Puzzle 83: Freestyle 55. Hopefully this won’t have you shouting four-letter words.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

Get the PDF here!

Get the PUZ here!

Word count: 68
Mean word length: 5.68

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!

This is a first for a Club 72 freestyle crossword: a grid with no three-letter entries. It’s all four-letter words or longer.That was not by accident, either — I set out to make one with no threes just to see how I could do with it. Yes, the northeast and the southwest are isolated; however, it’s a little more open than my original plan, which had another pair of blocks, one at the start of where 21-Across is now and its symmetric counterpart at the end of where 50-Across is now. I’m glad I was able to open up at least that part of it. A little while ago, I quad-stacked nines, which was… interesting… to pull off, to say the least. For that one, of course, I only had to come up with two stacks though. Quad-stacking sevens is a little easier, but, of course, I had to come up with four of those stacks this time. The upper left and lower left came much easier than I thought, but the upper right was a real SOB for some reason. (Constructing the lower right was the impetus for opening up those two corners as I described above; I had already done the upper left and layered the bottom three of the four in the stack in the lower right when I discovered that it could actually be better and easier to construct if I take out that aforementioned block pair.)

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is at 50-Across, that there exists a documentary that has this as a subject. Any topic can be made interesting in the right hands, I suppose.

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!

Advertisements

Puzzle 82: Freestyle 54. Getting back to the grind.

Last Tuesday’s freestyle solution

Get the PDF here!

Get the PUZ here!

Word count: 70
Mean word length: 5.43

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!

Fellow crossword blogger Evan Birnholz’ 8/29/15 New York Times grid was a partial inspiration for the structure of this grid. I don’t know if he meant it that way, but I had to count it twice because it didn’t look like it had a 72-or-less word count. It didn’t have any showy stacks or ultra-wide-open sections; in a way, though, this kind of grid gives the constructor a better opportunity to get more nice answers into the grid without worrying as much about having to hold stacks or seas of white space together with questionable entries. Of course, I do have some long downs (5, 9, 21, and 24), but this design allows for “staggered” stacks that allow me to put marquee answers next to each other without having to stack every letter next to each other as well.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is the entry at 53-Across. I experience this phenomenon from time to time, and it’s good to know that there’s a word for it.

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 Friday!

Hey, don’t go away yet, though! As promised in the last post, below is an explanation of the process I went through to build the last puzzle. So if you haven’t done it yet, get it here (PDF) or here (PUZ), and don’t scroll down quite yet!

 

 

SPOILER SPACE

 

 

I started constructing this grid with a very specific block design. I wanted it to be unusual-looking and eye-catching. However, just as the forces of nature go, so go the forces of words, and the block design had to change.

The original design is below. Notice the grid spanner across the center.

grid1

I started to construct in the upper left. In the process of building in that section, I discovered that I could alter the block pattern slightly one way or another (as shown below), depending on how the stacking was going, without altering the flow of my original design.

grid1

grid1

After a while of playing around with the upper left (and not being satisfied with anything I was coming up with), I had one of those “stupid constructor me” moments. Remember that grid spanner in the middle? THAT is where I should have been starting in the first place! So there I went.

I picked out a 15 from my seed list that I was feeling good about — NO JOB IS TOO SMALL turned out to be the one — and went to work. I looked through my seed list for an 8 that began with N, O, or J or ended with A or L (to seed the southwest or northeast, respectively), and out popped JAMAIS VU. I had my opening! I was off and running in the southwest.

I wasn’t too concerned about the middle chunk yet — it was pretty closed off and would be easy to fill pretty much no matter how the SW or NE corner came out. So next was the entry to the left of JAMAIS VU — I wanted at least two really nice long entries in each quadrant, so I started down the list of nice 8s starting with O. Luckily, I didn’t make it too far down the list before I encountered OXICLEAN; I figured it would work well because it had the opposite consonant/vowel pattern as JAMAIS VU. Well, it worked — not as well as I thought, because the only thing that stacked with OXICLEAN/JAMAIS VU was NET SALES. Not awesome, but not terrible… the crosses worked, too. I mean, with that three tucked in the corner, I had to either use HEB or be forced into LESE, but I could live with that (I obviously chose HEB because I definitely don’t like entries like LESE that can only be clued one way).

