Old color print informally / TUE 8-25-15 / Granny's darn it / Old Mach 2 fliers for short / High-ceilinged courtyards / Demolish British style

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Constructor: John E. Bennett

Relative difficulty: Tuesdayish

THEME: JUST HAVING A BALL (36A: Living it up ... or a hint to the six groups of circled letters) — circled squares spell out words that can precede BALL in a familiar phase / word

Theme answers:
  • SOUR 
  • HAIR 
  • FOOT 
  • BASE 
  • MEAT 
  • POOL
Word of the Day: PARONOMASIA (56A: Art of punning) —

noun, Rhetoric
the use of a word in different senses or the use of words similar in sound to achieve a specific effect, as humor or a dual meaning; punning.
a pun. (dictionary.com)
• • •

This should've been rejected on the basis of the revealer alone. The equivalent of [Living it up] is HAVING A BALL. The JUST is absurdly gratuitous. It doesn't fit the clue. It's a qualifier that is nowhere indicated in the clue, and it is *only* here because this grid would've been way way harder to pull off if the appropriate, JUST-less phrase, had been simply centered in the grid (for reasons having to do with where black squares would've had to go). At least I assume this is the reason. Because otherwise Why On God's Green Earth is your revealer not the obvious, indisputable best choice: HAVING A BALL? If you can't do something right, don't do it at all. To be clear, and to repeat. This should've been sent back with a note indicating that it's a no-go without the proper central answer / revealer. I mean, the puzzle is just D.O.A. as is.

[Chromeo > CHROMO (???)]

But the fill is a problem too. Weak all over, except for one preposterous moment where it's not weak but also not even close to Tuesday-level. PARONOMASIA is some kind of weird showing off that is totally out of tune with the general caliber / tenor / fill quality of this this puzzle. I hope to god that there isn't some implication that the connection between the revealer and the little word "balls" is an example of this phenomenon, because a. that stretches credulity, and b. that means FOOL'S ERRAND would also be thematic ... hmmm. Wait ... nah. Could the puzzle be so meta, so self-aware, that it actually knows it's got major issues, and is trying to tell us as much? That would be some pretty Next Level stuff. Also, EELWORM, wtf? That is desperation fill. You can't make up for a snoozefest with random jolts of obscurity like EELWORM and PARONOMASIA. Well, you can, but it's pretty sadistic. See also "OH FOO" (wtf x 1000).

Ultimately, this looks like a potentially promising idea that got wrecked on execution. I JUST can't get over the JUST.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Music man 12:25 AM  

I agree whole heartedly. Plus, the little jumbles aren't even balls, they're squares. I'm assuming (just a guess) that the idea started out with the visual of all these four-letter balls being (consistently, might I add) arranged in little clusters that could in some way, though terribly misconstrued, interpreted as balls. Unfortunately, due to the laws of...some kind of math...or something...but for the sake of...something, I'll call "geometry," they can't be balls. Instead they are squares. Then, a revealer was desperately searched for, and the only one that "worked" was the one chosen. I'm JUST "meh'ing" the cALL made on this theme.
What stands out the most for me here is your quote @rex: "if you can't do something right, don't do it at all."


I'll repeat.



Reminds me of the somewhat recent QWERTY theme where the Q was mysteriously absent. You don't need to hopped up on the Q to miss something that blatant.

All in all (a stupid phrase albeit), this was one of my shortest Tuesday times. So, whenever I can finish an early week puzzle, I'm happy (the early week short fill/crosswordese gets me [amost] every time).

I'm really only looking forward to the possibility of a few Merl back-puzzles. And perhaps a tribute write-up... :)

jae 12:32 AM  

Tough Tues. for me.  

hog before PIG, EraseS before EGESTS and DOUBLe before LY didn't help.  

Plus EELWORM and PARO...were WOEs.   

I agree with @Rex on JUST. 

Liked it more than @Rex did, but not a whole lot more.

chefwen 12:36 AM  

I don't know, I thought it was kind of cute. I don't get too ENROOTED in the analysis of the puzzle, pretty much a let's just enjoy the moment. Being a Crazy Cat Lady, HAIR ball made me laugh and wince at the same time. Had my share of those.

Announced to Jon that I was finished with my copy, but was sure I had an error at 56A, not being able to find it I just let it go, only to find out that PARONOMASIA was correct. What? Have never heard or seen that word before, I wouldn't have liked that on a Saturday. Not even sure how to pronounce it correctly. Other than that, loved it, Jon hated it.

dmw 12:39 AM  

For once I got theme, and it actually helped me Often, it goes over my head, and I have to read Rex to know what it was.

Usual Tuesday time. Got a little hung up on "PARONOMASIA," new to me. Liked the clue for NEWSPAPER!

Fun puzzle, thanks Mr. Bennett.

Anonymous 1:16 AM  

Another just horrible (and I mean horrible) puzzle; unforgivably bad and unforgivably wrong for a Tuesday. More and more, Shortz seems to be actively mocking his customers. This was an abomination.

Anonymous 1:28 AM  

Hey Rex. Paronomasia is the enroot of all evil. I'm just saying...

Funny how enroot and editing crossed. And what is a pool ball anyway?


George Barany 3:42 AM  

Fascinating review by @Rex ... and I'm glad to have read it because that spares me from repeating several obvious observations about the concept and implementation. My points of departure will be @John Bennett's own remarks, reported over at @Jeff Chen's and @Jim Horne's indispensable xwordinfo.com, along with that resource's computer-generated analysis of both today's Tuesday puzzle and of the only other New York Times puzzle by this same constructor, one that appeared on a Wednesday 16 months earlier.

* Chronologically, today's puzzle was the first one accepted. At the time it was created, @John Bennett was working with a "skimpy database" to go with whatever construction software he had recently acquired (after giving up on doing everything manually).

* Only two absolute debut words: the (@Rex-criticized reveal) JUST_HAVING_A_BALL, and the (where did that come from?) OH_FOO. One @Maleska-era word, CHROMO (inferable), and three words that were allowed by @Eugene Maleska but actually debuted when @Margaret Farrar was the editor: FOOLS_ERRAND, EELWORM, and PARONOMASIA.

* Both this puzzle, and the one created later but published earlier, feature a grid-spanning reveal in the center, and six shaded/circled 2x2 squares connecting to a theme [today: "adjective-ball"; earlier: "adjective-box"]. The two grids are superimposable, except for the positions of two cheater squares per each grid [the number of blocks, 40, is two higher than the usual maximum, though that rule is often ignored when there is a good reason to do so].

* @Jim Horne has created something called "freshness factor" that usually scales monotonically with the day of the week. The "freshness factor" today is very close to the Thursday average, while that of the earlier-published puzzle was much lower than even the Monday average. Both 78-word puzzles (the Monday maximum) have average word lengths shorter than Monday, and number of open squares is less than Monday as well. The Scrabble average of today's puzzle is rather average, though. Apologies for the monkishness of the analysis, but many constructors find this to be a highly useful guide to gauging (and ultimately improving) their work.

Loren Muse Smith 4:39 AM  

For some reason, thinking The Gong Show maybe, I had "dongs" instead of DINGS, so then "paronomasoa," which looks just a tiny bit odder than PARONOMASIA. So I finished, but I thought this and FOOLS ERRAND had to do with the theme and that I was not getting something. The JUST did throw me; it seems more in the language if the speaker is being sarcastic.

Hey! Thanks for cleaning up FIDO's dog foo. That new pooper scooper is fun to use, isn't it?
Oh yeah. I'm just having a ball.

RESEAT - Here's the deal about being a hostess in a restaurant. You lead the people to their carefully chosen table based on being sure not to slam any one waiter with too many new people all at once. You gesture and say, "Here we are." The people Almost Always immediately look around and ask for a different table. You have to oblige them with a smile. They settle in. Shortly two waiters come and yell at you – the one who's now screwed because he now has too many people waiting to order after asking a gazillion Is This Fried? questions and the one who doesn't have enough tables and won't make enough to pay his rent. On the way out, the RESEATed people complain that the service was slow. It's a thankless, no-win job. Because of my experience, whenever any person seats me anywhere – next to the kitchen, by the bathroom, at a table the size of a cookie sheet – I smile hugely and act delighted with my spot. Thank you soo much. This is perrrrfect. Honestly, I think I'd rather dress in a PIG suit and push menus at passersby outside a bbq joint than seat people inside. RESEAT people, actually.

And I won't even talk about the people who RESEAT themselves without telling anyone.

As a person who regularly works puzzles constructed by paronomasiacs, I can't believe I've never, ever laid eyes on this word. So if your mind doesn't process puns, I guess you have paronomasia aphasia. Cool.

Rex's points are all valid, but I like circles and liked this more than he did.

Anonymous 6:50 AM  

Here it is 6:45AM Tuesday morning and no one has left a comment yet. You all must be as stuned as I am by this terrible puzzle.

RAD2626 7:13 AM  

Big difference between yesterday and today. For me, yesterday was a perfect early week puzzle. Not overly easy and ( knowing some disagree) I thought the theme was clever, different and well executed. And I did not wince at any of the fill at all.

Today is just the opposite. Besides getting circles two days in a row, I thought he theme was trite and the fill wildly inconsistent. I do not disagree with any of Rex's comments. To engage in a bit of paranomasia, Lynn's puzzle ran circles around today's effort.

chefbea 7:54 AM  

Any puzzle with BEET in it has to be a good one. I love puns..post one on Facebook every day but I have never heard the word paronomasia!!!! Also never heard the term Fool's errand!!
Fun puzzle but a little tough for a Tuesday.

Glimmerglass 7:54 AM  

I agree with all the objections @Rex and the early bloggers make about this puzzle. Yesterday's puzzle was a much better early-week puzzle, with a more clever circles trick. I still find the vitriol off-putting. Hey, it's just a newspaper passtime -- inferior to it's peers, perhaps, but not a horrifying affront to some sacred tradition.

NCA President 7:55 AM  

I agree with Rex...JUST: just no.

I take small issue with POOL balls...are we talking about billiard balls here? Or are there balls that you play with in a pool? Either way, I've not heard of "pool balls."

PARONOMASIA...heh. I guess that means I have PARONOMASIAphobia...since I hate puns. Good to know what to call it from now on. This is Saturday fill, here.

Does anyone on the planet who has a dog named FIDO? That is, naming dogs FIDO ironically don't count, btw.

OHFOO...my ex's mother (ex-mother-in-law) says this. She also says OHpOO...either way it looks weird in print.

There were a lot of clues I didn't even read because I filled in so many of the crosses and never looked back. Pretty easy Tuesday...paronomasia notwithstanding.

Lewis 8:01 AM  

I like that the anagrammed CATS is right on top of the HAIRball.

Talk about different reactions -- When I saw the JUST I smiled because I thought it gave HAVINGABALL a bouncy feel (so to speak), and it is a phrase I've heard before, so I liked it.

A number of words people don't use: EGESTS, ENROOT, ABED. And my grandma never said OHFOO. Some words I never heard of: EELWORM, PARONOMASIA. Is a POOLBALL something you play with in the swimming pool? Was it meant to mean a billiard ball? I found some good resistance in the puzzle from the cluing, and that resistance, if it's fair, and it is here, is the beautiful tussle I PINE for in solving.

joho 8:05 AM  

I really liked how Mr. Bennett managed to juggle six different and very recognizable balls in the grid. I think it would have been a better visual payoff if instead of four little circles there had just been one circle around each four letter BALL.

I liked learning PARONOMASIA. It would have been cool if the act of punning not only referred to JUSTHAVINGABALL but also to 20A, maybe change it to FOOLINAROUND?

TaupE before BEIGE, hoG before PIG and OHpOO before OHFOO.

I liked WENT/FORTH next to each other and opposite EMERGE.

In the end I got a KICK (arrange letters in a circle) out of it! Thank you, J.E.B.!

