Sam Ezersky’s latest puzzle, FREESTYLE 20, kicked my ass. Try it yourself before judging me, and then read on.
I’m starting to think these puzzles might just be too hard for me, but I’m going to keep chipping away at them because they’re so good. No idea how long I spent on this, since the timer stopped at 99:59, but it was a while (broken up into several sessions, at least). Let’s run through the damage.
I managed to break into the NE thanks to DRE, and got as far as BAD DISC (8A: Source of unwanted skipping) and HOME STAR Runner before stalling out. I wasn’t getting anywhere with the clues for DESTINY (11D: You can’t resist it) or INTACT (12D: Still there) without more letters. Skipped over to the NW, and finally saw WORTH at 5D: “Antiques Roadshow” determination after flirting with VALUE and PRICE. That confirmed B AVERAGE (18A: It’s around 3.0), which got me FRACK (2D: Get gas?) and the rest of the corner. Never heard of KROKODIL (15A: Reptilian-sounding street name for the drug desomorphine), but worked it out from the clue. Great entry.
Once I finally stopped trying to cram ACIDTRONIC into ACID TRANCE (20A: Trippy music genre), I finished the top and slowly worked my way down. POM POM (41A: Accessory in an arena) was brutal, but it gave me most of the west. I still can’t believe I missed PIG LATIN on 29A: Ay-plus vocabulary?, but I was too certain of LIMP for 31D: Walking woe. That is a devious (and I’m sure deliberate) trap for the correct answer, GIMP.
Made it as far down as TIN HELMET (51A: Bit of WWI apparel), which I only got because I was listening to this at school today:
With the benefit of hindsight, I can tell you that this was as close as I got before giving up and starting to hammer the Check button. I’ve penciled in my incorrect guesses so you can see just how fucked I was:
Not terrible, I suppose. Actually managed to work out MY STORY (70A: Facebook : Timeline :: Snapchat : ___) despite never having used Snapchat. Things that made me kick myself when I finally saw them:
- 42D: CHALUPAS – Taquiera treats
- 53A: JUST YOU AND ME – Words uttered before an epic showdown
- 59A: BANH – Trendy sandwich component? Referring to banh mi, of course.
- 60A: PADRES GAME – Occasion for a Tim Lincecum no-hitter, in both 2013 and 2014 (This one hurts — if I were a baseball fan, I’d probably have been able to solve the puzzle. I was thinking it had to be a date, which is of course hugely improbable.)
- 48D: WET DREAM – Cause of a bust in the middle of the night?
The fill is a little shaky in spots, but I don’t feel like nitpicking — there’s more than enough marquee entries to justify a little glue. Fantastic cluing. This is far and away the hardest puzzle I’ve tried to solve in months, but if you’re up for the challenge, it’s great stuff.