Freestyles 67 and 68 by Tim Croce

These are not Halloween-themed puzzles you are looking for. Quit clawing through your candy haul and solve 67 and 68

TUESDAY: Freestyle 67

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Peter: So, I can’t spell EXEUNT. It’s no wonder my team didn’t win in the recent office spelling bee. Anyway, my firm belief that 28D (Stage direction that means “they go out”) was EXuENT combined with my uncertainty about the suffix on 14D (Repeatedly abating and intensifying, as a fever: REMITTENT) had me completely perplexed about 34A (What may help you drag your junk out). Like, wtf is a MALUI….???

Lena: Gah! I made the same mistake and “watching you” (via gchat) be stuck on that was painful. I was squirming in my seat. I think I’ve heard it pronounced “egg-ZOONT” so I went U-first as well. I had MAL… right away, and when I saw that the marquee was about “junk” I knew it had to be MALE something and corrected my Urror. Error. E-rror.

Peter: Speaking of that NW, Lena and I almost came to E-blows over the E dupe (17A: E-TYPE and 32A: E-TEXT). I wasn’t bothered, personally, since their meanings and contexts are quite different and it’s only one letter, but I see where you’re coming from.

Lena: What bothered me is how close together they are, plus being the same length, PLUS I don’t like E-things. Or cars. So my head would probably explode if I came across E-CAR [Prius, e.g.].

Peter: However, I’m certainly not loving the AMO dupe (20D: [The first person to love in Rome?] AMO and 10D: [Don Juan’s address] MI AMOR). Yeah, yeah, they’re not the same word and they’re different languages, but still! It was enough to make me doubt the correctness of MI AMOR, since I just couldn’t believe that that root would show up twice.

Lena: See, you cray too.

Peter: Love the Porno for Pyros reference (PETS 62D: [“We’ll make great” ones for Martian overlords, per a Porno for Pyros hit]).

Lena: Yeah, that was good and got the tune in my head for a bit. My happy moment was DERP (63A: [I’m so friggin’ dumb]) because I say it all the time, and my kitten is super derpy and I call him a “derpsicle.”

Peter: Best! Yeah, a lot of DERPs fly around our IT office here, so I enjoyed it. It was one of those answers, though, where, despite being right in my wheelhouse, was tough simply because I didn’t expect it in a grid.

Peter: I AM MALALA (18A: Autobiography subtitled “The Story of the Girl Who Stood up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban”) was fun to piece together – that name took longer than it should have to surface. I still don’t get the clue for ARMS – and since I refused to believe that an AMO-related word would show up again, this whole corner looked so wrong for so long

Lena: ARMS are the wrestlers when you’re arm wrestling is how I interpreted that.

Peter: Oh, derp, of course!

Lena: I didn’t have a very good time with I AM MALALA because I just didn’t know it, and I didn’t really know STATIE (12D: One who’s a real trooper?)– Brayden tells me it’s a “very Massachusetts thing; it’s on a par with Natick.” Anyway, I had a bout of insomnia and finished the puzzle at 3am with I AM MALAL_, passed out, almost overslept, and left it blank thinking “eh, I’m ready for Friday’s now.”

FRIDAY: Freestyle 68

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Peter: Once again we’ve got more is-this-a-something-different-puzzle fill with BEER ENGINE (40A: Pump system in a pub). But, some quick google-foo confirms that it’s legit. So I had never heard of that, but I think I like it. And bloody stumps look at that stack! IN A DECLINE on PROMO CODES on SAM MALONE on REEVE’S TALE on BEER ENGINE. Astonishing. And those crosses are all rock-solid (30D: [Timothy DOLAN, Archbishop of New York] is not the best, but I’ll take it).

Lena: Haha, yeah, BEER ENGINE? It’s sooo British. Listen to this sentence: “A sparkler is a device that can be attached to the nozzle of a beer engine.” I can’t not hear it in a British accent.

Peter: Got SAM MALONE with no crossings. Having never watched an episode of Cheers, I was pretty happy with that wild-ass guess. Writing ONAGER would have constituted a wild ass guess, of course.

Lena: So, I printed three copies of this puzzle and solved with Brayden and my mom– we had a lot of fun, and it was the fasted I’ve ever blazed through a Croce. It takes a Cerebus’-worth of heads to crack these bad boys. Anyway, my mom and I filled in IT WASNT ME (1A: Response to an accusation of flatulence) first– aaaand then I had Shaggy’s hit entitled [1A] about how he has sexual times all over the house with someone else’s girl in my head for the rest of the night. If it weren’t for my mom, I’d have trouble in the center stack; she got SAM MALONE and REEVES TALE. I got PROMO CODEIN A DECLINE (27A: Trending downward) seemed awkward to me. “In decline” or “on the decline” are more natural to me.

Peter: I have never seen NO MSG (28D: Deli reassurance)in a deli. And how is SOUSES (43A: Waterlogs) not DOUSES?

Lena: Yeah consensus here was “not a deli thing.” Same with SOUSES; to me that’s a bunch of drunkards. Maybe [Ginlogs]. With BEER ENGINE and DOUBLE IPA (53A: Craft brewery order), maybe the drunk angle is the way to go. Also, I thought cluing YELPS as the verb form of rating restaurants on Yelp would be nice because we have [Five-star] for 18A: PRIMO.

Peter: CASSINI (37D: “Secretary of Style” in the Kennedy White House) – I had JACKIE O for a while here. JST seemed like it could be a thing? Juarez Standard Time???

Lena: In sum, I really liked this puzzle– more than Tuesday’s, I’d say– and it was super fun to solve in a group.

Peter: I like it too! I liked both! Croce’s grids are always a blast to fill in. And there’s always a ton to discuss; these are hard puzzles to blog because WHERE DO YOU STOP.

Wait– clue for AIRMEN – (23D: They may call for attitude adjustments) is that supposed to say attitude or altitude??

Lena: My mom took this opportunity to tell me that if I’d been alive when the moon walk happened and American’s cared about space, I’d know that attitude is perfectly correct. I had the same question, though.

Peter: Oh, and I was just wondering as I solved liberally poached entries for my wordlist from the Fri NYT whether A MOVIES / A PICTURES were a thing? I’m still not sure…

Lena: There are B MOVIES, so there must be A MOVIES. But A PICTURES? Hells to the naw. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Peter:  AMO VIES for as many spots in the grid as it can. Anyway, thanks Lena and Tim!

  1. Brayden said:

    Freestyle 67 was way more my typical TC solving experience versus last week – as in, I had to cheat at least 2-3 times and it took me most of the week to complete it. I also kept filling in right answers and then erasing them to put in wrong answers – over and over again.

    On Freestyle 68, I much preferred the corner stacks to the center although I couldn’t articulate why – maybe I was just bitter about BEER ENGINE… And it was very fun solving with the Webbs.


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