Puzzle 15: Freestyle 9. How do you stack up?

Last week’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 68 (yup, 68)
Mean word length: 5.56

Thanks very much to the inimitable Evan Birnholz for shouting out my Wordominoes puzzle! Check out Evan’s stuff… you won’t be disappointed!

Remember in my About My Puzzles page, where I said I would only “once in a great while” go to a 68 word count? Well, this is that once in a great while. Most freestyle crosswords fall under one of three configurations: those with stacks around the edges, those with stacks in the middle, and those that are some hybrid of the two. This one falls under the second category, which is a big part of the reason for that lower word count.

I’d say this is the “easiest” way to construct a lower word count grid: with the stack in the middle. The stack forced my hand into creating the cluster of threes in the upper left and lower right — I resisted going to 3’s in those corners for the longest time — but I eventually relented. I relented in part because I’m particularly careful in sections with three-letter words. Why? Well, threes are where the fill can get ugly real quick: subconsciously, we can start to think, “Oh, these are all throwaway answers, I don’t really need to spend lots of time on these,” but one INB here, one ATA there, and the ugly factor adds up fast, all of a sudden.

Owing to the central stack, I did something I don’t usually do, which is to start in the middle and work outward. The seeds were, obviously, 31-Across and 36-Across: I tried stacking them every which way until I came upon this configuration, which worked quite well and yielded an answer in the middle that I quite liked as well. The mini-seeds were at 18-Across and 51-Across, of course (where else would they be?). Also, not one day after I finished constructing and cluing this puzzle, the entry at 3-Down came up as the answer to a trivia question in a quiz show I was watching (can’t remember which one — it was probably “The Chase” — only that it wasn’t “Jeopardy!”). I felt so proud of myself for knowing.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle — well, not quite from this puzzle, but I used it in this puzzle — was in the clue for 33-Down, that those creatures don’t eat at all as an adult. I saw it a little while back in some online article, and that fact stuck with me such that I had to use it in a clue when the answer came up.

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! What did you like? What could I do better? Who wears these shoes? If animal crackers suddenly came to life and realized their purpose heretofore, how crazy would the revolt be? Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate if the Huey Lewis song “Hip to be Square” were 4 minutes 16 seconds long?

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

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One thought on “Puzzle 15: Freestyle 9. How do you stack up?”

  1. Another fun puzzle! Whereas Freestyle 8 took what seemed like forever, this one moved along fairly quickly. As a lifelong fan of the team Ernie Banks played for, I was mildly amused and disappointed that 9D wasn’t his nickname, which I confidently threw in at first.

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