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

Last Tuesday’s There Are No Words solution

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Word count: 66
Mean word length: 5.67

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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?

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

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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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?

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

Last Tuesday’s freestyle solution

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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

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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!

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?

# Puzzle 76: Freestyle 49. Stack ’em up and knock ’em down.

Last Tuesday’s freestyle solution

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Word count: 68
Mean word length: 5.65

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!

So, a 68-word grid I promised, and a 68-word grid I have delivered. I said it would be a bit uncharacteristic of my usual black square shape… and you’ll see why upon opening it. It’s a pair of quad stacks of nines. Because I want to maintain a minimum or an absence of junk, it was a little harder filling manually than was usual, but I did because I like a challenge. Obviously, everything else stemmed from the quad stacks, but I had a little leeway as the northeast and southwest are somewhat closed off. 15-Across, 63-Across, 34-Down, and 13-Across (of course, I live there and I’ve been to that park many times, so I had to shout it out some time) were my starting points for this grid.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is in 39-Down. Of all the places I thought it would have come from, Washington, D.C. wouldn’t have been on that list.

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

# Puzzle 75: Freestyle 48. Not just scratching the surface.

Last Friday’s Anagram Crossword solution

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Word count: 72
Mean word length: 5.50

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 promised a 68-word grid either today or Tuesday… well, it’s definitely going to be Tuesday. I have a Friday freestyle for you, anyway. This is a rare grid that maintained its block shape from the start. That doesn’t mean that I really forced anything into a space where it shouldn’t go, by any means; it means that things went along so fluidly (probably a little bit of luck involved too) that I didn’t feel the need to make any changes. I got a little cute with some of the clues — in a good way, of course — so I really have no idea how easy or hard this one is going to be. I never estimate the difficulty of my puzzles anyway, because there have been some puzzles I thought to be easy that turned out hard, and vice versa.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is in 39-Down, that it didn’t originate from where I thought it did. Maybe some of you knew the answer anyway, but it was new and interesting to me.

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

# Puzzle 74: Freestyle 47. Reach for the sky!

I’ve been waiting for an excuse to post a Jessie Ware song! I don’t normally talk much about the videos I post, but she’s my favorite artist of the past ten years.

Last week’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 was able to stack two pairs of seed entries to start this puzzle (1/14 and 62/66 Across). I’m very excited whenever I get a chance to stack seeds, because I don’t want crossings to suffer no matter how good the stack. 1-Across came from a game show (I don’t remember which one); I’d never heard of it before then, but I immediately added it to my seed list. If it’s good enough for a game show (on GSN, I think), then it’s good enough for my word list.

Sometimes, when you stuff seed answers into the two main stacks, the rest of the puzzle may suffer; I didn’t want the upper right and lower left to meet that fate, so I paid particular attention to keeping those corners lively as well.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is the idiom at 26-Down. Once you solve it, translate it if you don’t know what it means. It’s pretty cool.

I’m working on a 68-word freestyle right now whose grid is a bit of a deviation from my usual construction style, but you’ll see it soon… maybe Friday, maybe a week from today, I don’t know.

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