For this fine third installment of BUOS, Erik and I decided to stick our mitts into Peter Broda’s archival cookie jar and talk about his Freestyle #34 from May 2014. We highly recommend dipping into Peter’s stash not only for the very excellent puzzles therein, but for the accompanying write-ups in each post; Peter is a modest guy, but I’m going to call out his sense of humor, writing, and, of course, his construction skills as being some of my very favorite examples of each.

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Lena: So this is the perfect puzzle with which to celebrate Indie puzzles, as the clue for SPAM BOT references Evan’s site [8A: Frequent commenter on Evan Birnholz’s, for some reason (try the puzzles while you’re there!)]

e.a.: i have tried the puzzles and am happy to report that they are quite good.

Lena: I’m going to miss Devilcross but am so happy for and proud of Evan’s new WaPo adventure <fake tips fake hat>. Anyway, I think this puzzle was from 2014? But I don’t think it matters– what I like about Peter’s puzzles has nothing to do with contemporarinessitude but rather the creative, clever, and lively fill/clues.

e.a.: PB is so extraordinarily this-dude-can’t-be-humanly good at the fill that i often forget that he can also be quite a nasty cluer (i mean that in the best way possible). examples: [High aspirations?] = BONG TOKES, [Face cloths?] = MASKS, and of course [Hens … or cocks] = PECKERS

Lena: BONG TOKES clue is so good– although I have to say that I hear “BONG rips” more than the gentle TOKE. We’ve also got THC up in the NE [Grass compound, for short]– good times.

e.a.: i appreciate that PB manages to work in “edgy” “indie” fill, you know, sex and drugs and what not, without coming off as totally juvenile – hard line to walk.

Lena: It really is such a fine line– DTF (20A: [Up for getting off]), standing for “Down To Fuck” doesn’t even make me blink an eye because I ultimately appreciate the subtle “Up” in the clue and DOWN in the answer. It’s racy, but it’s neutral, guardedly-vulgar (??) and doesn’t target any one group of folks. Is “classy-sleazy” a thing??

e.a.: yes! well said. it’s cleazy. arguably the most target-y thing in this puzzle is DON’T BE A DICK (7D: [Words of advice given by Wil Wheaton at PAX 2007, which came to be known as “Wheaton’s Law”]) – insofar as that is gendered at all, i am totally cool with it. plus a nice shoutout to crosswordy WIL.

Lena: That one twisted my lips into a wry smile because my ex-husband basically ripped off that line in some presentation about feminism in software without crediting Wil. I really thought it was just something he came up with. But anyway, he turned out to BE A DICK. No matter what, it’s damned good advice in general. But I do hear it as being directed at men, telling them not to be a dick to ladies.

e.a.: MEN! it’s great advice. speaking of pipe (sorry, that wasn’t even close to classy) – KEYSTONE XL (30D: [Controversial midwestern pipeline project]) was, like, just in the news. cool bit of fill and still timely 1.5 years later.

Lena: Ugh, I just started scanning through to pick out favorite clues and there are just too many. RECESSIONAL (41A: [Hymn heard during an exodus]), COLONOSCOPY (26D: [ Fast reason, perhaps]) and YOGA MAT (66A: [Roll for posers)] are all just too good. I am tearing hairs out trying to find a single nit to pick, honestly.

e.a.: yeah i was just about to ask if you had any demerits. i struggled a bit with PELLA (36D: [Ancient Macedonian capital]) – didn’t know the crossing RECESSIONAL or TC BOYLE (46A: [“World’s End” novelist]) – but wouldn’t call it a minus per se. more of a learning experience.

Lena: Oh yeah! TC BOYLE is literally my favorite author of all times– right there in the middle! I told Peter, and he said he hadn’t known of him. This reminded me of when you had SIX O in one of your puzzles clued to reference the John Prine song “Six O’Clock News” and I was all ERMAHGERRRRD and you hadn’t heard it.

e.a.: yeah i may be a bit of a (non-YOGA MAT) poser that way… without googling, can you tell me what the C stands for?

