Solution to Evan Birnholz’s Oct. 16 crossword, “Set Pieces”

Seven phrases have been redefined to describe things in a category, sometimes (but not always) proceeding in a specific order:

  • 22A: [Mercury, Venus, Earth …] is WORLD SERIES.
  • 38A: [Washington, Adams, Jefferson …] is EXECUTIVE ORDER.
  • 43A: [Cerulean, denim, ultramarine …] is BLUE STREAK.
  • 62A: [Aspiration, hope, wish …] is DREAM SEQUENCE.
  • 79A: [Weakling, wimp, wuss …] is CHICKEN RUN.
  • 87A: [Emo, grunge, metal …] is ROCK COLLECTION.
  • 105A: [General, lieutenant general, major general …] is COMMAND LINE.

A couple of years ago I wrote down WORLD SERIES and EXECUTIVE ORDER in my notepad with this idea in mind, but I let it sit on the shelf for that long because I’d originally hoped to stick exclusively to phrases that could aptly describe things that appear in a definite order. The planets and U.S. presidents proceed in a specific sequence, and so do military ranks for COMMAND LINE … but the others don’t. As with last year’s July 4 puzzle, when I discovered how difficult it was to find categories where the first item in a series had a specific first letter that could spell out AMERICA, there are only so many synonyms of “series” and they would have to somehow point to categories that proceed in a well-known order. So, I decided to let that pattern go and just work with redefining phrases in a way you might not expect.

ROCK COLLECTION is a bit of an outlier, admittedly, because the other phrases’ last words are more closely connected to the idea of a series, where collection is more commonly understood as a simple group. The alternative I considered here was AGE PROGRESSION, and that could be clued as [Stone, Bronze, Iron …], which would have been a defined order. I avoided it because ROCK COLLECTION redefines a group of geological rocks in a different way as though it referred to music, where the ages of AGE PROGRESSION are too closely associated with the same concept of time. Plus, ROCK COLLECTION strikes me as a more recognizable and interesting phrase.

Those issues with the theme aside, I hope you still enjoyed the puzzle. Using the clues in an odd way

Some other answers and clues:

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