“Bracket Busters”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] ⛹🏽‍♀️💥⛹🏻

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!

the little guys, big moves

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.

Happy solving, friends!


13 thoughts on ““Bracket Busters”

  1. Okay, so I hate to be one of those 26-Across guys, but … in the clue for 91-Down, the sources I checked seem to like “smokeshows” instead of “smoke shows”, and I think the clue for 97-Down was meant to be “Maui howdys” instead of “Muai howdys” … but hey, I loved the puzzle anyway!

      • As long as we’re on the subject… I hate to be “That Guy”, but I am “That Guy”. I think that “Octopi” is incorrect, as “octopus” is Greek, not Latin. The correct plural should be “Octopodes”. Let’s be kind to our tentacled friends…

        Don’t get up, I’ll show myself out…

        I do love your puzzles, Ross! Keep ’em coming!

  2. Wow — fantastic job! I can’t see any other grid design working without a lot of gunk, which you completely (as usual) avoided. I’m wondering, though (she plowed on, totally from self-interest) regarding 106 Down: I don’t plan to be a ballerina, but can *climbing* mangle those lower digits? Even the in-the-gym type? Thanks, Ross o’ mine!

    • Oh, boy. You’re going to have to take my word for this one, Kelly, since me providing visual evidence of what climbing shoes can do to one’s big toes would be distasteful in the extreme. If you stick to the looser beginner shoes, you’re fine. But the “aggressive,” molded shoes can require a masochistic 2-minute shove-and-pull procedure to even get them on 😛

      • Thanks. Definitely a “beginner” and have no desire for “aggressive shoes!” (What a concept, sheesh.) 🙂

  3. Fun puzzle! On 30D, I mistakenly put “madre” as I was thinking of Bogart’s “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” film. That messed me up in the upper left corner for a while. You totally cracked me up with 120A– thanks for the laugh! Very clever bracket busting idea.

  4. 77 across – prime meridian standard can only be GMT. GST is Gulf Standard Time, as in Dubai. Otherwise fun, but I did have some trouble formatting the printout to one page.

    • Thanks for solving, Rick! GST stands for Greenwich Sidereal Time, which is indeed a [Prime meridian std.] I’m not wild about using it as fill, but this clue/fill pairing is decently common among the major xword outlets in the last 2 decades.

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