Ahhh... that's more like it. I came so close, too!
I did not get the theme while I was solving. I generally don't like to spend too much time looking at the long answers on a Monday because it can really derail you. It almost happened today with GEORGETENET, a name I would never have been able to pull out of thin air, but recognized just fine once it was filled in. As PALINDROMES was the last entry I filled, I got the aha moment after I finished, which is better.
Actually, the fill skews older as well. Outside of RORY McIlroy, Barack OBAMA, and possibly EMO, most of the references are hardly relevant now. REM's biggest days were in the 1980s. Jean-Luc PICARD last had a TV show in 1994. AMY Tan's book The Joy Luck Club came out in 1989, although she's written plenty since then. DESI, ERROL, MOE, NOLTE... ARARAT?
MAVEN and NIMROD are great words. I eat GRANOLA almost every morning. And I'm out.