“THEMELESS 17 (“The That’s So 2012 Themeless”) by David Steinberg
Feast upon this Friday Freestyle
Themeless 17 (“The That’s So 2012 Themeless”)
Constructor: David Steinberg
Ben: Man, this puzzle was hard. I was just beating my head against it for ages. 2D: Dangers to gardens? for ANAGRAM is brutal — those kinds of cryptic clues always catch me. I also just wasn’t familiar with BAHAI, SMYRNA or AC DELCO, so I needed pretty much all the crosses on those.
Max: I knew the first one and the last one from crosswords. The middle one gets my SEOTD because…. just look at it. Sideways, that is. As for the rest of the puzzle, I liked it well enough. HARLEM SHAKE/SAUSAGE FEST is nice on the top and STRETCH GOAL and BOOTY SHORTS is nice on the bottom. the middle…was messy, but it played quick enough for me not to be annoyed too much.
Lena: This puzzle didn’t do it for me– pretty much at no point did I enjoy myself. I had to look up LYNN”E” in order to make any progress up towards that terrible NE and found that she spells her name “Lynn.” Boo. The clues were vague, distant, not terrible clever. Like, (40D: Sick jelly source) for APRICOT? Am I missing something? Is this an example of green paint in a clue? If you substitute “my favorite” for “sick” then who the hell knows which jelly you like best. Also, who cares.
Max: It’s just one of those buzzfeed-y clues. No special meaning to “sick”. I’m a straight peanut butter man myself, but I (mostly) respect you jelly eaters.
Ben: There’s a mini-theme here, with RAUNCHY being clued with reference to SAUSAGE FEST (17A: Party with a very uneven ratio), SEX TAPE (14D: High-exposure film?) and BOOTY SHORTS (66A: Cheeky rave attire?). Any one of those would be fine with me — all together, it got a little tiring. (There’s also a theme implied by the title, but HARLEM SHAKE is the only thing that seems to be 2012-ish to me.)
Max: Pro tip: if your clue has more xrefs than words, you’re doing it wrong. Hated the RAUNCHY clue, which just looks ugly.
Lena: I don’t think RAUNCHY is a particularly good/apt descriptor for BOOTY SHORTS and especially not SAUSAGE FEST— what’s RAUNCHY about having more guys at a party? Also, I really don’t like themes in my themeless! I can make the link between answers on my own, if I want to– I don’t want to be told.
Ben: I like both 11-letter triple stacks a lot. NTSB and RLS are pretty small prices to pay for the SE, and the NW is completely clean, and even hits a double Kardashian joke in the clues for EVA and MAGDA Gabor.
Max: I was just reading on Reddit about how Zsa Zsa Gabor is still alive(knock on wood), so I was able to get Madga really easily. but the NW is the reason why SMYRNA exists, so I wouldn’t call it “clean.” It nearly forces the SMY, which doesn’t give you a lot of options.
Lena: The Kardashian parenthetical threw me off. All the Kardashians just have “K” names, right? I then expected the Gabor sisters to have the same initials– the little info nugget ultimately tripped me up, not knowing anything about the Gabors.
Ben: I’m not especially fond of the SW — APPOSES (38D: Puts together) and PURL suck, and TAURINE (39D: Controversial Red Bull ingredient) is kinda boring. I also noticed the dupe between AT A SLANT and SNIPE AT, which never happens. PAPA SMURF (46A: 546-year-old cartoon character voiced by Jonathan Winters) is great, though, and the puzzle as a whole is open and clean and fun.
Max: Yeah, the SW was bad. I knew TAURINE with no crosses, because it’s not as boring as you think (it used to be made naturally–from the bile of oxen!). Didn’t even notice the AT dupe, so it didn’t bother me.
Lena: Mmmm woolen lingerie– now *that’s* RAUNCHY. I don’t really think of PURL (49A: Lace lingerie loop) outside of the context of knitting, so… APPOSE was bad alright, but FEALTY (47D: Oath of faithfulness from a vassal to their lord)?? Nuh-uh.
Ben: Favourite clue was 13D: Your average “The Scarlet Letter” villager for PURITAN. Least favourite was 22D: Common name or nickname for… urban establishments near a… body of water for BAY CITY, which was too cutesy by half for me.
Max: I feel like BAY CITY isn’t a thing…. so I don’t know of any clue that would save that for me.
Lena: As I was sitting here griping about this puzzle, I found out that BuzzFeed will no longer be accepting/publishing outside submissions starting next week. I’m sorry to hear the news– as irksome as the millennial-skewed puzzles could be, I considered them a guilty pleasure. Also BuzzFeed was basically the only game in town paying young constructors the same as a weekday NYT if published, which is a great way to encourage new folks.
Max: This was an awesome experiment, and I am so sad to see it go. I’m sure there will be more ways to get more young people into puzzles, but this was so far my favorite. Still, I hope that it can come back later, when Buzzfeed realizes how much it’s missed!
As for the puzzle, 4/5 for me. maXWORD out!