The acrosses intersecting that stack fell into place — EXAMS, TIME IN, SCATTE(D or R). ?OMET obviously took a C, and I was left with ??BSIT?. Normally I could have used WEBSITE or JOBSITE, but I couldn’t use JOB (we don’t want a dupe now, do we?) so WEBSITE it was. Here’s how it was looking at this point.

grid1

Now, onto the southeast. Of course, the goal is to seed a corner with a nice entry and then work from there, but none of my ten-letter entries were working, for some reason. I just wasn’t getting a satisfying result with any of them. So I backed up and decided to seed the corner with a 6-letter entry (at 42-Down in the grid above) — NEKKID! I was definitely going to use NEKKID, but that presented a problem, namely at the 51-Across position above. I had EK?? or EK???. With EK??, I had four options: EKED, EKES (neither great entries), EKCO (not a great entry, plus 48-Down would be RC??? or DC???, neither of which would be particularly flexible), or EKGS (DG??? yields nothing, and RG??? yields RG III… but then 60-Across would have to start with II, so not a good situation).  With EK???, I had EKING (not a good word) and EKE BY (Google didn’t support its use as a phrase that much). So what to do with 51-Across? Only one option was left: move that block over farther to the right and make it EKE OUT! However, that would create a big ugly L shape, which was seriously killing my original vibe I was creating with the black squares. I wasn’t having that. So I decided to pop open that corner, exposing it to the middle (which created better flow in the grid anyway):

grid1

(This meant, of course, that I had to take out WEBSITE, but that was not a problem: BOMB SITE fit there perfectly.) Now, it took me a little while to manually fill the southeast, so I helped it along by inserting IN ONE SENSE at 63-Across; it had a lot of common letters, plus it was still a nice phrase. I still wanted to get one debut in the 10-stack, and my manual fill led me to KID LEATHER (which worked beautifully with DAMASK ROSE in the bottom row). The KID LEATHER/IN ONE SENSE/DAMASK ROSE stack also — bonus! — allowed me some flexibility in the remaining space in that corner (45/46/47/51-Down, 45/50/57-Across). Luckily, GOSH NO, BO TREE, and EL OSO all fit in there (ASST is so-so, but not terrible-bad), which was a nice treat. Here’s what it looked at that point:

grid1

Now, to the middle, because I felt like I had to build the middle at this point. Why? The CM???? at 33-Across is a limiting factor. It could become a problem if I fill all around it and then get to the middle, and — oops! — it doesn’t work with that constricting pattern. So I went through the list. C MAJOR? Doesn’t work. C MINOR, C MINUS? Blah. CM PUNK? Now, there we go! I decided now to tempt fate — could I now actually get another 6-letter entry from my seed list at 41-Across? Aha… SHAWTY! One problem: 31-Down now had the pattern ?NTH?, which was not good. Ugh, would I really have to use a partial? But then a magical (magical may be a melodramatic word, but I’ll roll with it) observation came to mind: if I pinch in the symmetric block pair, the central down entry would read NTH, and I could miraculously now put an S at the end of SCATTER to make SCATTERS/SODOM! That was pure luck, but it enabled me to keep my two 6-letter gems in the middle and not resort to partials (which I never use anyway) or ugly cheaters (which I normally don’t mind, but in this case would make the middle look REALLY awkward). Plus there were a lot more cluing options for SODOM as opposed to ODOM. Now, here I am with this grid:

grid1

Two options now remain at 21-Down: ENLISTEE and ARRESTEE. I didn’t really have a sparkling seed entry 8 letters long that ended in A or L, so I started the manual fill at 35-Across. During the manual fill process, I noticed I had a couple of options with TUNA ROLL at 13-Down, which I liked, so I stopped the manual fill process and restarted it with TUNA ROLL there and went on from that point. THE CONGA and SPANDREL came from that endeavor — SPANDREL is one of those things you know when you see but you don’t know there was a word for. (In case you don’t recall, it’s the space between the arch of a bridge and its deck, or an analogous space above an architectural arch.) I wasn’t crazy about ATTS, of course, but I’ve seen that abbreviation in headings for football box scores, so I rolled with it.