Rex Porker 8:05 AM  

The best use for this NEWSPAPER puzzle would be as a flyswatter.

Jamie C 8:08 AM  

Thanks Rex. Now I'll have that EELWORM of a Foo Fighters song in my head all day.

Z 8:11 AM  


@LMS - I've never even considered being reseated unless it's an indoor v patio situation. I assume the host knows what she is doing.

@Anon/Zippy - Those big inflatable things kids knock around the pool, obviously. 😇

Hey, no complaints about my riddle. Makes as much sense as having PARONOMASIA in a Tuesday puzzle.

Howard Flax 8:16 AM  

I really enjoyed reading the review more than the puzzle!

AliasZ 8:21 AM  

I admit, I am not just a gigolo, I am also a paronomasiac. On that rare occasion when I get a touch of insomnia, I engage in some PARONOMASIA, or think about Anastasia. You should try it. It works wonders. It beats thinking about CHROMO, or an EELWORM as it EGESTS something it ingested. Paronomasia is also helpful in preventing neoplasia in the brain. If I read a NEWSPAPER or run a FOOL'S ERRAND instead, I just get more upset ENROOT and less likely to fall asleep. Paronomasia is the ticket. Paronomasia is widely practiced in Melanesia and Transcaucasia. That's how people entertain themselves and each other. Not doing anything illegal or immoral or unhealthy, just having a ball. There's nothing wrong with that.

Why do we have six balls in this puzzle? Four would have been enough to get to first base.

Now I HADAGO. Happy punning.

pmdm 8:28 AM  

I could not disagree more with the write-up and most of the comments posted so far.

First, I should say to Music Man that before criticizing the appearance of a puzzle, make sure you look at the newspaper version of the puzzle. The jumbles are not squares, they are balls in the paper. The on-line version is too often a compromised rendering of what the puzzle really looks like.

Jeff Chen likes it when a puzzle challenges him to think (see Wordplay). So do I. I also like it when it introduces me to unfamiliar words, especially earlier in the week. The unfamiliar words made the puzzle tougher than normal for a Tuesday, perhaps, but in the end just as solvable as other Tuesday puzzles.

Considering the restrictions due to the theme answers (six balls and the revealer), I thought the entries avoided the really horrible stuff you often get thrown at you.

Question via telephone to someone on a vacation: "How are you doing?" Answer: "I'm just having a ball." I've heard this expression many times. Very many. Perhaps it's a regionalism. I don't know, but JUST seems perfectly fine to me in the revealer entry.

mathgent 8:42 AM  

I've heard people say JUSTHAVINGA BALL, but of course these were people of my vintage.

I liked the puzzle more than the average Tuesday. I liked being introduced to PARONOMASIA and FOOLSERRAND was fresh. Twenty three-letter threes is close to too many.

Janice Greer 8:42 AM  

From the New York Times obituary of Merl Reagle

An earlier version of this article misstated, at one point, the surname of the crossword puzzle editor of The New York Times. As the article correctly noted elsewhere, he is Will Shortz, not Short.

I guess Merl had the last laugh.

evil doug 8:57 AM  

Pool balls....

George: Elaine! Get in here! (She enters) Do women know about shrinkage?

Elaine: What do you mean, like laundry?

George: No....

Jerry: Like when a man goes swimming... afterwards...?

Elaine: It shrinks?

Jerry: Like a frightened turtle!

Elaine: Why does it shrink?

George: It just does.

Elaine: I don't know how you guys walk around with those things.

jberg 9:02 AM  

As @pmdm just pointed out, in the paper there is one big circle across all 4 squares of each theme answer, so that it actually looks like a ball. This did make it marginally better, for me-- and I guess I, too, have heard JUST HAVING A BALL as a lively statement.

I'll ask for a RESEAT if the table wobbles so much they can't fix it, or we are right in the path of a blast of icy air from the AC, or the people at the next table are so loud that we can't hear each other -- otherwise, no. However, I've often wondered why restaurants don't simply assign waiters to people, rather than to tables -- i.e., you switch tables but keep the same waiter. Or pool tips. Or pay decently. But that's another topic.

I liked EELWORMS as a little crossword joke, but only on condition that we never see it again!

HADAGO seems to be becoming standard, on the other hand. Sounds like an Indian tribe, doesn't it.

@NCA and others, they're billiard balls if you call the game you are playing 'pocket billiards.' I play pool, and use POOL balls when I do.

evil doug 9:14 AM  

Reseating: I refuse to be a pawn in your little game, Loren.

I want to have a peaceful conversation with my wife, and sitting next to the bussing station, or the swinging door into a noisy kitchen, won't hack it. I want to savor the flavor of my filet, and that's just not happening next to the men's restroom. So I'll be polite about it, but I'll ask for that more satisfactory booth over yonder. Can't be done? See you later....

Here's an idea: Let the unbusy waitress take the busy waiter's table for my party, and revert back later when everybody has an equal share of work. What's the deal on this inflexible nature of waitstaff assignments? This isn't the Berlin Wall separating the restaurant into verboten sectors....

JC66 9:15 AM  

Per Mr. Google

Having a ball - 252,000,000 hits, JUST HAVING A BALL - 217,000,000 hits.

To me the difference isn't worth the rant.

POOL BALL - 149,000,000 HITS, billiard ball 1,350,000.

No contest.

Still, I still wasn'r crazy about this puzzle.

oldbizmark 9:23 AM  

back to back tuesday DNFs after a strong Thursday to Sunday. Couldn't get the upper center and right of the puzzle. Had CROW then COOT for LOON. Could not get FORD or OHFOO (had tried OHFOg and OHFOe). Got hung up on Penn/Pitt thinking of the historical figures and the universities not modern day actors. Didn't know ACTS of the apostles. It was just a mess up there. Found the rest of the puzzle slow, too. Not in sync with this Bennett character and it was not a fun puzzle for me.

