Muller Music Meta, December 2016

puzzle — untimed (Matt) 
meta — DNF 


Intended to have all weekend to crack this tough year-ending Muller Meta, but life threw me a curveball and my time available for solving this turned out to be severely limited. I’ve had a few peeks here and there and think I’m on the right track, but haven’t been able to put everything together successfully. So I’m going to try Joon’s method of last resort on my metas, which is to blog the ideas I’ve got so far and see if the act of writing it all out jostles the meta loose.

Our title is “How Revealing!” and instructions ask for a well-known rock song. Our five theme entries are:

17-A [Beatles classic] = AND I LOVE HER
25-A [Hot Chocolate Classic] = YOU SEXY THING
38-A [Kate Bush/Peter Gabriel classic] = DON’T GIVE UP. Is that really a classic? It’s probably the least-known song on the great album “So.”
50-A [Eminem classic] = LOSE YOURSELF. Again “classic” seems a little off since it’s so recent. Definitely a great song. There’s something meta-related to this “classic” phrasing, though.
62-A [Buddy Holly classic covered by the Stones] = NOT FADE AWAY. So again with the “classic” but this one, uniquely, also mentions a cover version.

Then we have two starred entries: symmetrical HEY and LIE, clued as [“Psst!”*] and [“That’s not true!”*] And the blog-solve method may have just borne fruit, as I’ve only now noticed that each of these clues works more precisely if you add a “you,” so “Psst!” is really more “Hey, you!” than “Hey” and “That’s not true!” is closer to “You lie!” than the odd sounding “Lie!”. 55% chance there’s something there.

The first things I noticed were:

*No wordplay that I could find in the titles themselves so I think we’re dealing with some aspect of the songs themselves and not the words in their titles. In addition there aren’t many unusual words in these five titles which leads me to the same suspicion.

*Several odd repetitions in the clues, such as “notably” ending three down clues, plus two Leonard Cohen references in the clues, as well as three Beatles refs and two for Bob Dylan. But these could easily just be coincidence.

*I also spent a little time thinking what the title could mean; maybe clothing? THING from YOU SEXY THING could become a THONG, but then not a lot like that from the others.

Then on studying the clues I noticed something I should have seen right away: the “covered” reference in the last clue. Classics are songs that get covered a lot, and that would fit in the “How Revealing!” title. Let’s see if we can make that work.

A few minutes of Googling revealed that the most famous covers of “And I Love Her” appear to be from Esther Phillips (name unfamiliar to me) and Kurt Cobain. “You Sexy Thing” was covered by Deee-Lite (whom I know) and Tom Tom Club, and also by Stereophonics. “Don’t Give Up” was covered by Alicia Keys and Bono (together), and “Lose Yourself” by a bunch of acts. And then “Not Fade Away” also by a bunch of acts.

So this seemed promising, but I couldn’t find a reason to choose any cover version of these songs over another. As far as I could tell there’s no consistency. I tried to use the first letters of the most obvious ones’ names and see if they spelled anything but that didn’t work. Hmmm.

Next thing: besides the five theme entries, there are two other clues that use the word “classic”: at 15-D we have [Like many classic recordings] for MONO and at 27-D we have [“Tower of ___” (Leonard Cohen classic)] for SONG. But I can’t find any connection to the five usages of “classic” in the theme clues.

OK, running out of time here now so I need to try a last-ditch backsolve. This puzzles was so tough that Pete e-mailed solvers that a hint was a available. I signed up for it and received the following e-mail: “The starred clues are only necessary to confirm your answer.” OK, that means the starred HEY and LIE aren’t an integral part of the meta, just a click strengthener. Probably not very backsolvable but I’m out of options so let’s try it.

Random things: HEY, LIE sounds like the beginning of the ending chorus of “Hello, Goodbye.” So that’s one possible Hail Mary.

Welp, I have nothing else. I still think there’s a 70% chance it has something to do with cover versions of these five songs but I can’t figure out what. I’ve submitted my Hail Mary, which is Springsteen’s “Cover Me.” I give it a 5% chance of being correct. So I will go 10/12 on 2016 Muller Metas, which is two less than the 12/12 I called, Babe Ruth style, at the beginning of the year. Alas and alack! Someone tell us in comments what I missed. I need a 10-Across bad.

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33 Responses to Muller Music Meta, December 2016

  1. jefe says:

    solved it 5 minutes ago, with the hint:


    HEY (YOU)
    (YOU) LIE

    With or Without You

  2. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks Matt

    jefe has explained the meta.

