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New York Times, Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Author:
John E. Bennett
Editor:
Will Shortz
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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: 40 Missing: {QXZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Bennett. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
John E. Bennett notes:
This puzzle has been waiting to be 'born' for quite a while. In fact, this was actually the very first puzzle that I had approved for ... read more

This puzzle has been waiting to be "born" for quite a while. In fact, this was actually the very first puzzle that I had approved for NYT publication, although not the first to be published. The crossword constructing requires real PATIENCE!

I remember with this puzzle, being my first, how exciting it was to not only get an encouraging response back from Will's assistant, but then as a follow-on e-mail to actually see that I was communicating directly with the WILL SHORTZ!

At the time I was doing this puzzle, I had a lot of trouble coming up with six 4-letter "BALL" words that would work in a 4-letter, free-standing cluster in the grid. I remember an earlier version I had submitted that included FOUL as one of the 6 "balls," but this was rejected because it wasn't, like all the others of course, a type of ball per se. Eventually, after many hours of "treasure-hunting" for fills (actually a pretty fun process for constructors!) with my skimpy database at the time, I was eventually able to get 6 "ball" words to work out!

With an earlier version, I had the main themer clued as: "Note from a vacationing friend," which I liked because the temptation for a solver might have been to jump-the-gun with: WISH YOU WERE HERE. For those who would have been using a pen that might have been considered a cruel trap!

I hope the final version was user-friendly and fun!

Jeff Chen notes:
Shout out to my Seattle friend, Jeb! (John E. Bennett = JEB) Jeb and his wife had Jill and me over for brunch a while ago. Super fun ... read more

Shout out to my Seattle friend, Jeb! (John E. Bennett = JEB) Jeb and his wife had Jill and me over for brunch a while ago. Super fun to talk shop with nice people.

One of my first puzzle obsessions, The Fool's Errand

Jeb uses six big circles (it looks much better in the print version) to form "balls." There's a SOUR ball, a HAIR ball, FOOT ball, BASE ball, MEAT ball, and a POOL ball. This sort of layout is very tricky, as each one of the balls causes so many constraints. When you throw in a revealer — JUST HAVING A BALL — it becomes that much more difficult.

This kind of puzzle is even trickier, since none of the "theme answers" are very long. This means that some of the fill has to be long instead. I love FOOLS ERRAND, very colorful, and OBSESSIVE / NEWSPAPER aren't bad. PARONOMASIA … it took me every single crossing to fill in, so frustrating in that sense, but I decided I really like the word and will find ways of using it.

Filling around everything mentioned above is so hard to do cleanly. Each one of the six ball areas has minor dings. The top left is actually quite nice, with just OFT a blip. Continung to the next region, CHROMO feels a bit outdated. Then OH FOO … on one hand it sounds so made up. On the other hand, I'm going to find ways of using it too, because it sounds so funny.

The other three balls show us the British RASE, the outdated SSTS, and the kind of gross EGESTS. All in all though, for the high level of difficulty, it's not bad.

I'm not sure I liked JUST in front of HAVING A BALL — felt like something tagged on to make the central answer 15 letters, which is SO much easier than working with a central 11. Ah well.

So, some compromises due to such high theme density and constraints, and some head-scratching entries which forced me to do some thinking. I like it when a puzzle challenges me to think.

