Muller Monthly Music Meta, August

puzzle 8:38, meta 2 days (Matt) 

The first three months of MMMM were breezes, but August appears to be at least a gale force wind. I’d been told that a certain illustrious solver needed hints from the constructor to crack the meta, and I’ve spent about 45 minutes on it myself without breaking through. So I’m going to try what Joon does what one of mine won’t fall for him: blog it, and see if that doesn’t help.

There seem to be a lot of hints to work from. Starting with the most straightforward: at 7-down, we have the clue [Weak attempts, and, in a way, what you’ll have to undertake to solve the meta] for MARGINAL EFFORTS. Interesting; I once wrote a meta with that very same title (well, in the singular) that involved messing around with the edge of the grid, so maybe I’ll need to look there.

Before that, though, another big hint: Pete has starred eight across clues in the grid. They are:

1-a [*Radio show host who recorded the comedy album “This Honky’s Nuts”] = Don IMUS

9-a [*Nation expected to take home most medals from London] = THE U.S. Should really be “the most medals,” and it looks like we did just that!

30-a [*From sunrise to sunset] = ALL DAY

34-a [*Home for the CIA] = VIRGINIA. Also home to MGWCC, another secretive and powerful organization.

43-a [*”The Kingfish,” to those that knew him] = HUEY. I think that’s Huey P. Long, let me check. Yes.

44-a [*Decade-beginning hit song] = John Lennon’s WOMAN off the famous “Double Fantasy” album he and Yoko did. Since I’m blogging out loud here, let me say that the clues for this and the previous one strike me as weird. The Huey Long reference is too obscure to not mention his last name; it’s not like he’s Oprah or Elvis or some other person big enough to not need a last name. And describing the song “Woman” as “decade-beginning” seems arbitrary. So two red-flagged clues. UPDATE, 20 MINUTES LATER: the “Woman” clue isn’t as odd as I thought; looked it up and it was released in early January 1981, so “Decade-beginning” isn’t so arbitrary.

On the subject of red flags, I notice that the letters in boxes 1-5 anagram to MUSIC. Coincidence? I think there’s a 75% chance it’s just that. Anyway, back to the starred clues:

53-a [*Season when the cotton is high] = SUMMER. Another odd clue. A lot of crops are high in summer, I think.

71-a [*Cobbler’s top] = CRUST.

73-a [*Band with big hits in the 1970s] = CHIC. OK, this is definitely a weird clue. Well, 95%. The contest instructions ask for “a hit song from the 1970s,” and here is the final across clue in the puzzle, starred to boot, with an unnecessary reference to big hits and the 1970s. So a lot to work with in the clues, though where it’s headed I don’t yet know.

Last overt hint is the title, which is “Both Sides Now.” Both sides of an album? Both sides of The Pond? Both sides of a black square? Hmmm.

What else can I find in the grid? “Evil Woman” is famous 1970s ELO song, which are on either side of the black square between WOMAN and EVIL OTTO. 17-a IN DIAPERS starts with INDIA, which is at 26-a. The eight theme entries are not quite symmetrically placed; let me highlight them in my grid and see if that triggers anything.

Nope, it doesn’t. Marginal must mean something around the edges of the grid, right? But I don’t see what. Let’s look at that title again: “Both Sides Now.” Is that from a song? Let me Google. Yes, it’s a famous song (#171 on Rolling Stone’s Greatest 500 Songs of All Time; just listened to it, I don’t think I’ve ever heard this) but I don’t think I’d need to know the song to get the meta. OK, so both sides of what? The grid or the black squares seems most likely. Let me try that.

Nothing. Looked up all Donna SUMMER‘s 1970s hits but nothing jumped out. Not sure I’ll have more time for this meta before the 11 PM ET deadline, so I may be stumped. I’ve spent about 100 minutes on it so far.

UPDATE, 10:40 PM 8/12, 20 minutes before the deadline: Perseverance pays off, just got it! It’s “American Pie” by Don McLean: the “marginal efforts” you have to make on “both sides now” are elongated answers to the four starred entries: DON IMUS, MCLEAN VIRGINIA, AMERICAN WOMAN and PIECRUST along the left, and THE USA, ALL DAY LONG, SUMMERTIME and CHICAGO on the right.

the day the meta killed

What a great idea! This is the biggest meta-solve rush I’ve ever gotten, and I’m not gonna lie: I feel like the man for getting this at the last minute. And I understand a lot better all the solvers who have “thanked” me for “ruining” their weekend over the past four years: I get it now.

5 stars. Bring on September, Pete!

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22 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta, August

  1. klew archer says:

    Matt, there is another LONG on the right side after HUEY.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Whoops, I didn’t put the HUEY LONG e-LONG-ation in the writeup or the solution grid — that makes the right line “A long, long time ago,” which is of course the opening line of the song.

  3. klew archer says:

    I got the meta from just the right side. Didn’t notice the stars for the left side but did think those clues stood out anyway but never thought it all the way through and even suggested to Pete an alternate for one based on a song title.

    BTW, your Circular Reasoning puzzle is still ruining my weekend;)

  4. Tortoise says:

    Oh, hey. I decided to tackle the hard version, which lacked the stars on the nine clues. I got it strictly from the lyrics down the right-hand side, then afterwards saw that you could get the artist from 1-A and 34-A. Never did I realize that the actual title was also gettable on the left-hand side. Nicely done!

