I read in one of my New York Times crossword books that Patrick Berry makes his living constructing crossword puzzles. In fact, at the time he was the only constructor who did so...maybe he still is.
There are some out there who don't appreciate this kind of cleverness...who think it's more a gimmick than a theme. I just marvel at the level of intelligence it takes to construct a puzzle like this.
I didn't find the puzzle difficult to do, once I figured out how to do the SPLITS AND MERGERS. What may be difficult, though, is describing it. Maybe it will just flow once I start.
24A: "Over my dead body!" / Alert [split]. The answer appearing at 24A...not if I can help it...splits with 25D...the answer for the second part of the clue (notification).
26A: Exchange words? / New beginning [merger]. Translate merges with 5D for clean slate.
39A: Annoying obligations / "No need to check" [split]. Impositions splits at 41D...I'm positive.
42A: 1980s "NBC News Overnight" anchor / Feared insect [merger]. Ellerbee merges with killer bee at 31D.
59A: Black hole's boundary / Despite the fact that [split]. Event horizon splits at 61D with even though. I wasn't familiar with the first answer, but the second one was a gimme.
70A: Double sugar / Travel freely? [merger]. Disaccharide merges at 56D with hitch a ride. I had to make up the first answer...didn't know it, but it seemed to make sense.
86A: Commuter's source of entertainment / Actor John or David [split]. Car radio splits with 88D...Carradine.
90A: Martini ingredient / Delta site [merger]. Dry vermouth merges with 79D...river mouth.
103A: Franz Liszt, e.g. / Didn't go straight, maybe [split]. Hungarian splits at 104D...hung a right. I had the right idea here, but I was trying to make it go left.
106A: "Come back now, y'hear?" / Park employee [merger]. Don't be a stranger merges at 85D...forest ranger.
Well, I hope that flowed.
In many of the theme answers, one half was fairly obvious. If that hadn't been the case, this would have been a bear to solve. None of the fill was extremely difficult, though...most everything could be deciphered easily enough.
Favorites...whether for clues or answers...include:
1A: Upper end of a soprano's range (high C). Nice tie-in with 8D: Scale's range (octave).
19A: Basketballer nicknamed the Diesel (O'Neal).
23A: Concave button (innie). When I had my gall bladder removed, I pointed out to the surgeon that I had a perfect innie. I also mentioned that I had been a medical malpractice paralegal. I think I may have freaked him out, but my belly button was left intact. Not everyone is so lucky, I guess. A plastic surgeon's website has this to say. "Thrust into the spotlight by the popularity of low-rise jeans, belly rings and midriff-baring celebrities, the itty bitty belly button is getting a lot of attention from plastic surgeons, who are reporting an increase in the number of umbilicoplasties they're performing."
55A: Get down (boogie).
62A: Group migration (Diaspora). Originally, the dispersion of the Jews after the Babylonian exile...but it can be any scattering of people with a common origin, background, beliefs, etc.
65A: Author of the "Earth's Children" series (Auel). Her name has been in the puzzle before, and I always forget the order of the vowels. That also happened with 76D: __ bourguignon (boeuf). Here's Julia Child's version of it.
68A: A little cross? (plus sign).
97A: Fictional blue humanoid (Smurf).
98A: Aggressive patriot (jingo)...learned this from a previous puzzle.
110A: TV journalist Van Susteren (Greta).
1D: __ polloi (hoi).
3D: Patrician (genteel).
6D: Keen producers (banshees). Assuming that keen = cool, I couldn't figure that out for the longest time. Wrong...keen = wail.
12D: Gap filler? (denims). The ? told me it didn't have anything to do with caulk.
16D: #1 hit for Marty Robbins (El Paso).
27D: Modern political acronym (NIMBY)...Not In My Back Yard.
39D: Adult insect (imago). Why do I always forget this word? I think I've seen it several times, but I still drew a blank today. Speaking of things that I still fall for occasionally...44D: Complete (A to Z) eluded me again today.
49D: It's clipped at both ends (stogie).
53D: Earthly paradise of Celtic legend (Avalon).
54D: Caviar source (beluga).
81D: 1953 3-D film starring Fernando Lamas (Sangaree)...have heard of him, but haven't heard of the film.
90D: Himalayan cedar (deodar).
91D: __ Quimby, girl of children's lit (Ramona)...one of our favorites.
92D: Chinese province bordering Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar (Yunnan).
That's it for tonight. I'm off to bed to lose my hour of sleep. Don't forget to set your clocks ahead.
Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.