Between ARRESTEE and the stack at 12/13/14-Down, the only thing that fit at 26-Down was LOAMY, which left ???RLORD at 25-Across. It was either OVERLORD or DEAR LORD, and the latter was the obvious choice: DEAR LORD is more colorful, plus OVERLORD would force a terminal V at 9-Down, which is severely limiting. So this is the grid at this point:

grid1

Two things were constraining my final corner to construct: the terminal A at 21-Across, and the terminal B at 23-Across. Now, the ????B pattern normally isn’t too constricting, but when you’re building a stack from the 10-Down/20-Across area and working around to that 23-Across corner, that terminal B can shut off a promising alley very quickly. So I started the manual fill at STREAK at 10-Down — the S-T-R at the end of the 10-stack would keep my possibilities open as much as possible. Then came a lot of manual fill. I mean, a LOT. On my iPad app on which I was constructing the puzzle, what I do when I come upon a fill that I find intriguing during the process is to save a screenshot of it and move on. I don’t just save the first fill I come upon… who knows, there could be a better fill that comes up that I’d completely miss! Similarly to the southwest, I hit upon HOME PLANET/AMEN SISTER (AMEN SISTER, surprisingly, was a debut!) at 15/17-Across (after I’d screenshotted maybe three or four other fills), on top of THE SEA at 20-Across, as a workable stack. But, unlike in the southwest, I had several different options for 1-Across. I had SPORTS BARS/CARS, STATE FLAGS, BLACK/WHITE FLAGS, and SCOTT ADAMS. (It’s good to have options!) SCOTT ADAMS was the one I found to work best for the 19/23/27-Across segment (plus I even got PLAN B to work, which was my best possible option at 23-Across!) and that was that! The final product, for your reference, is below.

grid1

 

Puzzle 81: Freestyle 53. Keeping the line moving.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

Get the PDF here!

Get the PUZ here!

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!

I’ll give you folks time to do the puzzle, and then, on Tuesday’s post, I’ll describe the process I went through to construct this puzzle in more detail. This grid in particular went through several manipulations based on the progressing fill, and I think this is a good example of the thought process that I go through in constructing a puzzle. I know I’m interested in the architecture of grids that I solve… I even try to get into the constructor’s head to see what s/he was thinking and why things are arranged the way they are in the grid. Maybe you might do the same… we’ll see how close you get to what actually happened.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is the entry at 38-Down. Obviously, everyone’s familiar with the opposite phenomenon, but I’ve never experienced this phenomenon.

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!

Puzzle 80: Freestyle 52. Promise you’ll forgive me?

Last Tuesday’s There Are No Words solution

Get the PDF here!

Get the PUZ here!

Word count: 66
Mean word length: 5.67

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!

First off, I would like to thank Evan Birnholz for linking to my Merl Reagle tribute puzzle over at his site… so go check out his stuff if you haven’t already! You will never be disappointed… you will always be dazzled!

So I lied. Will you forgive me? I’ve said on this site that I would never go below 68, but here I am with a 66-word grid. Well, I couldn’t help myself with this one: it was going to be 68, but there was a symmetric pair of blocks in the 4th/12th columns that split a 5- and 3-letter entry apart, and I just didn’t like the 3-letter word at the bottom of the 4th column (I started constructing at the bottom). So I took the block out, shifted another pair of blocks slightly, and made the two words into a single 8-letter entries. (I know… excuses, excuses!) This is the rare case where reducing the word count actually made the fill better… go figure!

