This week the Premier Crossword by Frank Longo is titled "Chain Links", and a quick glance at the clues for the long theme answers revealed that instead of the usual "?" to indicate punniness we have "literally". Further study disclosed that each one is a type of "chain" but it still wasn't clear what Frank was up to; that became clear upon seeing the first theme answer mostly filled in by the crosswords. It took only a little imagination to see the answer was a smash-up three furniture pieces, each sharing a first or last letter with the adjoining one, creating a "chain" with the common letters being the "links". Of course, each theme answer calls for a different sort of chain, so we end up with these beauties in the grid:
23a - SOFARMOIRETEGERE (Furniture chain. literally)
31a - PONDEROSARBYSUBWAY (Restaurant chain, literally)
50a - PUGREYHOUNDALMATIAN (Dog chain, literally)
69a - KILEMANJAROLYMPUSINAI (Mountain chain, literally)
89a - BANANASPARAGUSHRIMP (Food chain, literally)
108a-BARBADOSUMATRARUBA (Island chain, literally)
120a-LONGINESEIKOMEGA (Watch chain, literally)
I suppose this theme could be done with any number of categories to create "chains", but I really like that each of the types in the puzzle are real types of chains that we might use in everyday conversation - nicely done!
I spent a few minutes searching for a hidden message in the "link" letters, but if there is one there I can't find it. Someone with a sharp eye and a lot of free time may have better luck rearranging these letters into something meaningful: AEASGDOSASSASO. Good luck with that.
My missteps are pretty apparent: I wanted "long AGO" for "Way in the past" (18d) but the crosswords insisted on AGES AGO, instead. I flip-flopped between "Switch-aROO" and "switch-EROO" (32d) a couple of times (indecision is a terrible affliction), and I misspelled DALMATIoN at first, despite having had one for many years. Finally, I think I can be forgiven for guessing Mt. Olympia, as apparently there is such a thing (although I have no idea why I have heard of it) but it obviously is not a famous as the correct OLYMPUS.
My mistakes aside, there was nothing in the grid that caused a lot of HANDWRINGING (17d - Excessive display of distress), those juicy long answers there provided a lot to SAVOR (86d - Revel in), and who doesn't like BLUEBERRY JAM (63d - Certain fruity spread)?! Overall, this was much better than SOSO (1d - Merely OK).
I'll leave you with another chain to ponder: