meta — DNF (1 hour)
Well, that was quick — I’m busted out of a perfect score in February. Slightly embarrassing, though I’m hoping for a pardon from the governor (see below).
Our title for February is “Splash Around,” and the instructions were: The meta for this puzzle is a rock hit from the past 10 years. A bit ominous since recent rock is not my forte, but it’s only February and Pete mentioned that he’d ramp things up gradually, so I wasn’t truly afraid.
Our grid had no theme entries, but many circled squares, each forming a different shape. Each spelled the name of a famous falls, as in waterfalls. Clockwise they are NIAGARA, SUTHERLAND (in New Zealand — not familiar with that one), IGUAZU, ANGEL, and YOSEMITE.
Now what? I figured a quick Google of recent-ish rock hits would bring me the answer quickly, but…hmmm. 45 minutes later I had some ideas, but nothing with a strong meta click. Could it be “All Falls Down” by Kanye West? No, that’s from 2004 so outside of our time range. This list of songs whose title is “Waterfall” or “Waterfalls” didn’t produce any winners. Neither did anything on this list.
I had to be missing something obvious, since 175 or so solvers had gotten it by the time I looked at it on Saturday evening. It couldn’t be TLC’s famous “Waterfalls,” since that was from 1995. But how come Pete hadn’t just made the instructions read “The meta is a #1 song from the 1990s?” There had to be more to it.
I tried a few other permutations of “Water,” “Falls,” and “Down,” and finally this evening decided to send in the 2008 Oasis song “Falling Down,” since these are all falls and they’re all oriented downward (i.e. the first letter in each waterfall’s name is its highest letter in the grid). Certainly did not get the meta click and was not surprised when Pete wrote back that that wasn’t the correct answer.
The correct answer, as he let me know, is Coldplay’s “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall.”
I don’t think I can call this meta unfair, since 200+ solvers got the right answer. The idea is that each of these circled shapes resembles a teardrop, but is that true? Each is a different shape; ANGEL’s shape I buy, but NIAGARA is heavier on the top [Update, 11:10 PM ET — I see now that the NI in NIAGARA is representing the top tail of a teardrop, so NIAGARA does indeed work; this weakens my case for clemency] which a teardrop really can’t be for long , and YOSEMITE and IGUAZU are north-south symmetrical, which doesn’t really work, either. SUTHERLAND works though.
If you do a Google Image search on “teardrop” every one comes back with the top thinner than the bottom, gravity’s pull at work. So I’m impressed that 200+ got it, but I don’t think the shape really works here. I did see “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” on one of the lists I combed and considered it briefly but then rejected it. I’m leaning towards thinking I should get credit here; “Falling Down” isn’t great, but both parts make sense.
So I didn’t love this meta; the idea is fine, and Pete did his usual fancy footwork fitting in some nice entries with extreme fill constraints (XM RADIO, BUZZ, IMPOSE ON, NEON SIGN, ICE CANOE). But I think instructions of “A #1 song from the 1990s” would have been better, although then the shape of the waterfalls doesn’t make sense without the teardrop connection. So maybe instead have them cascading down 2 or 3 columns each, waterfall-style.
Let me know your thoughts in comments on whether I should get credit, and what your solving process was. Pete, I can lend you my panel if you’re not sure! They’re tough but fair.