puzzle — 7:33; meta — 75 minutes (Matt)
Season 4, Episode 9 of the Muller Music Meta, and it’s another tough one. Ten hours before deadline as I write this, and just 77 correct answers showing on the leaderboard.
Our title is “Digital Remastering,” and our prompt tells us we’re looking for a well-known composer. Our five theme entries, helpfully identified by their parenthetical numbers, are:
17-A [“Romeo and Juliet” composer (-2)] = SERGEI PROKOFIEV
27-A [“Manon” composer Jules (-8)] = MASSENET
39-A [Diva Rise whose voice was insured by Lloyd’s of London (-3)] = STEVENS. Never heard of her, but if her voiced needed an insurance policy she was probably pretty good.
50-A [Finnish basso and Grammy winner Matti (-2)] = SALMINEN. Also unfamiliar, but if you’re dealing with a Finnish surname there’s a good chance it ends in -inen.
63-A [“Martha” composer whose name usually includes “von” (+9)] = FRIEDRICH FLOTOW. Whoa, needed every crossing for that surname.
The first two are very famous but the last three are much less so, leading me to think that these five were chosen based on very specific and limiting criteria.
The first quirky thing I noticed while free-scanning the grid is that each of the five theme entries contains a palindromic trigram: OKO, ENE, EVE, NEN, and OTO. I gave this about a 20% chance of being meta-relevant, and a few minutes of playing with it dropped that number down to less than 5%. Time to look for another angle.
As with many of Pete’s grids, this one is so wide-open and tightly-packed with theme that I figured it was unlikely there’d be much more to the meta than those five theme entries, which turned out to be the case. But another half hour of poking around didn’t turn up any red flags besides the three-step staircase of OX in the middle-left. Another dead end, so I put the puzzle down for a while.
On my second pass, I had the brilliant notion to look at the puzzle’s title. Digital remastering…maybe we’re anagramming numbers? My eye darted to the first theme entry, and the FIEV at its tail jumped off the page. That’s an anagrammed FIVE!
Adrenaline flowing now. MASSENET’s tail anagrams to TEN. Heart pounding, prey very close at hand, nerd very excited. Last five of STEVENS anagrams to SEVEN, last four of SALMINEN to NINE, and now we see the reason for invoking Mr. von Flotow’s name, since his last three letters rearrange to TWO.
Now what? Let’s perform the arithmetical operation in parentheses on each theme entry:
sergei prokoFIEV = 5 minus 2 = 3
masseNET = 10 minus 8 = 2
stEVENS = 7 minus 3 = 4
salmINEN = 9 minus 2 = 7
friedrich floTOW = 2 plus 9 = 11
This must be right, since none of the four subtractions goes to zero or negative numbers. Has to be just one more step here, but what is it? Are those emboldened numbers above the letters of the alphabet? That yields CBDGI, which doesn’t look like anything. How about the grid boxes with those five numbers? That gives us MOBWM, also nonsense.
A few minutes later I had the head-desk moment: these numbers indicate the letter you extract from each theme each entry. So meta! So you take the third letter in SERGEI PROKOFIEV, the second in MASSENET, the fourth in STEVENS, the seventh in SALMINEN, and the eleventh in FRIEDRICH FLOTOW, and you get your meta answer, Maurice RAVEL.
Very nice! Pete had to find five names that 1) ended with an anagrammed numeral, 2) contained the right letter of RAVEL, and 3) fit into the grid symmetrically. I’m betting this took a while. Bravo.
Complex and fun, 4.55 stars. I love the thrill of the chase in these, and I love being 9-for-9 in 2015! See you right here next month.