“THEMELESS 11” by Paolo Pasco
Christmas came late! Do Paolo’s Friday/Sunday/Tuesday/Funday Freestyle!
Constructor: Paolo Pasco
Ben: I was so excited when I saw Paolo’s name on this puzzle. God, I love his themelesses. His themed puzzles are good too, but this is on another level. (Side note: Paolo becomes the first constructor to publish five BZF puzzles.)
Lena: Yeah, I was so excited I tweeted about it on Friday being a Christmas themeless miracle, but then they ran it on Sunday. Oops. My b.
Ben: Strong triple stacks in every corner? Check. Smooth, open flow thanks to nice use of cheater squares? Check. J, K, X, V and three (!) Z’s worked in smoothly like it ain’t no thing? Check. (Notice that he avoided the temptation to go for the pangram BTW — not a Q in sight.)
Lena: The pangram thing is so completely lost on me. I’m like a distracted mother, all “yes that’s nice dear.” But you can’t ignore all those pointy little Z’s! This grid reminds me very much of a BEQ themeless; in this week’s Themeless Monday I was able to throw down AZERBAIJAN [Its capital is Baku] knowing basically nothing about the country (except it won the Eurovision Song Contest not too long ago, I think), but by knowing that it’s a stack-worthy answer that contains a Z and a J.
Ben: I’ve never heard of PENTATONIX (17A: Five-person a capella group named after a musical scale), but it googles fine. I was checking every cross on that one — I knew the X had to be right from SEXAHOLIC (10D: Person who has to try and get off getting off), but it just didn’t look right. I also originally had SEX ADDICT for the latter clue, so that whole section took me a while.
Lena: I think what saved me from the SEX ADDICT trap was my scrupulousness with LOG _N (29A: Start surfing). I ‘aint putting I or O there until I have cold, hard facts. And what’s harder than a RING POP (8D: Candy that’s perfect for proposing to your preschool crush with) <sings> RING POPs are foreverrrrr!
Ben: Lots of good clues, but 27A: He was like, “Good gracious, @$$ bodacious for NELLY was especially amusing (that song was very big when I was in high school). Speaking of songs that I love despite myself, hello SHAKIRA (43D: “Hips Don’t Lie” singer (be honest, it’s secretly your jam). Ain’t no “secretly” about it.
Lena: It’s those little trumpets that get me. A little brass section of bees and mice all trumpeting about SHAKIRA’s honest hips. Fucking fantastic.
Ben: I like the sass in CSI being clued as 44A: “___: Cyber” (crime show that’s like a crime show but ON THE INTERNET WHOAAA) and PELE as 34A: One-named legend in football (or soccer, if you’re AMERICAN *bald eagle shrieks from above and cries tears of majesty as it lands on my shoulder*).
Lena: Yup and yep– those were my two favorites too.
Ben: I am genuinely astonished that FISH TACO is clued as 36D: Order at a seaside Mexican place. The cluing has been getting steadily better over the last few weeks — thumbs up.
Lena: I was excited to see what [Condescending way to refer to a dude] (19A) would be. I asked some dude friends a while back what, if anything, makes them feel slighted or lesser when thus called. They both said BRO, and that makes sense to me– it’s analogous to DITZ or BIMBO. So I was hoping for BRO instead of LAD.
Ben: Don’t understand DOGE (67A: wow very meme such shiba inu), but I’m not up on memes so whatever. Also, thank god that UZO ADUBA came up in an earlier puzzle this week, because I’d have been screwed on that corner otherwise.
Lena: This is the first meme that sent me to www.knowyourmeme.com. It… helped…
Ben: Finally, let’s get into the holiday spirit with ABYSS (48A: Void, as the existential void of nothingness that will inevitably consume our meaningless lives). Merry Christmas!