    I was expecting to give people an easy December meta given everything going on this time of year. I was extremely surprised that people found this so difficult. Only 36 correct answers (and 2 seem to have been send in over the 11pm buzzer – need to check that out). Even the hint didn’t help!

    If AND, YOU, GIVE, YOURSELF, and AWAY had been the first (or last) words of the theme entries it would have been easy. I guess putting them on the diagonal made it much harder.

    Now that you all know the answer – I’m sure you will let me know if it felt fair or not – I hope so!

    Last MMMM of the year happens December 27 – the mega-meta reveal…

    • KZ Condor says:

      The hint made it much worse – pretty much made it unsolvable for me. I had noticed that the stated entries worked better if adding “you”; might have figured it out from there effectually eventually. No way was I going to get it by taking words from various places in the long acrosses.

      • Pete Muller says:

        well that stinks – it certainly wasn’t my intention to make it harder with a hint!

        I thought about making the hint “Take one word from each theme entry” but worried that would make it a layup.

    • Justin says:

      Son of a gun. I was going to guess “With or Without You” as my hail mary based on the starred answers, but since I couldn’t figure out any other reason to do so, didnt. But for your question, yes I think it’s fair.

  3. andeux says:

    Spent a while trying make something out of antonyms (“it’s not true”) from the theme answers, e.g. AWAY->HOME (Can’t Find My Way Home? Take the Long Way Home?)

    Got it pretty much immediately after getting the hint (and then felt like I shouldn’t have needed it). Even then, didn’t get how the starred clues fit in (duh) until seeing it here; so they ended up being more red herring then strengthener for me.

    12/12 (11.5/12?) so far this year at least. Still no clue on the mega, though.

  4. sharkicicles says:

    Obvious in retrospect.

  5. Howard B says:

    I know the song and lyric, but I still don’t understand how this meta works even after the explanation. Tge ‘YOU’ thing didn’t really make sense to me, and the lyric seemed to be random words from each answer. Silly me, just missed my wavelength there. (And I know U2’s catalog pretty well!)

    • Pete Muller says:

      The selected words are on the “diagonal” as follows:

      First word of the first two theme entries
      Middle word of the middle one
      Last word of the last two

  6. Dan Katz says:

    I don’t understand the title.

  7. I’m not sure this one was entirely fair, Pete. I mean, 36 people got it, so it’s not like it was impossible, but I feel like you’d be *way* more likely to get this one if you knew the lyrics to “With or Without You.” If you don’t, I’m not sure how you’d get there. I can generally hum the tune to “With or Without You,” and can picture Bono singing “with or withoooooooout you.” But since I’m not the biggest U2 fan, the rest of the lyrics aren’t on my radar and so I wouldn’t have had much reason to find them in the first words of 17A/25A, the middle word of 38A, and the last words of 50A/62A. It would have taken an extraordinary stroke of luck for me to Google the right ones since I didn’t see anything in just the first words, or just the last words.

    Maybe it’s possible to get to the answer even if you don’t know the lyrics just from the missing “you” in 24A/55A and having that title just pop into your head. Or maybe by seeing two missing you’s from the starred clues, and then thinking “you two” –> U2, and then looking for an appropriate title. I don’t think I gave much thought to the missing “you’s,” so maybe I would have gotten it from that if I had; I can’t say. I’d be interested to see if others who aren’t big on U2 still solved the meta from that.

    In addition the southwest corner felt really distracting. MEOW MIX is a fun answer, but I don’t think it was worth the price of AMAJ and RIME, and even SXSW is sort of a letter salad for people who haven’t heard of it (though I have). I figured that corner had to play into things because of those short answers.

    • Al Sanders says:

      I second Evan’s thoughts on this one. I’m more of a tune than a lyrics guy, so I certainly know the song, but if you walked up to me and said “And you give yourself away”, I wouldn’t immediately think “With or Without You”. The diagonal placement of the relevant words in the theme entries made it very tough to discover the key phrase, so it was hard to get to the answer if the lyric didn’t just pop out at you.

      Nevertheless, please don’t take this criticism as more than my straightforward thoughts on this particular meta. I love MMMM and look forward to it every month. I also love hard metas, so even this one wasn’t gettable for me, don’t feel like you have to dial way back on the difficulty meter.

      Bottom line, I hope you decide to continue the series in 2017. The crossword landscape would be starker without MMMM every month.


  8. Matt Gaffney says:

    Well, I didn’t love this one. The “classic” phrasing in the five theme clues seems unnecessarily specific if it wasn’t anything to do with the meta. Plus there’s no nudge to extraction mechanism, so it comes off as arbitrary.

    If my eye had fallen on AND / YOU / GIVE / YOURSELF / AWAY, though, I would have gotten it instantly.

