Theme: "Man to Man" - Both parts of each theme entry can precede "Man".
23A. Position for Walter Cronkite : ANCHOR CHAIR. Anchorman. Chairman.
25A. Bell site : FRONT DOOR. Front man. Doorman.
36A. Official arachnid of South Carolina : WOLF SPIDER. Wolfman. Spider-Man.
45A. Political fund-raiser : SUPER PAC. Superman Pac-Man.
70A. Stroll around the station? : SPACEWALK. Spaceman. Walkman.
93A. Camping attraction : FRESH AIR. Freshman. Airman.
101A. Focused group? : CAMERA CREW. Camera man. Crewman.
117A. Lou Gehrig nickname, with "The" : IRON HORSE. Iron man. Horseman. We originally had BOATHOUSE here. Rich said that "Houseman" is an old term and might not resonate with many solvers, so we came up with IRON HORSE, which is snazzier, though this resulted in 70A being the only one-word entry.
119A. Hobbit world : MIDDLE EARTH. Middleman. Earthman.
Gary originally proposed to me a set of four players who once played Batman. The letter lengths would not match. More importantly, the names are still names. He had BUSTER KEATON for Michael Keaton, MAE WEST for Adam West, CASEY AFFLECK for Ben Affleck & ROSEMARY CLOONEY for George Clooney. The only one that might work is WEST, as we can use THE WILD WEST. If you click this puzzle I made with Argyle, you'll see what I mean. It's important that those names are non-names in the theme context. Just normal nouns.
I asked Gary if he was interested in changing direction and going with this "Man to Man" approach. He was game. So here is the result of our team work. Gary is hard-working and super creative. A natural when it comes to clues. Always fun to collaborate with him.
1. Healthy bar creations : SALADS. Light start.
7. Rudiments : ABCs
11. Diced dish : HASH. Food again.
15. Bee relative : WASP
19. End of an uncertain statement : OR IS IT? Not easy to parse.
20. Qatar home of the Aspire Tower : DOHA. Gary's hard work. Tough to come up with fresh clues.
21. Canyon response : ECHO
22. "__ Dinka Doo" : INKA
27. "The Black Cat" author : POE
28. Out of juice : DEAD. For DEAD, I always go for "Batteries" direction.
29. Style : MANNER
31. Surfer wannabe : HODAD
32. Rounded hammer part : PEEN
33. Wish list responder : GENIE
34. Mortar spreaders : TROWELS
40. On the money : PRECISE
42. Arabic leader? : ALIF. First letter in Arabic alphabet.
43. Finish the team practice : DO LAPS
49. Stuck with : KEPT TO
52. Silent film star Lillian : GISH. Feeling sheepish to put this in our puzzle.
53. Tipped toppers : HATS. Rich's clue.
54. Benny's 39, so he said : AGE
55. Superhero letter : ESS. Superman.
56. Make changes to : AMEND
58. Keats' "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" begins one : ODE
60. Narrowly escape bogey, in golf lingo : SAVE PAR. Shout-out to Gary.
63. Real poser : ENIGMA
65. Gobble (down) : SNARF
67. Most prudent : WISEST
68. Guitar accessory : STRAP
73. Holliday allies : EARPS
74. "Manhattan" and "Nashville" : MOVIES. Gary's clue.
