WHAT'S MY LINE?

New York Times, Sunday, July 27, 2014

Author: Randolph Ross
Editor: Will Shortz
Randolph Ross
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This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 70 Missing: {JQ} This is puzzle # 101 for Mr. Ross. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Randolph Ross notes: The idea for this puzzle came from one of my favorite clues that I originally used in a themeless puzzle — 'Subway line' (answer EAT FRESH.) I also had a similar clue waiting to be used in a puzzle ... more
Randolph Ross notes: The idea for this puzzle came from one of my favorite clues that I originally used in a themeless puzzle — "Subway line" (answer EAT FRESH.) I also had a similar clue waiting to be used in a puzzle — "Finish line" (answer THAT'S ALL FOLKS.) So I decided to try to find more of these and weave them into a Sunday crossword. What resulted were the ten theme entries you see in "What's My Line?" Sometimes clues are a good source for theme ideas I find. For example I once did a puzzle on diets, because there were so many clever ways to clue that word, e.g. middle management (diet for a white collar exec?), lessen plan (diet for a teacher), etc.

It's always a challenge to fill the puzzle smoothly when you have more than 8 theme entries (I usually like to have 9 or more in my Sunday puzzles because I think the theme entries are the most fun for solvers to fill in and the most fun for me to construct and clue). In this puzzle the toughest part was have two pair of theme entries side by side in the upper right and lower left.

Some particularly tough areas to fill in were in the upper left corner… I chose to add a cheater black box in the corner rather than present the solver with some crosswordese. I had to come up with THROW TO (a new entry I believe) in order to finish that corner. In the lower left I had some back and forth with Will about the entry FARFEL. I remember FARFEL as a famous ventriloquist's (Jimmy Nelson) dog who appeared in a memorable commercial for Nestles Chocolate. (It's also a pasta found in Jewish chicken soup.) Will wanted me to consider another entry but any I could think of would have changed 94A STOLE to STELE, a much inferior fill in my opinion. These are the decisions constructors have to make all the time and editors have to rule on. My favorite fills were DOOZIES, SCHEDULE A, PRMEN, FARFEL, RIPPEDOFF, CHUNNEL, OHWELL, and INTHERE. These are not seen too often in puzzles. I also enjoyed cluing ITGO by referencing Travolta's made-up "Adele Dazeem" (sorry it didn't make it past the editor's desk).

This is my 101st published NY Times crossword, most of which were edited by Will. Much appreciation to him for editing my work and making my puzzles better.

Jeff Chen notes: 101 puzzles! Impressive. Scan through Randy's constructor page, especially noting how many Sundays he's made. It's hard enough to get a single puzzle into the NYT, even harder to get a Sunday, and he now has 45 of ... more
Jeff Chen notes: 101 puzzles! Impressive. Scan through Randy's constructor page, especially noting how many Sundays he's made. It's hard enough to get a single puzzle into the NYT, even harder to get a Sunday, and he now has 45 of them. Wow!

Fun take on "___ line" phrases today, all reinterpreted as verbal lines from a phone call, a date, from Tom Cruise, etc. I like how Randy stuck to almost all in-the-language phrases. MAY I SEE YOU AGAIN seems arbitrary to me, but all of the nine others are choice entries. And I also like how he stuck with mostly all common "___ line" phrases as clues. The best ones are those that require a jump from clue to entry, i.e. Cruise line (like Holland America) is very different from Cruise line (like from Tom Cruise). Ones like [Story line] and [Telephone line] weren't quite as amusing for me, in that the clues and answers were quasi-related.

Ten themers is a tough task. I appreciate what Randy said regarding the fun being mostly in the theme. Will sometimes runs a Sunday puzzle with less theme density but more juicy fill. More often than not, I tire of those, as they feel like a gigantic themeless puzzle. So I enjoyed uncovering all these ten different "lines."

Always the trade-offs. As much as I like EAT FRESH and ILL GET IT and their respective clues, they sure presented grid difficulties (stacking two theme answers right next to each other will almost always present a challenge). It's hard to say whether or not each of them was "fair." AMOCO, FARFEL, Chris NOTH in the SW. Robert DONAT, Edouard LALO, AGITA in the NE. There's a certain amount of knowledge that a NYT reader is expected to have. These strike me as pushing that fine line (is SEE IF I CARE! is a "fine line"?).

I applaud Randy's use of cheater squares in the very NW and SE. Those regions are nice and smooth, helped out by those two black squares (there's a reason why Rich Norris calls them "helper squares"). A black square either at the D or T of DONAT would at least have opened up some other options to reduce the glue-y entries. Now, I don't advocate tossing in black squares willy-nilly — too many compromise a puzzle's aesthetics — but I personally would like to see them used more, especially on Sunday puzzles, which are so very tough to construct smoothly.

