Muller Music Meta, September

puzzle about 8 minutes; 1.5 hours (Matt) 


Especially excellent work from Pete Muller this month. He tasked us with finding one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and the first thing that jumped out at me was the parenthetical numbers after seven clues. In numerical (not clue number) order:

13-D [Van ___ (1)] = HALEN.
29-D [“The Producers” director Brooks (2)] = MEL.
1-D [Rock band inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013 (3)] = RUSH.
43-D [’70s new wave band (4)] = SQUEEZE.
36-D [Azalea from Australia (5)] = IGGY. OK, I’ll sheepishly admit that I was fooled by the masked capital letter here. I had ?GG? and assumed it was some plant I didn’t know, and had the appropriate “d’oh” moment soon after.
50-D [Day who said “Wrinkles are hereditary. Parents get them from their children.” (6)] Amusing line.
31-A [Blue Öyster ___ (7)] = CULT.

Wasn’t sure yet what role these would play, but another thing had leapt off the page from my solve: several of the clues just didn’t make any sense at all with their given answers. Like at 34-A, how does [Part of TTYL] lead to answer BURNIN? And how is [Neutral pronoun] at 5-D a clue for BEG? I double-checked the .puz file to make sure it hadn’t been corrupted, but no, those were the answers.

I decided to count the make-no-sensers, finding five others in addition to the two above. Seven in total! Pulse slightly raised, since this suggests there’s a connection between these and the parenthetical numbers in clues. Those other five were:

17-A [Name invoking fascism] for SPRINGTIME. Wires crossed in my brain here — you’ve got MEL Brooks in the grid, and now a clue for SPRINGTIME that sounds like it could be a clue for HITLER (“Springtime for Hitler” being a song from Brooks’ “The Producers”). Probably not a coincidence.
19-A [Long-running hit Broadway musical] = COOL. Never heard of that one, and neither had the Goog.
21-A [Class head] = HOT. No matter how I parsed it for puns, this made no sense.
32-A [Small prime number] = TEA? Wasn’t sure of the last letter, but sure it wasn’t a logical clue. [“Now it makes sense!”] at 33-D really wants to be AHA instead of the correct AAH, but TEA turned out to be right.
60-D [Reverberation] = TEST. Hmmm. Don’t see how this clue works.

Besides SPRINGTIME, the other nonsensical answer that had caught my eye was BURNIN, since it strongly suggested the Blue Oyster Cult’s “Burnin’ for You.” Combined with “Springtime for Hitler” we have two “X for X” songs. Interesting. Are there more? Adrenaline really starting to flow: spotted Van Halen’s teen classic “HOT (21-A) for Teacher,” then Squeeze’s “COOL (19-A) for CATS.

Do you see what he’s doing? The nonsensical clues in these seven cases are actually cluing the final word of the song titles! So not nonsensical but rather completely logical. Very nice mechanism! Like [Part of TTYL] is YOU, which is the last word of “Burnin’ for You.” And [Long-running hit Broadway musical] is not COOL but CATS, from song title “Cool for Cats.”

Writing them all out, and then using the first letter of the last word of each song:

(1) Hot for Teacher
(2) Springtime for Hitler
(3) Test for Echo (RUSH song)
(4) Cool for Cats
(5) Beg for It (Iggy Azalea song, had to look it up)
(6) Tea for Two (Doris Day song)
(7) Burnin’ for You

This spells out THE CITY. Hmm, that’s not a song title I recognize. But wait…what if we use the same mechanism and put a “for” in there? That would suggest Stevie Wonder’s classic “Living for the City,” and there it is at #105 on the list, and which was indeed this month’s contest answer.

This is one of the my favorite metas published anywhere in 2017 thus far. Lots of little mysteries to solve, nuances to notice, pieces of the puzzle to put together until the end when you can stand back and see how intricately the whole thing fits together. And at each step along the path to success, there’s enough verification to be sure that you’re still on the right track.

One final touch: I’d assumed that the title “Fortune Hunter” was a riff on the “Fortune 500” and the 500 songs in the Rolling Stone list. But as I’m typing this up I realize that it’s to be parsed as “For-Tune Hunter.” Now there’s a perfect title! .05 bump just for that, and we’re already in rarefied territory.

4.85 stars, which I believe ties for the highest I’ve even given a puzzle I reviewed at Fiend. Bravo!

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13 Responses to Muller Music Meta, September

  1. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks Matt –

    I’m honored!

    This was one of my favorites too (and my solvers rated it higher than any regular season MMMM ever).

    141 correct answers this month.

    I’m pretty excited about the next few puzzles too…

  2. Toby says:

    What is the significance of the three asterisks in clue 68 across?

  3. sharkicicles says:

    Strong contender for meta of the year IMO.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I agree–as Matt describes, this one really got the pulse racing when it clicked. We need to see it featured prominently at the Orcas!

  4. Jeff G. says:

    I loved this one! Figuring out the grid was the hardest part thanks to the 7 “x for x” answers. Tea for two is what helped break it open for me. Great job Pete!

    • sharkicicles says:

      For me it was COOL for CATS- I had CATS for the longest time there and couldn’t solve that corner, and when I filled in SQUEEZE it clicked and we were off to the races. I’m in the age range where I had to google both Doris Day’s and Iggy Azalea’s songs.

      • Matthew G. says:

        Ditto on being too young for Doris Day and too old for Iggy Azalea. My entry point was “Springtime for Hitler,” and I doubt I would have solved this one quickly if that had not been one of the answers; as a huge showtunes fan I almost instantly think of Hitler when I hear the word “Springtime.” Yeah, that was a weird sentence I just typed, but so be it.

        The slowest part of this meta for me was finding the final answer after I got the words THE CITY. “Living for the City” is apparently iconic, but I am pretty sure I’d never heard it. I listened to it before sending in my answer, and I really liked it!

  5. Icdogg says:

    Loved this one.

  6. Icdogg says:

    Before I finally came up with the correct answer, I thought of the Foghat song “Fool for the City” which I am pretty sure did not make the list.

  7. Dan Seidman says:

    Not a coincidence, presumably, that the other long entry is SUBSTITUTE.

  8. rachaar says:

    Oh my God. I never even came close. What a beautiful, beautiful meta. Great work, Pete.

  9. Gwinns says:

    I also admire the variety in the substituted songs, providing entry points across all ages — Hot for Teacher did it for me.

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