I've been interested in this filter and reading about this issue it seems that the solution to this could have been quickly handled to satisfaction if the OP had first contacted the manufacturer.
First off I find it challenging to take seriously a "40 year Automotive Master Tech" who also seems to have an attitude of, "If it jams, force it. If it breaks it needed replacing anyway."
(tongue in cheek here, don't get your feathers ruffled)
Secondly, rather than simply asking if anyone else has ever seen this, the OP could have been more resourceful than trying to paint the product and the OEM as the source of the problem before any attempt to resolve the issue with them directly.
On the other hand, I think that the CPR guy was trying to keep it light and was taken as being flippant. One of the hazards of being a normal guy learning the pitfalls of customer service. His point regarding how the OP brought his problem to the forum before contacting the manufacturer is illuminating, just the same.
If this filter was not lined up correctly on install, and the Dzus was forced, and the filter frame distorted over whatever amount of time it was held like this in a higher temp environment, then, I can see how the OP would need to do something to get everything back to its natural shape. However, I would think someone with this amount of automotive experience would know that the best way to accomplish this would be to remove everything, warm it up, line it up, then leave it in a box with a warm lamp for a while to return to its original shape. Rather than trying to clamp it in place at ambient temps and expect this to undo a deformation that happened over time at warmer temps.
In answer to the OP's question, the OEM rep and several other users of the product indicated that, yes, alignment is something that takes a little finesse, and, yes, taking a more ham-handed approach could result in a poor fit.
At this point I think that the OEM is offering to do whatever it takes to make things right, asking that the OP will only contact them directly so they may use the appropriate channels to accomplish this.
This is an issue of physics, clouded by emotion. Remove the emotional aspect and address the physical and the solution will become crystal clear.
Then, maybe CPR might have a returned filter in stock that I could procure on the cheap along with a new base plate.