  9. rachaar says:

    I had a literal fist-pumping moment of glee when my name appeared as #6 on the leaderboard for this puzzle after I submitted my answer – because, as I think I even said as a comment when I submitted it, I was not sure I was right. I saw the lyrics but even then I wasn’t convinced I had it right. Finally I told myself it wasn’t possible for the lyrics to just be a coincidence and went for it.

    Having said that, I do think the meta was a little trickier than intended. HEY and YOU do work “with or without you” but that didn’t seem to be enough to click as an “a-ha” for me. I looked for something that would have confirmed it – there are two YOUs in the puzzle, so that’s U2, right? no, that’s a big stretch – and even thought “well, MONO is in the grid… but he usually puts the actual name in if he’s sneaking in a hint, not one letter off.” I waffled for twenty minutes even after getting the lyrics in the theme answers before I finally sent it in. I don’t know that the lyrics were too obscure, but a more obvious one of your patented “confirmations” in the grid might have helped more than the starred answers.

    I also wonder if people were a little thrown – as I was – at the fact that YOU follows HEY in the grid, albeit after a black square. It almost reads as a sentence: HEY YOU SEXY THING – though LOSE YOURSELF LIE obviously doesn’t work the same way.

  10. Francis says:

    Didn’t get it. I spent a little time looking for “lies” in the Down clues, since at least one was arguably incorrect — Tom Lehrer was the lyricist of “The Elements,” but I’d say Arthur Sullivan was the composer. Obviously that didn’t go anywhere.

  11. Chris Popp says:

    I didn’t crack this meta either. I do think it’s fair – it’s just hard. As Pete mentioned above, it’s amazing how the offset of the key words in the theme entries really jacks up the difficulty level. I’m a big U2 fan, and I know the lyric in question, and it was hiding in plain sight… and I just didn’t see it. But I’m not disappointed in the puzzle, only in my failure to solve it.

    I’m really looking forward to the mega-meta and hopefully to many future ingenious MMMM puzzles.

  12. slubduck says:

    I think the “obvious to Pete” part of this puzzle is what is frustrating. MattG. put an apt phrase on it, “there’s no nudge to extraction mechanism, so it comes off as arbitrary.” Sums it up for me. In retrospect, it does seem that brainstorming the word “revealing” together with each themer might have jostled some possibilities along the lines of GIVE/REVEAL, REVEAL/YOURSELF, GIVE/YOURSELF, etc …… but I would then ask Pete, even if we know the lyric in question, how are we to arbitrarily ignore any and all possible meanings in “I LOVE HER” and “SEXY THING” which are not connected to anything, except that they can be connected to all other lines of thought when swimming around in this word cloud. I think the title or some other clue needed to push us to the idea that there may be a lyric in the theme answers somehow. Thanks for another great year so far, I look forward to more.

  13. Katie M. says:

    I must have been on Pete’s wavelength this time. I noticed the wording ” ‘artist’ classic” for the themers plus Tower of Song. So I considered the themes stacked up in a tower, and looking at them, I noticed “GIVE YOURSELF AWAY” looked like it might have possibilities. So I googled that, and got a hit on U2’s song lyric “and you give yourself away”. I was considering With or Without You, when I realized the *’d clues worked with or without YOU. Confirmation. Plus give yourself away goes with revealing in the title.

    I liked it. Maybe it would have been easier if the words were all first, or last, but they did go diagonally left to right. I think it’s fair, it’s just difficult like October’s Rock Lobster.

  14. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks for all the feedback (both the good and the “constructive”)

    I wanted this meta to be a fun, easy end to the year. Oops!

    A few solvers sent in the correct answer but told me they weren’t 100% sure it was right. That’s a clear sign that I didn’t do my job as well as I should have. If I had found a song title ending in AND or one starting with YOURSELF I probably wouldn’t have resorted to the diagonal placement. Sigh.

    I also would have been careful to not use the word “classic” in any other clues other than the themers, or maybe not use it at all.

    Thanks slubduck, Katie M, Chris, and Al for the MMMM support! I’m still deciding what the plan for the MMMM will be. I do have a cool idea for the mega-meta, but I want to make sure that I have the time to make another set of puzzles that people love. I’ll let you all know early January…

    • jefe says:

      I disagree with most of the above critics, though perhaps I’m biased since I did figure it out (and I like to think I’d have gotten it without the hint if I’ve given myself more time to look at it). I think it was fair, but could have been better executed.

      “Classic” in the themers suggests that yes, those are indeed the themers, though I do agree that using “classic” in other clues would then be a no-no.

