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New York Times, Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Author: John E. Bennett
Editor: Will Shortz
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44/9/20148/10/20171
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1.57040
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

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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 ... more
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 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 ... more
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 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
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V
31
E
32
N
T
33
H
34
E
A
R
35
D
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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
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P
A
P
E
48
R
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R
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N
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E
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E
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P
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G
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E
55
D
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T
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P
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A
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R
O
N
O
59
M
60
A
S
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A
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P
R
E
62
A
B
A
T
E
63
O
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N
64
I
P
O
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65
P
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66
S
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A
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B
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A
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M
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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0825 ( 24,031 )
Across Down
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
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.

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