Left-right symmetry gives a strange Stonehenge-style theme shape today. Maybe it's just different around here, but I don't think I've ever seen any of these three stores in a FOODCOURT. It's mostly generic sounding places I've never heard of like "Ruby Thai Kitchen," "Wayback Burgers," and "Gourmet India," ... The establishments here were not chosen for realism, of course, but because they work in the figurative FOODCOURT of the clues. In a WHITECASTLE live a BURGERKING and a DAIRYQUEEN. Very nice, really. Simple. Concise. One could dream about a Jack-In-The-Box jester, or something, but really, this works just fine.
1A: Document for foreign travel (VISA) is timely, as the E.U. announced yesterday that it would let vaccinated travelers visit again this summer. So no more will we MOPE about our unfulfilled URGE for Parisian ROLEPLAYS where we say "OUI, OUI" to another croissant, patisserie, or café. Heck, I'd even visit LIEGE. Oh wait, that's a little bonus fill, pronounced differently. Nevermind. No need to go to Belgium after all...
ANYHOO, let's talk for a minute about the nines and tens that surround the vertical theme answers. This kind of "same length" entry often causes a little confusion, which is maybe why they made the theme light up today while solving. At least it did for me as I solved on the NYTX website. That said, I liked all of the theme-length non-theme answers. JANEAUSTEN ("Pride and Prejudice" novelist) is lovely in her entirety, and ROLEPLAYS (Isn't oneself?) and ARTSTUDIO (Place to make a scene?) both get fun clues. In the East, did you happen to notice that "oval office" fits perfectly where ROSEGARDEN (Locale of many White House photo ops) belongs? I did.
Overall, this was a fine Monday puzzle. There's a little LAUDE, MSRP, BAA, ANGE, and ATA to overlook, but none of it elicited a YIPE!