Dshawmaine 9:23 AM  

Thought this was an okay puzzle, though I agree on the awkwardness of JUST. I would have liked WEREHAVINGABALL better, but then you've got WENE in 23d and that's all kinds of ugly.
I enjoy the review and comments on this post - they always give me new insights into the art. Does anyone else ever experience trouble with the blog loading on iPad? Today it just kept blinking at me so I was unable to finish reading. I think it has something to do with one of the hyperlinked videos Rex sometimes includes, but previously when this happened, I asked him on twitter and he was unaware of any issues. Just wondering if it's time to turn in the old iPad2.
Finally, I need to disagree with @Loren Muse Smith (a rare occasion!), on RESEATing in restaurants. One of my pet peeves is going into an eatery that is half full, with several nice window seats, and being taken to a cramped dark area just because it is that section's "turn." How hard is it to assign tables in order of arrival? Makes no sense to me, especially in smallish places. It's not like they have trek across the Sahara. But I'm just a customer, what do I know.
Oops, sorry to rant!

Anonymous 9:23 AM  

"Having a ball" might appear in a dictionary of American idioms. "Just having a ball" wouldn't. It's beside the point that the words may have been uttered.

Leapfinger 9:31 AM  

@Rex, I don't see a single thing wrong with that. To my EAR, "We're JUST HAVING A BALL" rolls trippingly off the tongue. Especially after yesterday --- where's the JUSTICE?

Of course, I had my own problems with the themery. When I had the top section filled in and looked at those circled tetrads -- SOUR, HAIR, FOOT -- all that came to mind was the guys' locker-room, overdue gym socks et alia. With everything filled in, I came to think that a typo or editing error got incorporated somewhere along the way. I'm pretty convinced that WENT was supposed to be WENS, so the reveal would be JUS' SHAVING A BALL. Playing with square balls is just a FOOLS_ERRAND.

The uneven fill worried me a little: 'Et tu, BRUT' and a tricked-out EEL just BEET me up (probably a nematode in disguise). Going from EXHAUSTIVE to OBSESSIVE. LOONy to coop up a CALF with a GATOR.

otoh, I think Granny was just cutting short an inadvertent 'OH, FUBAR!', and PARONOMASIA made me go "Hot DIG ETE!!". Not only a $10 word, but a clue that reads "Art of punning". Vindication is mine.

I wonder whether @mathgent noticed the shoutout to Paul EAR_DOS, the Hungarian mathematician. Am betting he remembers the documentary "NTH is a Number".

Must run now; have some FOOL'S ERRANDs of my own. Thanks, JEB, that was a close shave.

Roo Monster 9:35 AM  

Hey All !
Get it? JUST BALL. Ok, ok, I know it's JUST HAVING A BALL, but close enough! :-)

No problems with this theme. I believe on a puz such as this, the constructor isn't going for a particular day, just submitting it and watching where Will puts it.

Also find it odd the long Acrosses weren't part of the theme. ENROOT an odd word. And still trying to figure out what CHARDS are!

Fill is surprisingly good, considering some of the restraints. There's a SR, FT, and MT that had to be dealt with, and all ended up being normal words. 19 threes, but the way they're arranged, seem like more for some reason. Neat to see NEWSPAPER EDITING. Wanted OHFOr, and writeover at deer->STud->STAG.

Overall, I thought it was good. Not the best ever puz, but hey, it's Tuesday, typically not the best day for a puz. It was like JUST HAVING A BALL! :-P


Bark 9:39 AM  

I agree with @pmdm — the “just” before “having a ball” is certainly a common and perfectly reasonable idiomatic expression. And idiomatic expressions are certainly welcome in crosswords. The phrase also has some interesting understated adverbial weirdness about it: We say “just” which seems to diminish the idea (of “having a ball”), but the intended effect of the word “just” is to do the opposite of diminish and give the idea a verbal boost. Also the “just” in the answer seems to contain a small pun intended only for crossword solvers: It suggests that the words in the circles need not necesarilly be interpreted as anything beyond than that they just have the word “ball” following them.

Carola 9:39 AM  

I'm with @pmdm 6:28 - I had fun with this - liked the visual of the 6 BALLs, thought the reveal was JUST fine, really like FOOLS ERRAND, OBSESSIVE, NEWSPAPER EDITING and the SLY way of sneaking a new form of EEL into the puzzle.

My kvetch: FOOTBALLS aren't round. Not sure of the shape of a HAIRBALL, having been spared that sight so far.

@loren - My husband and I are occasional self-RESEATers. Nor OFT, but sometimes - say, when seated beneath a blasting air-conditioning duct or next to a table of PARONOMASIANs (just kidding about that part). Usually we at least ask.

Airymom 9:48 AM  

Just forget about this puzzle and hope for a better one tomorrow.

@Loren Muse Smith---I was a waitress during college and "get" what you're writing about re-seating. But whoever designs restaurants should do a better job. There is an Outback steakhouse near me and I will not sit at either of the two booths adjacent the restrooms. In some restaurants, there is a hallway leading to the rest rooms, maybe even a door leading into this hallway. At this Outback, the two restroom doors are just two steps away from the back booths. One time we sat at the booth, trying to enjoy our meal and folks were constantly walking past to use the rest room. Every minute the door opened and the automatic scent machine let out a whiff of an unpleasantly sweet scent. Then, some one had a "serious" visit in the rest room and the door opened and we just wanted to go home. But, I am pro-active and respectful of the wait staff. Now when we get there, I tell the hostess that I want to sit on the left side of the restaurant and am willing to wait extra time. I've never had a problem and the hostess has never questioned it. I also think it helps that I always leave an excellent tip.

I always enjoy your comments.

Ludyjynn 9:52 AM  

Am I the only one who will admit to screwing up the NE corner? Trust me, when I came here and got the answers from Rex, the words that came out of my mouth were NOT "OH FOO"!

I think better EDITING would have made this a much better Tuesday puzzle. And that's not sour grapes due to a rare early week DNF.

Anonymous 9:56 AM  

I don't often agree with all of Rex's comments but in this case I do. In addition, in my 50+ years as a photographer I have never heard of CHROMO. They are CHROMES as in Kodachrome. Yuck!

