Muller Monthly Music Meta, December 2012

puzzle 8:30, meta 6 minutes (Matt) 

Welcome to the eighth edition of the Muller Monthly Music Meta. Pete promised a tough puzzle and meta, and evidently delivered: as of Friday the number of correct entries was in the very low two digits.

Instructions asked for a record label that never released a Beatles album. Curious phrasing! Let’s see what we’ve got.

The theme entries are straightforward: five songs by the Fab Four, clued only with their albums:

17-a [Song from “A Hard Day’s Night”] = TELL ME WHY. Hmm, just YouTubed this and not sure I’ve ever heard it. Heard of it, though.

24-a [Song from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”] is SHE’S LEAVING HOME.

39-a [Song from “Beatles for Sale”] = NO REPLY.

53-a [Song from “Beatles for Sale”] = I’LL FOLLOW THE SUN. Lovely little song.

62-a [Song from “The White Album”] = I’M SO TIRED.

So the first thing I noticed is that this is a pretty random collection of Beatles songs; non-fans may not even recognize any of these five. And there doesn’t appear to be much potential for wordplay, since all fifteen words used in these five titles are very common and contain none of the five Scrabbliest letters. So it seems they were chosen because they satisfy some other other requirement (along with handily fitting symmetrically in the grid).

Surprise ending for my story here, as I (for once) spent a minute parsing the title like you’re supposed to and thereby uncovered the meta right away: “Keyword Search” is the puzzle’s title, so I wondered: could the key here be the key these five songs are written in? Yes, as it turned out!

Googling the first two revealed that “Tell Me Why” is written in the key of D, and “She’s Leaving Home” in E. I was sure the next three would be in C, C and A, and they were. This spells out meta answer DECCA Records, the label that famously (though I’d forgotten I knew this and had to re-learn via their Wikipedia page) passed on producing the band’s first album in 1962. Figurative heads rolled over that one, rest assured.

Notice how Pete maximized this idea’s potential: first he came up with the concept of spelling something out with the keys of songs, which means only ABCDEF and G were available to use. CABBAGE isn’t very musical; the Genesis album “Abacab” was available but inelegant because the album was actually named for those musical notes; ABBA is only four letters long so not as interesting.

But then he finds DECCA records, which both provides a solid number of theme entries and allows him the ironic “aha moment” of the answer being a label that passed on the Beatles. That fact is well-known but not well-known enough to give the idea away too quickly, even to those who know it. I’d be very surprised if someone found a way of executing this concept that’s better than the one Pete chose. Outstanding.

The fill was good, especially the big NE and SW corners. Highlight include ESPRESSO (and its clue, [Shot for when you’re feeling shot]), IN PIECES, TAILSPIN, DOODLE, VOTED NO, WAYS IN, TELLTALE and DAWG. Tough cross at the C on TICO and CULETS in the SE; I know the former but not the latter.

I loved this meta, and it came with above-average fill and very good clues. 4.60 stars, and we’ll eagerly await the final MMMM puzzle of the year on New Year’s Eve, which will also contain this year’s overarching meta-meta. Mysterious and intriguing — can’t wait to see what Pete’s been sneaking into the puzzles all year.

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14 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta, December 2012

  1. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks for the great review Matt. 43 correct answers this month, a new low. I think this is likely the toughest puzzle of this year’s MMMM (including the finale).

    When constructing the puzzle, the only other song I considered was “BADGE” by Eric Clapton (you’ll know it if you hear it), but once I stumbled upon the DECCA rejection, I had to go with that.

  2. Andy says:

    Definitely the hardest of the bunch for me. I spent Tuesday through Friday focusing on the “word search” part of the title, and was on the verge of giving it up as a lost cause when inspiration struck. I agree with Matt – great execution of this idea.

  3. Karen says:

    This is the first one I couldn’t figure out. Now that I read the solution, I’m amazed at the cleverness it took to solve it, and even more so to construct it! I just kept trying combinations of one word from each title, thinking I would find another song title, or famous one-word titles, or a phrase from the lyrics of something, etc. I wish I had thought of musical keys instead of focusing on words. This was a brilliant meta!

