Puzzle #8 – Freestyle Alpha

size: 15x15
style: themeless
difficulty: decently challenging, but not like one of those impossibly hard indie themelesses

Crossword confessional: I'm not typically a big fan of themeless puzzles. They just don't tend to, y'know, get me going the same way that a solid themed puzzle does. Don't get me wrong—I have a huge appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into a great themeless, and there are plenty that I have genuinely enjoyed, but most of the time I find it hard to get on the creator's wavelength or overcome the obscenely high difficulty that some set for their solvers.

So in a lot of ways, making this puzzle forced me to go outside of my comfort zone. At the same time, I made myself comfortable by not trying to fit this puzzle into a hole, and just writing it as I'd like to see a themeless written. I utilized a very wide array of original and classic cluing angles, and in general I had a lot of fun with the cluing, probably too much fun... and I think you'll see why. This is a very "me" themeless (and I'm not gonna apologize).

If it's not clear from my last three puzzles (between the April Fools grid, the ridiculous SpongeBob grid, and the decidedly 6x9 grid), I'm not shy to messing with my solvers and doing things that wouldn't fly in mainstream venues. This puzzle has at least a couple genuine stumbling blocks that might frustrate you, make you laugh, hopefully not make you cry, but will force you to pause and think about things... differently. Although difficult, I hope all of the different angles I utilized are fair and the fill still comes across as clean. I know it's not perfect.

And a huge thank you to Mikey and Quiara for being the guinea pigs for this experiment!

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