Steve M 10:00 AM  

Rip Merl Reagle

cwf 10:01 AM  

Got the revealer before having any "balls" filled in and with only JU__________A__ and immediately thought, "@Rex is going to hate that 'JUST' part."

OH,FOO, this was just joyless. (Also agree with @NCA President re: "pool ball." Not a thing.)

Joseph Michael 10:09 AM  

Not as good as yesterday's puzzle, but not all that bad. I'm okay with JUST in the revealer and PARONOMASIA made up for a lot. Great word!

@lms, thanks for the RESEATing story. It will make me think twice the next time I'm at a restaurant and not happy with my table.

Nancy 10:12 AM  

I thought this was an unusually enjoyable Tuesday and don't understand the comments so far. Yesterday, I was just writing in letters by rote, while my mind -- which wasn't much needed -- was elsewhere. Today, I actually had to think. Although it was Tuesday, I had several writeovers -- CHROME before CHROMO; DOUBLE before DOUBLY; HOG before PIG; and OH BOO before OH FOO. (My grandmother didn't say either, if truth be told.) The little round circles, which I usually hate, came in handy here, especially on OH FOO. And what's not to like about learning a new word like PARANOMASIA early in the week? Nice job.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:14 AM  

Fine puzzle to me. I have not yet received my copy of The Academy of Proper English Compendium of Acceptable Phrases, so "JUST HAVING A BALL" sounds perfectly good.

HOG before PIG.

And @pmdm beat me to it, but I was going to say, please, people, open your New York Times to page C3 and you will see that there is indeed something new: large circles encompassing four squares each for each theme answer.

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

Wow. A LOT of lousy fill and bad cluing for a Tuesday. Meh.

aging soprano 10:31 AM  

Either a ball you play pool with, or the inflatable kind you take to the swimming pool.

Leapfinger 10:34 AM  

@Z, eelworms don't have balls. And it isn't because so few of them know how to dance.

@AliasZ, you don't let very much phasia, do you? [I was doing fine till I got to ENROOT.] Odd thing that, about walking with four balls. Anyway, you got a hit, a most palpable hit.

Anyone who ever came across @Howie, the Pastor Munster from Quincy IL, would be familiar with PARONOMASIA. He is of the happy breed for whom wordplay is as natural as breathing. TTTT, I can't fathom people who cheerfully proclaim falling in the "indifferent to abhorrent" range and view it as punishment. It's like boasting about having no incisors: you can still eat, but you've lost a lot of bite.

Guess I missed the morning cut; perhaps the sluices will open around lunchtime.

Evan 10:38 AM  


Per Mr. Google:

"Having a ball" in quotes: 19 million hits. Top hits include The Free Dictionary and Thesaurus.com.
"Just having a ball" in quotes: 176,000 hits.

Hartley70 10:48 AM  

Rats! Now I'm going to feel guilty the next time I consider asking the restaurant hostess for a different table. Yes, I suppose I am that customer. I was a carefree happy complainer until today. Perhaps PARONOMASIA amnesia will set in and I'll forget I was ever here today. One can but dream.

@Joho, I am right with you on "foolinaround". I like your post today.

PARONOMASIA does not belong in this puzzle. Throw it into a Saturday if you must, but roll it on out of here on a Tuesday. Little square balls didn't bother me, nor did the word JUST. I guess I'll JUST save my bitchin' for that restaurant hostess!

In the immortal words of Stew:
Rule 1: The customer is always right
Rule 2: if the customer is ever wrong, reread Rule 1

Nancy 10:50 AM  

@lms -- I feel your pain, but I have never felt closer in spirit to @Evil Doug than I do right now. And to @airymom, too. I am a serial self-RE-SEATER and make no apologies for that fact. Mostly, it happens in unfamiliar restaurants, since when I know a place well, I am very specific about where I'd like to be seated when I make the reservation. A bad table -- too cold, too hot, too much in the servers' path, too near kiddies (!) and mostly too noisy -- can ruin even the best meal. I adore good food, but for me, any restaurant experience is always more about the ambience than the meal. And if a restaurant is so noisy that I can't hear what you're saying or have to scream to make myself heard and I leave with a headache and incipient laryngitis, I would sooner eat tuna fish directly out of a can in my quiet apartment, I really would!

Z 10:56 AM  

@LMS - See what you started. I have a niece who is an interior designer, mostly for public spaces like schools and such. Things like @Airymom's Outback drive her nuts. It really is just a matter of poor design. Same with @Evil's desire to talk with his wife. The current trend to have an industrial feel results in very echoey dining rooms. I can hear all about the guy's prostate surgery four tables over but my wife has to yell for me to hear her. Fortunately, there is such a wealth of good local eateries in Detroit that we rarely eat in a chain. The hosts tend to offer choices in these restaurants. I can't think of one with the restroom issue. The noise issue, however, is pretty common.

Speaking of pool balls...

chefbea 11:01 AM  

Heard that there is an article about Merle's passing in our newspaper the Wilmington Star News. Going to check it out now

Anonymous 11:08 AM  

Pocket pool definitely involves balls. But POOLBALL? A Google search gets you this: http://www.poolball.eu/index.php/en What is PoolBall®?

"What is PoolBall®? Quite easy... the latest invention in sports!
PoolBall® is a new combination of pool and soccer. It's the perfect combination between ball handling, cleverness and fun."

Maybe Will Shortz is just ahead of us.

Ellen S 11:37 AM  

I think @AliasZ has the best take on ENROOT - making it a word like inflammable, that should mean its opposite. ENROOT to posting this comment, I was reminded of @Dshawmaine's problem loading the blog on an iPad2. I have an iPad2 and no problem with the blog. Maybe it's your browser. I'm using Dolphin for the blog and comments (I just leave it open to @Rex's page and a tab for Xwordinfo; I use Safari for everything else). Anyway, the blog loads fine regardless of videos. Or it may be a storage issue. I was going to say I have plenty because I don't have any videos stored, but I just looked and I have only 2.3 GB available, 10.2 used.

