Puzzle 91: Freestyle 63. You’ll have to be at the top of your game.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 72
Mean word length: 5.44

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The upper left and lower right were constructed extremely quickly in this grid, but the lower left took longer and the upper right (more on this later) took even longer still. The whole thing started with 15-Across, which I’ve been wanting to put into a puzzle for a while now, and 65-Across. I don’t know why I put 65-Across in the bottom row to start (you’ll see why), but it all worked out. 38-Across was the other entry from my seed list that made it into this grid.

The upper right was, for some reason, a real sonofagun to construct. I had a different answer originally for 21-Down — the way the grid went, there were only two possibilities for that answer — and I spent the longest time with that other answer before switching to the one you see in the grid. Even after I switched, it wasn’t quite working the way I wanted it (maybe I was too nitpicky, I don’t know). However, the tide turned, believe it or not, on a three-letter entry (33-Across). I couldn’t believe that 33-Across hadn’t been in my wordlist, but that little entry opened up wide the possibilities for that corner when I inserted it.

Oh, and as for 17-Across: I hope sincerely that this entry isn’t too meta for any of you as you solve this grid.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is at 48-Across. He must have quite some musical talent (at least I’d like to think so) for being in a band with those folks.

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 90: Freestyle 62. A place to hang your hat.

Last Tuesday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 70
Mean word length: 5.34

Have something you wanna say? Got a question? Want to do a guest freestyle? Want to collaborate on a freestyle? Want to just say hello? Hit me up by email!

Obviously, when you look at it, you’ll probably figure out that I had some 13-letter seed entries that I wanted to get off my list (specifically, 37-Across and 38-Across). I didn’t want to do that in an ordinary way, however — I stacked them in the middle. You’ll also notice the three 15s running down intersecting the stack; I had originally only planned for the two on the outside (I didn’t want two of those 3/2/1 triangle-shaped masses of black squares, which would have been necessary if I didn’t want the 15s at 3-Down and 11-Down). However, the opportunity presented itself — believe it or not, the grid wasn’t working out that great until I opened up the center column from a 4/5/4 to a single 15-letter entry.

Also, the upper right and lower left corners, if you can picture it, were originally stacks of five (I even tried six at one point), but I shortened them to four, as you see in the finished product. That drastically affected the block pattern, obviously, but it worked out for the better.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is the creature in 26-Down. Seriously, take a look at pictures of this thing… it’s crazy!

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 89: Freestyle 61. Batteries not included.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 70
Mean word length: 5.63

Have something you wanna say? Got a question? Want to do a guest freestyle? Want to collaborate on a freestyle? Want to just say hello? Hit me up by email!

33-Across was the impetus for this puzzle, obviously. Funny how it became the impetus. I was driving home with my wife listening to the ’90s satellite radio station when “Ice Ice Baby” came on the air. I heard the opening line to this song, and did a quick run-through of the number of letters that it had. To my delight, it came to 15 letters! Now, this was about 20 minutes into a 90-minute drive, mind you… so I had to keep reciting it in my mind for the whole rest of the drive, even asking my wife to remember it in case I didn’t. I didn’t want to forget this gem of a seed! Of course, when we got home, I suddenly remembered that absent-minded me had deadbolted the door forgetting that the garage door opener wasn’t working. So, here we are, trying to pry open the garage door opener for the battery when we discover that a tiny screw is holding it together. Guess where the screwdriver is? Not in the car! So, luckily, I found a paper clip in the car (better than nothing) and worked at that screw for ten full minutes with the rounded end of the clip before I got it open. Then it was off to the store — this is after 10:00 on a Sunday night, mind you — to get a pack of 9V batteries. The store was less than five minutes away, but the whole time there and back our nerves were on edge. (Going into the store on a Sunday night at 10:15, we definitely felt the eyes of the security personnel on us. If you’re in a 24-hour grocery store after 10 on a Sunday night, it’s guaranteed that you’ve got an interesting story to tell.) As I replaced the battery and pressed the button, to our utter relief, we saw the garage door open. That whole episode had caused my beloved seed entry to slip from my head, but, as I reached the top of the stairs in the house for the first time, it somehow popped back into my head and I exclaimed out loud, “[33-Across entry]! I didn’t forget!”

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is at 12-Down. What an amazing athlete, and an amazing athletic accomplishment!

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 88: Freestyle 60. A grid with something to sing about.

