Last week’s grid had the look of a themeless, but there was a theme if you could figure out what to look for. The key was in the clues; the puzzle’s title was “Place Your Order,” and there were five across clues that contained words indicating an order:
18. First words of Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice” = YOU’RE AS
19. Unit of distance over 176 million times shorter than a light-second = SMOOT
40. Common third-person singular conjugation = HAS
48. A great tragedy happened there on April fourth, 1968 = TENNESSEE
62. It might come in a pint, a fifth, or a handle = WHISKEY
Put these all in order, and make one small tweak to the parsing, and you get “You’re as smooth as Tennessee whiskey,” which is the first line of the chorus of a Country music standard. The prompt asked for a sweet (not smooth!) drink you might like to order after completing the puzzle, and the song’s next line provides the answer: “You’re as sweet as strawberry wine.”
As a little thematic bonus, and to make things more symmetrical, the grid also contained the names of the performers of the song’s two most popular versions (though clued differently): Chris STAPLETON, who recorded it for a 2015 album but also did it as a duet with, somehow, Justin Timberlake at that year’s Country Music Awards in a version that caused a sensation and made the previously-released single shoot to number one on the country chart within a couple of days; and George JONES, whose 1983 version hit number two without the need for any pop-star coattails or online virality. (Sadly I did not manage to work in the song’s original performer, David Allan Coe.)
27 solvers submitted the right answer. But a number of folks just seemed to solve it with brute force, noticing Tennessee and Whiskey and scouring the grid to find the rest of the theme material, and the result was a bit of uncertainty about the answer. I think the intended mechanism (with the ordinal words in the clues) was a little too well hidden, and/or the stuff that appeared in the grid, including the two artist names, was not well hidden enough. Maybe the lyric should have been in random order, and the artist names left out, forcing you to find those “ordering” words in the clues.
Next up is something a little different – metapuzzle #10, entitled “First Name Basis,” which is not a single puzzle but a series of eight small crosswords. You can download one of two .pdf files below – “small” for the three-page version that eliminates white space, saves paper, but requires pretty good eyesight to read the resultant small-print clues; “large” for one puzzle per page – or click on the link below it, which is not for a single .puz file as usual but instead will get you a .zip folder containing eight individual .puz files.
Update, Thursday morning, in the wee hours: the original version of this puzzle contained a highly offensive entry. I knew about that, did it for a reason and warned solvers in the clue, but many found it unacceptable. You can read my thoughts in defense of the puzzle as originally conceived here, though doing so will spoil the puzzle – but after several discussions I’ve decided to take down the puzzle. It will be replaced Thursday in the less-wee hours with an alternative version.
Further update, Thursday morning, hours still kinda wee: here are the links to the new version. The only changes are a completely new minipuzzle six, correction of a couple minor errors in the clues of minipuzzle eight, and the font on the .pdfs is different for technical reasons that aren’t at all interesting.
The answer to the metapuzzle is a heading you might see on an artist’s portfolio. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, May 20 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.