"Starting Sound-Alikes" is the title of this week's Premier Crossword by Frank Longo, and if you solve like I do, top-to-bottom and left-to-right, you probably figured out by the second or third long theme answer that they all start with the same sound, despite differing spellings. I figured that was probably not a coincidence and it is in fact the theme. If there had been any doubt remaining my the time I arrived at the last theme answer, Frank dispelled that with an alternate title that's even more explicit.
23a - CAESAR SALADS (They have bases of romaine)
33a - SEEK SHELTER (Try to find a safe place)
40a - SIEGFRIED AND ROY (Onetime popular pair in Vegas)
63a - CEASE AND DESIST (Halt, legally)
70a - SEIZE THE MOMENT (Live for right now)
92a - SCENIC OVERLOOKS (Vista points)
99a - CENOZOIC ERA (It began with the Tertiary Period)
116a-THE SEVEN SEAS (Alternate title for this puzzle)
Apparently in the English language, at least in the dialect spoken in Frank Longo's part of the country, the are at least eight letter combinations that can produce an initial sound that approximates that of the Spanish word for "yes". I personally would pronounce a couple of them differently, but then I'm from New England and everybody knows that we talk funny here. "Siegfried" is especially troublesome to me because I've always heard the name as having a short "i" sound in the first syllable and presumed that was the correct pronunciation. I'm on the fence about "Cenozoic" as it's not a word I'm familiar with, but on-line references indicate that either a short or long e sound is OK:
As for the non-theme fill, I struggled in places because there's a plethora of proper names to contend with - at least two dozen by my count. I won't belabor the issue by reciting all of them, but "Goran of Tennis" IVANISEVIC (7d) makes my point nicely, I think. Avid tennis fans may feel otherwise.
Other than that I liked the puzzle just fine even though nothing about it made me sit up and say "WOWZA!" I am a little suspicious of the innocent-looking crossing of two seemingly innocuous three-letter words dead center in the grid: SAM JAR or maybe JAR SAM, either way there must be a hidden significance due to their central placement. Feel free to leave your conspiracy theory in the comments.
Often-times I confuse myself by misreading clues and refusing to consider alternate readings. Such was the case with "Really irked" (106d) which I construed as an adjective (having been nicely set up by "Plenty angry" yielding IRATE (102d). I was sure, then, that the answer was Angry, and when I finally tore that out so the crosswords could produce ATEAT I could not parse it to mean "really irked". A TEAT? No that's something else entirely. AT EAT? Nope, that's just nonsense. Oh wait - the clue is looking for a past tense verb, not an adjective! Finally, ATE AT made sense to me, but it took far too long.
I'll make that revelation the END (34d - Last part) of this piece before it MORPHS (14d - Changes gradually) into a state of complete inanity (happily I don't have an editor to put a DELE (43d - Proof mark) on the whole thing.
You just knew I'd pick this song to close with, didn't you?