Take a standard phrase of two words (or single word of two separable parts), where each individual part can be the beginning of two other standard phrases or words, the endings of which said words when put together, make yet a fourth standard phrase? As an example, 17A: Peter ... / Rabbit ... (JACKSONHOLE) is referring to the intermediate phrases "Peter Jackson" and "rabbit hole."
Who comes up with this stuff?
Oh, right. Crossword constructors.
This played like a puzzle out of GAMES magazine of yore. And while I am very impressed by the construction of today's theme, the solve itself was less satisfying (with respect to the theme, anyways). As I was solving, I found myself not really thinking through the theme answers in the way described above, but rather figuring out the individual words from their crosses. That being said, it's an interesting cognitive leap from, say, "Dog Star" to PADDLEBOARD.
Which was where I made my error. I had forgotten Valerie PLAME, and tried PLuME. PuDDLE seemed not unreasonable. A "dog puddle." You know. Like when a dog does...
In retrospect it actually seems pretty unreasonable. And I had no idea what a "puddle board" might be. So when that got fixed, all's well that ends well.
In other news, I liked 3D: Carry (PACKHEAT), the oddness of 12D: Class with ranges, informally (HOMEEC), and AMIRITE.
I would like to VETO NUS, HAAS, and FFLAT.