Meta: mere moments
“And How!” by Christopher Adams
Full disclosure: I test-solved this for Chris like a year ago, and was completely stumped by the meta then; solving the finished puzzle professionally, I got the meta in an instant. Chalk it up to experience? The exigency of blogging?
We are asked: “What word that is made by combining two answers in the grid would have been an excellent title to this puzzle?”
There’s left-right symmetry in the grid, and a bunch of clues that don’t make immediate sense, until you start to notice a pattern in pairs of entries. Forgive me this lazy Sunday for not writing out all the clue/answer pairs, since there are many of them, but here’s the gist, in a list: AMOS/ANDY, ROCK/ROLL, STEAK/SHAKE, HOT/READY, SWEET/LOW, GUNS/ROSES, SLIP/SLIDE, SEE/SAY, DRUM/BASS, CHIP/DALE. At first I thought we were meant to supply an ampersand, and I was mentally composing a womansplainy comment to the effect of “welcome to the jungle, actually, it’s Guns N’ Roses not Guns and Roses” — and bingo, I realized that all of the pairs generally have an N rather than an and or an & — especially with the careful specificity of [30a: 1975 John Lennon album]: ROCK ‘N’ ROLL.
We could certainly quibble about the placement of apostrophes to denote the elided letters, but let’s move on to the meta. A friend in one of my solving groups remarked that they’re not fond of metas where you have to find a specific answer or pair or answers, since it can lead to slogging through everything in the grid. But this one is pretty clear, IMHO: you’ve got [9d: Model Chyna whose daughter is a first cousin of North West]: BLAC and [102a: Knowledge]: KEN symmetrically centered. BLAC + KEN = BLACKEN = black N; namely, the black square between theme entries is meant to be read as an N.
I thought this was fine ‘n’ dandy; what did you think, friends ‘n’ neighbors?
Wow. With no hesitation I sent in CUT (and) COLOR. Think I misread the instructions to say which two works could be another theme answer. Oops.
Figured out that the connecting squares had not just an AND but specifically an ‘N’, but after a few passes around the grid I didn’t find the two entries to combine for the answer, and I never bothered to get back to it. In general, I’m not a huge fan of this meta trick (which seems particularly common in the Fireball) of hunting the grid for entries to explain a meta mechanism you’ve already fully understood.
my original submission was not a meta; instead, the title was what is now the meta answer. it was peter’s idea to make it a meta, and also to have the two halves be on the axis of symmetry, as laura noticed. i think both of those suggestions improved the puzzle (as did many of peter’s ideas/edits/etc.); at the very least, it certainly made it a harder puzzle.
i will say this about this type of meta: it’s one where you don’t need to find the meta answer to feel like you’ve gotten the entire puzzle, because (as you pointed out) the answer is really just explaining what you already know, just in a specific way. whereas other meta puzzles (gaffney, muller, etc.) often have the feeling that you’re missing something until you find the meta.