PROGRAM: [Java]here and do it up!
So any way, while I was begging for some kind of a penalty on Monday, Matt very quietly dropped the gauntlet to try and duplicate his Jonesin' puzzle this week. Well, just take a look at this baby and it's no surprise that I was all-in for the challenge. (No time to do it? Read Amy's blog about it instead.) It's a beautiful construction, four cheaters in the corners aside. Basically, any chunky swathe of white sqaures looks impressive. And Matt's insane-o 8x6 centerpiece, hoo-boy. Calling it an 8x6 is a misnomer as, really, almost all the entries are 7-10 long. I'd say this is showing off, and let's face it, with puzzles like that, it is, but the vocabulary represented in the puzzle is fresh. Bravo.
So let's call this a game of H-O-R-S-E, and let me tell you, I couldn't come up with anything worth a hill of spit. For me, that middle was too fugging difficult to pull off. Even with all the cheaters, Matt wins. So, Matt, I've got a letter.
Now, what I've posted above was the best that I came up with while attempting the Jonesin' puzzle: I kept the non-traditional 16x16 grid, went with a more manageable 6x6 center (manageable for me at least), lost as many of the cheaters as I could, and then went to town. Started with 64-Across, where I start almost all of my themeless puzzles, and used that entry mainly because they were on iTunes when I started making it. In one of my puzzles last week, I almost pulled off 60-Across, so that was a pleasant surprise to get it to work this week.
The middle turned out to be a little friendlier than I'd hoped. 46-Across was a nice base, and 16-Down offered some flexibility for the future; essentially I could have started with two different compass points. (For any up-and-coming constructors: plan ahead! Give yourself a couple two three outs especially into hairy corners.) You'll be happy to notice I didn't follow my own advice with 24-Down (I thought about talking myself into AND SO THEN for a minute).
The _ _ _ _ _ E I ending of 5-Down seriously limited that corner, so I was pleasantly surprised that I managed 4 snappy entries up there. It should be noted at this point, it's basically inevitable that for every colorful entry you manage to pull off, especially in super-wide-open stuff like this, there will be at least one garbage entry, in this case: 6-, 7-, and 8-Down in this corner (3-Down to a lesser extent as I think at least the quote's funny).
The inevitable flaw with themeless puzzles is that, at the end of the day, they tend to feel like a couple two threee (or in this case five) mini puzzles. There's really nothing linking anything among these entries other than the fact that I wrote them. In many ways, a really, really well designed themeless puzzle is way more satisfying than yet another hackneyed themed puzzle. But that design flaw of the compartmentalized corners seems unbreakable. For a while the New York Sun was running "mini-themed" themelesses (always running on Thursdays). Sometimes the theme was obvious (NASCAR MOMS and SOCCER DADS as two different entries, say), other times it might be more subtle, perhaps hinted in the clues. It didn't matter if you didn't notice it (hell I never noticed them in the handful of times my own puzzles run on Thursday), but perhaps something like that might make the solving experience sweeter.Okay, enjoy this one. New one on Monday.