This unusual block formation also allows me to give some love to the forgotten stars of crossword construction: the 13- and 14-letter entries. Their very nature, especially that of 14-letter entries, normally forces constraints on block placement. This is why there are more than twice as many 15-letter entries in the Ginsberg clue database than there are 14s, even though there are, of course, more 14-letter words and phrases than 15-letter words and phrases in the English language. 14s are just that more difficult to fit into a 15×15 grid. It forces you to put a single block on the periphery of the puzzle, which means you’ve got to either make an L-shaped cluster of blocks or stack some downs intersecting that 14, making a more wide-open and hard-to-handle corner… that is, if you don’t do something unusual like I did here.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is the word origin at 12-Down. Who knew?

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 Friday!

Puzzle 79: Freestyle 51. This one’s a hot little number.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

Get the PDF here!

Get the PUZ here!

Word count: 72
Mean word length: 5.44

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!

This is the puzzle that was originally intended for Tuesday, but was supplanted due to that unfortunate and more important event that saddened us earlier in the week. Construction for this grid most certainly started in the upper right, as you will probably be able to tell after you solve it. 5-Across and 18-Across, namely, were the absolute origins. 64-Across, 47-Across, and 23-Across were mini-seeds that came out during the construction, as well.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is in the clue at 56-Down. Any time you see someone described as both a gangster and a philanthropist, you know you’ve got an interesting person.

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 freestyle on Tuesday!

 

Puzzle 78: Themed Puzzle 3, There Are No Words. What more can I say that hasn’t been said?

Last Tuesday’s freestyle solution

Get the PDF here.

Get the PUZ here.

You can probably tell by now that there’s no freestyle puzzle today. That will appear on Friday instead of today as originally planned. There is a new crossword, however.

I’m going to dispense with the usual routine here because the situation calls for it. As is well known now in the crossword community, a giant in the puzzlemaking world was lost tragically and too early. I never met Mr. Reagle. In fact, I have no personal connection with Mr. Reagle… well, actually, that isn’t quite true, because everyone who ever did his crosswords, as I did, has felt a personal connection through his style. I have nothing to go on except for what I’ve read about him and, well, his work that I’ve done many a time. No other constructor has let his or her personality shine through in their grids and clues better than he did. To hold the pen or pencil while solving a puzzle by Mr. Reagle is to shake his hand. To move your eyes back and forth between the grid and the clues is to have a conversation with Mr. Reagle.

I was impressed with his volume of output as it was — a Sunday puzzle every week for 30 years — but to do the things he did in a Sunday-sized grid consistently every week for 30 years (put out junk he certainly didn’t!) is something I’ll never wrap my head around. But I hope this puzzle that I have constructed serves some small part as a tribute to the man. The best thing you can do is to visit his website, and to enjoy his creations.

What you should also do, if you haven’t already done these things, is to go and do Sam Ezersky’s and Brendan Emmett Quigley’s treatments of this same topic. Both are very elegantly done.

Usually, the video I post has some tangential connection to a clue in the puzzle, or to the concept of the puzzle. However, this one relates directly to the honoree in a subtle way that I think he would appreciate and that I hope you can figure out as well.

So long until Friday…

Puzzle 77: Freestyle 50. Starting off on an equal footing.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

Get the PDF here!

Get the PUZ here!

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!

Another unusual formation (for me anyways) with today’s puzzle. I don’t usually have double stacks adjacent to fifteens like I do here (you’ll see when you open it). I also staggered a 10/11/10 stack down the middle — that was more out of necessity, given that I started constructing in the top several rows and had to stack the downs that way out of necessity. I was planning on the 11 running down the middle at 18-Down, but I wasn’t planning on having the 10s at 7/29-Down. I actually got very fortunate that those three fit together like that. (It was good, since 7-Down was on my seed list anyway!)

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is at 29-Down. I never knew there was that connection.

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 freestyle on Tuesday!