The Premier Crossword by Frank Longo this week is titled "Reordering Parts" and just from that it's a pretty sure bet that we're going to be rearranging letters in words or phrases to create new, possibly hilarious, phrases to match the clues for the puzzle's long answers. Not to be all smug or anything, but when I arrived at the first theme answer I could see that I was exactly right (but it took me a few seconds to see exactly how it worked. With the grid filled in we have these nine literary rearrangements to admire (or not, depending on your view of puns).
23a - KEEN (KNEE) JERK REACTION (Sharp-witted response from a creep?)
34a - BELOW (ELBOW) GREASE (Like someone doing an oil change under a car?)
44a - FIVE-FRINGE (FINGER) DISCOUNT (Sale on items having a quintet of hanging decorative threads?)
59a - DOUBLE INCH (CHIN) (One-sixth of a foot?)
72a - TREASURE TECHS (CHEST) (Hold PC fixers dear?)
81a - LAMP (PALM) READER (One telling fortunes by gazing into artificial light sources?)
95a - NOT JUST A PRETTY CAFE (FACE) (Bistro that's beautiful and also has great food?)
107a-EONS (NOSE) FOR NEWS (What it used to take to get word in prehistoric times?)
122a-IF I ONLY HAD A BRIAN (BRAIN) (Lament from somebody who wants one of their sons to be named after director De Palma?)
Once I figure out a gimmick like this I like to match wits with the constructor and see how many of the long answers I can guess from the clues with very few crosswords in place. Today that was complicated just a bit because I thought they all involved rearranging the first word of the phrase, which turned out not to be the case. I still did pretty well, though, and all of the phrases were well known enough to allow for educated guesses. In the end I think "keen jerk reaction" and "not just a pretty cafe" are the best of the lot, but "below grease" and "double inch" fell flat for me. All in all I'd say the long answers are OK but not up to the standards of Frank Longo's best works.
I liked the non-theme fill more than I liked the long answers, if only because of the almost total absence of any pop-culture proper names to deal with (I'll give RONA (42a - Columnist Barrett) and IRA (77a - Lyric penner Gershwin) a pass as exceptions that prove the point). The short fill also seems relatively free of the gag-worthy crosswordese that sometimes makes its way into the grid. True, there's a Roman numeral in there but at least Frank clued it as a math problem to be solved, so that added interest (126d - VI / II > III); MCI 13d) might have been a random Roman numeral but it was an old AT&T rival, instead.
We have some sound effects (29a - Gut punch response OOF; 92d - Spa sighs AAHS; and 101a - "I see now!" AHA) for your AURAL (65d - Ear-relevant) sense, and a MONOCLE (21a - Eyeglass) for your UVEA (25a - Eye part) to enhance your visual enjoyment - it's almost enough to make the grid OPALESCE (1a - Display shimmering milky colors).
Here's what "Lenore" poet Edgar Allen POE (2d) had to say about puns: "The goodness of the true pun is in direct ratio to its intolerability." (workinghumor.com) I'll leave it to you to ponder the significance of that quote as it applies to puzzle.
26a - Energy-filled > GO-GO:
See you next week.