Woot! I’m on a roll!!
Even after getting all the answers to the theme clues, I still couldn’t figure out what the theme meant. So, off to Rex Parker (aka King of Crossworld) for elucidation: “…phrases made up of two words wherein a letter appearing twice in the first word and then another letter appearing once are flipped to make the second word…” Okay, then….
23A. Ordeal that’s no big deal? = Trivial Travail
27A. Large cloth sign with nothing on it? = Barren Board
29A. Toy hammer? = Mattel Mallet
50A. Soft yet easily breakable “Star Wars” creature = Brittle Tribble
66A. Hemispherical computer add-on? = Domed Modem
68A. “Red ‘em, cowboy!,” e.g.? = Rodeo Order
79A. Big house that’s not as big? = Smaller Slammer
99A. Goddess of Gas? = Ethane Athena
102A. Get part of one’s shirt under control = Corral Collar
108A. What the Gorgon Stheno does in Greek myth? = Pursue Perseus
23 Across was the easiest and the one I got first. Not being familiar with the Gorgon Stheno (108A) didn’t stop me from getting Perseus. But I was cluelesss about the Tribbles (50A) since I’m not up on “Star Wars” characters. For 68A, I kept thinking Rodeo Rider, but “Rider” didn’t work with the surrounding answers. When I filled in “Orator” for 45 D: Podium person, that put two “O’s” in a row, which seemed weird until I figured out that the second word should be “Order.” And for 79A, I was briefly stumped until I realized that the “big house” referred to was slang for jail.
19A. Hitchcock thriller set in Brazil. Answer: Notorious. I haven’t seen this movie in ages, so I didn’t remember that it takes place in Brazil. Ergo, it took filling in some answers around it to get it.
22A. Nation bordering Svizzera. Answer: Italia. Though I knew that “Svizzera” was Switzerland in another language, I didn’t know which. I speak French (it would be “Suisse”), so that let France out even though it has the correct number of letters. Germany? Austria? Liechtenstein? Too many letters. That left only one: Italy (Italia).
54D. Reckless driver’s loss, perhaps. Answer: License. At first, I wrote in “Control,” but I got nowhere with the surrounding clues. When I got “Tribble,” the “L,” which was the first letter of 54D, immediately gave me the correct answer.
106A. Poppies, e.g. Answer: Herbs. Huh?! To me, poppies are a flower. There are, of course, poppy seeds (often used in hamantaschen and other baked goods), but I’ve never thought of them as an herb.
117A. Vodka brand. Answer: Skyy. I’ve heard of Stoli, but this was a new one on me. The two “y’s” were very odd, but that had to be right because I knew all the answers in that section of the grid were correct.