meta — 45-60 minutes
September Muller Meta, time to extend my streak to 3 in a row? It was a tough one — just 78 correct answers as I type this 90 minutes before the deadline — but I managed to wrestle it to the ground.
The grid had no long entries except for two 9-letter downs; everything beyond that was 7 or under. But twelve symmetrically-placed clues in the grid were starred; their answers are in green in the diagram at right. They are:
1-A [* Flying maneuver] = BANK
9-A [* “___ in the Wind” (Kansas hit)] = DUST
16-A [* Number of Beethoven symphonies] = NINE
18-A [* “November ___” (Guns N’ Roses hit)] = RAIN
27-A [* High] = STONED
31-A [* Bojangles specialty] = TAP
41-A [* U2 classic] — man, these are some sad songs so far! Probably not meta-related, though.
42-A [*Activity that’s usually kept in the dark] = AFFAIR
56-A [* Queue] = LINE
59-A [* Verdant] = LUSH
63-A [* Pink Floyd classic with the lyric “Home, home again” = TIME
65-A [* “It’s been ___”] = REAL
Alright, what now? Well I should’ve mentioned that Pete tells us we are looking for a well-known song and that our title is “Externalities.” From that, my first suspicion is that we would be looking for some kind of extensions out of the grid from the theme entries, an idea supported by the fact that all dozen starred entries border the edge of the grid. So far, so good.
First idea: can you add a letter outside the grid to make a longer word? DUST becomes dusty, RAIN becomes rainy, but then… STONED doesn’t become anything. So that’s no good.
What about putting a word after each of these — or maybe before the ones on the left edge, and then after the ones on the right edge, thereby forming externalities there? Perhaps song titles? Let’s try it.
Well I couldn’t think of any two-word song titles starting with DUST, and RAIN-something didn’t produce anything either. What about STONED? There’s the David Bowie song “Stoned Love” on “Ziggy Stardust,” and then — hmmm, that’s interesting. The next entry below it is ONE, which could be the front of Bob Marley’s famous “One Love.”
Wait, that Bowie song isn’t called “Stoned Love,” he just sings those words in it. But Google tells me about the last Top-10 hit for the Supremes, which carries that title.
So let’s follow this line for a moment, I thought to myself. But “Dust Love” and “Rain Love” aren’t songs I (or Google) know, and neither are “Lush Love” or “Real Love” — wait, “Real Love” is that posthumous John Lennon song they released a while back. So that one does hold. Curious!
How about on the other side? “Love tap” and “love affair” are phrases, but not famous songs, as far as I can tell. But it’s interesting that, at the very least, all four of the middle entries can aptly follow/precede the word “love” to make a well-known phrase.
Perhaps the grid is divided into threes, and the top and bottom four answers will similarly follow/precede a different word? Certainly a plausible working theory, and the adrenaline started pumping when I found cloud BANK and cloud NINE along the upper left, and then DUST cloud and RAIN cloud along the upper right.
This couldn’t be a coincidence, so it remained now to first deduce the keyword for the bottom third of the grid, and then to extract what song all this pointed to.
The first task took just a minute or two: the keyword is life, forming lifeLINE and timeLINE along the left edge, and LUSH Life and REAL life on the right. The former was unfamiliar but Google tells me it’s a hit song of this year by an 18-year-old Swede called Zara Larsson.
So my grid looked like so:
Which points to what song? Nothing jumped out at me, so I threw the search cloud love life lyrics into Google and the first entry, I immediately realized, was our meta answer: Joni Mitchell’s BOTH SIDES, NOW, whose lyrics mention looking at clouds, love, and life from both sides — as in both sides of the crossword grid.
I found this several-leaps-required meta amusing. I am somewhat bothered, though, by the fact that some-but-not-all of these phrases are famous songs. “Cloud Nine” is the George Harrison song/album, while “Stoned Love,” “One Love,” and “Lush Life” have been addressed already. But the other’s don’t appear to be song titles, and it’s a bit odd (and I think it will irk some meta solvers) that not all of the twelve phrases are songs but that some are. Might’ve been better if none of the twelve were songs.
Interesting mechanism with a nice, winding path the answer. 4.35 stars.