Earlier, I became ENROOTed in a search for the difference between Pool, Billiards, Snooker etc. Snooker seems to be the only cue sport with a generally accepted meaning, table size, and rules. The others can be anything depending on where you are. Pool always has pockets. Billiards can be pocket billiards (pool) or carom. Table sizes vary. Rules vary. Games vary. Best of all, nobody in the sport seems to be fussing about the use of "pool ball", as it is all over the interwebs in articles on sport sites -- and not articles condemning the use of the phrase, but arguing the merits of different brands of "pool balls" for instance.

EELWORMS. Just when I thought things couldn't get worse.

old timer 11:54 AM  

I did not get the ball trick. Therefore I thought the puzzle was stupid. Now I understand there are footballs and (gack!) hairballs so I like it JUST a little better, but only JUST because I'm with Rex, the JUST does not belong. Nor does PARONONONOMASIA or whatever it is.

Nor, IMHO, OH FOO. Never heard that in my life. "shoot", sure. "Oh Poo" yes. I even thought of "pshaw".

Oh well, tomorrow is another day and sure to be a better day puzzlewise.

r.alphbunker 12:00 PM  

My solution

I loved the clue {First assembly man?} FORD referring to Henry Ford and not to a politician.

But then getting into the spirit of crossword criticism I had the thought "Was he really the inventor of the assembly line?" Googling produce a lot of evidence that he was not.

I particularly liked this description of an early assembly line.
"The Venetian Arsenal, dating to about 1104, operated similar to a production line. Ships moved down a canal and were fitted by the various shops they passed. At the peak of its efficiency in the early 16th century, the Venetian Arsenal employed some 16,000 people who could apparently produce nearly one ship each day, and could fit out, arm, and provision a newly built galley with standardized parts on an assembly-line basis. Although the Venice Arsenal lasted until the early Industrial Revolution, production line methods did not become common even then."

How am I doing?

Abu Owlfish 12:11 PM  

"Chromo" is short for chromolithograph. It has zilch to do with kodak.

Steve J 12:32 PM  

I'm surprised that there are several who don't know pool ball. It must be regional. I grew up in Minnesota, and I grew up playing pool - with pool balls - not billiards or billiard balls.

Looking at Google (@JC66: you have to search in Google with quotes around a phrase to get valid results: just having a ball will give you all pages where those three words appear anywhere on the page, while "just having a ball" gives you only pages where those words appear together as a single phrase): 447k results for pool ball, 437k for billiard ball. (As far as having a ball vs just having a ball, it's no contest: 19.3 million for the former and only 175k when adding just).

As far as the puzzle: meh. Didn't hate it, didn't love it. It fit with the recent pattern of mostly bland Tuesday puzzles.

Steve J 12:45 PM  

@Nancy: It's totally understandable to want to sit in a comfortable spot, but outside something like a diner, it's incredibly inconsiderate to RESEAT yourself. Always check with the staff. Unless it's a packed house, they'll usually accommodate you. And you won't have surly staff working your table. Because no matter what, you've disrupted the flow of the front-of-house staff, and they're not likely to be forgiving. I'd never do anything bad to someone who plopped themselves into my section. But I wasn't particularly willing to go out of my way for them, either, as they just made my day harder in some way.

Masked and Anonymous 1:00 PM  

First things first. JUSTHAVINGABALL clearly upsets @009 to the point of distraction.
Eazy-e fix: HAVEALOTOFBALLS. Still 15-long, still a cool revealer.

This TuesPuz was not one of my faves. And not just cuz it had only the two U's. Or cuz no mention of the giant red U-balls -- which I know secretly has @009 even more upset. No my personal discomfort arises from the following …


1. There ain't a lot of theme material here. Yer half-dozen balls and a revealer. This should set the grid up like a sittin duck for some really great auxiliary fillins. But, mixed rseutls …
[Short pause, while I make the six autocorrect uncorrections in this bullet.]

2. There is a bouquet of palpable desperation, everywhere. Not a bad thing, in and of and up to itself. But there is "desperate cool" and "desperate uncool" fillin categories, in our Universe -- not unlike the states of matter and antimatter that make Captain Kirk's job possible.

3. We really need that Crossword Hall of Fame to be built soon. I hear they are bulldozin a sizable lot in Cleveland, as we speak. All this new activity is primarily thanx to today's appearance of the marvelous entries OHFOO, PARONOMASIA, HADAGO and EELWORM. There is an alcove already reserved in the C.H.O.F. with their names chiseled in granite, right beside PEWIT and EYEPIT. The name above the alcove: "Superbly Desperate Fill". Well done and congrats, Mr. Bennett. (My grandma on pappy's side would not of hesitated to extend that OH FOO… a lil further, tho.)

4. There will be another sorta alcove, out back of the C.H.O.F. It's name is etched in cardboard: "(Just) Knee-bucklingly Desperate Fill". This is the home for almost anything long that starts with RE- or UN- and yet also ends with -ER, -ED, or -S. Plural weejects (AMTS. SSTS. IPOS.) are also most welcome, here. So, too, I believe, will be generous recognition for: ENROOT/EGESTS and ABED/RASE (combo awards). And CHROMO.

fave weeject: NTH. fave weeject stack: IDA/VOL/ESL.
fave fillins other than in item #3 above: FOOLSERRAND. The whole NW corner. NIPPLE. NEWSPAPER. OBSESSIVE. SPOTON.

Lotta fun and exciting sport, for which I will ever be thankful to the Shortzmeister.

"Learn To Fly" Fighters … ?




** gruntz **

Anonymous 1:03 PM  

For some reason I thought of Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies at 15A, but I don't remember her saying "Oh, foo". I recall Ralphie from A Christmas Story starting to say something similar.

Merle 1:56 PM  

Seems as if I rarely agree with Rex. I got a kick out of the puzzle. I thought paronomasia was a fine word, a word crossword puzzlers might appreciate. Oh foo was cute, and, spot on at that. Nothing wrong with eelworm -- basically a gimme, but nothing wrong with a gimme every now and then. Fool's errand clue and answer was amusing.

