Theme: "Group Practice" - The last word of each 2-word theme entry all consists of a group of people. And each theme entry is humorously clued, corresponding to the first word.
25A. Group providing pro bono services? : FREE AGENCY. The original phrase refers to the status of the free agents, of course.
27A. Group overseeing porch furniture? : ROCKER PANEL. Not familiar with "rocker panel".
45A. Group dealing with hard stuff? : LIQUOR CABINET. We have one above our refrigerator.
82A. Group supervising subs? : SANDWICH BOARD
97A. Group testing antipasto tidbits? : OLIVE BRANCH
103A. Group specializing in spinal complaints? : BACK OFFICE
35D. Group assisting St. Peter? : HEAVENLY BODY
39. Group handling hand-held phone sales? : CELL DIVISION
I just love Gail's puzzles. Her byline comforts me. I know I have a good chance to solve & enjoy the puzzle (with occasional cheats).
I have no idea how Gail can be so productive and continues to make smooth grids for LA Times, Newsday and CrosSynery on regular basis. She's a marvel. Also a very very modest person.
Constructors often give subtle shout-outs to their local teams. Gail lives in Illinois, hence:
42. Chicago Sky's org. : WNBA. But who are the reigning WNBA champs? Minnesota Lynx!
1. Find a space : PARK
5. Baking aid : SHEET. Chinese kitchens do not have ovens. We steam everything, including bun (bread). I'm a bun lover, TTP.
10. Surrounded by : AMONG
15. Project leader's selection : TEAM. "Group" too. Bonus entry.
19. Ingredient in some soaps : ALOE
20. Scandinavian wife of comics : HELGA. In "Hagar the Horrible".
21. Redder inside : RARER
22. Joyful dance : HORA
23. That-say connection : IS TO. That is to say.
24. Under control across the board : ALL OK
30. Land chronicled by Lewis : NARNIA. "The Chronicles of Narnia".
31. Some Little League volunteers : UMPS
32. Punished, in a way : FINED
34. Mazatlán munchie : NACHO
37. Teammate of Pee Wee and Duke : JACKIE ( Robinson). Duke Snider. All Dodgers greats. Our own Steve once sat beside Duke Snider in a ball game.
40. Hive member : DRONE
42. When many shovels may be seen : WINTERS
44. Meadow matriarch : EWE. Ha ha, matriarch!
49. Santa __ : ANA
50. Blunder : FALSE STEP. Nice entry.
52. Crypts, e.g. : TOMBS
53. ESPN pitch, say : TV AD. Awesome clue. Of course I was thinking of baseball.
54. Record holders : FILES
55. Océan sight : ILE
56. Eyelashes : CILIA. Forgot. Definitely saw this word before.
57. Garbo of "Grand Hotel" : GRETA
58. Jerry Rice's record 208, briefly : TDs. Is Jerry Rice football's Hank Aaron?
59. St.-finding aid : GPS
60. Scary noble gas : RADON
61. Online newsgroup system : USENET
62. "Here we are!" : IT'S US
64. Sensitive spots : SORES. What's your cold sore trigger? Mine is always deadline, PK.
65. CIA briefing info : INTEL (Intelligence)
66. Soldiers' org. formed during WWII : AMVETS (American Veterans)
68. Gaucho gear : RIATA
69. Alarming way to go? : APE. Oh, go ape.
70. One of four in Massachusetts: Abbr. : SYL. Syllables.
72. Prayer object : DEITY
73. Remains unsettled : PENDS
74. The Snake R. runs through it : IDA (Idaho)
75. Morocco's capital : RABAT. I bet they have the best Couscous.
77. Edinburgh girl : LASS
78. Bashes : FETES
79. Island republic near the Malay Peninsula : SINGAPORE. Clean country.
81. Ristorante suffix : INI
85. Pursue, as a deadbeat : DUN. This word always reminds me of a big American company and my first solo undercover work.