Lena: haha Correghsdfgkajsmsann — I can never spell it. Corheg.. Corrhegessan? So close…

e.a.: a very valiant effort. i will have to check out his works!

Lena: They’re short stories, so very readily consumable. I think constructing crosswords is a learning experience in the same way solving a puzzle can be– if I haven’t necessarily heard of fill, and it’s not egregiously esoteric, I will have fun learning and feel okay about its inclusion in the grid. Likewise, I very rarely get upset about having to look something up while solving, as long as the payoff is there…. But with Mr. TCB, I definitely have no idea what the “T” stands for at all. Prolly like, Tim.

e.a.: again – so damn close on the name guess. and if only more solvers were like you … constructors like me would get away with a lot more shit. 🙂

Lena: Well, you certainly teach me new things every Wednesday! Like, at least three things. At least. COLUMBUS as a verb is a recent favorite.

e.a.: like KEYSTONE XL, that one will probably not fade from relevance in the near future.

Lena: Okay, I’ve remembered a spot where I got tripped up– I had OH MY GOD instead of OH MERCY for (61A: [“Good Lord…”]) although in retrospect maybe Lord and GOD are… deity dupes? Anyway, it messed me up good with ROREM (51D: [Pulitzer-winning American composer Ned)], ROCA (57A: [Almond ___]), which I really feel like I should know, and the tricky SAYST (53D: [Doth state])

e.a.: no yeah your guess totally makes sense. ROREM and ACCRA (clued straight up as [Ghana’s capital]) bailed me out of that corner.

Lena: I’m not really a fan of EIGHT TO (42D: [:52])– I’ve seen something like that before, and for some reason it ires (haha spellcheck doesn’t think that’s a word either) me the same way Peter Gordon’s “X% of [roman numeral]” do, even though EIGHT TO is like 5000% better.

e.a.: yeah it’s definitely arbitrary (but thankfully gettable without doing too much math).

btw, there was an interesting pair of quirky-hidden-word-clues-saving-bad-fill: OSI at 13D ([The 7-layer ___ Model of network communication (hidden in HI YO SILVER, in case some of you aren’t nerds)]) and MCG at 62D ([“Terminator Salvation” director (hidden in AMC GREMLIN, in case some of you don’t watch shitty action movies)]). guess which one of those i didn’t need the hint for.

Lena: There is very little irksome short fill here and, as you say, Peter is a master of polishing up those tarnished nuggets and making them shine through cluing. Basically I consider his archives a treasure trove and highly recommend pawing through it. You’ll find vowellesses and everything.

e.a.: yes! peter’s blog was my gateway into vowellesses. can’t recommend them (or the whole archive) highly enough. this was a pleasure to revisit.

  1. Evan said:

    Ha, thanks for the tip of the fake hat, Lena. I think that’s just called bowing?

    I remember seeing that clue for SPAMBOT and, as I told Peter, it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure it out! I kept wanting an actual name of a frequent commenter, but couldn’t come up with one that would make sense. Plus the clue would have been uncharacteristically passive-aggressive on Peter’s part — like he were saying, yeah, [insert real solver] comments on Evan’s site a bunch, for some reason nobody can understand. Then I remembered that my spam filters on WordPress at the time sucked.

    Anyway, nice callback to a fun puz.


  2. bananarchy said:

    Aw, you guys are making me blush. Glad to hear that there’s still some amusement to be had in the cross nerd catalogue in spite of my laziness.

    At first I thought you guys were way too lenient on me re short fill. There’s definitely a lot of stuff that would be and has been called out in other puzzles on other blogs. I mostly stand by it though. I don’t mind the odd OSI, OBER, and ANS in support of more fun longer stuff, and I sometimes prefer a bit of pop-culture and modern entries like MCG and LTE over common 3-letter dictionary words. For me, it’s fun letters and words over complete and utter unimpeachability any day. Many would not agree with me. Fortunately for me, it sounds like you guys do.

    Anyway, thanks so much for digging this up!


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