There are eight themed entries, at 23-, 32-, 61-, 89- and 101-Across and 15- and 39-Down. They are all directly informed and indistinguishable until you find their common formation, which may take some time and involve a little detour.
The parallel journey has been my experience, as I typed 61-Across: “Metaphor of an hourglass.” It’s a soap opera slogan, right? You have to mix it very lightly to find the answer here, SANDS OF TIME. Knowing the title of this puzzle, “Software Options”, I thought the key letter was internal – SANDSOFTIME – and looked elsewhere for this model. It’s there, but only in two other places – the references to “bartenders, barbecues and blacksmiths”, all of which use SETSOFTNGOs, andbright future artists.”
The rest of the theme set, however, sets us straight. For example, the first theme entry in the puzzle at 23A is the moon’s SEA OF TRANQUILITY. SEONE OF TRANQUILITY? Nope – SEA OF JRANQUILITY. I was too introspective; the pattern is S/OF/T, not /S OF T/, which brought to light a few entries that had already flown under the radar of my resolution, the “Novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs” and the religious artifact run to the center of the puzzle. (Did you notice the crossover with JESUS-LIKE at 53A? Miraculous coincidence, I guess.)
In 2005, I used the index “Shroud of Torino?” for CAR COVER. On the former Times Forum and Crossword Fiend, then in its first year, a poster vituperously objected to the cheeky reference to the Shroud. Given the overblown rhetoric, I suspected this was all staged, but if indeed the correspondent was genuinely offended, I hope today’s very respectful hint at 32-Down clears things up between we.
Speaking of cheeky, I certainly thought about how REAR WIPER could be considered someone who changes diapers. The clue “Clearer with hindsight? is definitely for the automotive part. If I went the other way, it would be “Clearer in hindsight?” For once, the less scatological version is funnier to me.
Hope you come away from solving the puzzle with a sense of triumph!
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