  5. klew archer says:

    Oh yeah, I just checked and exactly, there were no stars. I looked at the *easy* one later to see what was different and saw the stars on the clues for the right that I knew about and didn’t notice the rest. Pete, if you are reading, I up my stingy rating from 4 stars to 5 stars. Or 9 stars

  6. Erik says:

    beautifully, beautifully executed. there aren’t enough stars in the world.

  7. klew archer says:

    I guess the way I got a toehold was looking at the very last across and thinking “man, this is the blandest possible clue for CHIC!”

  8. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks Matt – nothing like an adrenalin rush 20 minutes before the bell…

    113 correct solutions this week – down significantly from the first three months of the contest. You weren’t the only person who found it challenging!

  9. Gene Faba says:

    This was a great solve. What I particularly liked is that the song “American Woman” is also a decade beginning song, January 1970.

  10. sps says:

    Didn’t notice the stars either (b/c there weren’t any on the harder version). Knew it had to be CHICAGO and HUEYLONG and went from there. Seeing that Pete did this on both sides is way, way cool. Excellent job!

  11. tabstop says:

    I started without the stars, and only really had the corners (which I had as DON, OFA, PIE, AGO). Don + Pie gave me American Pie, but the other parts didn’t quite fit (and I couldn’t find the others because I decided they all had to be three letters long — yes I tried to put MCL and EAN on to different words). Eventually looked at the easy version and found the other stars and submitted the right answer (although I did somehow end up with “I AM woman” which didn’t work but I didn’t care either).

  12. Tuning Spork says:

    I suspect that the title “Both Sides Now” also refers to the fact that “American Pie” was so long, it had to be broken up into two parts for the single, Part 1 on Side A, Part 2 on Side B. When radio stations played the song, they played the intact album version.

  13. Pete Muller says:

    Tuning Spork – I wish I had thought of that – I only intended “Both Sides Now” to refer to the marginal entries but it’s cool that it also works for the song

  14. klew archer says:

    Good point, Tuning Spork. I think they did the same thing with “What’d I Say” way back when.

  15. Howard B says:

    Great idea and execution! Note that the clues to the theme entries work just as well after adding the missing words (CHIC / CHICAGO), hence the vagueness of a few themed clues.

    Because of the tricky and unexpected sizes of the meta answers, I solved the grid in harder mode, but absolutely needed to switch to the easier version with starred answers to make sense of the puzzle and crack the meta. Once the clues were starred, the ALL DAY and HUEY (LONG) combined with the (DON) (MCLEAN) double pairing helped to crack it.
    Without that nudge, the levee was dry – I could have spent a long, long time trying to find the connection.

  16. abide says:

    Well done Pete! Great execution and superb clues for WOMAN and CHIC. After grid completion I allowed myself a peek at the asterisks, and got on track with Don /Langley/Pie. The right side took a while longer.

  17. Charles Montpetit says:

    Wow, Pete Muller kindly posted my 52 suggestions for adding a musical angle to *all* of his fill ( Since I promised I wouldn’t pester him anymore, I’d just like to say on the record here that this was mighty cool of him. Thanx, Pete!

  18. Amy L says:

    That was mighty cool of
    1. ____ Aznevour
    2. ____ ami (French children’s song, but add a T)
    making the MMMM even more fun!

  19. Patrick L says:

    I started to work on this (using the browser version) and at some point the letters just stopped entering into the grid. My first thought was “Is this what makes the puzzle harder, that some of the letters won’t show up?” Realizing how illogical that was, I figured it was a glitch. Unfortunately as a result I never went back to work on it. I can’t recreate the problem now – I do remember opening both the expert and regular versions in different tabs, initially thinking that they were two separate puzzles with different solutions. I wonder if anyone else had the same technical difficulties. I haven’t ever used Across Lite because I can’t download / install programs at work, and I often work on the MGWCC puzzles over lunch breaks. Looks like a brilliant puzzle this month though – I’ll do my best to get back on track next month.

    • Pete Muller says:

      hi Patrick

      Too bad about the web interface not working for you. I haven’t heard of others that have had difficulty. If you can recreate it, please let me know. Another alternative is to print out the pdf files if that’s possible…

      • Patrick L says:

        Hi Pete, I found I can recreate the glitch if I open two of your puzzles in different tabs (using Firefox 14.0.1, on a Mac running Snow Leopard) and start filling in answers for each one. Eventually when I switch over to the other tab the letters stop entering. So I’ll just be sure not to open multiple puzzles. You’re right I could print out the PDFs but I’m just set in my ways – solving at the computer, not using up any office paper or printer ink, not having to erase or cross out letters, etc.

  20. Abby says:

    I got this without a lot of trouble, but having tried the harder version first, I got a little Russian Judgey on my rating. Without the indicators, I might’ve gone nuts looking for more words to stretch. If they’d been symmetrical (a lot to ask, I know), that version might be fair. But the version with the stars worked really well. Ran it past the SO (a casual crossword solver), who got it with a little coaxing. That’s a good indicator to me I was too harsh.

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