Theme: Kiddie Taxidemy - Animals (all four letters) bookend each theme entry, i.e, they're stuffed.
23A. *High-ranking administrator : SENIOR OFFICIAL. Seal.
34. *Really pricey spread : BELUGA CAVIAR. Bear. Never had Beluga caviar before. Probably never will.
51A. *Home of a 360-member music group : MORMON TABERNACLE. Mole.
69A. *"Love, Actually" actor : LIAM NEESON. Lion. "Love, Actually" is one of Bill G's favorite movies. I like it too.
72A. *Get down and dirty? : MUD WRESTLE. Mule. Mud run is getting quite popular too.
90A. *Teetotaler, for the night : DESIGNATED DRIVER. Deer.
104A. *Vera Wang's field : HAUTE COUTURE. Hare. You can find affordable pieces in Kolh's Simply Vera Wang line.
120A. Cuddly toys, or what can be found at the two-letter "head" and "tail" of the answers to starred clues : STUFFED ANIMALS
From the byline, we can see that Bruce came up with the theme. He probably also had CAT/DOG/RAT in mind when he started. Then Doug narrowed down the theme entry to all 4-letters for tightness & consistency.
Very nicely designed & filled grid. I MET A (65D. "__ man with seven wives ..." is a bit weak. Adding cheaters at square 65 & 77 could have avoided the partial, but I haven't tried, maybe they result in dupes or Bruce and Doug simply did not want cheaters in this grid and preferred the fluidity of the current grid design.
Both our constructors today are fast solvers. In fact, Doug finished 15th in the ACPT last year. Look at Doug's T-shirt!
1. "The Reader" Oscar winner : WINSLET (Kate). She just married a guy with a surname Rocknroll.
8. Really excited : STOKED
14. Refuse to bite one's tongue : POP OFF
20. Copy cats? : EDITORS. I don't quite get this clue.
21. Highly decorated : ORNATE
22. Online self-image : AVATAR. Love Avg Joe's.
25. Mocha native : YEMENI
26. Typically tough life phase : TEENS. Mine was not bad at all. I fell in love at 16 with a boy who grew up with me. We were together for 7 years.
27. "__ only take a minute" : IT'LL
28. Bygone U.N. member : USSR
30. AAA offering : RTE
31. Composer Telemann : GEORG. Never heard of this guy.
38. Far from certain : IFFY
41. Like some drafts : MALTY. Always think of sports first when I encounter "drafts".
43. Jack up : ELEVATE
44. Will Smith title role : ALI
45. San __: Calif. city or its county : MATEO
46. Slip into : DON
47. Doesn't interfere with : LETS BE
56. German import : OPEL
57. Speak bluish? : SWEAR. I wonder why blue is associated with off-color stuff. In China, it's yellow. Porn movie is "Yellow movie" in Chinese.
58. Rattle : FAZE
59. Friend of Rabbit : ROO
60. Chou En-__ : LAI. And 11D. Chiang __-shek : KAI. Both Cantonese. In Mandarin, the dash is not used. Zhou Enlai & Jiang Jieshi. I don't know the reason. Just the way it is.
61. U. muck-a-mucks : BMOCs. BMOC= Big Man On Campus.
64. "Ben-Hur" broke its Oscar record : GIGI. Tough clue. And 3D. Number of Oscars for 64-Across : NINE
66. Yank's enemy : REB
68. Takes painkillers, say : AILS
75. In a deft manner : ABLY
76. It may influence which club you choose : LIE. I'm short but straight.
77. Idyllic locale : EDEN
79. 118-Across's home, familiarly : SoCAL. And 118. Bruin rival : TROJAN
80. ISP choice : DSL
81. Reheat, in a way : ZAP
83. Quaintly small : ITSY
85. Not eating anyone's dust : AHEAD
88. Creepy gaze : LEER
94. Cause to erupt : ENRAGE. I'm so angry at the Manti Te'o hoax. It's cruel.
96. Carry with effort : LUG
97. Moved, as a lifeboat : OARED
98. Monarch's reign, e.g. : ERA
99. Really advocate : PUSH FOR
102. Free-for-all : SPREE
103. Modern diary : BLOG. Like ours.
108. Martial arts mercenary : NINJA. It's written out like this. Two characters. Ja is like English "er" word, "one who....". Nin means "to bear".
