Muller Monthly Music Meta, November 2014

puzzle — 9:19; meta — 1 hour (Matt) 

The End of the Line (open)

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.

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15 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta, November 2014

  1. Tom says:

    Bah. This was the Hail Mary that I didn’t bother to submit.

    Great mechanism. At one point, I stared at the last three letters of each theme answer for a while, but didn’t take it all the way.

  2. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks Matt!

    I knew this one was going to be tough!
    Since December is a busy month, I decided to put the hardest puzzle in November this year.

    I hope those that didn’t get it think it was fair.

    I put a hint up tonight at pmxwords: Think Backwards (although if you’re reading this, though, you’ve already seen the solution)

  3. Abide says:

    I went through everything Matt did right up to the “standardized spacing”. But the vaguely familiar lyric did not jump out at me. I was focusing more on finding a song, though. Ultimately fair but very tough. Alternate title: “You Say You Want a Revolution”.

  4. Bob J says:

    The title “The End of the Line” serves double duty by also hinting at the “Paul is Dead” meme – a clever, perhaps slightly dark, finishing touch. Agree with MG, a very satisfying aha moment.

  5. Bencoe says:

    Anybody else notice that you can follow in the grid from the “W” in “WEDONTNEEDNO” and spell “WAAALRUS”?
    I knew it wasn’t right, but it was one of many things I noticed in the puzzle. I kept thinking maybe there would be a “long and winding ‘ROAD'” (a synonym thereof, actually) hidden in the grid.

  6. Dan Katz says:

    Meh. I just don’t think extracting the last three letters of every theme entry (while completely ignoring the other nine) is fair play without stronger cluing. It’s very thematically appropriate once you actually have the final answer, but the title (or something else in the clues/grid) should have clued both drawing letters from the end and something about reading backward (as in Pete’s clue after the fact).

    The title did draw me immediately to the last (single) letters of each theme entry, but when those didn’t spell anything, I spent lots of time with the many fill-in-the-blank clues with parentheticals, thinking those blanks were the “lines” referenced.

    For my money, a very elegant idea that ended up a misfire due to undercluing.

    • Pete Muller says:

      There was a very subtle hint about going backwards…the clues for each of the entries in the final puzzle column all contained the word “back.”

      I could have made it more obvious, of course, but this was supposed to be the hardest puzzles of the year. Any reference to going backwards would have made it too easy.

      I almost wrote a note in the puzzle email that “Solvers might have to backsolve this one,” but didn’t for the same reason.

      • Bencoe says:

        Crap! I didn’t notice the “back” in the clues for the rightmost column. Nice hint.

      • Shawn P says:

        Did you change the clues in the final column? Although I do see it now on the website, the version of the puzzle that I used does not have the word “back” in any clues. 9D [“Labrador” singer Mann], 27D [“___ Like Hairdos” (Ani DiFranco song)], 47D[Instruments that won’t last more than 10 yrs.]. Not that I would have gotten it either way, but just sayin’.

        • Pete Muller says:

          Where did you get that version?
          The emailed version and the puzzle on the website all had “back” in the clues

          I did have a version with the clues you mention that was uploaded before the contest start time but replaced a day or two prior.

          Thinking one of the app software people scraped it early by mistake…

          • Shawn P says:

            Yeah. It was an app. My process is that when I receive the email, I download the puzzle on the app so I can work on it on the train on my way home from work. Granted, I probably would not have noticed the crossing clues anyway. I am more of a week 1-3 MGWCC solver.

  7. Dan Katz says:

    Ahhhhh… The “back” repetition, which I didn’t catch before, elevates this in my mind from unfairly underclued to kosher but very difficult. Which is what you were going for, so good!

  8. Dave Taube says:

    Brilliant puzzle, Pete! As always, the meta was simple once it was explained. I had no clue on this one.

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