Muller Monthly Music Meta, February

puzzle — 6:22 (Matt) 
meta — DNF (1 hour)  


Well, that was quick — I’m busted out of a perfect score in February. Slightly embarrassing, though I’m hoping for a pardon from the governor (see below).

Our title for February is “Splash Around,” and the instructions were: The meta for this puzzle is a rock hit from the past 10 years. A bit ominous since recent rock is not my forte, but it’s only February and Pete mentioned that he’d ramp things up gradually, so I wasn’t truly afraid.

Our grid had no theme entries, but many circled squares, each forming a different shape. Each spelled the name of a famous falls, as in waterfalls. Clockwise they are NIAGARA, SUTHERLAND (in New Zealand — not familiar with that one), IGUAZU, ANGEL, and YOSEMITE.

Now what? I figured a quick Google of recent-ish rock hits would bring me the answer quickly, but…hmmm. 45 minutes later I had some ideas, but nothing with a strong meta click. Could it be “All Falls Down” by Kanye West? No, that’s from 2004 so outside of our time range. This list of songs whose title is “Waterfall” or “Waterfalls” didn’t produce any winners. Neither did anything on this list.

I had to be missing something obvious, since 175 or so solvers had gotten it by the time I looked at it on Saturday evening. It couldn’t be TLC’s famous “Waterfalls,” since that was from 1995. But how come Pete hadn’t just made the instructions read “The meta is a #1 song from the 1990s?” There had to be more to it.

I tried a few other permutations of “Water,” “Falls,” and “Down,” and finally this evening decided to send in the 2008 Oasis song “Falling Down,” since these are all falls and they’re all oriented downward (i.e. the first letter in each waterfall’s name is its highest letter in the grid). Certainly did not get the meta click and was not surprised when Pete wrote back that that wasn’t the correct answer.

The correct answer, as he let me know, is Coldplay’s “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall.”

I don’t think I can call this meta unfair, since 200+ solvers got the right answer. The idea is that each of these circled shapes resembles a teardrop, but is that true? Each is a different shape; ANGEL’s shape I buy, but NIAGARA is heavier on the top [Update, 11:10 PM ET — I see now that the NI in NIAGARA is representing the top tail of a teardrop, so NIAGARA does indeed work; this weakens my case for clemency] which a teardrop really can’t be for long , and YOSEMITE and IGUAZU are north-south symmetrical, which doesn’t really work, either. SUTHERLAND works though.

If you do a Google Image search on “teardrop” every one comes back with the top thinner than the bottom, gravity’s pull at work. So I’m impressed that 200+ got it, but I don’t think the shape really works here. I did see “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” on one of the lists I combed and considered it briefly but then rejected it. I’m leaning towards thinking I should get credit here; “Falling Down” isn’t great, but both parts make sense.

So I didn’t love this meta; the idea is fine, and Pete did his usual fancy footwork fitting in some nice entries with extreme fill constraints (XM RADIO, BUZZ, IMPOSE ON, NEON SIGN, ICE CANOE). But I think instructions of “A #1 song from the 1990s” would have been better, although then the shape of the waterfalls doesn’t make sense without the teardrop connection. So maybe instead have them cascading down 2 or 3 columns each, waterfall-style.

Let me know your thoughts in comments on whether I should get credit, and what your solving process was. Pete, I can lend you my panel if you’re not sure! They’re tough but fair.

3.25 stars.

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31 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta, February

  1. KZ Condor says:

    Yeah, not a huge fan of this one. Had never heard of the answer so the solving process was just an annoying google hunt. Submitted what turned out to be the solution, but had little confidence in it.

    Considered a 2013 song called “Falling in Circles” for a while, but couldn’t convince myself it was a “hit”.

    • KZ Condor says:

      Forgot to mention, “Around” in the title made it difficult for me to consider any titles that did not have some form of “Circle” in them.

      Looking forward to March’s puzzle, though (and hoping the solution is from the 80s or earlier – have a little pity on us geezers, Pete!)

  2. Abide says:

    Fail for me too.

    Googled tears, falls, falling, waterfalls and scoured the lists as well

    wasn’t on this list or here

    I consider myself a good researcher, but I think I would have had to Google “teardrop” AND “waterfalls” to find this. I can recognize probably 5 Coldplay songs but never heard of this one.

    I submitted “Fall in Love” since the shapes looked like Os and “love” = O

  3. chris says:

    at least for me, it was pretty easy–mylo xyloto caused me to *stop* listening to coldplay altogether, so i remembered this song.

    but otherwise, i doubt i would’ve come up with it otherwise without some serious googlefu / asking friends who actually listen to current music.

  4. Tom says:

    I googled [waterfall songs], saw the second title in the list, and didn’t even give it a second thought. Wasn’t familiar with the song, but had no qualms with the puzzle.

  5. Icdogg says:

    The first thought I had was that it would be a waterfall not listed, particularly “Victoria”. But the only Victoria song I could come up with is the old Kinks tune.

  6. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks Matt

    Exactly 200 got it right this month…

    I was very surprised some people had trouble finding the right song, but many people that had never heard of the song told me they found it pretty quickly.

    My issue with “Falling Down” is that the waterfalls go around the teardrop circles, first down, then back up. At best, it would be inelegant to have that be the answer.

