Freestyle 66 by Tim Croce

Don’t mess around, solve the puzzle

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Peter: So, although you and Brayden summarily destroyed my puzzle-solving self esteem by bragging up your trouble-free Croce solves this week, it turns out that this one is just easier than your typical club72 offering. Ha! Anyway, it was a fun solve at any rate, with all of the crazy twists and turns and bizarre letter sequences that we’ve come to expect from a Croce. What did you think? I’m not as much of a prude as Ben and Michael, so feel free to express your love for this grid in terms of splooshiness.

Lena: I won’t lie, this puzzle made me feel so brain swole– I was competing with Brayden because he was tweet-trumpeting his rapid success. I killed all but the tiny little NE *on my commute* which is three da– haha no I’d say 30 minutes including the walk home (I walksolve).

Peter: I really like the conversational YOU GUYS and its clue which evokes a surprise gifting (37D: “Aw geez, this was really too much!”), the exclamatory I GOT IN! (51A: Prospective student’s excited cry), and the exaggeratory AS ALL HELL (31A: To a high degree, slangily). Also, I was not expecting to find that exaggeratory which I just made up is actually a word.

Lena: I’m a big fan of the Croce tone. Tone, especially clue tone, is probably the aspect of a puzzle that affects my solving experience the most. After all, bad fill can be saved by great clues. I like that the fill also conversational, as you pointed out.

Peter: The SE was the easiest for me. DOXXES (46D: Divulges online the personal information of, in Internet slang), MAKE-UP SEX (57A: Congress session conducted after a heated argument?), and OVERSHARE (60A: Post about your digestive problems, say) were all pretty much gimmes for me. Knew DOXXES cold, and then the X gave me MAKE-UP SEX (cute clue, but I saw right through it).

Lena: INDIEGOGO was in the first Friday BuzzFeed puzzle where it was clued as [Website where “Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum” was funded]. Croce’s (1A: Kickstarter alternative) is a NYT clue for a BuzzFeed answer. This appeals to me as a 32-year-old. Oh yeah, there was also FBOMBS (22D: There are 519 of them in the 2013 movie “The of Wall Street”) which appeared in the singular in Evan Birnholz NYT Friday, clued [Impolite thing to drop]. I love indies.

Peter: Fave clue: 59A [Big name in Australian rock?] for AYERS (as in Ayers Rock, or Uluru). This was actually going to be an entry in the “things I didn’t like” list because I thought it should be AYER since I thought it was Ayer’s Rock, possessive. But no, it’s named for Henry Ayers. The more you know.

Lena: I knew right away it was the rock because who can be expected to know anything about Australian rock music, especially if there’s a question mark involved?

Peter: Croce stretched things almost too far for me with both BEATS AT (41D: Whacks repeatedly) and SIT HERE (42D: Invitation to rest), but I ultimately accepted them. I also tend not to love IN A … entries such as IN A RUT, IN A FUNK, IN A CAR, or 39D: IN A CAVE (How hopelessly behind-the-times folks live?). They just kind of feel like incomplete phrases, I guess, although the first three examples could all be clued as synonymous with a word or two ([Experiencing ennui], [Sad], and [Driving, perhaps], respectively). IN A CAVE seems slightly worse because it pretty much has to be clued as a modifier (i.e. “How some people live”).

Lena: I was pissed at LORAN (17: Early seagoing wayfinding system) and basically the whole NE. SEXTANT! ASTROLABE! LORAN? That’s WWII. When I see “early” I think early. I was thinking STARS right off the bad.

Peter: As fill, I don’t love RCAF (21A: Mil. wing with a base in Moose Jaw) in absolute terms, but it was interesting to see in the grid. That would be the Royal Canadian Air Force for my friends south of the border. It actually took me a long time to suss that out, even though I a) know exactly what the name of our air force is, b) live less than an hour from Moose Jaw and have attended several air shows there as a kid, and c) have watched hours and hours of the long-running television satire Royal Canadian Air Farce.

Lena: I confidently filled in RCAF because I’ve seen An Officer and a Murderer.

Peter: Now, I don’t really care about dupes (although I realize that since this is my second post in a row in which I’ve pointed them out, I’m really just perpetuating the whole death to dupes idea), but I didn’t care for the “gay” dupe. I think this is because the gay in the clue for LESBOS (26A: Greek island that, as you’d expect, is a popular destination for gay tourists) totally primed me to get 26A: Trip on which you might see a drag show (GAY CRUISE), which is, as I understand it, the primary reason that dupes are generally verboten. I’m also a little more forgiving of dupes that involve very different usages and dupes in the fill, but in this case they’re both about gay tourism and one’s in the fill and one’s in the clues. So, they’re closely related and totally avoidable (whereas dupes in the fill are sometimes forced by surrounding fill, and I’d rather solve a beautiful grid with a dupe than one compromised by strict dupe avoidance). This is a rare instance in which I would have actually prefered cross-referenced clues: LESBOS could have been [Greek island to which a 16A might travel, fittingly].

