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  • Writer's pictureLyle Broughton

State of Limbo Vibes - Themeless #5

Second puzzle in a row with this center staircase shape! There's just something so satisfying about mixing and matching three 13s from my seed list, eventually finding the perfect combination and arrangement that can actually support life.

This one actually came together relatively quickly, at least compared to my last 2-3 themeless puzzles. Part of the reason was that I was aiming for a more casual construction process: staying under 72 words of course, but not actively trying to push the word count lower and lower.


The result is a 70-word grid with a slightly higher quantity of 3s than I'd prefer. But the benefit was that I could focus on polishing the fill as much as possible, instead of struggling to get the dang thing to fill at all, which is what I'm used to! Due to the less rigid constraints, though, I was also able to incorporate some entries that I had pre-written clues for (1A, 15A, 62A, and 52D) that were just sitting in my Cluing Angles spreadsheet, waiting to be used in a puzzle.


Special thanks to Will Nediger and Chris Piuma for test solving, and encouraging me to zhuzh up some of the flatter clues! Hopefully the improvements make this a better puzzle overall. Enjoy!


State of Limbo Vibes
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-SPOILERS-

Honestly very little I can give for behind-the-scenes on this one! Unusually, this grid came together in one sitting, instead of through several iterations of layout/block arrangement, as was the case with at least my last 2 themeless puzzles. As a result, no in-progress screenshots to share, only this fully-filled grid that differs from the final puzzle in only two places: SMOKE / EKE instead of SMORE / ERE, and ANT / WASP instead of INT / WISP. Both were changed during the cluing process when I was struggling to write interesting clues for EKE and WASP.

I am proud of how this puzzle turned out, but I feel like it's pretty obvious that the central staircase stack is where all the fun really is. Aside from a few good clues elsewhere, there aren't really any marquee entries outside those middle three. So I think for my next themeless puzzle, I'm going to try doing what I did for A Challenging Segue, where I pick two seed entries and build around them. We'll see how that goes!

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