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Tracy Bennett author page

6 puzzles by Tracy Bennett
with Constructor comments

TotalDebutLatest
67/21/201312/3/2023
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
20101101
ScrabblePGramFresh
1.57178%
Tracy Bennett
Puzzles constructed by Tracy Bennett by year

5 daily crosswords by Tracy Bennett

Sun 12/3/2023 Freestyling
WHATELSEISNEWCLONING
HELENAMONTANAAIRASIA
ESTROGENPATCHDRAGONS
TSARSLIENLLBEANGET
SERAPLANROBOTSDOHA
TEENMASERSTENON
OSWALDSATIREPRTALK
DOLIKEINNINGMEASLES
OLINETRYINGJUAN
WACKADOODLEHELLSCAPE
SLEEPAPNEAFORCEFIELD
EARDOCTORFIRSTDEGREE
WHENTONNESRAINN
RAMADANCRIKEYARRETS
ELITESMAULEDCLASSY
DONORTERMEDTAIL
COINSOGLADJILTSIVA
EGGBETSONHULUHURON
DOORONEREMINDMEAGAIN
ABLEISMFRONTENTRANCE
RIFFLESFANTASYSERIES
Thu 5/28/2020
RSVPGOBSVELTE
ATEALIVEMINION
NETSALESASNEAT
GETSMARTFRIENDS
EDEMAOMG
USEDUPOFTEN
AMESRAHSTROBE
DOCTORWHOCHEERS
OTHERSUVAESOS
SHORTSHONDA
HSIETHOS
THESOPRANOSLOST
HALIDEBADKARMA
AMAZONCLASSDAY
IMNEXTSAYTENS

These days most puzzle themes come to me in the liminal space between dreaming and waking. Other times I'll stumble on an idea while I'm in a rabbit hole researching a clue in editorial or fact-checking mode. I don't remember how this theme idea began. I do recall that the R&D phase was absorbing because it involved sorting, combining, and regrouping; tasks I find soothing whether I'm manipulating words, colored pencils, or socks.

I wanted to achieve formal as well as syntactical integrity in the theme, so I ultimately focused on TV shows that would fit a 2-word + 1-word pattern, though I considered other permutations along the way. The first version I submitted had four entries, two of which were deemed stronger than two others (alas, my Kung Fu Entourage will have to kick a$# in another theme). I did a second round of brainstorming, and we settled on three solid 15s in a 72-word grid.

It's great to be back in the NYT. I miss seeing my tribe at the ACPT!

POW Tue 9/20/2016
ACTSPLASMEDGY
SHIVRUCHEVALE
NINEUSUALIRON
ENGLISHTRIFLE
RASTASEDNAWAS
EMITDIGEST
MAYBAKEDALASKA
ALOTONOBAER
PLUMPUDDINGYDS
LESSONTIOS
EYEOHMSCLUMSY
NOPIECEOFCAKE
UNDONAOMIKRIS
SIMPGLOMSEIRE
EXESESTEERATS

Croquembouche, a traditional French wedding "cake," is an impressive assemblage of small cream-filled pastry balls that form a tiered, tapering tower which is then adorned with spun sugar and caramel. Baumkuchen is a delicate cake batter poured over a continuously spinning cylinder, with each filament-like layer allowed to brown and set before the next layer is poured. I'm bringing this up primarily because Croquembouche and Baumkuchen are delicious words to think about and say out loud. Secondarily, I'm getting ready to belabor an analogy. Here goes…

I'm still mastering simple but good recipes. I will confidently deviate from a recipe and try something new, but as the recipes get trickier my results have varied. I work diligently to learn and improve, I experiment when and where I can, and I study the masters every day. It is my dream to some day have the skill to make the finest Baumkuchen my friends have ever tasted.

In the meantime, I'm grateful to have a third puzzle appearing in the New York Times. For those who don't know me, I also make indie-flavored puzzles for BUST magazine, a bimonthly feminist publication, and I'm enjoying cooking up snack-sized puzzles for the Daily Celebrity Crossword.

