During my MBA, we finance types constantly made fun of the marketing wannabes. Those who can't do math make up ridiculous slogans! These days, I appreciate marketing much more, so the idea of state capitals coming up with punny ad slogans made me laugh. I loved Michigan trying to attract writers by offering FREE LANSING (freelancing) opportunities.
Not as sure about blowing into Maine on AUGUSTA WIND (a gust of wind). Is Maine windy? Seemed odd.
And the come-on to Alaska, that it's MORE THAN JUNEAU (more than you know). Wouldn't a more effective slogan involve bears? Glaciers?
This is probably why I didn't (couldn't) go into marketing.
Finally, CONCORD MY FEARS took me forever to figure out. CONCORD = conquered? Really?
This is probably why I've had so few pun themes accepted.
The allure of a low-word-count grid beckons to many constructors; a siren song. It usually shouldn't be heeded, because it almost always requires trade-offs that make the solving experience less pleasurable. This is especially important in an early-week puzzle, aimed at less experienced solvers.
It is kind of cool to have SNO CONE and TUTORED next to each other, both fine mid-length entries. But the cost of NEGRI ("you have to know these kinds of esoteric things to do crosswords?" — and crossing a tough European capital)? Granted, I think all world capitals are fair game for educated solvers. RIGA isn't OSLO or LONDON, though.
Check out MALAYSIA, too. Love it as fill usually, but it sure makes that NE region big and tough to fill. ELYSE is another esoteric name (see: ELAM), and ENTO ain't great. Unfortunately, there's no quick fix, so the grid would have had to be redone with a completely different block pattern (aiming at 76 or 78 words). That's probably what should have happened.
I like the notion of a bunch of slick marketers brainstorming ad campaigns. I had some problems with the overall execution, though.