    On the other hand, I think the shapes approximate teardrops pretty well – but if I had to do it over again (to your point), I might have started IGUAZU and YOSEMITE with three letters in a row up top.

    I have my own panel and I will check with them to see if they think I should accept any alternate entries like “Falling Down.”

    If they’re not sure, it would be interesting to see what your peeps think.

  7. Just going back into my search history: I noticed that the Google search “songs about waterfall” (singular) turned up the right song at the top of the page, but “songs about waterfalls” (plural) did not. I wonder if that could be part of the reason why some may have had a hard time finding the right song, beyond not knowing it (which I didn’t, either).

    Edit: I see Tom and Abide and Pete have covered this above. My fault (fallt?).

  8. Alan Matson says:

    Very curious to hear the response this month. Wasn’t a great click for me, but Shapes + Content = Meta seemed like enough. Was helped by two other things….very little time (to think more deeply) and my dislike for Coldplay (I know their hits because I avoid them while radio surfing).

    As for alternatives, I feel like a solid percentage of metas are open to additional answers (Tang?!?) which is not a bad thing. Meta-creators are challenging us to think thematically and creatively. That we find plausible alternatives seems like part of the fun.

  9. Paul Coulter says:

    I agree the googling was tedious if you didn’t know the song. It took me much longer than grokking the idea. I really wanted the answer to be Before the Next Teardrop Falls, but that’s a country song. Some of the covers have crossed over into pop, but I’d never call it rock. On the other hand, the visual element of the grid was lovely, and the answer very get-able if you’re willing to do the search. Overall, four stars from me.

  10. Cyrano says:

    I do puzzles using StandAlone’s (generally excellent) crossword app on an iPad, and this puzzle didn’t show up there with any circled squares, so I was completely lost. It’s on me obviously for not checking the PDF but it is just odd that some puz files have circled squares when they are supposed to and others do not. Don’t know if it’s how the constructor handles it or if it’s a software glitch. Either way, never heard of the song so unsure whether a google search would have helped me or not. Oh well…

    • Pete Muller says:

      Hi Cyrano


      I’m not familiar with the StandAlone crossword app, but I’m sure they are using the PUZ file that I generate every month, which contains circles. In the past when this happened with other crossword software, the user had an old version of the software, or the software was known not to display circles.

      Hope this helps.

      • David Samuel Glasser says:

        I have found that Standalone for Android knows how to handle circles when it downloads the puzzles from a subscription but not when you open it from a downloaded file. I did report this once to them. Maybe I should again. I have gotten in the habit of obsessively checking PDFs for downloaded puzzles for circles though I occasionally fail (eg on a Birnholz WaPo a few weeks ago).

        The related issue I have is that if a clue ends in a parenthesized number it shows that number and doesn’t also show the normal parenthesized length. I get why they do that (makes sense for vowellesses eg) but it makes it easy for me to accidentally miss that there’s a parenthesized number at all.

        I do love the solving UX of the app though which is why I stick with it over alternatives.

        • Cyrano says:

          This sounds like it might be the issue for me too, although obviously on iOS. I open Pete’s puz files from the email he sends but whenever a puz is automatically downloaded within the app it seems to behave properly. Time to start checking pdfs!

      • Abby Braunsdorf says:

        The current version (with the black and white icon) on iPhone works, but the older one (with this gray-bordered icon) doesn’t. I like the look and interface of the older one better, but I’ve finally committed to using the new one- mostly because of bugs like this.

    • Andrew Silikovitz says:

      I have an app for Android called Words With Crosses. The circles are there.

  11. Matt Gaffney says:

    The 1-star bandit(s) strike again. Come on — it wasn’t my favorite either but it’s clearly not 1 star. Oh well, I suppose Yelp has them too.

    • janie says:

      s/he’s always there, matt. goes w/ the territory, i know, but more’s the pity. with yelp, at least, i think you need to support your rating w/ some kind of comment. and so it goes… ;-(

  12. sharkicicles says:

    Never heard of the song either, but Googled my way to the win.

  13. Matt Gaffney says:

    Pete’s panel ruled unanimously against my “Falling Down” entry, so now I know how that feels! And I can’t say I disagree with them. And I’m not bitter. I swear.

    • David R says:

      You sound like a cornered wombat but the song had to have the word “waterfall” in it to make sense in my book.

  14. Matthew G. says:

    I had never heard of the answer song, but I found the answer via Google in no more than 90 seconds. Given Matt’s struggles, I guess I must have gotten lucky with whatever search terms I chose–I can no longer remember what I typed, probably “songs about waterfalls”–because I hit upon it almost immediately.

  15. Rammy M says:

    I also don’t think I’ve heard, or heard of, the song before this puzzle, but I did find the correct answer pretty quickly.

    But (on the way) keeping an open mind I didn’t exclusively look at waterfalls themselves, they’re also in National Parks (but no).

  16. Shawn Pichette says:

    It was nominated for 2 Grammys in rock categories. That was how I found it in my search…

  17. Howard B says:

    Never heard of the song – took a ton of Googling to suss it out, although once found, the connection and “aha moment” were solid. So the puzzle and concept were excellent, but the final answer was more of a “huh?’. I suppose I’m a bit spoiled at how Peter commonly hides more iconic artists and/or titles.
    Thanks for the challenge.

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