puzzle untimed; meta about 2 hours, with the hint after 1.5 hours (Matt)
Stumped and it’s Sunday, so I’m going to blog out loud and see if that helps. This month Pete warns us ominously:
Given that we are nearing the end of the contest, I decided to make this puzzle a little harder by omitting its original title. If I get fewer than 50 correct answers before Friday afternoon, I will offer solvers the option (for half-credit) of getting the title as a hint.
Spooky. Let’s take a look at the grid:
Instructions say The meta for this puzzle is the two grid entries that, when combined, complete this puzzle’s theme. Tough to say exactly what the theme entries are. At ten letters apiece, these four look like theme:
3-d [Goes nuts] = RAISES CAIN
18-a [Paul Robeson classic] = OL’ MAN RIVER
28-d [Last living Rat Pack member, who passed away in 2007] = JOEY BISHOP
55-a [Lead singer of the Fugees who had a hit with the remake of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You"] = LAURYN HILL
There are also two nine-letter entries which I give a 50% chance of being themers:
32-a [Chillax] = MELLOW OUT
39-a [2nd-place finisher in Rolling Stone's "Best Drummers of All Tlime" poll] = KEITH MOON. Who was #1? I’ll guess Neil Peart of Rush. Nope, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. Peart is 3rd, and Ringo is 5th!
There are four eight-letter entries in the grid, so I doubt those are theme. So we’re looking at either four or six theme entries. And we need to complete the theme per the instructions, so it might behoove me to consider musical sets of 5 or 7.
Dead ends so far: Donovan is mentioned in the clue for IONE, and he had a hit with “Mellow Yellow,” and there’s that word in MELLOW OUT. Booker T.& the MG’s are mentioned in the clue for OUR, and they had a hit with “Green Onions,” and ONIONS is 45-d. So might be something to do with adding colors, especially since “Blue Moon” can be made from KEITH MOON’s last name. But I can’t find a continuation of that idea anywhere and it seems loose.
I decided to take a hint here, as offered by Pete in the contest instructions. At the cost of a half-point off your correct entry, your hint for this puzzle is that its original title was “Colour My World” (a Chicago song; they’re American, so not sure why the British spelling there).
Shoot — that means the colors “dead end” I found was actually the correct path. The key here is that RAISES CAIN and JOEY BISHOP aren’t even theme entries! The six theme entries were all acrosses:
OL’ MAN RIVER — “Ol’ Red” by Blake Shelton, who is mention in the clue at 25-a
THE CRUSH — “Orange Crush” by R.E.M., who are mentioned in the clue at 35-d
MELLOW OUT — “Mellow Yellow” by Donovan, who is mentioned in the clue at 60-a
KEITH MOON — “Blue Moon” by the Marcels, who are mentioned in the clue at 1-a
MOOD RING — “Mood Indigo” by Duke Ellington, who is mentioned in the clue at 12-d
LAURYN HILL — “Violet Hill” by Coldplay, who are mentioned in the clue at 56-d
Pretty intricate! Once you figure out which entries are theme you then add a color of the rainbow (going in order, notice) to make a famous song. Who’s missing? “Green,” which can combine with 45-d, which is ONIONS, to make the Booker T. & the MG’s hit “Green Onions,” thereby completing the rainbow pattern of the theme. So the precise meta answer was SWEET and ONIONS, which creates a legitimate phrase and, again, Booker T. is mentioned in the clue for OUR.
After I figured it out this afternoon I tweeted:
I had written the colors idea off too quickly; once I couldn’t make anything from RAISES CAIN or JOEY BISHOP I gave up on that line of thought since I had incorrectly figured those two had to be theme. The critical point of failure was here, when I didn’t prioritize spending 30 seconds on checking whether THE CRUSH and MOOD RING fit the pattern before abandoning the idea. It wouldn’t even have taken 30 seconds; if I’d just glanced at the entry THE CRUSH I would have noticed “Orange Crush” quickly and then game over.
It was sort of brutal that the two 10-letter downs weren’t theme, but I can’t say it was unfair. The theme entries do share a logical thread (they’re the long acrosses) and dozens of solvers got the right answer without the hint besides. Plus, I came agonizingly close to the full point myself. The thrill of the meta chase is what makes this kind of crossword so mysterious and intriguing, even when you need a nudge to see it.
Complex, elegant and nicely concealed, so 4.50 stars. And Pete reports that 7 solvers have already guessed the mega-meta. I’m not one of them, but maybe I will be by the time November comes around. See you then.