puzzle — 9:19; meta — 1 hour (Matt)
So simple, but only after you saw it: just 8 solvers got this month’s Muller Meta, and I’m a little proud to tell you that I was one of them. This erases a couple of painful Muller Meta experiences earlier in the year.
The puzzle title is “The End of the Line” and we’re told we’re looking for a Beatles song.
It appeared to me (and turned out to be the case) that the five 12-letter theme entries were the only entries relevant to the meta, since the fill was too good and too wide-open to conceal anything further. They are:
13-A [Onetime United States enemy] = NORTH VIETNAM.
17-A [Dessert with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, hot fudge, and pecans] = TURTLE SUNDAE.
34-A [Pre-education words for Pink Floyd?] = WE DON’T NEED NO. Suspiciously contorted entry, so we’ll come back to this.
48-A [Joyless, in a way] = OVERLY SOLEMN. Contrived, so also suspicious. There’s some major constraint on these theme entries.
54-A [Young-Holt Unlimited instrumental hit] = SOULFUL STRUT. Hadn’t heard of it by title, but the music sounds familiar.
First I wondered: why the very odd-sized 12×17 grid? Was that relevant? If the five grid-spanners indeed were the only theme, then one of them had to be special, something so unusual that the entire grid was resized to accommodate it.
The entry I kept coming back to was the central one, WE DON’T NEED NO. A 12-letter partial is not something a constructor of Pete’s level would casually throw in there, so there’s some hidden hand forcing this entry into the grid.
The puzzle’s title had me looking at the ends of the five theme entries to find some hidden message, but nothing jumped out. I looked at various other ideas, such as a message in the clues, but eventually came back to the oddness of that theme entry. So I decided to write the five theme entries out and see if any patterns asserted themselves:
As you can see I even drew lines in between the final, penultimate and antepenultimate letters in each theme entry. In hindsight it’s amazing the meta took me another 15 minutes after connecting these letters, since they pretty much spell everything out.
After a couple of other uninteresting false stars, I decided to write the theme entries out at more standardized spacing. And indeed, the meta solution jumped out within about 15 seconds: the final three letters of each theme entry, starting with the last and reading in reverse order, spells out TUR/NME/OND/EAD/MAN. That’s “turn me on, dead man” which I had to Google to remind myself was one of the “Paul is Dead” memes, this one from the execrable White Album song “Revolution 9.”
So our meta answer was “Revolution 9,” which is so bad that I’d rather link to a different song on that masterwork:
Amazingly, all it took was writing the theme entries out neatly to spot the pattern; this is the fragility of human (or at least my) thinking.
Notice too that it’s not arbitrary that the letters are backwards and at the end of the song; the title hints at it, and the words are backwards in “Revolution 9,” so there is logic to the method.
Great a-ha moment for me: 4.35 stars.