# Puzzle 104: Freestyle 75. Time to blow off some steam.

Last Tuesday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 72
Mean word length: 5.50

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27 blocks, 72 words. Correct me if I’m wrong, fellow crossgeeks, but I’m pretty sure that’s the fewest number of blocks possible for a (edit: practical) 72-word 15×15 grid. (edit: thanks to Jason Mueller for pointing out a 21-square grid with 72 words. It involves four intersecting triple-stacks of 15 around the edges of the grid. Really, really friggin’ hard to fill, but he’s technically right. Thanks Jason!) These grids with the intersecting 7×7 stacks are my favorite to make because they provide the best opportunity for sparkle — there are 32 entries longer than 6 letters out of 72 total entries. I’m trying to dispel the notion that these are the most boring kinds of grids to solve — I’ve read it occasionally on the blogs and forums — because shorter entries automatically equal less colorful entries to some. I like the challenge of packing as much color as I can into shorter entries without losing surrounding quality.

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

# Puzzle 103: Freestyle 74. Giving you something to go on.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 70
Mean word length: 5.63

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Constructing this grid brought me down into dupe hell. No less than three separate times did I think I was done constructing this grid when I discovered dupes in the grid. Not subtle ones, but head-slapping “how could I not have noticed that” ones. Twice, the dupe was four letters long, and the other time the dupe was with two entries in the same section of the grid. There’s a phenomenon called “target fixation” in which someone, like an auto racer or fighter pilot, becomes so focused on avoiding something in a vehicle that they actually crash into it. Maybe that explains why it took me four full attempts to rid the grid of dupes — I was focused on not having any dupes the second and third time so much that I ended up not noticing obvious dupes two more times than I should have!

My favorite thing that I learned, by far, from this grid is the name at 38-Across. I so wish that were true!

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

# Puzzle 102: Freestyle 73. Here to lend a helping hand.

Last Tuesday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 72
Mean word length: 5.33

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It’s always nice when you can stack seed entries. 66- and 68-Across were the basis for this grid; 1- and 17-Across also came from the seed list. I die a little inside, though, whenever I have to split up stacks, like I had to do in the northeast and southwest. Those were originally three 8’s stacked with three diagonal stripes of black squares across the middle of the grid, but it wasn’t working out with one of the stacks. And when it just isn’t working out, just like in real life, you have to break it up. I cringe whenever I have to add three-letter entries that I originally didn’t think I need, but it was for the better, folks. I promise.

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

# Puzzle 101: Freestyle 72. The start of a new century.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 72
Mean word length: 5.39

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I was going to construct another grid with a gaping middle stack like I did a couple of weeks ago, but that didn’t go as well as this one. I tried to make it even more expansive than that, but it didn’t come together. Maybe another time.

Believe it or not, 40-Across was not initially a seed in this grid! I am by no means a fan of that book series, but I know a seed list entry when I hear one. I put it in my seed list, but didn’t intend to use it… until the opportunity miraculously (sorta) presented itself in the southwest. 38- and 39-Down were, as you might surmise, the starters for this grid; generally, I constructed this one from bottom to top on the right, then from bottom to top on the left.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle was in 34-Down… I think that’s a factor of awful luck more than anything. Didn’t seem to hurt their success, tho.

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

# Puzzle 100: Freestyle 71. A round number for a square grid.

Last Tuesday’s freestyle solution

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Get the PUZ here!

Word count: 72
Mean word length: 5.33

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***GEEKY CROSSWORD CONSTRUCTING CONTENT TO FOLLOW***

The original form of this grid was a bit different than the one you see here. Originally, it wasn’t two 10s stacked with a 15; the two black squares that now divide 14-Down from 25-Down and 6-Down from 26-Down had been stacked below the black square between 1-Across and 6-Across. With the original arrangement, I found that I didn’t have as much room for sparkly longer entries, so I changed it. It would have had the same mean word length, but the word length distribution would have been more even; there weren’t as many longer entries. (I never considered taking out the black square between 1- and 6-Across, though.)

***END OF GEEKY CROSSWORD CONSTRUCTING CONTENT***

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle was in 44-Down… nothing should surprise me about that man at this point, though.

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

# Puzzle 99: Freestyle 70. Fresh out of the can.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 70
Mean word length: 5.54

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Before I say anything else, I would like to offer a big hearty congratulations to Devil Cross’ own Evan Birnholz for getting Merl Reagle’s old gig at the Washington Post! We all know you’ll knock it out of the park, Evan!

1-, 17-, and 61-Across were the starting points from which this grid emerged. (16-Down and 39-Down were from the seed list but they ended up being happy bonuses that I found could fit in where they did.) The part of the grid with which I had the absolute damnedest time was, believe it or not, the section just left of the middle and going up into the upper left corner (the ends of 1-, 2-, and 3-Down). It may not look like it now, but I had a tough time with it. The problem was that I had a lot of options, but none of them seemed to work to my satisfaction (until, obviously, I reached the one you’ll see). The helper squares in the upper right and lower left might have suggested that those would have been the toughest to construct, but I knew early on that I needed those to get what I wanted, and those corners came together nicely after the addition of that pair of squares.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle was at 18-Across — that cannot be a good mark on a reputation. A close second was 28-Down; that’s gotta be brutal for the other birds!

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

# Puzzle 98: Freestyle 69. I’ve got the world on a string.

Last Tuesday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 70
Mean word length: 5.51

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 liked the double-stack format so much that I did it again for this one! This time it was planned from the start. It was a little more challenging this time, though, because the pairs of double stacks are intersecting each other. Sometimes it gets ugly when long stacks have to intersect like that, but I’d like to think that I took care to keep the bad stuff out. (I suppose you’ll be the judge of that, though… right?) Seeds for this puzzle were 17-Across and 31-Down… obviously, I built the two pairs of intersecting stacks and worked from there.

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