puzzle — 6:54; meta — 8-10 minutes (Matt)
Season 4, Episode 1 of the Muller Music Meta has wrapped up, with 262 solvers figuring out the correct song from one of the top rock albums of 1978. Intriguing phrasing there; the implication is that it wasn’t a hit, but it’s still a well-known track.
The identities and number of theme entries was non-obvious. By length alone we’d go with ALLY MCBEAL, PERRY MASON, IRAQI DINAR and SWISS FRANC at 10 letters apiece, with the possible additions of PAPERWORK and CHERNOBYL. But the odd placement of the four 10s (why not a pinwheel formation?) made me think that either a) PAPERWORK and CHERNOBYL were indeed theme or b) something else is going on in the grid besides just those four 10’s.
That the last two are currencies jumped out, of course. They might seem a little random, but the SWISS FRANC has been in the news a lot lately, and with IRAQI dinar you get the Q. So maybe not so random and I don’t need to read anything else into it besides their currency-ness.
ALLY MCBEAL and PERRY MASON both contain an internal YM, which is “my” backwards. So I started thinking of songs with a “my back” in them, treating that as a cryptic crossword hint. “Give me Back My Money”? Is that a song? Hmmm.
A few minutes of pondering later, I realized their connection: both McBeal and Mason are fictional lawyers.
Lawyers…currencies…money…synapses fired…red lights went off…the adrenaline rush began in my brain. Suddenly I realized that there was indeed more theme in the grid: BERETTA and WALTHER across the center row are both brands of gun. So with our six theme entries, Pete is referencing Warren Zevon’s (great, I owned it on cassette as a teenager) 1978 album “Excitable Boy,” and our meta answer is a song off of it: LAWYERS, GUNS AND MONEY. An amusing cover version:
*** 9-D [Features of some crosswords that you’ll see in the MMMM this year] = REBU(SE)S. Intriguing. I’ll say nothing more.
*** Star fill in the middle of heavy traffic, a Muller specialty: O CANADA, WYNETTE, CHERNOBYL, Q AND A (a u-less Q both ways), I DUNNO, and OH WOW memorably clued as [Last words spoken by Steve Jobs].
*** Bonus theme: SPY at 8-D clued as [Profession of a character in this puzzle’s meta], and at 57-D [Fled, as the main character in the meta does to Honduras] = RAN. I totally missed the second one while solving; otherwise my meta time would’ve been about 30 seconds.
So that was fun — let’s call it 4.15 stars. See you back here in just a week for Season 4, Episode 2.