“THEMELESS 13” by Paolo Pasco
Constructor: Paolo Pasco
Lena: Another fine Pasco freestyle– nothing flashy about the grid design, but it’s packed with dazzlers. GOT BETTER and HERE WE ARE are arguably the least exciting of the long answers, they are still conversational enough to be bouncy.
Max: 6 minutes faster than last freestyle(9:41), and the reason for that is not just because it’s supposedly easier. It’s also clean as hell. Paolo is probably my favorite constructor, and the quality of the these themelesses are just stunning.
Ben: Yeah, the high standard of the BuzzFeed freestyles in general (and Paolo’s in particular) has made it unfairly hard for these puzzles to impress me. I find myself thinking “Sure, SPIDEY SENSE and USE THE FORCE are great answers, but couldn’t the 9-letter entries they’re stacked with be just a little more sizzly?” Same way I feel about Patrick Berry grids — he’s so good at building crosswords that even 1-2 gluey answers stand out way more for me.
Max: Yeah, I was a little disappointed with the SW. The NE had MANSCARA (8A: Guyliner), which is nice and Buzzfeed-y, but the SW fell a little flat. NTH POWER (63A: Infinitely large degree) is getting some serious side-eye from me, and I LIKE math. The SOPHS/ICAME is some symmetrical dreck, but that’s ok.
Ben: Interesting — I’ve always liked that answer. I always have to fight the urge to just point at flashy answers and say “look, look!” when we’re reviewing Paolo’s puzzles… but I really do love that SW stack. ON PARADE, NTH POWER and GO STEADY — all nice answers, all clued vaguely enough to not be obvious, all clean crosses. IDED (54D: Fingered in jail, maybe) is the worst thing down there, and it’s a perfectly reasonable answer despite the racy clue.
Lena: I always get a kick out of seeing the whole package that’s normally just a bit of crosswordese– you see NTH as [___ power], so NTH POWER cracked me up. It’s like seeing MAUNA LOA instead of [Mauna ___].
Max: Lena, the phrase is usually, NTH DEGREE, which is why it receives side-eye. Also #tbt with ROUX. I was a few puzzles early, it seems.
I want to point out DEETS for a second–a lot of constructors focus on the long stuff, and their short stuff gets forgotten. But Paolo makes sure some of the short stuff gets love
Lena: Haha I definitely laughed at ROUX 🙂 “EVERYBODY knows what a ROUX is!” And we were even asked to know that you have to WHISK that shit. Re: POWER/DEGREE, the clue contains “degree” and when I google “nth…” both degree and power pop up. No side-eye from me and I DON’T like math.
Ben: I had SPIDER SENSE instead of SPIDEY SENSE (26D: Tingler of Peter Parker) for quite a while, which made it tough to see COOL STORY, BRO. Between that and not knowing DJ TIESTO or that 1A: Downhill skiing maneuver was a SCHUSS, this played hard for me (though very satisfying when I cracked it).
Max: Same! That NW killed me. I would’ve clued TIESTO as two words, since its proximity to SCHUSS and CINE necessitates the clue to be a little easier than it was.
Lena: COOL STORY BRO (45A: Sarcastic comment following a long-winded tirade) is my favorite long entry; I definitely say “cool story” sometimes, like an asshole. I actually liked seeing the typical TIES TO re-parsed as a DJ’s name, even if I’ve never heard of him– it’s that kind of creativity that truly keeps puzzles fresh.
Ben: I’m a little skeptical about the phrasing on 46D: City home to the NHL Senators for OTTAWA. I think I might have shortened that to “City of Senators” and let solvers work it out. Though I guess “Canadian NHL teams” might be an area where I have more knowledge than the average BZF reader.
Max: also, is LECH (43A: Skeevy dude) a thing? I recognize it as a word, but is it… A thing? It’s worth it for SKYMALL/ELECTRO though.
Lena: Yes, a LECH is someone who displays lecherous behavior– like OGLING and LEERING.
Ben: The gag in the clue on AMERICAN has been used previously, so law of diminishing returns on that one. But I really love MOP being clued as 21A: “Justin Bieber Pees Into Restaurant ___ Bucket, Curses Off Bill Clinton” (2013 headline, man that was a weird time for Bieber). Nice callback to 1A: Bieber, for example (let’s be honest) (STUD).
Ben: I’ve got to return to RealWorldResponsibilityLand and finish my report cards, but I really enjoyed this.
Max: Same. This may be my least favorite Pasco puzzle, but it’s probably as good as the best puzzle I’ve ever made. 4.2/5 for me.