Show meta (solution)
by Patrick Blindauer
Answers in specified order:
1. FIRESTONE 2. CLINTON 3. UNION 4. MERCURY 5. PERSHING 6. CHERRY 7. VALLEY 8. VIKING 9. TERMINAL
These are all words from Ma Bell’s list of Officially Recommended Exchange Names (archive copy), which solvers are hinted to find from the round title (and which Google will show with a large enough set). The first two letters give the beginning of the phone number prefix, so FI-CL-UN-ME-PE-CH-VA-VI-TE get translated via phone code (2=ABC, 3=DEF, 4=GHI, etc), yielding the string:
which can be translated back to letters (phonespell.org works well, but there are several), giving the answer: DIAL TONE RECITATIVE.