Sorry about the missing write-up last week (assuming anyone actually reads these). Finished writing the puzzle at like 2am and I didn't have it in me to come up with anything to write. I came up with the theme entries a few days earlier and shelved them, then on Sunday afternoon suddenly and inexplicably became interested in trying to make a Marching Bands puzzle. Having never made one before, I had no idea what to expect in terms of time input, so I came up with the brilliant idea to just spend the time writing a PERL script to fill one using my wordlist. Since I was already working with a puzzle format that I was almost entirely unfamiliar with, I guess it seemed like a good idea to try and codify the construction rules using a language I'm just learning. Not surprisingly, the whole plan went down in flames. It turns out that the Marching Bands format presents a challenge not encountered when writing a crossword-filling program (which I've done in the past): there's no way to know in advance how many entries will fit in each band, or where the entries begin and end in each band and row. While certainly not intractible, this problem proved a little too difficult to solve in the very limited time I had left myself. Actually, I got it mostly working, but there were a few bugs that I didn't have time to squash. So, I busted out the theme answers I had prepared earlier at 6:30 Monday evening and got to work filling the grid and writing close to 100 clues. Turned out surprisingly ok (and props to Drew Lawn for inspiring the theme when by dropping the last theme answer in conversation a while back). I doubt I've learned my lesson for good, but this week at least I finished in a comfortable amount of time. And expect some Marching Bands in the future, though, Gods willing.
Oh, and one more thing about last week's puzzle. I received an e-mail about an error in one of the clues, but I sort of anticipated that I would, so I figured I'd clear it up. 8-Down read [Sting wanted his, in "Money for Nothing"], which clues MTV. But wait, wasn't Mark Knopfler the songwriter and vocalist for Dire Straits? In fact, and I just learned this while cluing the puzzle, Sting was a guest vocalist on "Money for Nothing." He sang the falsetto "I want my MTV" part during the intro (notice that it sounds almost identical to the refrain from "Don't Stand So Close To Me." This was by design). I struggled a bit with that clue, since Mark Knopfler actually wrote that line before Sting got involved, and I anticipated that no matter which one I went with some solvers would think I had made an error. In retrospect, I should have just taken a different approach to the clue, but I thought it was a fun bit of trivia. Oh, and here's a good source for all of this, btw.
In news not about me, Neville Fogarty's Friday puzzle was ___ing outstanding. Hats off, Neville. Humbling to see this caliber of stuff being put out by other young indies.
Plain-Jane 15x15 freestyle this week. I'm happy that I was able to fill this grid reasonably cleanly, but I feel it's lacking in the sparkle department. Maybe crossing my two seed entries in a difficult spot was ill-advised. 24-Down is a plug for Cross Nerd OG Parker Lewis, who selected the entry as his Month of Metas prize. If you've found your way here, you're most likely a crossword junkie and have probably heard of it. If not, take note. I was inspired to put 35-Across in there while watching the riveting Riders-Lions game on Saturday night. I worked a few summers as a groundskeeper with 35-Across, and his brother Chris, who's now a slotback for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, was one of my frequent homework partners in 1st-year Engineering at the U of R. He was on the Riders' roster for their '07 Grey Cup win, which was the same year that his brother played with the Stanley Cup-winning Ducks. These sorts of things mean a lot in a city the size of Regina.
More words, crossed and otherwise, next Tuesday.
Puzzle: Freestyle #20
Download the PDF file here and the PUZ file here, or solve or download the Across Lite puzzle and/or software from the embedded app below.