Season 5, Episode 5 of the Muller Music Meta. I wasn’t afraid since I didn’t get to solve this puzzle until Wednesday afternoon, when the scoreboard at Pete’s site revealed that 97 solvers had already figured it out. But it did prove to be a little tougher than expected.
Prompt asked for a well-known artist that’s missing from the grid. The grid is rectangular (16×13), which strongly implies that the meta will be theme entry-based instead of grid based. And indeed it looks the grid size was chosen to accommodate a pair of 13’s crossing a pair of 10’s, which are:
18-A [Ziggy Stardust creator] = DAVID BOWIE. The greatest album of the 1970s? Maybe.
3-D [Diana Krall’s musician husband] = ELVIS COSTELLO. Power duo.
12-D [Group named after detectives in “The Adventures of Tintin”] = THOMPSON TWINS. This doesn’t need the “the” since they don’t use it in the band name, like Smashing Pumpkins.
48-A [Late-’60s and early-’70s fictional bubblegum pop band] = THE ARCHIES. Quite a gulf in talent between the NW and SE theme entries here.
So I began by focusing on the “missing” part of the instructions, and dutifully checked for what letters of the alphabet are not included in the grid. They are Y and Z, which led me astray for about 10 minutes as I tried to make Yaz, Jay-Z, and Young Jeezy work, to no avail. I set the puzzle aside and came back to it a while later. Again I tried to make something of the Y-Z, which I really should have set aside by this point.
Put the puzzle down, came back, and there it was: My eyes settled on ELVIS COSTELLO and then RADIO, and I immediately heard his “Radio, Radio” in my head, and right away knew I’d find REBEL in there somewhere for Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel.” And there it is at 30-Down. The puzzle’s title verified that this was the way to go.
Had to look up THE ARCHIES, bur everyone knows their hit “Sugar Sugar” and there’s SUGAR at 57-Across. Thompson Twins I know from their canonic ’80s hits “Hold Me Now” and “Lay Your Hands on Me,” but apparently they also had a song called “Doctor Doctor” which somehow hit #11 but I’d never heard it before just now and it’s pretty awful. But there’s DOCTOR across the center.
So who’s missing from the grid? Symmetry plays a larger-than-usual role in Pete’s metas, so it didn’t surprise me that MARIA is at 24-D, completing the theme symmetry. That times 2 (“Maria Maria”) was a #1 hit in 2000 for meta answer CARLOS SANTANA.
Pretty nifty meta, though Pete hasn’t cranked up the difficulty yet since this one was pretty easy. Another of Pete’s trademarks is somehow squeezing in a lot of music fill even with high theme content, as here: HORNE, EUBIE and ORION even manage to squeeze in *between* theme entries! Now that’s tight.
4.25 stars and I’m 5-for-5 in 2016 after going 13-for-13 in 2016. Will the difficulty go to 11 in June? Or should we just make 10 more difficult, and have it go up to 10? Tune in in a month to find out.