My first venture into the world of themeless puzzles! Seeing all the fantastic themeless grids recently from other indie constructors made me want to try my hand at it, and I'm proud of the results. Let me know what you think!
Recently I've been noticing a trend across the indie scene to make puzzles as devilishly difficult and vanishingly impossible to solve except for the absolute pro-level genius solvers. So for this puzzle, I didn't intentionally make it easy, I just didn't intentionally make it hard. I want my puzzles to still be enjoyable without the difficulty knob cranked up to 11. Hopefully you find this themeless playfully tricky and not belligerently tricky. :)
The design of the grid was motivated by the placement of the 3 marquee 15s, which more or less locked in many of the black squares from outset. I'm interested in exploring a different strategy for my next themeless, one focused more on building stacks than interlocking grid spanners. So stay tuned for that, I guess.
Huge thanks to Quiara for playtesting this one, and pointing out some of the weaker clues. The puzzle is better with her help!
As stated above, this grid began with my desire to build a themeless using some of the 15-letter entries I had added to my wordlist over the last few months, preferably in a pattern where they crossed each other. MAKE IT MAKE SENSE was the true "seed entry," and FOR REAL THIS TIME & LOOK AT IT THIS WAY were battling over the intersection with the T. I didn't have anything good for the other side for a while, but when I finally found ARE WE THE BADDIES?, I knew I had a promising start.
For a while, this grid seemed to really want staircases in between the (unusually close) vertical 15s, and I kept getting tantalizingly close to getting something to work, but I could never quite get rid of Crossfire's "Unfillable Grid" message. The screenshots below are each of the points in the construction process where I felt like I might be onto something, including the last one, which I saved as "themeless 1 sketch7 (promising!).png".