Patrick Berry’s Fireball contest, “Three-Four Time” — Laura’s review
This month, we’re asked “What song in 3/4 time is hinted at by this puzzle?” Do I hear a waltz?
Four long entries appear to be themers:
- [19a: Absentminded sort]: FEATHERBRAIN
- [39a: “As an example …”]: TO ILLUSTRATE
- [50a: Lead-in to an official statement]: FOR THE RECORD
- [73a: Trying to locate]: SEARCHING OUT
First observation: Each of the four 12-letter themers can be divided up into three words of four letters each, like thus:
FEAT HERB RAIN
TOIL LUST RATE
FORT HERE CORD
SEAR CHIN GOUT
Second observation: Aha! Three-four time! It does what it says on the packet.
Third observation: Each word in those trios can be found elsewhere in the grid, with one letter changed:
FEET VERB REIN
SOIL LEST LATE
FORE GERE COED
SEAN SHIN ROUT
Fourth observation: The changed letters, in grid order, spell out GREENSLEEVES, which, some musicologists argue, is in six-eight time. I’m not enough of a musicologist to really know the difference (check out my writeup of this week’s WSJ Contest if you’re interested in how much I’m not a musicologist), so I’ll take it.
The story goes that “Greensleeves” was written by Henry VIII for Anne Boleyn, but most historians date it at later in the sixteenth century — when it was popular enough for Falstaff, in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, to refer to it:
Let the sky rain potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of ‘Green Sleeves;’ hail kissing-comfits and snow eringoes; let there come a tempest of provocation, I will shelter me here. (V.v.6-9)
You want a video of someone singing it? Where do I start! It has been covered constantly since the sixteenth century (although many people are likely more familiar with it as the Christmas carol “What Child Is This,” the lyrics to which were written in Great Britain in the last nineteenth century); some of my favorites include:
- John Coltrane, who plays it in 6/8 time — “most of the time we get a nice pulse and groove”
- Olivia Newton-John — when you google “greensleeves,” one of the autocompletes that pops up is “greensleeves stevie nicks” and I wonder if people are confusing them
- Elyse Davis with her father’s band, New Age synth-pop marvels Mannheim Steamroller
- Johnny Crawford on an episode of The Rifleman
- Katey Segal, in the seventh season of Sons of Anarchy
Getting back to Henry and Anne, the song gets name-checked a few times in Six — which you know is my favorite musical if you’ve read any of my posts:
Henry sent me a poem all about my green sleeves
I changed a couple words, put it on a sick beat
The song blew their minds, next minute I was signed
And now I’m writing lyrics for Shakesy P
I didn’t get it, but I’m glad it wasn’t what I feared it would was (“somehow pluck from memory a song in 3/4 whose title is 12 letters and can be split into 3 4-letter words”).
I solved the meta but actually missed the last step— treated the changed letters as an anagram, without seeing the sequence in the filled grid. Actually a rather easy anagram, with all those ‘E’s.