  4. Patrick L says:

    I think I gave this an easy rating – but I was referring to the meta, not the puzzle. The puzzle was hard to finish – especially the top right corner! I still don’t know what FER is. And I guess ARBS are arbitrators? And isn’t SRO technically an acronym, not an abbreviation? And I’ve never heard anyone say IN BIG, ever. I’m not even sure how to use it. I’m in big to Pete’s puzzles? I’m in big with them?

    The meta was very clever. As a huge music theory buff, I would have given Pete major props for using the German S (E-flat) or H (B-natural, meaning B would refer to B-flat), as Bach and Schumann often did in their musical letter motifs, though I suspect that would be perceived as unfair.

    But the cohesive Beatles theme made this a very elegant construction in my opinion.

    • Pete Muller says:

      Hi Patrick

      Thanks for the feedback…

      FER is backwoods slang for FOR.
      ARBS are arbitrageurs.
      Acronyms are abbreviations.
      IN BIG: “Are you committed to the cause/trade?” “Yes, I’m IN BIG”

      Cool link for the music cryptograms. I suspect I might have gotten some hate mail if I tried to use H or S for the musical notes :)

      • pannonica says:

        Isn’t it that acronyms are a subset of abbreviations, ones that can be pronounced as words (hence the -nym suffix)? And non-acronym abbreviations are then (retroactively?) called “intitialisms.”

        • Amy L says:

          I think pannonica is right. Acronyms are abbreviations that act as words, e.g., Scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus). So SRO is not an acronym but is an abbreviation.

          On another subject, I’m shocked that there are people who don’t know every single Beatles song! These puzzles have been fun because they show exactly how pop music is age-related.

  5. pannonica says:

    Solved it correctly but didn’t submit. Only from the puzzle’s instructions though; I knew the trivia and probably would never have gotten the process of the meta.

    Pete Muller: Trivia about “Badge”; when Eric Clapton and George Harrison were collaborating on the song, one of them misread the other’s notation indicating “bridge” and that’s how it was named.

  6. Paul Coulter says:

    This was an outstanding meta. Before hitting on the key signatures, I played word search with the lyrics for at least an hour, trying to find a word the 5 songs shared that happened to be a record label. I’ll Follow the Sun is one of my favorite Beatles melodies, with a beautiful melody and moving lyrics. She’s Leaving Home is very familiar, too, but I’d never heard the others. I, too, loved the irony of the DECCA moment.

  7. Howard B says:

    Very cool meta, and one that I never came close to solving. Nor would I have, given infinite time and listenings of the songs. That said, very impressive. My first total swing and a miss on this.

    No regrets here, and congrats to all solvers! :).

  8. Qatsi says:

    I knew of the famous DECCA rejection, but I was thrown off by the title.

    I saw TELL, HOME, REPLY, FOLLOW, and IM – and was thinking these were “keywords” in Twitter or some other social media site. But I couldn’t find a site that used all of these. I ended up going with PROFILE Records – a 1980’s era hip-hop label which of course never released a Beatles record.

  9. Abide says:

    Guessed DECCA, based on a) five letter record label; b) possible album to letter substitution with Beatles for Sale listed twice in position 3 and 4. I did think about whether songs could be written in D, etc. but I never thought about the “key” of D, and I was not about to research such a crazy idea.
    Sweet revenge for misreading the instructions to the lyrics contest!

  10. klew archer says:

    Pete already posted my Pilgrim’s Progress from despair to DECCA on his pmxword writeup so the only thing I have to add is another piece of “BADGE” trivia: I believe Ringo wandered in during the composition of the song and contributed a lyric or two, either “I told you about the swans that they live in the park” or “I told you about our kid now he’s married to Mabel”

  11. Tortoise says:

    I know MMMM themes skew more pop, but one other possibile answer would have been FACADE, which is an “entertainment” of Edith Stillwell poems recited over music by William Walton. Though some may quibble if you leave off the cedilla…

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