Last Tuesday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 72
Mean word length: 5.28

Have something you wanna say? Got a question? Want to do a guest freestyle? Want to collaborate on a freestyle? Want to just say hello? Hit me up by email!

I can tell you for sure that, starting out, I did not intend the 9-stacks across the upper left and lower right to intersect pairs of vertical 9- and 10-letter entries (as in 3/4-Down and 28/35-Down). That’s for sure. In fact, believe it or not, I started out with the familiar diagonal lines of blocks going upper left to lower right and lower left to upper right. I mean, I guess I just start with a pattern because I have to start with something, right? I never expect that pattern to last anyway.

Upon completing this puzzle, if you had to guess where I started constructing this grid, you’d probably say upper left, right? That’s what I’d guess, too. Believe it or not, it was actually the bottom right! (Specifically, the seed for this whole puzzle was 58-Across.) This area was the impetus for scrapping the original formation, because I discovered that I could make a 9/10-letter vertical stack work with the 9-stack across the bottom right. It just worked out really well in the upper left — the upper left was the last section I completed.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is at 48-Across. Need I say more? The guy was nuts!

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 87: Freestyle 59. If you love an entry, set it free.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 70
Mean word length: 5.46

Have something you wanna say? Got a question? Want to do a guest freestyle? Want to collaborate on a freestyle? Want to just say hello? Hit me up by email!

Obviously, the reason for this puzzle is 32-Across. Originally, I made a very exciting discovery that this 15-letter entry and another 9-letter phrase could intersect at the same letter. That’s how this puzzle started — with 32-Across and 20-Down intersecting, and I built the puzzle out from there. The problem was, I got to a point where 20-Down was causing too much of an issue in the fill, so I did something that all constructors hate to do — I took out (gasp!) one of the entries that, ironically enough, I had chosen to seed the grid. I’d like to think that it worked out for the better, though. Obviously I’m exaggerating here, but, when you have to give up one of the answers that you started the grid with, it’s like you made a crossword baby but had to put it up for adoption. Strange analogy, I know. (I’m not going to mention what the 9-letter seed was — I’m saving it for another puzzle!)

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is at 20-Down; I always like when I can go meta and refer to a common crosswordese answer in a clue for an answer that’s decidedly not crosswordese.

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 86: Freestyle 58. All we are saying is give peace a chance.

Last Tuesday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 72
Mean word length: 5.36

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“I’m not going to stack 11s… I’m not going to stack 11s,” I keep telling myself. And yet here I am with another triple stack of 11s. The top stack came together surprisingly easy, especially considering 4-Across and 18-Across were the reasons for the 11-stacking idea in the first place.. The middle and the bottom right weren’t too bad to build, but the northwest and southwest were holy terrors. I know, it’s probably surprising to read that, especially for the southwest — being that it’s a bit closed off should make it easier, you’d think — but I beat my head against the wall for that section. And then… then came the northwest. I had everything else constructed but for that section — my constraints were that 37-Across (one of my seeds, of course) was already in place, as also were the first three letters of 4-Down and the first letter of 24-Down. That first letter of 24-Down, or the last letter of 23-Across, believe it or not, was the one thing limiting EVERYTHING. It wouldn’t seem like it, but it was the one thing that was causing the most trouble in that section. Luckily, what you see at 23-Across eventually came into my head, which then made that corner fall pretty quickly.

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 85: Freestyle 57. Standing out from the crowd.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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Get the PUZ here!

Word count: 72
Mean word length: 5.33

Have something you wanna say? Got a question? Want to do a guest freestyle? Want to collaborate on a freestyle? Want to just say hello? Hit me up by email!

14-letter entries do funny things to grids, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts. Upon first glance, as in another recent grid I posted, this grid looks like it has more than 72 words. I had to count it twice to make sure myself. I was able to put a lot of interesting things from the seed list in this grid, starting with, of course, the reason for this grid, 20-Across. 3-Down, 38-Down, 32-Down, and 53-Across were also from the seed list. Now, 19-Down I’ve seen with or without the “r” in varied sources (this isn’t giving anything away, I presume), including dictionaries; most every dictionary in which I’ve found this term includes this as a valid spelling. For some reason, the version with the “r” gets many more Google hits than without, but they seem equally valid from all that I’ve seen.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is 20-Across, of course. As soon as I learned about it, I looked all around the Web to see how the heck this thing would actually be pulled off. (Learning that there’s a goddess called Mama Killa is a close second.)

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!