meta — 25 minutes
This is my favorite Muller Meta of 2016 thus far; it sports a clever and completely novel meta idea.
We’re looking for a hit from the late 1970s, and our seven theme entries, identified as such with parenthetical numbers, are:
16-A [Grand figure (1)] = THOUSAND
18-A [Figure in a famous Cézanne work (6)] = BATHER
21-A [Some sunshades (2)] = BEACH HATS. Is that a phrase? Probably.
37-A [“Sweet dreams”(6)] = NIGHT. Short for “goodnight.”
52-A [“Sweetie, use your brain!” (13)] = THINK, DEAR. Well now that is certainly not a real phrase. Suspicious!
59-A [Persist (2)] = LIVE ON
60-A [Partakes of a free sample, say (3)] = TRIES ONE. Sort of a phrase. Anyway, it appears there are some fairly major meta constraints on these entries.
My first thought was, of course, that the title (“How Cryptic!”) was telling us to somehow use cryptic crossword clues. I couldn’t think of anything else it could be, so with that in mind I began scanning the grid entries.
My eye happened to be traveling from bottom-to-top of the grid, and I noticed that NIGHT anagrams to thing — which wasn’t a big leap since that’s well-known, but it got me thinking anagramatically…and when I got to the top entry, THOUSAND, the wires in my brain anagrammed them to AND SHOUT. And then the Beatles part of my brain added “twist” to that to get the famous song title. And “twist” is a cryptic indicator for anagram. Aha! I gave this a 50% chance of being the right track, which would be awesome since this was my first freescan of the grid after solving and only 23 people had gotten it right after two days (this was all on Thursday).
Adrenaline flowing, I set about to test my hypothesis with other anagrams. Went tight back to NIGHT / Thing. Was there a famous song with anagram indicator preceding the world “Thing”? The first –well, thing that came to mind was The Troggs’ 1960s classic “Wild Thing,” so that one worked as well. 90% chance this was right, which would hit 99% if I could get one more.
I decided on BEACH HATS, and voila — that’s THE CASBAH, as in the Clash’s “Rock the Casbah,” “rock” being a decent enough anagram indicator.
Once you got all 7, it was a matter of using the parenthetical number to determine which letter of the artist’s name to use (ignoring any “the” at the beginning, per the instructions). In full, the seven are:
Twist AND SHOUT (1) BEATLES = B
Locomotive BREATH (6) JETHRO TULL = O
Rock THE CASBAH (2) CLASH = L
Wild THING (6) TROGGS = S
Dancing IN THE DARK (13) BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN = T
Crazy IN LOVE (2) BEYONCE = E
Moving IN STEREO (3) CARS = R
So that spells “bolster,” a word that hasn’t appeared in any famous song titles at all, to my knowledge. But using one of the anagram indicators from the clues we will “rock” the word BOLSTER to make it lobster, forming contest answer ROCK LOBSTER, by the B-52s.
In case you’re wondering: yes, I had to look up 2 of the 7 song titles via Google (“Locomotive Breath,” “Moving in Stereo”). But I knew enough of them to know I was on the right track. I thought it was slightly odd to use “rock” as the indicator since he’d already used it in a theme entry, but then convinced myself that this double-usage was intended to be a click strengthener. And it was.
As I said upstairs: this is my favorite Muller Meta of the year thus far. A totally new idea that I was fortunate to unravel quickly, but things could’ve easily gone the other way. Only 43 right answers just before deadline, so a tough one.
4.65 stars, bravo Pete.
Dang, I had (as one theory) anagrams, and #=letter in group, but I missed
“add a word that means scramble”, so my song list was mostly different:
(with some alternatives)
Handouts (in the Rain) – [R]ichie havens
Bertha – gRate[F]ul dead
Breath – pearl [J]am/break[I]ng benjamin
(The) Thing – phil h[A]rris
In The Dark – three doors do[W]n (though it is the digit “3”)
(Songs) In the Dark – wainwright si[S]ters
Love-In – c[H]arles lloyd quartet
Love In (Song) – p[A]ul mccartney
at least I had
(Rock) The Casbah – c[L]ash
(Moving) In Stereo – the ca[R]s
but my letters didn’t give anything good :-(
So close, and yet so far
I was completely at sea on this one, and it broke my streak for the year.
