Muller Music Meta, December

puzzle untimed; meta 8-10 minutes(Matt) 


December Muller: our intriguing title is “Hidden Bonus Track,” and Pete asks us to look for a famous rock album AND one of the musicians who played on it.

No obvious theme entries judging by length, but at 56-A/40-D we get [With 40-Down, something you have to “hit” to fully solve this puzzle’s meta] = HOME/RUN. OK, so let’s see where that leads.

Just as I’m typing this on Sunday I night I realize that there were two versions of this puzzle released, the standard one and then a tougher one that omitted the parenthetical numbers from certain entries. I went right to the site here for the puzzle so got the standard version without realizing the harder one existed. Which wouldn’t have mattered since I know the meta answer album very well so would have recognized that six of its seven track titles are hiding in grid entries:

(cute that “At Last” is also a famous song title)

These are all but one of the tracks from Steely Dan’s album “Aja,” a staple of both of the long-term poker table groups (5+ years each) I’ve played at in my adulthood. Missing is the title track, which is also the “Hidden Bonus Track” mentioned in the title. It is hidden thusly: recall that we are looking for not only the name of the album but also for one of the musicians who plays on it, which could mean either one of the two main members of Steely Dan, or one of the many studio musicians who played on the album (an unusually large number, I think 2 or 3 dozen). And then this multi-layered reveal:

***AJA itself is hidden in the word RAJAH at 24-D
***remove the H and R from BRECKER and WALTHER to leave Becker and Walter, or Steely Dan member Walter Becker
***Why the H and R? Because remember from 56-A that you have to “Hit a HOME RUN” to solve the meta, so in cryptic-speak that’d be striking an H and R out of the grid

So the meta answer is AJA and WALTER BECKER, who passed away in September in fact. Not sure if this is a tribute puzzle or if Pete wrote it before Becker’s passing.

This was highly intricate, especially considering how much prime real estate the BRECKER/RAJAH/WALTHER complex takes up. 4.60 stars, and two things to pass along:

1) Remember: you have until Dec. 26th to solve the mega-meta for extra bonus points; once the mega-meta puzzle itself goes out (on Dec. 26th at noon ET) then you still have until 11 PM ET on Sunday the 31st to solve the mega-meta, but you get fewer points for doing so than if you’d gotten it in before the puzzle went out on the 26th.

2) Not a sure thing, but rumor has it Pete is going to be doing Season 8 next year! If true, that would be awesome.

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16 Responses to Muller Music Meta, December

  1. jefe says:

    It took me some three days to get from “Hey, there’s AJA between H and R right there in the grid” to looking at those crossings (which I finally did about 15 minutes ago). Red herrings and wrong paths left and right. Finally had the crazy idea of “hit a home run” = “circle the bases”. Who played bass? Chuck Rainey (all but track 3), per Wikipedia. Who played bass on track 3? Walter Becker OHHHHHH

  2. Steve Blais says:

    I didn’t see the harder version in the email either, getting the meta from the website, and I probably would have opted for the tougher challenge had I known it was there. But I’m kind of glad I solved the easier version because I’m not familiar at all with the songs off of Aja, and I would’ve ended up staring blankly at the meta with no hope of solving it (until I admitted defeat and downloaded the version with the numbers in it).

    Here’s hoping those rumours are true. I finally managed a perfect year and I don’t want to stop now! ?

  3. Abide says:

    I was destined to fail on this one. I was working the hard version on Wednesday, got nowhere, forgot about it, solved the easy version at noon, but thought the deadline was 11AM for some reason. When I realized the deadline was really 11 PM, I was so amped I submitted AJA/Donald Fagan, forgetting about the HOME RUN part until afterwards.

    Oh well, the real solution is so nifty I have no regrets, and nothing but kudos for PMX.

  4. Mike W says:

    Brilliant puzzle. As a baseball fan, I was pleasantly surprised to see Rajah clued as a reference to the great Rogers Hornsby. And then I failed to have the “aha” moment with “aja” in the answer.

  5. BarbaraK says:

    My fingers are crossed that your rumor turns out to be true. This was my first year of MMMM and I hope it’s not also my last.

  6. George says:

    I solve via the email so I did not see the parenthetical numbers and was so so lost on this puzzle. It’s the first puzzle of the year I’ve missed, and it stinks that the method I chose contributed, but what can you do. I’ve made this recommendation to Matt as well, but if you use parenthetical numbers in the clues, try using block quotes or some other hinting method instead, normal parens don’t display accurately using .puz format.

    • The parenthetical numbers showed up fine in Across Lite for me. Maybe they didn’t show up on some devices; or, did you try solving the harder version only (which didn’t have the numbers at all)?

      • David Glasser says:

        I don’t know if this is their problem, but: The app Crosswords by Standalone, at least on Android, displays a parenthesized entry length after each clue. If the clue ends with a parenthetical, it uses that instead of the length, not in addition. I suspect this is useful for things like vowelless crosswords, but it means that it’s very easy to not notice meta-relevant parentheticals.

        • George says:

          That’s exactly the problem, I use Crosswords by Standalone, and have been tripped up by this in the past, but unless I happen to notice the difference in the numbers, or crosscheck the pdf, I miss it. I wish Standalone was continuing to work on the app, because a fix for this would be great, it is by far the best smart phone crossword app.

    • What software/app do you use to solve? The .puz file is correct, it’s not the file format’s fault. Some applications will automatically add or remove the enumerations like (5) from the ends of clues, depending on their settings. In the vast majority of puzzles, this isn’t an issue, since either none of the clues will have enumerations, or all of the clues will have enumerations. This only becomes an issue when some of the clues have enumerations, or if those enumerations aren’t actually the lengths of the answers, like in this puzzle.

      While the software is partly to blame, I agree that authors of meta puzzles that add numerical parentheticals should use a different format like square brackets, to specifically reduce the chances of this happening in the future.

      • Pete Muller says:

        Thanks Adam

        Will keep this in mind next time I use ()’s in clues.

      • George says:

        You’re right Adam, it’s the software to blame, I was using Crosswords by Standalone, a smartphone app, and it generates answer length in parenthesis for all clues. When there is a number hint included in parenthesis, it simply replaces the auto-generated number, so it isn’t obvious the hint is there. That was my downfall. Can’t really blame Pete for this as it was a combo of my software and my not noticing. Perhaps it time I just wrote my own crossword app. Standalone’s is the best I’ve seen, but I don’t think they are actively developing it anymore.

  7. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks Matt

    152 correct this month.

    I will be doing a Tip Jar for charity again this year. If I achieve my goal, there will be a 2018 MMMM!

  8. rachaar says:

    I wonder how many people got the wrong answer through the same dumb logic I used: Chuck Rainey is also the name of a baseball player, home runs are baseball, therefore…

    Wah. Kicking myself over this. I automatically discarded Becker and Fagan because in my head I just assumed the “musician” clue had to mean one of the session musicians, not one of the actual Steely Dan band members! Overthought it.

    Great puzzle though, Pete. I can’t believe you got all the tracks in there!

  9. Norm H says:

    I solved this on the “harder” version, which made no difference. As I wrote to Pete when I submitted, it feels like I have listened to Aja every day for 40 years.

    I almost got careless and submitted Michael BRECKER before slowing down and getting it right. Turns out Brecker played not on Aja but on its follow-up Gaucho. Whew!

  10. sharkicicles says:

    This one was a lot of fun.

    I’ll be chipping in for MMMM next year!

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