Fri 10/3/2014
ARSONISTSDCCAB
NOTSOFASTEARLE
GOATRODEOALARM
LTDILLTRADEYOU
ERINDOSESBOSS
ROUENTESTYLEE
STMARKSUREHAND
MOHSPONE
DIMETAPPSTASIS
UNOCLAROERNST
NAPAICONSTADA
ALPHAFEMALERUS
WIESTBOJANGLES
ANTICATANYRATE
YESNOREGGAETON

When I constructed this puzzle a year ago, I was still a novice with grid work. As soon as I found a workable grid and started filling, I would feel locked into that choice. I remember the NE corner giving me problems, and not being flexible enough to start from scratch or move blocks around.

Today I might work to eliminate the clumping of proper nouns in the NE, in a grid that already has its fair share of propers. When I make a puzzle these days, I fill no fewer than 3 grids, usually more, using different block placements and rearranging entries. Then I'll evaluate and compare them to choose the grid that offers the best fill with fewest compromises for cluing. I'm pleased to get reacquainted with the variety of phrases I managed to work into this grid. The seed entries were GOAT RODEO and BOJANGLES.

Will kept an encouraging number of my favorite clues, in particular for 17A, 20A, 31A, 36A, 64A, 6D, and 36D. I especially admire the punny clues for 1A, 1D, and 55A that Will came up with. Some of my clues that didn't survive were not quite right or self-indulgently niche-oriented, like "Mighty foe for a gamer" for BOSS. Hey, my son helped me come up with that one!

It's a thrill to have my second NYT publication, and I sure hope to be back.

Sun 7/21/2013 ARTFUL THINKING
JINXPARCAGHASTHENS
AMOKAMORMEAGEREVIL
WADEINTHEWATTEAURITE
AXERIODEJAOMELETTE
PERCOCETTELSAWAIT
UNOSONBOARDVIE
TISTHECEZANNEPENGUIN
ANIONADAREDETANNE
HOTSPOTSTEEUPLUGAR
MASCBOODLESAGENT
ASSOCHELLODALICURES
SHAKAAQUAMANCITI
CALEBBUENAPOLANSKI
ALMASUINOBALLSPEN
PLANETSQUESERASEURAT
DYEMUSTSEEFINS
SHAMENAMEISEASYON
PAKISTANRAFTLIEKIA
ITERWITHFLYINGKAHLOS
THEOISRAELNOAHBENT
SAMSTHAMESGRESORSO

My favorite puzzles to solve are those with punny themes like those by Merl Reagle. The phrase FEET OF KLEE came to me, and though it didn't make the grid, it started the wheels turning. First I identified reasonably familiar names of artists that would lend themselves to punning. Eventually I pared the list down to only painters. The phrases played on had to be solidly in the language, especially as I'd be offering puns that were not quite sound-alikes (groaners). For a while I wanted only musical phrases, but there weren't enough for a Sunday grid.

The original cluing scheme featured a reference to the artist's period or style while giving a nod to the original sense of the underlying phrase. These clues weren't consistently clever — some were good, some were strained — and they weren't unified as a set. Will reworked the clues, making them more coherent stylistically and more accessible to solvers unfamiliar with the periods/styles of the artists.

My mentor, Vic Fleming, found a discouraging number of weak entries in the first fill I came up with; I reconfigured the entries and moved blocks until I got better fill. Will tweaked the opening NW corner, which happily provided the letters needed for a pangram. This was my debut puzzle for the Times. I studied every editorial change like it was a koan. I aim to make increasingly refined puzzles that are reliably well-conceived and well-clued. Still learning.

1 Variety puzzle by Tracy Bennett

Sun 7/9/2023
ALPSRAPIDPALE
TOETHELINELOAM
SCREENTESTOLDE
TAKEROOTOUTMAN
ATILTIRONHAND
KENZEENAPOISE
EDGEMISSPELLED
PAILHONE
SPLITTIMESSPOT
PEACESASESAPR
INVEIGHSPALEO
TRENTESIBILANT
TORTSTATUETTES
ESNETIGERSHARK
DEEREXERTOLAY
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