Okay, so it's "Tuesday-ish". WTF, it's Tuesday. So I would save my WTF x 1000 for a totally different puzzle.

Rex just can't get over the just. Oh foo, Rex, that's just the way the cookie crumbles.

Merle 2:09 PM  

Re reseating. Patrons enter a restaurant and expect a pleasant experience. An uncomfortable location does not make for a pleasant experience. Reminder -- patrons pay. Patrons pay for the experience of dining in a restaurant. They do not pay for the privilege of making the host job easier for the host. The host is supposed to make the experience pleasant for the patron. Duh. Ideally, the patron should be able to refuse a table shown before sitting down, but sometimes a patron may not recognize what is unpleasant about a seat until after sitting. Traffic patterns, proximity to a bussing station, proximity to a kitchen swinging door, proximity to toilets (rest rooms? c'mon, they are toilets!), make for an unpleasant experience for some. My son is a restaurant professional, has worked every job on the floor and at the door (not kitchen, though) for 35 years. Reseaters do not bother him. Well, the reseating discussion was a lot more interesting than the crossword discussion. I think John E. Bennett did fine job.

Charles Flaster 2:12 PM  

Everything flowed gently and easily but in agreement with Rex on the reveal.
Liked misdirect for ACTOR.
Writeover--PIG for hoG.
Looked for other balls--SKEE, WALL, DIRT etc...
Thanks JEB (Bush?)

Mike D 2:39 PM  

I wonder if Merl's passing will have any effect on Rex's treatment of Will Shortz?

Masked and Anonymous 4:04 PM  

AND ANOTHER THING … !! [sputter!]

*Start of Sermon*

Some folks say the fill in a puz is everything. That's kinda sad, to m&e. Them folks has failed to notice at least three important otherthings:
* The theme.
* The clues.
* The grid layout.
* The U-count. [well, that one's mostly just me]

Take this here lil harmless TuesPuz, today, foo instance. I wouldn'ta missed it foo the world. Is it scruffy around the edges? Sure. Shoot, U can say that about half the sweet old dogs I know and luv. But what saved it foo me, this time out? The theme was kinda different, and different is always cool, but the biggie today, far and away, was … The Clues.

{First assemblyman?}.
{Art of punning}.
{Cousin of a croc}.
{Granny's "Darn it!"}.
{There's no reason to go on one}.
{Game show sound effects}.
{Makeshift flyswatter}.
{You would usually buy a round one}.
day-um. This stuff just makes M&A wanna crack the code and find out what the foo they're thinkin about!

Now, granted, one is never quite sure who wrote each clue. Could be the constructioneer. Or the Shortzmeister. Or that Faglijoelano mini-dude. Or the gal that sets up the puzzle files for publishin. Or the hackin janitors down at the Times. But, those clues can almost single-handedly make a puz positively entertaining. [Exhibit 1: Almost any Bob Klahn puz, imo.] I personally have written some pretty punk runtpuzs, but somehow my test solvers always like the cluez. Or at a minimum, always like to give the cluez a lot of discussion. (No refunds.)

Can U imagine a puz with so-so theme and so-so fill and sorry-lookin grid (cheater square motherlode) [and no U's], but painstakingly clued by the all-time top writers at SNL? One word, dude. Rodeo.

""Get a Clue or 2"

Aketi 4:16 PM  

@ Lewis, there are two anagrams of CAT, punt to the left and one on top, Charlie, our CAT, loves today with the HAIRBALLS left by our other CAT Faith

As for RESEATing, I have to confess that the dh and I solved all those problems by ordering in, often from the restaurant in our building.

Too much work right now to do many puzzles

Tita 4:38 PM  

I had an office in an industrial area that was very slowly becoming gentrified. The only place for lunch within walking distance was a deli. I guess they didn't get much business - when we would walk in, the guy would be behind the counter with his hands casually tucked into his sweatpants.
We dubbed it "The PocketPool Deli". We only ordered factory-sealed items there - I would never ask him to make me a sandwhich!

My garden, "Gnomes in the MOSS", is mostly cushiony ground cover and rocks. It's what grows best here.

I liked this puzzle - I like that I was able to guess the theme without the revealer.
I did hate EELWORM and ENROOT.

@Loren...our last night in Paris this May, reservation at a local restaurant recommended by our native friends.
They seated us at an impromptu table the size of a cookie sheet, right in front of the men's room. My husband's view was of a French toilette. Not even the ladies' room, which might at least have provided some entertainment!
We quietly got up to JUSTHAVeABALL with a can of tuna back at the apartment, when the waiter miraculously came up with a table.
But you know what they say about French waiters...
I for one am delighted to hear your perspective - sure, we're the ones being served, but I would prefer everyone be happy about the evening with no pandering required from either side.

Thanks Mr. Bennett!. (Hey - my fist boss was John Bennett - did you ever work in Stamford?)

Music man 4:56 PM  

The letters themselves are in balls. The words are arranged in 2x2 squares. It's not an h ball, a ball, I ball, and r ball, it's an H square.

Music man 5:01 PM  

My bad in the ball/square argument. I usually only print out thurs-sun, occasionally wed.

Was hoping for GOOF ball the whole time :/ would've like it in the center of the grid

Da Bears 5:10 PM  

I did this puzzle, looked at it and said to myself, Rex ain't gonna like this puzzle. I thought Rex would like HAIRBALL but that wouldn't be enough to save it. Never focused on JUST, just because I can't focus anymore. I thought it would be like the overall quality and fill, so I was only partly right in my prescience. I didn't care for it much, either. Besides, I don't like HAIRBALLS and that was enough for me.

Nancy 5:29 PM  

@Hi, Steve J -- You misunderstand. I don't just get up on my own and take any table I want when I'm in a decent restaurant Of COURSE, I ask the hostess to RESEAT me. I'm not a complete Neanderthal:) But I'm also not really giving her much of a choice, either. It's like: "I'm sorry, but we can't POSSIBLY continue to sit here because it's much too (whatever). Can you find us another table, please. We appreciate it so much!" And if I have a legitimate reason, I've never not been RESEATED. So that's what I meant in my last comment.

