Puzzle #34: Freestyle 11

Puzzle #34: “Freestyle 11”

Difficulty: Tough

Downloads:     PUZ      PDF     Last Week’s Solution


Good morning, solvers!

Updated 2:21 PM: I am an idiot. I was wondering why in my statistics page I hadn’t seen downloads for today’s puzzle…well, that’s because I accidentally slotted this post to appear at 8 PM today instead of 12 hours before! So sorry about that; I hope none of you have gone into any crazy puzzle withdrawal as a result, since there obviously is a scarcity of crosswords these days. Anyway, back to today’s post–Grid Kid out.

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PSA: Y’all should check out this Wednesday’s New York Times puzzle when you get the chance; it’s a collaborative effort between myself and one of my oldest crossword friends, Alex Vratsanos! This puzzle had been in the making since 2011, and we finally were able to execute it smoothly enough for publication under Will Shortz. Hope you like it!

In other puzzling news, have you tried BEQ’s gem from last Thursday? If you like my stuff, then you’re going to LOVE this–extremely well done! Another recent goodie–and I meant to share this last week–is this interesting Tim Croce freestyle from his Club 72 website; as a constructor who very much enjoys unearthing 5-, 6-, and 7-letter fresh answers, I found this puzzle to be a delight!

That actually sets up a perfect segue for this week’s puzzle. I wanted to go freestyling again because I’d been themey for so long before Puzzle #32. So I used this week’s publication as more of a chance to get back in the groove of making my favorite type of puzzle! The easiest ones for me to make are those that have a bunch of 7-letter entries; while, yes, 7s are simple to work with when not autofilling, I also happen to have more 7s in my “manual wordlist” than any other length, besides 15s. So I figured a grid built around a bunch of 7s would be most desirable.

As you may be able to tell, I started off in the bottom-right corner, with 41D, 42D, 60A, and 62A as my collective seed entry group. While I could have easily put a square in the box with a 54 in it, I wanted to challenge myself once again with quads. This may have eliminated a bit of the “zip” factor of this puzzle, but I really tried to go for smoothness; nothing about the top-left is extremely “wow”-worthy (maybe 5D?), but 4D is a lone blemish, which isn’t even that bad.

You may notice that a large amount of these entries are simple two-word “things,” almost like an adjective-noun pairing: 17A, 23A, 29A, 34A, 38A, 53A, 55A, 33D, 39D…I’m not sure how I feel about this. I think all of them are perfectly acceptable entries–some zippier than others–but I almost wish there was more of a variety. At least nothing sounds too arbitrary.

One other comment I’d like to make about this puzzle is that there are 21(!) entries that have never appeared in a NYT puzzle before…you can see a diagram here, as per XWordInfo. I’m hoping this means that the puzzle is fresh and lively. I always try and cram in as many unique answers as possible. That being said, the solver’s enjoyment is the most important aspect of construction, so if something is unique but unenjoyable, it means nothing to me. After all, do you really want to see the alphabet run HIJK debut in a NYT crossing JAM? No way. HICK/CAM is 129401294 times better.

Enjoy the solve, and let me know what you think!


The Grid Kid


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