Lena: You are very good at articulating Crossword Concerns™. I also have a complicated relationship with dupes. My default response to dupes is “when I dupe you dupe we dupe.”

Peter: Ok, enough about dupes! The word dupe is starting to look less like a word and more like a weird-looking collection of letters to me, which tells me I’ve belaboured it. Speaking of weird-looking collections of letters, check out some of the central fill in this baby:

36A: MYRBETRIQ [Astellas Pharma drug treating overactive bladder (you’ve probably seen it in TV ads, don’t worry)]

  • I have never seen this word in my life, but I think I like it. See also FANDUEL (13D: Online site where one can indulge in fantasy) and DRYGASM (3D: Climax with no outcome?)

24D: CIA HQ [It’s in Langley, Va.]

  • crossing 36A at the concluding Q. Madness. I plonked it in off nothing but the C, and crossed my fingers that it was correct. Not for the sake of solving the puzzle, but for the sake of all that is good in crossword fill – I just really wanted this to be an entry, and it was! Now, CIA Headquarters is definitely a thing, but that doesn’t automatically mean that CIA HQ is. Turns out that it has mediocre, but not non-existent google support. It’s the name of a level in Splinter Cell, it turns out, so TC didn’t make it up. Good enough for me!

34D: LT. DAN [Forrest Gump’s platoon leader, casually]

  • ditto most of what I said about CIA HQ above. Not only do I love unexpected letter sequences, but I lose my shit over brand new short entries, and this puzzle gave me two. So much lost shit.

Lena: Ah, FANDUEL. My breezy Tuesday solve came to a screeching halt in the NE, and the last thing I’d gotten was ON A ROLL. Ha. I knew that 13D (Online site where one can indulge in fantasy) was a sports clue right away. I had _ _ _ _UEL and figured it was some kind of sports DUEL. We were at a wedding this weekend, and when I overheard folks talking about winning their fantasy sports brackets I sidled up and butted in with “fantasy sports!! What websites do you use?” Brayden, whose single cheat had been FANDUEL, was with me and immediately knew what I was up to. I got my answer and said “THANK YOU” and “thanks for helping me cheat! On a crossword!” Anyway, since we always talk about how many times we cheat on any given Croce, I am going to say that having a forced conversation with strangers doesn’t count as cheating– even if it can be awkward and embarrassing.

Peter:  Clue I didn’t get for an embarrassingly long time: 48D [Green sticks] for PINS. It’s a golf reference, I see now. Like, 45 minutes after completing the puzzle. This would never have helped me in a million years. I had -INS forever since neither.

Lena: I still don’t get it.

Peter: Clue that seems off to me: Do REPO MEN (38D) only tow lemons? I would think that they would mostly tow expensive cars, when owners can’t make payments. I would give this clue a pass if [Towers of lemons] had an additional meaning. Like, if a tall tower made entirely of lemons were a thing. Then the unnecessary and misleading specificity would at least be in service of a great double meaning. As it is, though, my mind immediately went to the alternate meanings of tower and lemon since nothing else made sense. But I do like the idea here, and the potential for A+ misdirection. I did some brainstorming but couldn’t come up with anything that works better, but surely someone smarter than me could. Like, if BELL or WATCH or CLOCK were makes of cars, then we’d be cooking with gas.

Lena: [Aztec towers?] Nope. This is the kind of cluing situation where I would end up ditching the tow-ers/towers angle entirely because there are lots of other clever paths to take.

1 comment
  1. Brayden said:

    I felt sooooo smart doing this as I tore through about 60% of it in 20 minutes while eating dinner, and then came to a screeching halt in SW and NE. I could tell it was an “easy” one, but still… Lena was texting me pictures of her progress and I think we filled it out in almost the exact same order (of course she did it much quicker than I did ). Lena and I generally solve these together, so honestly just completing one by myself made me feel pretty smart.

    There were a lot of great clues in this one. Tim does an impressive job of doing a lot with a few words in his clueing. You guys hit all my favorites, but I also liked 36D MT SINAI as a place to take tablets. Also 15A PLAN A (“You should do it before anything else”) was so straightforward it was misleading. Overall though I thought it had a nice balance between approachability and the trademark Croce brain-pounding.


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