puzzle 7 minutes; meta another 7 minutes (Matt)
I’m always reminding solvers to look at the titles in metas but often forget to do it myself. Season 3, Episode 5 of the Muller Meta is called “Backup Singers,” with what appeared to be three downward theme entries:
30-D [John Cougar Mellencamp song with the lines "That's when a sport was a sport / And groovin' was groovin'"] = CHERRY BOMB. I’ve heard this song a couple of hundred times and always thought that word was “smoke,” not “sport.”
7-D [Like Lady Gaga] = FASHION-OBSESSED.
10-D [Embarrassed, and then some] = RED AS A BEET.
The grid is unusual and elegant, but as I free-scanned it looking for clues there was nothing jumping out at me. A lot of ABCDEFG action in the top two rows, but it came to naught. Was I even sure those three were theme entries, or the only theme entries?
Fortunately I remembered to look at that title, and the pattern emerged quickly: there’s usually a reason for it when theme entries run down instead of across, and here it’s to accommodate “Backup Singers.” Lo and behold, there’s a one-named singer ensconced upwards in each entry: MOBY in CHERRY BOMB, BONO in FASHION-OBSESSED and SADE in RED AS A BEET.
Each of theme is also found as an entry in their own right somewhere in the grid: SADE at 17-A, BONO at 58-A, and MOBY at 61-A.
Now what? Instructions asked for a well-known guitar player who could serve as this puzzle’s missing theme entry. Note the symmetrical placement of SADE, BONO and MOBY; then you notice that completing the symmetry at 19-A is the one-named English singer DIDO. Is there a famous guitarist who contains her name backwards? Why yes, one of the very greatest in fact: meta answer BO DIDDLEY.
Nice meta. Pete must have also considered using ENYA, who could’ve been enclosed in WAYNE NEWTON, for example. I imagine she didn’t fit in with the nice symmetry he had going, however.