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.