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.
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 www.devilcross.com, 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.