      The title suggests something hidden, and we have one word hidden per entry. Originally I thought the commonality was that they all had 4-letter words, but that led nowhere and I went down several wrong turns.

      The placement of HEY and LIE was misleading, being in the same row as two themers both with YOU as part of them. I considered HEY (THERE) YOU SEXY THING and LOSE YOURSELF (IN A) LIE. Eminem also did “Love the Way You Lie”.

      Running low on time; got the hint, which at first I thought was a non-hint, but it enabled me to drop HEY/LIE and come back to the one word per entry idea. Eventually I puzzled out “AND YOU GIVE YOURSELF AWAY” which I recognized as a song lyric, though I couldn’t immediately place the song. Google to the rescue! It was 10:56 and “With or Without You” was the best thing I had, and it definitely suggests wordplay, so I submitted it. Afterwards figured out the HEY/LIE connection and indeed it was a nice confirmation.

      I feel that “With or Without You” has been a meta answer somewhere before? Or a title? With words that could take a U, like Favo(u)rite, Hono(u)r, Flavo(u)r, etc?

    • rachaar says:

      Pete, add me to the list clamoring for more MMMM! I look forward to the first Tuesday of every month so much, it would be a real bummer to deal without it.

  15. dave glasser says:

    I thought this one (which I did not solve) was, in retrospect, fine but not great. And also that it was the worst MMMM that I can remember.

    (Which is to say that the general standard of MMMM is very very good and I hope this isn’t the penultimate MMMM puzzle!)

  16. Brian Cross says:

    I only stumbled onto MMMM partway through the year, and I completely agree with Al’s comments – I am very hopeful they will continue in 2017. This year’s mega meta was a great deal of fun to figure out, and I always look forward to the monthly puzzles. I’m glad that a few of them have a high degree of difficulty, so the occasional hard month like this one is preferable to 12 months of layups.

  17. Amanda says:

    I haven’t seen any discussion of the triple-asterisked BOB (10 down). Why three asterisks? How does BOB help confirm the solution. This puzzle wasn’t as elegant as metas usually are.

  18. Amanda says:

    I haven’t seen any discussion of the triple-asterisked BOB (10 down). Why three asterisks? How does BOB help confirm the solution? This puzzle wasn’t as elegant as metas usually are.

    • Pete Muller says:

      I haven’t seen any discussion of the triple-asterisked BOB (10 down)

      Hi Amanda – this is from and should explain: (2016 mega-meta notes):

      The 2016 contest once again features a mega-meta, hidden in the 12 monthly puzzles. The 2016 mega-meta will be harder than last year’s. You can enter your solution to the mega-meta in the box at the right at any time during the year, and the scoring is the same as last year: The earlier you get the mega-meta, the more bonus points you get. Full details can be found in the Contest Rules.

      All the 2016 Contest Puzzles will be posted once the solution deadline has passed, in order to aid in mega-meta solving. Check out the clue for 6-Across in Puzzle #1 in case you’re joining the contest late.

  19. Charles Montpetit says:

    I did think of extracting words… but I only got as far as “AND YOU DON’T LOSE – NOT!” before abandoning the idea. Instead, like Rich Pardoe who found that the themer’s initials anagrammed to DYLAN (as Peter mentions in his write-up for the solution at, I went for a much more convoluted extraction when I noticed that the *third* letter of each themer, from top to bottom, spelled D-U-N-S-T. This directed me to Kirsten Dunst’s amusing cover of the Vapors’ rock song “Turning Japanese” (

    As for the two starred entries, I didn’t get the “With or Without You” reference either, but did notice that both HEY and LIE could become HUEY and LIEU with the addition of an U (U2, get it? And they’re notably connected to “Spiderman,” just like Dunst!). Can’t believe I came so close — twice — and still managed to flub this!

  20. Rammy M says:

    Pete, yes, ok I was griping about the hint, but it was (intended as) good-natured (friendly) griping, not the angry/bitter kind.

    Just sayin.


  21. LuckyGuest says:

    I so look forward to these metas each month, so I jumped on it as soon as it came out… and got nowhere. I put it away, and, as often happens, when I went back to it later in the day, AND / YOU / GIVE / YOURSELF / AWAY practically jumped out at me. When I was considering submitting “With or Without You,” there were only 4 correct submissions, so I thought I must’ve been wrong, but submitted it anyway. And there it was: I was the 5th correct submission! 11-12 this year (I submitted “867-5309” to “Prime Directive,” and/but took some solace in getting the correct answer 2 minutes after not seeing my name on the “correct solvers” list). But man, the mega-meta? Clock is ticking… Pete, PLEASE do a 2017 MMMM!

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