Puzzle 223: Freestyle 188. It’ll come out eventually.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 72
Mean word length: 5.31

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17-Across was my seed for the whole thing — it’s kind of amazing that it took me so long to put that into a grid, honestly. You might have been surprised to see a 15-letter entry in this grid and learn that it wasn’t the seed, but a 15-letter entry wasn’t in my original intentions in this grid. I actually fit the 15 around the rest of the grid rather than fit the rest of the grid around the 15. It worked, though.

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! What did you like? What could I do better?

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Puzzle 222: Freestyle 187. I wouldn’t count on it!

Last Tuesday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 68
Mean word length: 5.53

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As I’ve often said, the 12s, 13s, and 14s are the forgotten entries in crosswordland. This block formation gives me a chance to let them shine. Yeah, I don’t so much care about aesthetics, as you know, but the added element of those stairstep block formations adds a nice visual element. Plus staggered block formations give stacks a little bit more flexibility, as they’re not one right on top of another.

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! What did you like? What could I do better?

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Puzzle 221: Freestyle 186. It’s just one thing on top of another.

Last week’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 72
Mean word length: 5.25

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So, you like helper squares? I’ve got three pairs of ’em in this grid! The grid has more black squares than I’d like — there are 36, and the absolute most I want in a 70 or 72-word grid is 38. But the six helper squares made the fill better to me, so it was worth it.

One of those pairs of helpers can be explained by that old favorite device of mine, running one vertical and one horizontal long “marquee” answer intersecting in the center square of the grid. The horizontal answer I wanted was 13 letters long. This is a favorite grid shape of mine because I can cut off the corners enough to make sure the corner stacks can shine but not so much that the flow of the grid at large isn’t affected that much.

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! What did you like? What could I do better?

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Puzzle 220: Freestyle 185. Cash or credit?

Last Tuesday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 70
Mean word length: 5.60

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I don’t usually stack non-grid-spanning entries adjacent to grid spanners like I did in this grid. The great majority of the time, when I have, say, a 13, 14, or 15-letter entry, it’s either going straight through the center or part of a stack with other entries of similar or the same length. I don’t know why I shy away from this style, and I don’t know why I went for this style for this grid… I think it was just that I had two 15s that I didn’t want to stack and that didn’t intersect in the middle.

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! What did you like? What could I do better?

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Puzzle 219: Freestyle 194. A grid that could stop traffic.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 72
Mean word length: 5.31

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If there isn’t already, there should be a statistic for the “horizontality” of a particular grid. Just spitballing here, but call it the ratio of the number of down answers to number of across answers. As simple as it would be to figure out, I just think it’d be just another interesting statistic for a grid — as a solver, I can’t really articulate it, but I’d want it to be closer to 1 (as it would be for four-way symmetry), which seems like it’d be more “balanced” of a solve. (The horizontality of this grid would be 1.32, for instance.) I don’t know, a little hard to articulate. Maybe someone else can put it into better words than I can.

I went a little different in my seeding strategy this time around — the seed was not a single answer, but a stack (13- and 17-Across). Not that either of them are brand new answers, but the surreality of the juxtaposition of those two answers was what did it for me.

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! What did you like? What could I do better?

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Puzzle 218: Freestyle 183. Like Jesus to a child.

Last Tuesday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 70
Mean word length: 5.49

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I have to mention this right off the bat (spoiler alert… highlight the following blank space after you’ve solved the puzzle!)… I swear to you that I wrote the clue for 35-Across before the tragic death of George Michael. (OK, end spoiler space)

I hope that all who celebrate had a wonderful Christmas, and I hope that all to whom you gave were brightened by your acts of giving.

I was lucky enough to be able to extend what’s now 20-Across and 55-Across into their respective corners. I had everything except for the corners in the upper right and lower left filled in when I realized that I could take out the pair of blocks and extend those answers — since it benefited the flow of the grid greatly (there were now two ways into each of those corners, not one), it improved those two answers itself, and it didn’t harm my ability to fill those corners, it was a win-win-win for me to open up that corner.

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! What did you like? What could I do better?

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Puzzle 217: Freestyle 182. Tread carefully! (and happy birthday Mom!)

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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Get the PUZ here!

Word count: 70
Mean word length: 5.43

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I really do mean it in the title — the date of this post’s publication is my mother’s birthday. Happy Birthday Mom!

Oh hey look — another Seinfeld reference in the grid… well, it is Festivus…

I think I’ve learned my lesson — if I want to stack 11s, it’ll usually come out much better if I stack them in pairs rather than triplets. In this case, it even allowed me to go a little more wide open (I know, 70 instead of 72 — watch out, folks, he’s really stepping out on a limb now!) than usual. Every now and again (wait, when did “again” become a noun? Language nerd epiphany!), as I talk about in these posts, something happens unexpectedly in a grid, and this time it was the ability to throw in the bonus pair of 11s at 10-Down and 24-Down — see, you can take away two 11s from their normal places but you can’t repress them completely!

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! What did you like? What could I do better?

As always, share this link! Pass it around! New puzzle on Tuesday!