“FRIDAY FREESTYLE 1” by Paolo Pasco
Constructor: Paolo Pasco
Ben: The first themeless BuzzFeed puzzle, and what a beauty it is.
Lena: I just love themeless puzzles. The whole theme-y week I’m furtively glancing over my solving shoulder, on the paranoid lookout for patterns, rebuses, hidden this-and-that– but come Friday and Saturday I know I can just cruise through a beautiful grid containing big old spans of wonderful words and phrases.
Michael: This is a debut? Caleb, man, you better lock this shit down. Exclusive contract or something. I was mad *my* BZF themeless didn’t come out first, you know, but I defer to this. It’s really, really good.
Ben: I don’t really have much to say about this grid beyond just marveling at it. It’s got tons of nice fill, wide-open corners in the NW and SE, lovely triple-stacks of 9’s, and the whole thing is completely modern and fresh.
Lena: I consider this to be a very friendly themeless grid. It’s inviting. It’s a feelgood grid. It is Friday, after all.
Ben: One of my all-time favourite movies is MEAN GIRLS (18A: Movie that made “trying to make ‘fetch’ happen” happen), so I’d be happy to see that entry even without the great clue. To get that in a stack with TEAM JACOB (6A: Faction for Twihards who prefer Black dudes) and INDIEGOGO (16A: Website where “Let’s build a Goddamn Tesla Museum” was funded) with JEGGINGS running through it… let’s just say this puzzle hits my themeless sweet spot.
Michael: MEAN GIRLS was a nice fat gimme for, well, lots of people, but especially maybe possibly people who don’t normally do crosswords all the time. All the youth-y stuff, the cluing voice / Pokemon / whatever, today, didn’t bug me. It was all so gettable, and the grid overall was just so lovely. And FIRE WATER, man (4D: Order with an intimidating proof). I was like “Dang, what? I don’t get … oh. Oh, yeah. Wow. Good one.”
Lena: I accidentally bought JEGGINGS once (spoiler alert: they’re really, really comfy). Yeah, there was nothing not culturally up-to-date in the NE stack. And the two phrase substitutions in the SW stack were great. With all the insane shit going on in the world I CANT EVEN has become an exclamatory staple, and 64A: (“Slow down there, Eager McBeaver”) easily translated to NOT SO FAST.
Ben: (And hey, our first Twilight reference!)
Michael: “Twihard” should be *in* the damn grid.
Ben: Here’s the secret to cross-cluing (is that the word for that?) answers in a way that doesn’t annoy me: hilarious editorial voice — LOVE POEM (19A: Mine to my second-grade crush began, “Becky you are so nice / I want to hug”) and HEARTBREAK (41A: What I felt after I gave Becky my 19-Across and she said no hugging because I’m bad at gym) is great.
Michael: See, I loved this. Caleb has talked (just today, in a radio interview we did) about the wanting the cluing to have a more personal, warm voice, and this little bit of puppy love just nailed it, imo.
Lena: TOTES ADORBS (11)
Ben: This actually played reasonably hard for me (by BuzzFeed standards — all of this week’s puzzles have been in the Tue-Wed NYT range IMO), because the first answer I filled in was GRIPS instead of GAFFS and that screwed me up in the NW for a bit. And then I managed to get free of that and promptly ran into the DAA- of DA ALI G SHOW at 34A. Finally just shrugged my shoulders and worked my way up through CHRIS PRATT (29D: Star of “Jurassic World,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and America’s moist dreams).
Ben: (By the way, I was taught in school to put commas outside the quotation marks, so it always weirds me out when I see it inside. You Americans are crazy…)
Lena: You do you, Ben!
Michael: Go back to Canadia! (note: I also stared at “DAA-” going “???”)
Ben: Also complicating the NW was K.T. OSLIN, by far the most obscure thing in the grid for me — had to get her name completely from crosses. Let me just look her up and… oh, she’s a country singer. Well, that explains it. She does sound crossworthy from her Wikipedia entry, though, so fair enough.
Lena: I couldn’t get GOALS from (1D: #squad ___) at all. And I also had no idea who Ms. OSLIN is. Didn’t like the clue for GAFFS at all (1A: Does some job or other on a movie set (full disclosure, I have no idea what this actually means, but I think it involves tape). I’m not a fan having the first clue imply that even the constructor/editor doesn’t know what the answer means. I know it’s trying to be silly but, again, I feel like it’s trying a little too hard.
Ben: The fill is super-clean here. What’s the worst I can find… ARCO, ODED, BOS, MIN, AVE if you’re picky… COATI, BVD and YALIE aren’t exciting, but they’re real things… MAV is a common abbreviation for the Dallas Mavericks… I guess YETIS is iffy, but the clue (47A: Abominable snowmen (for the sake of this puzzle imagine there are more than one)) acknowledges it, so I’ll give it a pass. Yeah, I think that’s it. Impressive.
Lena: If you think about it biologically, there has to be more than one YETI.
Ben: If I keep talking about this puzzle, it’s just going to degenerate into me listing clues I like, so I’ll just end with my favourite one: 4D: Order with an intimidating proof for FIRE WATER. I love clues that take me a few seconds to parse correctly even after I fill in the correct answer.
Lena: Along the same lines as the ERGO clue from yesterday (“So if my logic is correct and I’m super pretentious…”), I enjoyed ENTER clued as (63A: “Come in,” if you’re a super-dramatic movie villain”). I like it when I can hear tone-of-voice in answers.
Ben: Great end to a strong week of puzzles.
Michael: Cosigned. That’s the “concurred” of this modern world, or so I hear.