Of the hundreds of puzzles I’ve made in the last few years, only about 50 of them have been themeless. And before today I’d only ever posted three of them on this site. Today’s grid is lucky number four, with a bullet.
The truth is that, generally speaking, I somewhat prefer *solving* themeless puzzles. But when it comes to *making* them, I tend to find my attention wandering after the first few words go in. In recent months I’ve found more focus in developing lower word count architecture (“ooh, let’s see if *this* is possible!”) or even grabbing grid arrangements wholesale from other constructors I admire (“ooh, let’s imagine how *Sid* started out on this set-up!”).
The puzzle’s title comes from the clue for 36-Across, which is a not-so-subtle h/t to my very good streaming buddy Parker. Last night we constructed a grid on the stream and invited the audience to a Google doc for the cluing phase, which was predictably bonkers (and ultimately productive). You can check out that whole process here; I’ll post the puzzle sometime this week. And Parker and I will be back at it tomorrow night at 10pm eastern after the Boswords stream.
No spoilers this week. What does one say about a themeless puzzle? C’est de la poésie, non?
Love March Madness or hate it, it’s pretty unavoidable. I’m not personally super invested in any college sport, but I know that quite a few of the regular solvers on this site are. But fret not: you don’t *have* to know much of anything about sports ball to appreciate/solve this week’s puzzle. I don’t think.
Please note that for the second week in a row I’m running a 21×21 grid whose dimensions will cause the clues to populate above and below the grid rather than to the side. For that reason you might find it easier to download the .puz and solve in AcrossLite, or to print the PDF and solve by hand.
Spoilers and thoughts on “Bracket Busters” after the jump!
I first started working on a 15×15 puzzle that used BRACKET BUSTERS as a revealer, with a variety of answers breaking through the BRACKETs represented in the grid with black squares. And I thought it was cute! But when I stood back from the resulting grid, it felt like it was missing a layer. Namely, that the answers that busted brackets didn’t have *meanings* that were suggestive of the concept of bracket busting.
Moving in that direction–and limiting myself to words that connoted beating the odds–it quickly became apparent that I was going to have to work in a 21×21 grid. For the gridwork wonks out there, I’d love to see other configurations where six non-contiguous standalone brackets of 6 black boxes can be arranged in a fillable grid. I swear I worked with 15 different configurations, using rotational and mirror symmetry, before finally being able to pull it all off in the diagonal symmetry grid you see here.