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WHAT'S MY LINE?

New York Times, Sunday, July 27, 2014

Author:
Randolph Ross
Editor:
Will Shortz
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1.486002
Randolph Ross

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 ... read more

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 ... read more

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. 0727 ( 23,637 )
Across
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
Down
1
Stock : BROTH
2
Slow : LARGO
3
Target, as a football receiver : THROWTO
4
Approximately : SAY
5
Cartier units : CARATS
6
Throat soother : TROCHE
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Name meaning "born again" : RENEE
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Trail : LAG
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French connection? : CHUNNEL
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Exemplar of indecision : HAMLET
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How an angry dog should be kept : ATBAY
12
Zipped : FLEW
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Endorsing : FOR
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Help line : ILLGETIT
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Date line : MAYISEEYOUAGAIN
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A-list : ELITE
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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
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Confusion : MIXUP
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Some charity events : PROAMS
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Famous Amos : TORI
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Embarrassed : REDFACED
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Put off : ALIENATED
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Power line : MIGHTMAKESRIGHT
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Org. with the Sullivan Award for character, leadership and sportsmanship : AAU
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Baud measurement : DATAFLOW
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I.R.S. form with a line for "Casualty and Theft Losses" : SCHEDULEA
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"___ calls?" : ANY
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Birthplace of Pres. Polk : NCAR
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Drew : DEPICTED
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Starch source : TARO
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Canola, soybean and peanut : OILSEEDS
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Former center of Los Angeles : ONEAL
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Affirmative action : NOD
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Listen here : EAR
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Coastline feature : RIA
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Start of an apology : MEA
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PC component : CRT
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Mug : PUSS
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Alley org. : PBA
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F.D.R.'s Scottie : FALA
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"There's always next time!" : OHWELL
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Initials, in a way : OKS
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Bang-up : AONE
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Almost stop with the head facing the wind, as a ship : LIETO
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Blooming business? : FTD
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1967 war locale : SINAI
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Subway line : EATFRESH
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Executes : DOES
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Bagel toppers : SESAMES
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Good to have around : HANDY
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Pitched right over the plate : INTHERE
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Work on the docks : STEEVE
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Hottie : EYEFUL
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Ring leader? : TORERO
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Something to get over : HUMP
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Had for a meal : FEDON
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Discontinued gas brand : AMOCO
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Signed : INKED
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Govt. security : TBILL
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"Me, too!" : SOAMI
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Law man : MOSES
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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: 6 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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