Peter Gordon’s Fireball contest, “Go Figure” — Laura’s review
Peter asks, “what five-letter word is hinted at by this puzzle?”
- [19a: Olive oil is a big part of it]: MEDITERRANEAN DIET
- [32a: Governors might declare them after natural disasters]: STATES OF EMERGENCY
- [45a: Their 8,019-game no-hitter drought was chronicled on NoNoHitters.com]: NEW YORK METS
- [61a: Setting for the Cheryl Strayed book “Wild”]: PACIFIC CREST TRAIL
- [74a: HBO series in which Steve Buscemi played Nucky Thompson]: BOARDWALK EMPIRE
And then we have as the last across entry: [84a: $35 for Park Place, in Monopoly]: RENT.
With that closer, I knew it had something to do with Monopoly, as MEDITERRANEAN, STATES, NEW YORK, PACIFIC, and BOARDWALK are all properties in the game. But I didn’t see the next step right away, so I put it aside until the next day when I was Twitter-DM-ing with a solving pal, and then the very act of saying, “yeah I can see that it has something to do with Monopoly, and there’s that last entry with the rent on Park Place, and … oh!”
Look up the rents — without houses or hotels — on the properties hinted at in the themers (either grab the little deed cards if you have the game at home, or use the Monopoly wiki for reference):
NEW YORK: $16
Then, index those numbers to squares in the grid: 2 = T, 10 = O, 16 = K, 26 = E, 50 = N. That hints at (or, y’know, spells) the five-letter word TOKEN, which is our answer. In 2017, Monopoly dropped the thimble, the boot, and the wheelbarrow from its token array, replacing them with a dinosaur, duck, and penguin. With all due respect to cute animals, some argued that the Great Token Shift betrayed the game’s origins as a critique of capitalism.
Other stuff (i.e. that I had to look up):
- [24a: Renminbi] — the renminbi or YUAN is the official currency of China.
- [37a: Balabushka product]: CUE. George Balabushka was a Russian-born immigrant to the U.S. who crafted custom pool cues.
- [10d: Singer-songwriter Alan with the 1977 #1 hit “Undercover Angel”]: O’DAY. His #1 hit and one-hit wonder is now commonly included in “Yacht Rock” compilations; another single, “Started Out Dancing, Ended Up Making Love” didn’t get much play despite describing a very common occurrence in the 1970s. Listen to “Undercover Angel” on YouTube, and the algorithm will generate a playlist of soft, smooth hits for the rest of the afternoon. Tom Breihan’s excellent series on Stereogum, “The Number Ones,” which is blogging every song that hit #1 on the Billboard Top 100 from its inception until whenever he catches up to now, is currently up to June 1977, so we can expect a post on “Undercover Angel” fairly soon.