1
F
2
I
3
D
4
O
5
A
6
C
7
T
8
S
9
C
10
A
11
L
12
F
13
A
S
O
F
14
C
H
A
I
15
O
H
F
O
O
16
B
R
U
T
17
T
R
I
P
18
G
A
T
O
R
19
L
A
B
20
F
O
O
L
S
21
E
R
R
A
N
D
22
E
E
L
23
W
O
R
M
24
M
E
D
25
S
L
Y
E
R
26
O
27
B
28
S
E
S
S
29
I
30
V
31
E
32
N
T
33
H
34
E
A
R
35
D
O
S
36
J
37
U
38
S
T
H
A
39
V
I
N
G
40
A
41
B
A
L
L
42
A
K
A
43
D
I
G
44
E
T
E
45
N
E
W
46
S
47
P
A
P
E
48
R
49
R
E
50
N
51
E
52
E
53
P
I
G
54
E
55
D
I
T
I
N
G
56
P
57
A
58
R
O
N
O
59
M
60
A
S
I
A
61
P
R
E
62
A
B
A
T
E
63
O
M
E
N
64
I
P
O
S
65
P
E
S
O
S
66
S
T
A
G
67
B
L
O
T
68
A
D
E
N
69
S
S
T
S
70
M
E
T
S
© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0825 ( 24,031 )
Across
1
Classic name for a man's best friend : FIDO
5
___ of the Apostles : ACTS
9
Dogie, e.g. : CALF
13
Beginning, timewise : ASOF
14
___ latte : CHAI
15
Granny's "Darn it!" : OHFOO
16
Very dry, as Champagne : BRUT
17
You would usually buy a round one : TRIP
18
Cousin of a croc : GATOR
19
Chem class site : LAB
20
There's no reason to go on one : FOOLSERRAND
22
Tiny garden parasite : EELWORM
24
Club ___ : MED
25
Foxier : SLYER
26
Single-minded : OBSESSIVE
32
To the ___ degree : NTH
34
Place to put a cupped hand : EAR
35
More than one, in Madrid : DOS
36
Living it up ... or a hint to the six groups of circled letters : JUSTHAVINGABALL
42
Letters before a moniker : AKA
43
Archaeological site : DIG
44
Summer, in St.-√Čtienne : ETE
45
Makeshift fly swatter : NEWSPAPER
49
Soprano Fleming : RENEE
53
Not the sharing type : PIG
54
Academy Award category : EDITING
56
Art of punning : PARONOMASIA
61
Lead-in to Columbian : PRE
62
Lessen : ABATE
63
Black cat crossing one's path, e.g. : OMEN
64
Big steps for young companies, for short : IPOS
65
Change in Mexico : PESOS
66
Doe's partner : STAG
67
Rorschach image : BLOT
68
Mideast's Gulf of ___ : ADEN
69
Old Mach 2 fliers, for short : SSTS
70
Yankees' hometown rivals : METS
Down
1
Stories with morals : FABLES
2
Ben-Gurion's land : ISRAEL
3
To twice the degree : DOUBLY
4
Frequent, to a poet : OFT
5
Penn or Pitt : ACTOR
6
Old color print, informally : CHROMO
7
Follow around, as a detective might : TAIL
8
Doesn't gulp : SIPS
9
Leafy greens : CHARDS
10
Mennen shaving product : AFTA
11
Bird with a laughlike call : LOON
12
First assemblyman? : FORD
15
Fairy tale villains : OGRES
20
"... and so ___" : FORTH
21
Come out : EMERGE
23
Traveled : WENT
27
Common pantyhose shade : BEIGE
28
___ Jose : SAN
29
Women's suffragist ___ B. Wells : IDA
30
W-X-Y-Z for an encyclopedia, maybe: Abbr. : VOL
31
Frequent night school subj. : ESL
33
Tried : HADAGO
36
Dutch painter Vermeer : JAN
37
Hawaiian instrument, informally : UKE
38
Tool in a magician's act : SAW
39
Kind of access : VIP
40
High-ceilinged courtyards : ATRIA
41
Salad ingredient that's not green : BEET
46
Exact : SPOTON
47
Longs (for) : PINES
48
Move at a restaurant, say : RESEAT
50
Infant bottle topper : NIPPLE
51
Implant deeply : ENROOT
52
Gets rid of : EGESTS
55
Game show sound effects : DINGS
56
Dear old dad : PAPA
57
Not up : ABED
58
Demolish, British-style : RASE
59
Cushiony ground cover : MOSS
60
Qtys. : AMTS
64
Original ThinkPad manufacturer : IBM

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?