Puzzle 5: Freestyle 3. It’s nice to have options.

Last week’s freestyle solution

Get the “harder clues” PDF here!

Get the “harder clues” PUZ here!

Get the “easier clues” PDF here!

Get the “easier clues” PUZ here!

Word count: 71
Mean word length: 5.86

Before I get to talking about the puzzle, a big hearty thanks goes out to George Barany for the link to Club 72. Go check out the work of George Barany and Friends (I am a proud contributor to that site too!), as well as everyone in the sidebar!

This one I expanded to 16×15 for, I hope you’ll see, quite obvious reasons. Those two 16s were just asking to be put in a freestyle… I don’t think you need to ask what the seeds for this one were!

So… here at Club 72, I aim to please! As promised in my “about my puzzles” page, this is the first of many times where I’ll provide an “easier” set of clues to go with the normal “harder” difficulty set. As usual, the “harder” set aims for a New York Times Saturday or harder level, but I aimed for a hard-Tuesday or easy-Wednesday strength with the “easier” set. My suggestion for everyone: if you’re a pen-to-paper solver, even if you don’t think you’re at Saturday solving level yet, print out the “harder” clues on one side of the paper and the “easier” clues on the other side. Start with the “harder” side, see how far you can get with it, and refer to the “easier” side when you need a boost. Or, if you prefer, download both the “harder” and “easier” Across Lite files, have them both open at the same time, and only refer to the “easier” set when you’re stuck. And, when you’re done, compare the “easier” clues with their corresponding “harder” clues. I promise, I toned down the “easier” clues quite a bit, but there’s still a bit of a challenge.

Since I wanted to still keep this under 72 despite the extra column, this was at the outer limits of my manual construction skill. I swear I needed the corner cheater squares, because I swear the upper left, for some odd reason, had only one way to fill from 39-Across, 20-Across, and the ends of 5- and 6-Down without partial phrases. I spent a LOT of time trying to make things work in that corner. That was the limiting factor: I had no trouble filling the lower right, no matter the square configuration (as long as I had one square dividing the answers at 28- and 45-Down). The upper left… that was a big problem for some reason. You wouldn’t think that, with 20-Across, the last letter of 5-Down, the last letter of 6-Down, and the first three letters of 39-Across in place, it would be that difficult. But it got to the point that I even had THREE squares lining the first column at one point (the one in the middle that you see, plus one on top of it and one on the bottom of it) before I decided to relent and put one in the corner. (That was my last option before ripping that whole half out.) I’m glad I did, because I was getting nowhere until I put that black block in the corner. I probably should have started in the upper left and lower right corners and worked from there, but things kinda rolled along from the Northeast and I ended up constraining the corners instead. Well, it worked out in the end anyway.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is that both of those quotes, in the easier and harder levels, came from that particular source in 39-Across.

A couple of things about the cluing: I was SO HAPPY to find another angle to clue 21-Down (in the harder clues), because I really wasn’t so thrilled initially to put that answer in the puzzle. After I discovered the clue, I’m glad I did. 31-Down’s clue caused Christine to have an aha moment, and it’s probably my favorite of the harder clues. I hope it creates an aha moment with you. Also, I found the juxtaposition of the clues for 16-Across and 17-Across interesting and fortunate, because it says something very interesting about the English vernacular. I liked that so much that I kept both clues in both the easier and harder versions.

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! What did you like? What could I do better? Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight? What difference does it make whether I take out the trash now or later? What gift can you get for the proctologist in your life who has everything?

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


2 thoughts on “Puzzle 5: Freestyle 3. It’s nice to have options.”

  1. Having the two sets of clues is an interesting concept. However, I hope that you mix the clues together into one set in the future to help establish a few footholds. I do enjoy a challenge and this was extremely challenging, but it became too much of a slog. If I recall correctly, you once had a Saturday puzzle in the Times that was extremely difficult and you got a very negative reaction to it. I think the negative reaction was way too harsh but I still would like to start with a few gimmes with one set of clues.


  2. Just tried the hard clues and it’s too difficult, especially when I knew but one factual question–which allows footholds in tough puzzles. When I revealed the answer for “Something on a platter” and “Shadow makeup” I could see the level of difficulty (and some would say ridiculousness) was Stumper level. As I said before, not sure who you’re making puzzles for but it must be a select few.Thanks.


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