Muller Monthly Music Meta, August

puzzle about 8 minutes with 3 squares wrong; meta 1 hour (Matt) 


Title: “Triple Play”
Prompt: The meta for this puzzle is a famous album.
Answer: “The Last Waltz” by the Band et al.

I’ve been nagging Pete for a tough one all year, and this one is definitely the toughest of 2018 thus far. I’d solved the puzzle on Friday without having time to look at the meta, but then lost the sheet of paper I’d solved it on so had to redo it this evening. Glancing at the scoreboard I saw that just 116 people had gotten it, which means this was certainly a missable meta. With my perfect year on the line, I went to work.

Typical Muller grid, wide-open and full of nice long fill (KILL BILL, KENYATTA, GOT WASTED, SPOON REST, ALTMAN, NO CHANGE, BOLTON) despite the presence of what appear to be (and indeed turned out to be) long theme entries. That’s a tricky combination for the solver because it’s hard to tell what’s theme and what’s not. In fact I was unable to solve the bottom-right; was not familiar with BRISTOL STOMP but was able to puzzle it out letter-by-letter. GAMERA at 42-D I’ve never heard of and wasn’t so lucky on, since I stupidly had ST PETE instead of the correct and obvious ST. PATS for [Manhattan cathedral, familiarly]. And then I couldn’t place NAS so had NAE there. Oh well. Eventually I Googled my way to finishing the corner.

Scanning the long entries I noticed the CAL/CAL echo in MUSICAL SCALE, and then the STO/STO echo in BRISTOL STOMP. But then was surprised to find no repeated trigram in DRINKING SONGS. Curious — I double- and triple-checked that there was no repeated -ING or -INK string, but there wasn’t. Hmmm. So then I noticed KILL BILL at 17-D and looked for another -ILL string, but no luck, and even if there had been that would’ve been a weird place to hide the third one.

Did anyone else have this problem? 6-7 burned minutes later I realized that NGS is the repeated trigram in DRINKING SONGS. Was this tough for others to see? The full stop threw me. Anyway, each of these three appears elsewhere in the grid: CAL in CALLAS in the upper right, STO in STOLTZ in its twin in the lower left, and NGS in TWANGS. Its twin is NELLIE in the grid, so I dutifully began brainstorming/list-combing for a famous album in whose name the letters LIE appear twice.

Hmm, there wasn’t one. Odd. Nothing in the Rolling Stone top 500. Nothing in the Grammy nominations. Nothing with a title like “Don’t Believe the Lies” or anything else plausible I could dream up. And would Pete really send us on a list-comb like this, armed only with “a famous album”? No, it had to be something else.

I’m often puzzled/amused when solvers tell me on one of my metas that they’d been extremely close at one point but had failed to spend 5 seconds following up on the lead that wound up being correct. How come people don’t just spend the 5 seconds, I’ve wondered to myself? And then I do it too, which is what happened here. Early on I’d seen the leftover letters of LAS and LTZ from CALLAS and STOLTZ, and noted briefly that “Waltz” ends with those three letters. But it seemed irrelevant, so instead of spending 5 seconds on “What could LAS something LTZ mean?” and getting it right away thru a quick backsolve for the missing TWA, I dismissed it as irrelevent and went looking for albums with titles like “Alien Belieber” or “The Hollies’ Lies.”

So after realizing Pete probably wasn’t sending us on that kind of search, I took another look at the grid and LAS/TWA/LTZ popped out right away. So easy to get lost in the crazy during a meta hunt.

I liked this meta a lot. It’s intricate without being overly complex, and each step is logical and obvious only in hindsight. And note the amusing final touch — “The Last Waltz” is — wait for it — a triple-album! That’s finishing things with a flourish.

4.60 stars, very nice. And I’m 8-for-8! But soon the bright summer will give way to the predator-filled darkness of autumn…and scary metas will likely emerge…I’ll see you back here soon for the next one!

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta, August

  1. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks Matt!

    133 correct this week, the lowest total on the year so far.

    Four more chances to stump you :)

  2. The repeated NGS of DRINKING SONGS was the hardest trigram for me to see, too.

    I also tried to make something of the repeated ILL in KILL BILL and wondered if NELLIE was a wink in that direction since it contains ILL in reverse.

    • Dave C says:

      me three…I couldn’t get past the INK ING ONG in Drinking Songs, ended up backsolving the NGS trigram after getting the meta from the other two. The LAST WALTZ is an all-time favorite rock n roll movie. Always tear up at the I Shall Be Released finale…

  3. bergie says:

    I thought the pattern was two trigrams in the theme entry, then another word somewhere that also contained the trigram. Since KILLBILL also fit this pattern, I just thought the other word was the famous album. “Thriller” could be the most famous album of all time and it has the “ILL” trigram, so I sent it in without a second thought.

    I see the merit of the actual answer, but Thriller seems like a legit answer and is WAY more famous than Last Waltz. In fact, the actual name of the album isn’t even “Last Waltz” – it’s “*The* Last Waltz.”

    I’m usually all good with dismissing tenuous alternative answers but in this case I think my answer is better than the given answer.

    • The trouble with that, though, is how do you differentiate “Thriller” from other famous albums that also have the ILL trigram, like Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” or the Beastie Boys’ “Licensed to Ill”?

      • bergie says:

        Yeah I might have gone a little overboard to say my answer was better than the actual answer. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever submitted an answer I was sure was correct that turned out to be incorrect.

  4. jefe says:

    Well, when you highlight the letters like that it seems so simple!

    Stumped here. Should’ve picked up on its similarity to last week’s MGWCC!

  5. BarbaraK says:

    Thank you, Matt! It took me so long to see those two NGSs, I thought I was losing it. I feel much better now.

  6. paul coulter says:

    Brilliant. Just brilliant. Well worth the hours I stared at this.

  7. Flinty Steve says:

    Great puzzle, Pete! I loved the creative use of threes. We had to look for the third out in each “triple play,” “The Last Waltz” was released as a three lp set, and waltz time is 3/4. Awesome!

  8. LauraB says:

    Loved it — both the meta and the album.

    A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one.

  9. Howard B says:

    Not a chance here.
    I got as far as noting the repeated trigram in each title, sent in BACK IN BLACK, and well, never looked back. Not as elegant, but at least I was moving down the right track.
    Since I had never heard of the correct answer, no regrets in missing it.
    Well played, Pete.

  10. Rammy M says:

    It took me until Sunday to find the pattern in the long answers, and realized it must … be something, but I couldn’t find what to do with the info. So I submitted my other best guess (with low hopes though). From the second L of KILL, you can move in orthogonal steps to get LIONKING (a “musical”), and that shape is a “spoon rest” for the letters ELTON.
    Must mean … something, right?

Comments are closed.