puzzle 8:11; meta -4 minutes (Matt)
Fun and easy meta for Season 2, Episode 2 of the “M4” (let’s see if that nickname sticks). It’s a rebus where Pete has placed the keyword FIRE in eight symmetrically balanced squares which form a circle; instructions asked for a hit from the ’60s that describes what can be found in the completed grid.
Considering the path of the FIREs and the title, the meta answer has to be Johnny Cash’s epic RING OF FIRE.
The grid is impressively clean and wide-open, considering the many FIREs it contains. The NE section boasts (FIRE) HAZARDS crossing WORLD ON (FIRE), plus FLY SOLO, OF HELP, OSX, XYZ, OLD IDEA, ICICLES and SA(FIRE) crossing (FIRE)LIT. That’s some elegant stepping there. Its opposite corner is just about as good, with C.P. SNOW (though how does SNOW survive in the ring of fire?) TRIAL BY (FIRE), LARYNX, TABOO, (FIRE) STATION and PALERMO.
Nasty start at 1-across where the clue [Mountain lion or leopard, say] must be BIG CAT, right? Wrong, it’s simply MAMMAL. I’d guess there’s a 70% chance of this specific error being the author’s intention. Oh, well maybe not — now I see that it’s just a play on the clue for 7-a.
Nice theme, very nice grid, easy meta — 4.30 stars. I’m fine with the easy ones, but something tells me these’ll toughen up soon. Bring it on, Pete!