110. Important Dadaist : ARP
111. Thoroughly goes over : VETS
112. Bachelor finale? : ETTE. Sweet clue. Bachelorette.
114. Some ATM sites : ATRIA. Are you familiar with Altria?
125. Nasty rumor : CANARD
126. Was jealous of : ENVIED
127. They may be casual : REMARKS. Nice clue.
128. "The Lion King" trio : HYENAS
129. Virginia et al. : STATES
130. Most astute : KEENEST
1. Early 103-Down player : WEST
2. Tête output : IDEE
4. Not very generous : STINGY
5. Like a muumuu : LOOSE. Pretty.
6. Misspeak, say : ERR
7. General of Chinese cuisine : TSO. No other way to clue this word.
8. Lenient : SOFT
9. Narrow-brimmed fedora : TRILBY. New word to me.
10. Réunion attendee : ONCLE
12. Limo driver's request, perhaps : ETA. Needs an abbr. hint in the clue.
13. Mighty storm : DELUGE
14. Union contract subject : PAY SCALE
15. Stayed too long at the fare? : OVER-ATE. Ha ha.
16. Kitchen spray : PAM
17. "SNL" alum Cheri : OTERI
18. Fruity soda brand : FANTA
19. McDonald's fixture : FRIER
24. Symbol of decency : FIG LEAF. Easy in retrospect.
29. Economical shorthand in store names : SAV
32. Mideast land : OMAN
33. "Rodent" band since the 1980s : RATT. This stumped me last time. "Rodent" certainly helped.
35. Jaworski of Watergate : LEON. I faintly recall this name.
36. Forearm-related : ULNAR
37. Official nix : VETO
38. Alpo rival : IAMS
39. Smooth movement : FLOW
40. Nolan Ryan, notably : FIREBALLER. Fastballs! No Google, tell me how many Cy Young Nolan Ryan won?
42. West Indies island : TOBAGO
45. Dimwit : MORON
46. Coffee pot remnant : DREG
48. Home with a between-floors entrance : SPLIT LEVEL
49. Important thing : BE ALL.
50. Musical dedicatee whose true identity is the subject of much speculation : ELISE. True.
52. Title woman in a Jolson classic : MAMMY. Stumper. For a moment, I thought Al Jolson was black.
53. Web periodical : E-ZINE
54. Wood purchase : CORD
55. Theater chain : LOEWS
62. Hanna-Barbera fan's purchase : CEL
63. Grab hold of : SEIZE
67. Chum : BRO
68. Tokyo brew : ASAHI
69. Crock-Pot utensil : LADLE
70. "Ghosts" playwright : IBSEN
71. Sailing places : SEAS
73. Let drain, as a sink : UNSTOP. Not a word I use.
74. Modern greeting : E-CARD
78. Bumper defect : DING
82. Maneuver, as a ship : PILOT
84. Ached (for) : YEARNED
86. Prefix with nautical : AERO
87. Major bummer : DRAG
89. At attention : RAPT
90. Heads down : DESCENDS
91. Source of knowledge : GURU
92. One less than vier : DREI. German for 3. Vier = 4.
93. Celebrity chef Paula : DEEN
95. "Guerrilla Warfare" author : GUEVARA. A real hero when I grew up.
100. Super-popular : HOT. Old Navy's Activewear series all have thumb holes. Great color too.
101. Stirs : FUSSES
102. Non-negotiable charge : SET FEE
103. Hero with a mask : BATMAN
104. Devise : HATCH
105. Wide assortment : ARRAY
106. Barely leading : UP ONE
107. Prepare for additional use : RE-FIT
109. Actress Pressly : JAIME. She's in "My Name Is Earl". J'aime is "I love" in French. "Je t'aime… moi non-plus".
113. "Bill & __ Excellent Adventure" : TED'S
115. Few and far between : RARE
116. Types : ILKS
117. Part of ADA: Abbr. : ASST
119. Mo. in which the Emancipation Proclamation was delivered : JAN
121. Destructive material : TNT
122. Charlottesville sch. : UVA (University of Virginia)
123. Chest with tablets : ARK
124. Society page word : NEE