Title: “2 State The Obvious”
Prompt: The meta for this puzzle is the missing fifth theme entry, a musician in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Answer: Eric Clapton
7-for-7 this year, can I make it 8 for 8? Let’s see…
Step 1: From “2 State” we notice that each of the four theme entries contains exactly (that turns out to be important) two state abbreviations, one in the first name and one in the last:
17-A: [#47 on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Artists”] = PATTI SMITH
26-A: [“Running on Empty” rocker] = JACKSON BROWNE
45-A: [Russian-American pop star who sang “Better”] = REGINA SPEKTOR
59-A: [Singer-songwriter whose “All of Me” reached the top of the charts in 2014] = JOHN LEGEND
So that’s Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, Nebraska, Indiana, Oregon, Ohio, and North Dakota. Now what?
Step 2: There are ten clues that contain U.S. cities, eight of which are located in our eight states hidden in the theme entries:
19-A: [Portland-based shoe company] = KEEN. That’s our OR.
39-A: [“Philadelphia” co-star Hanks] = TOM. That’s our PA.
61-A: [Indianapolis 500 racetrack shape] = OVAL. That’s our IN.
3-D: [“Detroit Rock City” B-side, initially] = BETH. That’s our MI.
8-D: [Cincinnati Red Rose] = PETE. That’s our OH.
12-D: [“Wichita Lineman” singer Campbell] = GLEN. That’s our KS.
52-D: [“Fargo” director Ethan or Joel] = COEN. That’s our ND.
57-D: [Omaha Beach event] = D-DAY. That’s our NE.
Step 3: The above accounts for all eight state abbreviations in the four given theme entries, but lo! There are two other clues with U.S. cities in them:
14-A: [Providence is on its route] = ACELA. Yielding the RI for Rhode Island.
56-D: [New Orleans Rice?] = ANNE. Yielding an LA for Louisiana.
So we need a musician in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame whose first name contains either RI or LA and whose last name contains the other. 30 seconds of ctrl+F on Wikipedia tells me that our two choices are LARS ULRICH (inducted as Metallica’s drummer) and ERIC CLAPTON (famously and uniquely inducted three times — with Cream, the Yardbirds, and as a solo artist).
So which to choose? Stared and wavered for a bit, and then it hit me: LARS ULRICH contains a stray state abbrev. in his first name (AR), which breaks the pattern of the other four themers, who each have exactly two state abbrevs. So ERIC CLAPTON it must be.
8-for-8! No joke, taking it all the way this year.
Oh yeah — lovely meta. We get used to Pete’s level of craftsmanship on this but it’s just so impressive how high-level he keeps it. I’m loving year 10 and hopefully you are as well. 4.65 stars. See you in September!