86. Risky stock category : BIO-TECH
88. Faculty officials : DEANS
89. "Despite that ..." : AND YET
91. Maternally related : ENATE. "Paternally related" is AGNATE.
92. On the ball : ALERT
94. Radio-active sort? : CB'ER. Great clue.
95. Comedian's sidekick : STOOGE
107. Pension law acronym : ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Unfamiliar to me.
108. Major function : GALA
109. Bailiff's request : RISE "All rise!"
110. Disastrous : FATAL
111. __ system : SOLAR
112. Birthstone before topaz : OPAL
113. Settled down : ALIT
114. Growl relative : SNARL
115. They may be emotional: SCARS. We all have a few.
116. It may get hot under your collar : NAPE. Really?
1. Two of a kind : PAIR
2. Besides : ALSO
3. Univ. recruiter : ROTC
4. Iowa city named for a Sauk chief : KEOKUK. New to me. What's the city famous for?
5. Wrinkly dogs : SHAR PEIs. Literally "Sand skin" in Cantonese. Shar = Sand. Pei = Skin.
6. Goes to bat for : HELPS
7. "The First Lady of Song" : ELLA
8. Austrian painter Schiele : EGON. Was this guy a gimme for you?
9. Assume to be : TAKE FOR
10. Lab greeting : ARF. Labrador.
11. Seine tributary : MARNE. Man, lots of 5-letter rivers.
12. Mountain nymph : OREAD
13. "Oh, thou did'st then __ love so heartily": Shak. : NE'ER
14. Moms' moms, familiarly : GRANNIES
15. Bad thing to be caught in : THE ACT
16. Quite a stretch : EON
17. Detour, perhaps : ARC. "Perhaps".
18. Kentucky Derby time : MAY
26. Humongous : GIANT
28. Pugilist Griffith et al. : EMILES. + Zola.
29. R.I. governor Chafee : LINC. Lincoln Chafee. Used to be a Senator (R).
33. "Very creative!" : NEAT IDEA!
36. Highly decorative : ORNATE
37. Mutt's mate : JEFF. "Mutt and Jeff".
38. Look forward to : AWAIT
40. Dramatic one-on-ones : DUELS
41. It might be skipped : ROPE. The other day is STONE.
43. Egyptian Peace Nobelist : SADAT. I don't think I'll ever visit Egypt or Middle East.
46. Cotton-on-stick cleaners : Q-TIPS
47. Ties with clasps : BOLOS
48. "Call," in poker : I'M IN
51. Sonnet sections : SESTETS
53. Syrup source : TREE SAP. I recall Marti's personal idol grew up in a maple tree farm. Bode Miller had a very unconventional childhood.
56. Course rentals : CARTS
57. Prime meridian std. : GST
59. NASA's Grissom : GUS
60. Shoulder location : ROADSIDE. Nice shoulder mislead.
61. A, in Arles : UNE
63. Squalid quarters : STY. Pigs disagree.
64. Tendon : SINEW
65. Old Colgate competitor : IPANA
66. Improvise : AD LIB
67. Nasty sort : MEANIE
68. No longer working: Abbr. : RET'D
69. "Later, amigo" : ADIOS
71. 1983 Golden Boot Award winner Lash : LaRUE. Learned from doing Xword.
73. Phnom __ : PENH. Very random H placements.
74. Library ID : ISBN
75. "It's Always Something" autobiographer : RADNER (Gilda)
76. Shelter near a fire : TENT
78. Open confrontations : FACE-OFFS. Another great fill.
80. Wall-mounted grips : GRAB BARS
82. Brief brawl : SETTO
83. Uno minus uno : CERO. 0 in Spanish.
84. Like ballplayers during the national anthem : HATLESS
87. "A-Tisket, A-__" : TASKET
90. Smaug in "The Hobbit," for one : DRAGON. No idea.
92. Tummy trouble : AGITA
93. Old Renault : LE CAR
94. Composer Franck : CESAR. Unfortunately Chavez is the only CESAR I know.
96. End-era link : OF AN. End of an era.
98. Camaro __-Z : IROC
99. '80s "This Old House" host Bob : VILA
100. Western wine region : NAPA
101. Give the band a hand : CLAP
102. Robust : HALE
103. Uplifting item : BRA. Victoria's Secret is going to open a store at Cowboys Stadium. So now fans have a beautiful place to go when the game gets boring.
104. Have a bug : AIL
105. Drama set in Vegas : CSI
106. Letter opener? : ELL. Clever clue.