Freestyles 77 and 78 by Tim Croce

Apologies for the gap in Croce coverage– we’re back with Tim’s two most recent freestyles: 77 and 78. Dig in!


Freestyle 77

Peter: TC is toying with us here. We side-eyed SKYEY a few weeks back and now here’s CLAYEY. That’s actually a word I’ve heard and possibly even used, actually. But it just looks so…contrived. I think I kind of love it though.

Lena: I was so delighted by CLAYEY re: SKYEY! It’s certainly much more acceptable than SKYEY but both are just so… Croceey.

Peter: A bit of a mini-theme here to commemorate a year of twice-weekly Club72 puzzles:

  • 20A [Incredulous first-anniversary remark]: HAS IT BEEN A YEAR? and
  • 52A [Reminiscer’s remark]: OH HOW TIME FLIES.

Lena: I had a mopey mini-theme once with WHY EVEN BOTHER and WHAT’S THE POINT– I just really like longer conversational complete sentence answers like these.

Peter: Entries like that are always fun to puzzle out. Although the clues are transparent, there are many candidate answers that spring to mind right away, and many more that present themselves after snagging a few crosses. Deductive reasoning and amusement ensue.

Lena: Yes, these are the good voices to hear in your head!

Peter: However, this puzzle felt sort of awkwardly caught between themed and themeless territory. It’s neither a fully formed theme nor a chunky themeless. Despite not being a dense theme, those set-in-stone 14ers really take over large swaths of the grid, and impose a lot of themed-grid-like constraints.

Lena: I won’t lie, these past few Croce’s have been pretty tough for me. This is not a problem, because I expect and want them to be tough, but yeesh! I think they also seem harder when you have a ton of backlogged puzzles to solve and are otherwise busy– I need to really spend my time with these puzzles, so I’m going to chalk up some of my feelings of defeat as “personal reasons.”

Peter: LADY A (24A: “Need You Now” band, informally), if indeed a legit thing, is a neat new 5-letter find. Not often that solid and novel short fill pops up. [Solo partner] (29D: LEIA) didn’t fool me for a second, but it’s a lovely and succinct bit of tricksiness. Ditto [Find in a rush] for LODE (16A).

Lena: I would call this a “magic brain” puzzle– you need to let your brain go all loose and floppy in order to see through some of these clues. I guess the more common term for this is “thinking outside of the box” but I’m sick of that phrase; I wonder how many hundred crosswords use it as a theme. Anyway, LONE (24D: Unpacked?) was great misdirection but it got me all crazed and I put ERGO for [Be there for?] for (57A: MEET). Whooaaa there, Lena.

Peter: Omg that’s good. Please use [Be therefore?] as a clue for ERGO. Anywho, whatever clue-parsing-related wind I had in my sails after obliterating that top section was promptly taken out by the SW. Oof. That proved utterly impenetrable for me; you’ve got:

  • [Foil in strips] for ODIE
  • [Parts of joints] for BARS
  • [#1, e.g.] for COMBO
  • [Be there for?] for MEET
  • [Natural source of theobromine] for CACAO

That’s quite the corner.

Lena: I was still all high on misdirection by the time I got down there, and went on and brushed my shoulders off for seeing through the clues for ODIE and BARS. COMBO clue is bru-tal, and I still don’t really fully understand the MEET clue. Also, is the past tense of “chide” really CHID??? Of course it is– but only if you want it to be; “chided” is obviously the more recognized/utilized option.

Peter: Loved SAMMICH (42D) and its clue, [Casual lunch?]. 56D [TV character born in San Francisco on June 24, 2230] was fun to think through as well. Took me a while to get to SULU. Also NO BUENO (36A “This looks real bad, muchacho”) is a treat. Despite some really nice highlights here and there in the fill and some clever cluing throughout, this one was just a bit above a “meh” for me.


Freestyle 78

Peter: BS METER (8D: Internal “lie detector”) was, in its entirety, the very first thing I entered here. I love love love that entry, and I guess the clue just clicked. However, it failed to open up much for me in that NW, and that ended up being the last section to fall after circling around the rest of this gorgeous grid.

Lena: Yeah, I knew you’d be all into BS METER. This puzzle was hard for me! We solved it up on the Big Board and we didn’t finish. I had PIPE STEM pretty quick, but even though it’s straight-forward once you get it ON ORDERS didn’t happen, and I had LUCKY… for way too long.

Peter: Had a lot of trouble with 18A (“So leave… I’m not stopping you!”); tried so many things that weren’t WELL GO. And ELLE KING (12D: “Ex’s & Oh’s” singer, 2015) was a gimme for me, so I even had that L. Having PRE-LIT for OIL-LIT (16A: Like menorahs, traditionally) didn’t help. I don’t even know what pre-lit would mean in this context. Like, you buy it already burning? idk.

Lena: Brayden put in GAS-LIT and when he got OIL-LIT was like “oh yeah that’s the whole point.” UGH that NW was brutal and kinda soul-crushing when you finally got stuff. (57A: There’s nothing wrong here) for UTOPIA— of course! KIR (45A: Blanc-cassis, now) has always been “creme de cassis” to me, and KIR is always and forever purpleyey, not blanc-ey. But this is one of those things where my booze cred is going to get smashed when it turns out to be all “well actually… “ I also side-eyed APPLE ALE (60A: Tart brew), and it seems with good cause– I did a little research and found this description: “Redd’s Apple Ale is apparently what happens when MillerCoors realizes that Mike’s Hard and Twisted Tea don’t have apple versions.”

Peter: FIND GOD (37A: Experience a revelation, say) is just a knock-out entry.

Lena: The STOP DEAD clue seems off to me (14D: Be frozen)– “be frozen” is a state you’re already in; you be frozen. STOP DEAD is something you do to be frozen. I cracked up at SUP for (42A: Take out some Chinese, maybe)– like my brain cracked because it was one damned little answer that I just couldn’t see! I loved BEER SNOB (36D: Buds just won’t do for this type) and WEBINAR (34A: Monitored class activity?). I liked seeing ANBESOL in Tuesdays and UNISOM in Friday’s– I’m a fan of drug names/brands in puzzles. Overall these two freestyles were equally tough-but-rewarding for me…. and now I have to go back to staring blankly at this Tuesday’s puzzle… and get smacked by today’s at 6pm… Relentless!!

1 comment
  1. Brayden said:

    That Friday puzzle was just savage. I don’t know what it was, but I could not get my brain to loosen up enough to really dig in. FIND GOD was great. I liked DAMN GIRL also. I think I wrote and erased POINT A about half a dozen times. before enough downers came in to put it in with confidence.

    Not a big fan of MOPISH – even though that was the state parts of this puzzle put me in.


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