Anyway, a fun outing with a few rough patches. Excellent theme choices and a great title.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,637
Across Down
1. Sandwiches with toothpicks : BLTS
5. Corner key : CTRL
9. Refuse : CHAFF
14. Alternative to texted : IMED
18. European capital, to natives : PRAHA
19. Discipline : AREA
20. Jimmy ___, "They'll Do It Every Time" cartoonist : HATLO
21. "Le Roi d'Ys" composer : LALO
22. Telephone line : SORRYWRONGNUMBER
25. "___ Eyes" (1975 Eagles hit) : LYIN
26. "Let ___" : ITGO
27. Dash : RACE
28. Union gain? : INLAW
29. Gut feeling? : AGITA
30. Cruise line : SHOWMETHEMONEY
33. Like one's favorite radio stations, typically : PRESET
34. Perfect, e.g. : TENSE
35. Sarcastic retort : IBET
36. Played out : TRITE
37. San ___, Calif. : RAMON
40. "Double" or "triple" feat : AXEL
41. Special somethings : DOOZIES
43. Late actor Wallach : ELI
44. Vinyl-roofed car : LANDAU
48. Butler's quarters? : TARA
49. Tickle Me Elmo maker : TYCO
51. Like : DIG
52. Story line : ONCEUPONATIME
56. First two words of "Dixie," often : OHI
57. Longtime baseball union exec Donald : FEHR
59. Loudmouth's talk : YAP
60. Romance novelist Roberts : NORA
61. ___ de Champlain, founder of Quebec : SAMUEL
63. Like the Marx Brothers : ANTIC
65. Pinched : RIPPEDOFF
69. Interprets : READS
70. Car featured in the "Transformers" movies : CAMARO
72. Country with the most all-time medals in Olympic baseball : CUBA
73. Pathet ___ (old revolutionary group) : LAO
75. Fit of fever : AGUE
76. Capt.'s prediction : ETA
77. Finish line : THATSALLFOLKS
82. Draft pick : ALE
83. Astronaut Slayton : DEKE
85. Email virus, power outage, etc. : WOES
86. Formal confession : ITWASI
87. Iraq War danger, for short : IED
88. Maze feature : DEADEND
90. Shake off : SHED
92. Names hidden in Al Hirschfeld drawings : NINAS
94. Gown accessory : STOLE
95. Politician's goal : SEAT
96. Hunt in "Mission: Impossible" : ETHAN
99. Small pellets of noodle dough in Jewish cuisine : FARFEL
101. Fault line : ITSNOTYOUITSME
106. Foreign princes : EMIRS
107. Hogan contemporary : SNEAD
108. Road shoulder : BERM
109. Stove cover : HOOD
110. Old Venetian V.I.P. : DOGE
111. Laugh line : TAKEMYWIFEPLEASE
114. "I Ain't Marching Anymore" singer/songwriter : OCHS
115. Bayer brand : ALEVE
116. Picture problem : BLUR
117. Some spinners, informally : PRMEN
118. Chris who played Mr. Big on "Sex and the City" : NOTH
119. Lets go of : CEDES
120. Gallic greeting : ALLO
121. Spanish 3 + 3 : SEIS
1. Stock : BROTH
2. Slow : LARGO
3. Target, as a football receiver : THROWTO
4. Approximately : SAY
5. Cartier units : CARATS
6. Throat soother : TROCHE
7. Name meaning "born again" : RENEE
8. Trail : LAG
9. French connection? : CHUNNEL
10. Exemplar of indecision : HAMLET
11. How an angry dog should be kept : ATBAY
12. Zipped : FLEW
13. Endorsing : FOR
14. Help line : ILLGETIT
15. Date line : MAYISEEYOUAGAIN
16. A-list : ELITE
17. Robert who played filmdom's Mr. Chips : DONAT
18. Trident-shaped letters : PSIS
23. House ___ : WREN
24. Weeper of myth : NIOBE
29. Only non-Southern state won by the G.O.P. in '64 : ARIZ
31. College in Atherton, Calif. : MENLO
32. Confusion : MIXUP
33. Some charity events : PROAMS
36. Famous Amos : TORI
37. Embarrassed : REDFACED
38. Put off : ALIENATED
39. Power line : MIGHTMAKESRIGHT
40. Org. with the Sullivan Award for character, leadership and sportsmanship : AAU
41. Baud measurement : DATAFLOW
42. I.R.S. form with a line for "Casualty and Theft Losses" : SCHEDULEA
45. "___ calls?" : ANY
46. Birthplace of Pres. Polk : NCAR
47. Drew : DEPICTED
48. Starch source : TARO
50. Canola, soybean and peanut : OILSEEDS
53. Former center of Los Angeles : ONEAL
54. Affirmative action : NOD
55. Listen here : EAR
58. Coastline feature : RIA
62. Start of an apology : MEA
64. PC component : CRT
66. Mug : PUSS
67. Alley org. : PBA
68. F.D.R.'s Scottie : FALA
71. "There's always next time!" : OHWELL
74. Initials, in a way : OKS
78. Bang-up : AONE
79. Almost stop with the head facing the wind, as a ship : LIETO
80. Blooming business? : FTD
81. 1967 war locale : SINAI
84. Subway line : EATFRESH
89. Executes : DOES
90. Bagel toppers : SESAMES
91. Good to have around : HANDY
93. Pitched right over the plate : INTHERE
95. Work on the docks : STEEVE
96. Hottie : EYEFUL
97. Ring leader? : TORERO
98. Something to get over : HUMP
99. Had for a meal : FEDON
100. Discontinued gas brand : AMOCO
101. Signed : INKED
102. Govt. security : TBILL
103. "Me, too!" : SOAMI
104. Law man : MOSES
105. Fall setting : EDEN
107. Closing act? : SALE
111. Part of a winning combination : TAC
112. Ring org. : WBA
113. Discophile's collection : LPS

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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