Puzzle #22: Freestyle 8


Puzzle #22: “Freestyle 8”

Difficulty: Medium

Downloads:     PUZ      PDF     Last Week’s Solution

 

Happy Monday, solvers–

Gotta make a HUGE shoutout to my friend Tim Croce for beating me to the entry I wanted to debut in the Indie puzzling world by a mere three days! My goodness though…the themeless puzzle that he made around it is just a masterpiece. Soooooo many entries I loved; the puzzle will definitely be in the running for my favorite themeless of 2015. Wanna see Tim’s puzzle, and his many other incredible crossword creations? Check out his website, Club 72!

UPDATE @ 11:57 AM: Looks like Brendan Emmett Quigley used the above entry as well, in his weekly Monday themeless (which I totally dig; they’re so crunchy)! Funny how all three of us used it in the same quadrant too.

Anyway, as I was making today’s puzzle, I thought about how I had not really provided any of you all with many grid construction notes, as I usually do with my NYT offerings! So I figured I’d give it a shot here, because this freestyle is pretty representative of how I like to construct, particularly for this website. Assuming you’ve come here to solve today’s puzzle, go ahead and do that now, as I’m about to provide a great deal of spoilers in the space below! Enjoy!

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Alrighty…hoping you enjoyed the freestyle; let’s begin!

This puzzle was brought to you, as many freestyles are, by 1-Across: TRIVIA CRACK is an iPhone app that I recently became addicted to, and figured it would look excellent in a puzzle because it had some Scrabbly letters, was quite modern, and had a personal connection to me–this latter reason inspires a LOT of oddball entries that I fill in grids. Knowing that I wanted to use TRIVIA CRACK as my 1-Across, I figured it would be great to have an opposite 11-letter “seed entry” in the bottom-right. Fortunately, the DEFLATE-GATE scandal was booming in my ESPN updates, and I knew I had a perfect, zippy partner to place at 65-Across.

After choosing these two entries as my “seeds,” I experimented with various grid patterns that allowed two crunchy stacks of 11-letter entries in the top-left and bottom-right. Since I’m a manual constructor–I don’t use Crossword Compiler or any fancy “autofill” software–it takes me a lot more time to do this than most. Though after around an hour or two, I had designed the grid, minus a few squares I’d add later, with the top-left and bottom-right complete:

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 12.08.28 AM

 

Obviously, there were a few entries I was not pleased with right off the bat. CECA? Gross. GRIP ON? Contrived. I-BAR, IWO, and RAE are meh too, imho. But to me, the pluses far outweighed the minuses. And judging by the remaining spaces in the grid, this thing had potential.

Next, I decided that while VOMIT* and *FLAG could maybe allow two potentially awesome symmetrical entries, I figured that if I made too many long-answer constraints then I would get myself in filling trouble later. This same sentiment applied to the potential 15-letter central answer: while I could have experimented with entries such as STRAPPED FOR CASH (cool phrase) and JIFFY POP POPCORN (Scrabbly, yummy), I decided to prioritize the 10-letter stacks in the top-right and bottom-left, along with their intersecting 9-letter entries. Hence, I dropped three more blocks down (I don’t think I need a new picture for this), settled for US FLAG and VOMITS, and went to proceed with the top-right.

Where to start? Well, SAL???? seemed to be the gateway into what lay ahead, so in went SALAZAR shortly followed by JAZZ??????. Going for Scrabbly entries over anything else is such a novice thing, as my mentor Vic Fleming once told me, since some answers could be packed with X’s and Z’s yet be just ugly; however, I figured that if the entries in question were entertaining enough, then I’d get my way. So for all my fellow Potterheads out there, I hope you’re as enthusiastic about SALAZAR as I was! Now, the aforementioned JAZZ?????? entry made things super tough, especially if I wanted a kickass 9-letter entry running through CILANTRO. Hence, I reluctantly added another square, reducing my word count to a maximal 72. But I did not regret this in the least, as THE RANCOR (I LOVE my “Star Wars”) and ONE AND ONLY presented themselves almost instantly. There were plenty of entries that fit the current 14-Down given the other constraints, but I figured GOPRO (clued as the trendy camera brand) was the most solid option, despite ANO and ZEP (which I actually like, despite its oddness, since anything Led Zeppelin is just awesome).

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As I looked at the remaining bottom-left section, I figured it’d be the easiest to fill, as there were so many different options and so few major constraints: so much could go with ????ISH, and a LOT could go with ???S. So I did a little trial and error with ECHO, HOW, and SHO, and fell in love with SUGAR RUSH as soon as I came across it. ET TU, MEH, BEE, and MEN were plunked in with ease, and I decided that CONCEPT would be a good start with the new ?????PT constraint.

Still, there was so much to choose from. ??OU?????? looked like it should be ABOUT ?????, but I figured I’d lock ANOUK AIMEE (a full name, decent) in place, which left ?I??ISH and K???A, among other patterns. After several minutes, I decided to work with KING OF ROCK, one of my all-time favorite classic hip-hop tunes, and filled in SACS/ANI/SAKS in the mid-left, which was all not the best but doable. KOREA could fit in the K???A space…but ugh. This was not going to work, as long as the R in ROCK was there (?IR?ISH would only produce GIRLISH, which didn’t work with the bottom-left). And I really did not want to give up KING OF ROCK. But after a bit of Google research, I came upon KING OF COOL, a Steve McQueen sobriquet, and I was able to finish this thing up! I had a wacky entry in T-NECK, which I’d never heard of, and with T-BIRD already in the grid, it felt like a dupe…but I was still somewhat satisfied with the completed result…maybe a bit underwhelmed with the bottom-left.

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I began converting this grid into an AcrossLite PUZ file, looking over the finished grid many times more…and that bottom-left section was still eating at me. There HAD to be something better…at least something more reflective of my personality. That’s when I reconsidered the ABOUT ????? pattern once more for 26-Down. ABOUT FACES? Meh. ABOUT THAT? That’s not even 10 letters, dumbass. ABOUT A WEEK? Arbitrary. Ugh. Wait a minute. ABOUT A GIRL. A Nirvana tune IN MY ITUNES LIBRARY that I didn’t think of earlier! OMG! There was my “aha” moment, and it only got better when I learned that I could place KING OF ROCK right next to it and still fill it cleanly. And this, friends, was the final step to filling what you just solved! Normally, I would have been hesitant on placing two songs right next to each other, as I’m sure there will be several solvers that know neither, but they were too much of an “aha” moment/reflection of myself to turn down. So for those of you whose solving experience was marred by a difficult bottom-left, I apologize! But I HAD to do this. And I’m “pro-arcana” (credit: Erik Agard) at heart.

Hope this provided a bit of insight! See you all next Monday!

Sincerely,

The Grid Kid

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5 thoughts on “Puzzle #22: Freestyle 8

  1. Thanks for the insight! As someone who was generally not a fan of freestyle crosswords, this was by far my favorite and ranks above many of the themed puzzles that I’ve done. Bravo!

    Like

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