But I thought I had a pretty good guess with “Float On” by The Floaters, which hit #2 on the charts in 1977. I wasn’t familiar with it, but it’s mostly spoken-word, four guys looking for dates, whose names are Ralph (in 4D), Charles (the main character in a children’s book called THINK DEAR), Paul (like Cézanne), and Larry (who I couldn’t find in the grid).
For a long time I was hung up on 8D and 41D, symmetrical entries whose answers (minus the inner-most letters, a P and M that bracket NIGHT) are anagrams of each other and of OnStar, a company that once used Batman in ads (8D crosses the theme answer BATHER) and had a more recent ad campaign with the tagline LIVE ON (crossed by 41D), which featured a Modest Mouse song also with the title “Float On.”
Seeing the writeup, “Rock Lobster” clearly has that ah-ha moment that my shot in the dark never did, and it’s frustrating that I was nearly on the right track with anagramming things, but didn’t quite get there, but there’s a crazy amount of coincidence in the answer that I stumbled into.
I had the meta idea halfway through the grid, as I submitted a variation of this theme (including THOUSAND and BEACHHATS) about 7 years ago. This version was much elegant.
Glad you liked it!
46 correct answers this month – making it the hardest MMMM so far this year.
Getting to the home stretch of Year 5 – two more puzzles to go!
I got it, though I was held up for a while since I had (the) Iseley Brothers for Twist and Shout. For a while, I also had Lost in Stereo by All Time Low. I also couldn’t find anything to go with Breath other than Lose my Breath by Destiny’s Child, and I felt sure Pete wouldn’t use the extraneous word my in an anagram indicator. Interestingly, there was a second song from Beyonce that worked, Drunk in Love. I never did find Locomotive Breath, but I had enough letters for B_LSTER. That led to Rock Lobster easily enough, though I was a bit disappointed that Rock had been used already. Still, I enjoyed it very much. Four stars from me.
I knew this was anagrams in some way, but couldn’t figure anything out. I even figured the anagram of IN STEREO, but that didn’t mean anything to me. No chance on this one. Oh well. Very clever!
Took me a while to get started because it was a heavy work week (and weekend), but I do a lot of cryptic crosswords, so the title got my hopes up. The instructions mentioned artists, so I was primed for artists and song titles. Once I got “in stereo” I realized we were looking at backward clues for songs starting with anagrinds. That got me all the songs from songs I knew, but I feared “… in Love” and “… Thing” could be other songs.
The big number 13 and the instructions made it pretty clear what to do with the numbers.
I was good on artists, but wasn’t sure whether to go Isleys or Beatles (or Top Notes, I guess), nor was I totally sure on “Wild Thing” since there are multiple covers of multiple songs there (my partner would’ve tried Tone Loc first), but the other five were solid enough that it clearly had to spell that word and give you that song.
I like it a lot, but if I weren’t good at anagrams or didn’t know those songs, it would’ve been maybe too hard. I spent a lot of time looking to see if there were other hints to the songs or artists in the grid (because he does that), but didn’t see any. Did I miss them?
You didn’t miss anything Abby
Part of the extra difficulty was figuring out which bands/artists to use.
Paul: I agree that in an ideal world I wouldn’t use ROCK in the meta answer and in one of the themers. I found it hard to find a better alternative, though. I’m going with Matt’s description, that the ROCK dup was “double-usage was intended to be a click strengthener.”
And a message to the person that gives the MMMM a 1 or 1.5 rating each month. I’m not sure if you don’t like music metas, me, or the letter M, but it would be great if you either explained your rating in a comment, or stopped giving really low ratings to solid puzzles.
I put a lot of effort in creating puzzles to try to make people happy (and I’m sure I’m speaking for a number of other constructors here too). I care what people think. Please bring on the constructive criticism when appropriate, but also please refrain from giving low ratings without explanation. If your goal was to bum me out a little- congrats, you’ve succeeded.
For those that liked this puzzle and gave it a high rating – thanks! You made me smile.
Well said! By the way, one of my early thoughts was that a good choice for the final answer might be Turn to Stone by ELO. In the Cryptic world, turn is often used as an anagram indicator as well as a reversal.
Honestly, I don’t think you should worry about the ratings at all; they’re not a good measure of a puzzle’s quality. People who regularly do your metas know you do solid work each month. I say that even though I got trounced by this one (but also, I suck royal at cryptics!).
