along to confirm that NIHILO (105d) was correct - I'll thank him by closing with a clip of the song. Enjoy, and I'll see you next week.