Z 5:33 PM  

@Leapy said "@Z, eelworms don't have balls," causing me to wonder if @Leapy's Sex Ed teacher skipped the unit on the origin of sushi rice.

Anoa Bob 6:00 PM  

I've played a lot of pool. A lot. As in evidence-of-a-misspent-youth lot. POOL BALL, billiard BALL, or JUST BALL, no problem. They all work fine.

While we're at it, the base phrase would be HAVE A BALL. HAVING doesn't add much, if anything, other than increasing the letter count. JUST was an LCM too far, methinks.

aging soprano 6:06 PM  

I kind of cringed through this puzzle, too. The circles in the newspaper version look more like coasters than balls. Made me PINE for a beer. I got the feeling that there are a lot of O's, maybe in keeping with the circular theme. We also got a ROUND TRIP.

aging soprano 6:14 PM  

@LorenMS, I liked your post today and the subsequent reactions. Made me think of a saying we have here in Israel: the smoking section of a restaurant is like the peeing section of the POOL.

aging soprano 6:17 PM  

Paronomania, a distinctly unTuesday word, will be up their with listicle in my favorites.

Da Bears 7:00 PM  

@Chefwen, two words: Jordy Nelson. My sympathies.

Anonymous 8:34 PM  

PARONOMASIA? Really? On a Tuesday?

What constructor/editor thought that was a good idea?

Leapfinger 8:38 PM  

@Z, your comment intrigued me, so I did some searching to seek an enlightenment.

I came across terms like hakumai and koshihikari, but the only thing I found that was remotely in the ballpark (as it were) was this one final sentence:

'A low density rice rectangle makes nigiri that seems to melt in your mouth; otherwise you end up with a rice ball that requires chewing.'

And you guessed it, rice balls are new to me also. So you'll just have to give me more direction.

Based on a mind-boggling number of Botany and Zoology courses I took in my Paleolithic period [aka college-days], I could regale you for hours with the inventive ways that life-forms have developed to propagate their species. In my own case, however, we didn't have anything as evolved as Sex Ed; we had something called "Health" (mmm, in Grade 6?), an achingly dull class marked by cursory examination of line diagrams (approved) and carving assorted glyphs into our desktops (not approved). I don't recall anything I learned in that class; I s'pose the PTB were thinking that when the time came, we'd figure things out. Best I can tell, that system seemed to work pretty well, in those times.

Teedmn 8:45 PM  

Tougher than usual Tuesday for me, by about 2 minutes. And thanks to the revealer for helping me avoid a DNF at 15A since I often find myself saying OH pOO, usually when I'm around grandmothers (though I think I'll continue to avoid @Leapfinger's alternate, 'fubar'.)

I agree with @LMS that a sarcastic bent to the revealer phrase would make it more palatable though possibly not to @Rex.

On the issue of RESEATing, my husband and I usually find ourselves eating at places where it is 'seat yourself' or we belly up to the bar. One of the only restaurants with a hostess that we frequent is our local sushi place, and our favorite waitress usually runs over before the hostess can seat us, guides us to our favorite window table and practically has our drinks on the table before we get our chairs pulled out. Good service!

Thanks, JEB and WS.

Anonymous 11:36 AM  

Humps aren't symmetrical in the puzzle, which is a bit of a disappointment. And, technically, camels have two humps. Dromedaries have one.

Martel Moopsbane 12:33 PM  

@ Carola: FOOTballs are round in most of the world, just not in the U.S.

Burma Shave 10:14 AM  

OHFOO, I’ve got PARONOMASIA, OBSESSIVE about the dance hall,

rondo 10:26 AM  

JUSTHAVINGABALL today? Hmmm. But the themers were in DOUBLY wide circles (¼ of a circle per square) in the Pioneer Press NEWSPAPER. So they actually looked like BALLs.

One write-over hoG before PIG.

MN state bird is the LOON (not the mosquito as many claim).

Not a whiff of a yeah baby today, so nowhere to go with NIPPLE.

Seemed to take a bit longer than a usual Tues-puz, and in the end kinda BEIGE.

rondo 10:33 AM  

I'll take back one of my remarks. RENEE Fleming certainly yeah baby status. I must be slipping.

spacecraft 11:52 AM  

Perhaps OFL should have picked up his NEWSPAPER and noticed the circles drawn inside those four-square groups. Looked like BALLs to me. I also don't share his rant on JUST. To me, the addition of that word to HAVING A BALL is relevant; it suggests that the speaker is being facetious and really isn't. "How're you coming with your yard work, hon?" "Oh, I'm just having a ball." My favorite one, the GOLF ball, wasn't there, though I'll admit finding an entry with -GF- in the middle would be pretty tough.

Some say the theme is thin; I say it's extremely dense. The BALLs affect their areas; the revealer affects the center...there's virtually no section not impacted. Props must be given for pulling it off at all. Now we come to the cost.

That long pun-word, though real, looks silly and way out of place for a Tuesday. ENROOT next to EGESTS makes ME want to egest. There's nothing wrong with EELWORM; it too is real, most especially when you're just having a ball with the yard work. But OHFOO? No. Were I Will, I'd have sent this one back on that entry alone. My granny was a lot more graphic than that. A mixed bag, call it C.

Torb 11:58 AM  

Perhaps "polo" ball?

Torb 12:02 PM  

Loopiest Tuesday ever! Quickly filled in but paronomasia, eelworm, ohfoo, & chromo had me shaking my head.

leftcoastTAM 4:04 PM  

I think Rex often primes many of us to make critical comments about the puzzle. He's an expert at taking puzzles apart and explaining their shortcomings.

I'm JUST trying to HAVe a BALL with them. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Today was pretty good, not a BALL but pretty good. I like some challenges in the early week, and this one gave a few good ones.

I want to be primed for the harder challenges later in the week, and this one helped do that.

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