As one who started doing MMMMs this year–and has only been doing Matt’s for about a year–I don’t even consider myself sufficiently calibrated yet to score these things at all. I can’t imagine giving one a terrible rating and then not saying anything. ??
I can’t really imagine giving these that low a rating, let alone consistently. My ratings vary (usually higher) and are honestly derived from reasons. I hope most raters in general conform to this, and effectively drown out any “noise” from a few others.
Sorry you’ve got a troll, Pete. :(
Went down a rabbit hole of trying to treat the clues like true cryptic clues, and never got out.
AAAGH (not that I probably would have gotten it anyway)
I solved this one on my iPhone and forgot about the issue where parentheticals in clues sometimes aren’t parsed properly, and I forgot to check the PDF/online version as I usually do to check for .PUZ-related issues like circles, highlighted squares, etc.
So, I had no idea where to even start on this one.
The worst part is that I am a former employee of the company that made the app, have spent many hours in the code for that app, and am well, well aware of the issue.
Great puzzle, though.
I was never close, but wow that is a work of art, Pete. And I LOVE cryptics.
I got anagrams. I even got that it was supposed to be letters from the names of the artists that did the songs. I did not successfully rearrange every single song and thus, never got to the answer. (I’m KICKING myself for not seeing ROCK THE CASBAH!)
But now that I see the answer I feel like I should’ve made a blind guess in that direction anyway – because I had some Baader-Meinhof going on with Rock Lobster the other day when I was trying to solve this. It came on the radio, which was the first time I’d heard it in ages, and was then referenced in a totally unrelated crossword puzzle I was working on. I had myself a chuckle and dimly wondered where it’d crop up again. Never saw it coming.
Great puzzle, Pete. Even if I didn’t solve it I’m giving myself a pat on the back for at least being on roughly the right track.
I got hung up briefly on “Shot in the Dark” instead of “Dancing in the Dark”, but at least I knew to keep looking, because Ozzy Osbourne’s name wasn’t long enough.
Some other cryptic songs I came up with besides the three in Pete’s write-up:
SILICON CPU –> “Stoned Soul Picnic” (5th Dimension)
CO-EXAMINERS –> “New Mexican Rose” (Four Seasons)
And this one is obviously a stretch, but I figured if THINK, DEAR was legit…
KNISH TEMPERATURE (Consideration when deciding whether to bite into a potato appetizer?) –> “Lost in the Supermarket” (The Clash)
Here are my own:
MENTORS (Bobby Pickett’s “MONSTER mash”)
NUBILE (Bob Dylan’s “tangled up IN BLUE”)
MOONIEST (The Rolling Stones’ “mixed EMOTIONS”)
SHAMING RON, maybe clued as “Making Reagan blush?” (Cat Stevens’s “MORNING HAS broken”)
SWELL TREAT, maybe clued as “Sealtest Dime Cup, per 1941 ads” (10cc’s “WALL STREET shuffle”)
Also, just for the record, anyone who sucks at cryptics (like I do) could get a list of anagram indicators at
Unfortunately, “locomotive” isn’t on that list, so I lost a lot of time trying to figure out if we were to go for the cryptic clue “bad BREATH” which would have pointed to Cledus T. Judd novelty song (www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tjfjuPZTWg) or if the right answer was an even more cryptic “baby’s BREATH” (because a baby would mix the letters, see?), which would have led to Bill Callahan’s song of the same name (www.youtube.com/watch?v=Li9fZOGckVA). Neither of them are very well known, though, so I had to solve the meta without the second theme entry (and without the right anagram for THINK DEAR, which I thought was KIND HEART but couldn’t find a song title to go with, as in “Upset a KIND HEART”).
Luckily, the only word that can be generated out of B-LS-ER over at the More Words website is BOLSTER, so I did manage to get there in the end… after Peter pointed me in the right direction, ’cause I initially had no idea that cryptic puzzles worked that way. But hey, getting a hint from the constructor is a perk of being a test solver, even if it disqualifies me from actually entering the contests!
For the record, I suspected anagrams were afoot when I saw NIGHT could become THING, and BATHER could become BREATH, and I did wonder about KIND HEART for THINK DEAR as well. Unfortunately I couldn’t figure out what the other anagrams might be, and couldn’t make the second jump from seeing they could be the ends of a cryptic clue where the first word of a song title was an anagram indicator.
Like I said, I suck royal at cryptics simply because they have their own crossword language that I’m just not used to (this isn’t a knock against the meta).