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New York Times, Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Author:
John E. Bennett
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
64/9/20142/14/20193
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0031200
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1.57050
John E. Bennett

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FKQXZ} Grid has mirror symmetry. This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. Bennett. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
John E. Bennett notes:
The initial spark was the thought of doing a puzzle with a large circle graphic — I tend to like puzzles that have something of ... read more

The initial spark was the thought of doing a puzzle with a large circle graphic — I tend to like puzzles that have something of visual interest in the design.

I realized early on that "mirror symmetry" would be the best option and also, if I wanted to have a long horizontal central themer, I would need a "cheater" square at each end, otherwise it was too difficult to mesh the long themer with the "round" (circle of shaded squares). Once the "round" had taken shape I began the search for circle themes. "THE RING OF FIRE" had potential but fires were mostly too negative! Eventually, it may have been the time of day that made me think about Happy Hour ;-), but at some point I thought "THE ROUND'S ON ME!" could be fun! It had the requisite 13 letters for the central themer and made for nice graphic word play too.

From there the types of bar drinks were fairly easy to list but many didn't yield acceptable fill. The other issue was with the top and bottom words in the "round" which are the only ones that were clued words (not formed like the others by diagonals) that could potentially prematurely give away the other themer words in the "round". RUM, at the top, and VODKA, at the bottom, for example, would have given it away pretty quickly. But GIN (also a card game) and STOUT (not just a drink) worked out to help conceal, from solvers, the thematic reveal words a little longer in the "round".

This was a fun puzzle to construct!

Jeff Chen notes:
THIS ROUNDS ON ME! Er, THE ROUNDS ON ME. Hmm. I've never actually heard anyone get up and declare either one, but the former is the ... read more

THIS ROUNDS ON ME! Er, THE ROUNDS ON ME. Hmm. I've never actually heard anyone get up and declare either one, but the former is the way I imagine it happening.

Jeb (John E. Bennett) and I live pretty close to each other, so we meet up occasionally to talk shop. When he mentioned this one to me, I smiled — great minds think alike! I actually like his interpretation better than mine, what with 1.) the pretty circle, or "round" formed by the drinks, and 2.) the fact that all of his are alcoholic beverages.

I also appreciated his touch of GIN and STOUT, ones that can easily be clued not as the drink. As Jeb mentioned, that did hide the theme for a little bit.

I always worry when I see diagonal answers, since it's so tough to construct around them. But I like what Jeb did in the top left corner a lot. It is true that he had a lot of flexibility, being able to use any six-letter alcoholic beverage, but he made SHERRY work so nicely. DEATHS did give me a pause, since it's a bit of a no-no to include downers like this, but needing virtually no crossword glue to hold a section like this together is great work.

The bottom left exhibits a few of the usual traits I'd expect out of a section with diagonal answers — not surprising, given how open the corner is compared to the top left. I did like TRAIN CAR, HOT MEALS, even GIMBAL (sue me, I'm an engineer). I didn't like NNE/ACAP/PCT/ERST holding it together.

A different type of compromise in the bottom right. The short stuff is all fine, but the longer stuff ... RETESTS is a bit iffy, and EAGEREST feels more than a bit iffy. Working around these diagonal answers, if it ain't one thing, it's another.

Given the degree of difficulty here though, I enjoyed the final result despite my initial hesitations, especially that pretty ring of drinks, and the theme felt uplifting. I like it when a puzzle leaves me with good spirits.

(rim shot)

Jim Horne notes:

Mr. Bennett is branching out. His first two puzzles had similar grids, including shades/circles. This one, with mirror symmetry no less, is different.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 1025 ( 24,458 )
Across
1
Common name for a cowboy : DUSTY
6
Winner's cry in a card game : GIN
9
Leaky parts of an old tent, often : SEAMS
14
___ nous : ENTRE
15
A, in Asunción : UNA
16
Dustup : SCRAP
17
Hidden symbol between the "E" and "x" in the FedEx logo : ARROW
18
Drug for Timothy Leary : LSD
19
End of a lasso : NOOSE
20
Nipple : TEAT
21
Cloudless : CLEAR
23
Elizabethan stringed instrument : LUTE
24
Fedora or fez : HAT
25
Final part of a relay : LASTLEG
27
[their error, not mine] : SIC
28
Actor Christian of "Mr. Robot" : SLATER
30
State-of-the-art electronically : HITECH
32
Cradled : HELD
34
Mata ___ (spy) : HARI
35
Offer at a pub ... as suggested by this puzzle's shaded squares : THEROUNDSONME
40
Cock-a-doodle-doo : CROW
41
Dentist's focus : TEETH
42
Coal-rich German region : SAAR
44
Like Cheerios cereal : OATEN
46
"Facilities," informally : LAV
47
Suit material : SERGE
48
Device that keeps a ship's compass level : GIMBAL
50
"O Romeo, Romeo!" crier : JULIET
51
SSW's opposite : NNE
52
With 54-Across, tavern total : BAR
54
See 52-Across : TAB
55
Lead-in to fix, appropriately : PRE
56
Put ___ on (limit) : ACAP
58
___ Picchu, site of ancient Inca ruins : MACHU
60
Shouts of dissent : NOES
61
Bathroom powder : TALC
62
Trimmed area around a green : APRON
63
"Hey ... over here!" : PSST
64
Once, in olden days : ERST
65
Burly : STOUT
66
Snitches (on) : RATS
Down
1
Opposites of births : DEATHS
2
"That is SO incredible!" : UNREAL
3
Geological layers : STRATA
4
Gait faster than a walk : TROT
5
Tree with medicinal uses : YEW
6
Birds near the shore : GULLS
7
Detailed blowup on a map : INSET
8
Longtime Federer adversary : NADAL
9
Personal identifier, for short : SSN
10
Subj. of interest for the Green Party : ECOL
11
Move to action : AROUSE
12
Tile adhesive : MASTIC
13
When repeated, cry to an honoree : SPEECH
21
Place for wheeling and dealing? : CARLOT
22
Go over and over again : REHASH
25
Unwelcome look : LEER
26
Big name in bicycle helmets : GIRO
29
What Wi-Fi can connect you to : THEWEB
31
Yule glitter : TINSEL
33
Highlight in a Zorro movie : DUEL
34
Modern home entertainment option : HDTV
35
Sleeper or caboose : TRAINCAR
36
Soup kitchen offerings : HOTMEALS
37
Teachers' org. : NEA
38
Tuliplike flower whose name means "butterfly" in Spanish : MARIPOSA
39
Most ready to get started : EAGEREST
40
Related linguistically : COGNATE
43
Examination do-overs : RETESTS
45
Arrest : NAB
47
Teacher who may get no respect, informally : SUB
49
Tibetan holy men : LAMAS
50
Brief excursion : JAUNT
53
Completely focused : RAPT
54
Biblical pronoun : THOU
57
Polling fig. : PCT
59
___-Magnon : CRO
60
"Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!" airer : NPR

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle.

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