76. Shout target : STAIN. Nice clue from Rich.
77. Gift giver's cry : OPEN IT!
79. Brings together : UNIFIES
81. "I pity the fool" speaker : MR T
82. Allen who never really made furniture : ETHAN. Also Gary's clue.
83. ''That's gross!'' : ICK
86. __ center : REC
87. Biathlon needs : SKIS
89. Pandora's inventory : ILLS
91. Buck Rogers weapon : RAYGUN
96. Crazed Muppet drummer : ANIMAL. This I learned from Gary also.
98. Nothing but : MERE
99. Monkeys (with) : TAMPERS
104. Beverage made with buds : ROSE TEA. Rose buds.
107. __ Martin: Bond's car : ASTON
109. Actress Rowlands : GENA
110. Three Stooges specialty : ANTIC
111. Seafood sauce : TARTAR. Never had it myself. Boomer likes it with his fried fish.
113. Bridge position : EAST
114. Sun Devils' sch. : ASU
122. Actor Dick Van __ : DYKE. Kind of like GOGH. Rich allowed, but it was wobbly.
123. Duel-purpose tool : FOIL. Nice play on "Dual-purpose".
124. Drink with a polar bear mascot : ICEE
125. Penguin suit : TUXEDO
126. Appear : SEEM
127. Chef Bobby to beat on a reality show : FLAY. Messy divorce from his wife.
128. Low in fat : LEAN
129. Conspicuous display : SPLASH
1. Ivory in a dish : SOAP
2. River through Florence : ARNO
3. Hat-borne parasites : LICE
4. Louisville Slugger material : ASH. The prices for those authenticated game-used bats are insane.
5. Two-element tubes : DIODES
6. Actress with a record 19 Oscar nominations : STREEP
7. Ritalin target : ADHD
8. '20s fashion accessory : BOA
9. Mythological fire-breathers : CHIMERAS
10. Microwaving aid : SARAN
11. Pajamaed publisher : HEFNER. Never used "Pajamaed" before.
12. Spread unit : ACRE
13. Drivers' local knowledge : SHORTCUTS. Not the one who purposely misled Irish Miss at Barbados. So mean.
14. Babe : HON
15. Dating scene returnee, maybe : WIDOWER
16. Battery terminal : ANODE
17. "Cheers!" : SKOAL
18. Western buds : PARDS
24. Fox or wolf : CANID. Oops, wolf dupes with WOLF in our themer. Sorry. Escaped us.
26. "__ Were the Days" : THOSE
30. Small bites : NIPS
32. Fizzling-out sound : PFFT
33. Beyond cold : GELID
35. Carpentry tool : RIP SAW
36. Boat trailer : WAKE. Another great clue from Gary.
37. Cheers at soccer matches : OLES
38. Empty words : LIP SERVICE
39. Steals, as a toy : DOGNAPS. Liked the clue & answer.
41. That, in Mexico : ESA
44. Give minimal effort : PHONE IT IN. Not LAT puzzles. Every one gets carefully filled, edited, test-solved, fact-checked & then published.
46. All-bark, no-bite type : PAPER TIGER
47. Visibly stunned : AGASP
48. After-dinner brand : CERTS
50. National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall locale : TAIPEI
51. Texter's "Horrors!" : OMG
53. Wife of Zeus : HERA
57. Slammin' Sammy quartet : EMS. Tiny contribution from me.
59. Rooster's cue : DAWN
61. Where Mozart met Haydn : VIENNA. Rich's clue. Rich plays piano.
62. He played Tony on "NYPD Blue" : ESAI. Cool guy, except when he's with his ex-wife.
64. Babe in the woods : NAIF
65. Cut reminder : SCAR
66. Lake litter : FLOTSAM. I like this fill & clue also.
68. Blue toon : SMURF
69. Office supply : TONER
71. Sources of after-hrs. cash : ATMs
72. Metric speed abbr. : KPH
75. Opening word? : SESAME. Rich's clue.
78. Corn carrier : EAR
80. Rescue team on the slopes : SKI PATROL
82. Violinist Mischa : ELMAN. Does this dupe the Man theme?
84. Smoke, perhaps : CURE
85. Wasn't surprised : KNEW
88. Pique condition : IRE. We've seen this clue before. Still good.
90. Twizzlers ingredient : LICORICE
92. Place with a pool : YMCA
94. Co-founder of Women's Media Center : STEINEM. Rich's clue. Did not know the center.
95. Escape mechanism : HATCH. Rich's clue also. Nice one.
96. Office underling: Abbr. : ASST
97. Not under the table : LEGAL. Have you heard the term "Princelings"? A clique of wealthy and powerful group of Chinese whose parents were once the important Communist Party leaders. The current president is one. I like him though.
100. Once in a blue moon : RARELY
102. Starts over : RESETS
103. Get in on the deal : ANTE UP
104. Surprise missions : RAIDS
105. How pastrami is often ordered : ON RYE. Never had "pastrami". Also not fond of hot dogs. The best food I discovered here in the US is pickled herring.
106. Stir the fire : STOKE
108. Language that gave us "cheroot" and "curry" : TAMIL
112. Continent with 11 time zones : ASIA. Nice trivia. China has only one time zone.
113. Not the best place for apple-tasting? : EDEN. Rich's clue.
114. Two-dimensional measure : AREA
115. Norms: Abbr. : STDS
116. "I'm in for it now!" : UH OH
118. Not right : OFF. CenturyLinks upgraded their DSL system on Nov 24, then we lost our phone dial tone on Nov 25. They're coming to fix it today, but the lady said it's subject to a service charge if it's our problem. When I called a different tech support earlier, he said quite a few people had the same problem. He asked me to unplug a few stuff. I did, but no luck. I just hope they'll be fair with us today.
120. Crack gp.? : DEA
121. Rose of rock : AXL. Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses.