Muller Monthly Music Meta, September

puzzle 7:50; meta 3.5 hours DNF (Matt) 


Title: “Borderline Crazy”
Prompt: The meta for this puzzle is a song from the ’00s whose title has less than ten letters.
Answer: ???

Well, I’ve been taunting Pete all year to provide me with a real challenge, and it appears to have arrived. With 2 hours and 17 minutes left before the deadline, 87 solvers have figured out this meta, but my name does not appear among them. I’ve figured out the first step, but what I’m assuming is both the second and final step eludes me, so I’m going to employ the Pahkian tactic of solve-blogging and see if that produces results.

I thought this meta would fall quickly: nudged from the title, I quickly saw that, starting from the 1-square, border entries spell CHOOSE TUNE ON SCRIPT RECORD / CUT EX FROM ENDS AND REARRANGE. I see now that 1-A has a (1) appended and 1-D has a (2), so maybe that will come into play.

Anyway, I figured I’d get the meta soon from from here, but two hours later…nada. I scoured the discography of the band the Script, but the only song I could find with an EX anywhere in it was “Exit Wounds.” But there’s only an EX on one end of that, not both, and the resulting ITWOUNDS didn’t anagram into anything that I could see.

Could EX mean E and the X something else, like HUG or TEN? I looked for songs starting with E and ending in TEN or HUG, but nothing. And something this list-comb-heavy doesn’t seem like Pete’s style, so let me take a step back.

Maybe I need to take the two steps separately — 1) there are five EX’s in the grid, all at either the beginning or the end of a word. That could be coincidental, but seems promising. They are:


So cut X from the ends of those and we have CUTITSVONHALE. But I can’t find any meaningful anagram of that (could be a lot of things), and even just using the pieces CUT / ITS / V / ON / HALE does seem to lead anywhere.

OK, I found something. There’s a Script song called “THIS = LOVE” and those remaining 13 letters contain those 8, with ACNTU left over. Probably just a coincidence, since I don’t see any way to make that work. Am I supposed to be counting the CUT from CUTEX? If I don’t then there are only 10 letters, ITSVONHALE. It’s odd that 8 of those 10 letters are all the letters in “This = Love” and that that title does technically have less than ten letters since = isn’t a letter, but why is the AN left over? It seems like it almost fits — the second half of the instructions tell us to choose the tune from a Script record, so it sounds like the meta answer is indeed going to be a Script song. But it’s too strange that there’s no explanation for why AN is left over. Plus we’re looking for “a song from the ’00s” and “This = Love” is from 2010, no wrong decade.

OK, I’m about out of ideas. It seems to me that the 00’s end on Dec. 31st, 2009, so I’m guessing the song has to be from the only Script album in the time frame, which is their self-titled debut. The four songs on that album that have less than ten letters in their name are “Rusty Halo,” “I’m Yours,” and their hits “Breakeven” and “We Cry.”

OK, looks like I’m beat. I picked “Rusty Halo” as my Hail Mary since it looks like it could anagram into something but I really have no idea. Someone who got it let me know in comments.

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34 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta, September

  1. Rammy M says:

    long hard search brought me to:
    ITS / V / ON / HALE = into halves = breakeven

    • Pete Muller says:

      or CUT INTO HALVES if you include CUTEX…both work

      100 correct this month, including quite a few last-minute Hail Mary’s…

      This puzzle was initially slated for November (to be the toughest of the year)…but it moved up in the rotation…

    • Matt says:

      Hmmm, not a huge fan then. Not using the CUT from CUTEX is arbitrary, and “into halves” = breakeven seems not real tight as well.

      • Al says:

        In my defense, mine wasn’t actually a Hail Mary. I had found the INTO HALVES anagram last week but got nowhere with it. I looked at it one last time tonight and realized INTO HALVES could clue BREAKEVEN. I saw I had one minute left to submit, so I quickly typed and didn’t dare take the time to insert the ratings. Was very relieved to see I got in under the wire.

      • Pete Muller says:

        CUTEX does get used:


        • Huh. I almost guessed that as a hail Mary because it was track five (cut “V”) on the album, but that seemed like it didn’t use enough of the parts. Anyway, I disapprove of random anagramming and I think this is bad! (Sorry, Pete, most of your metas are great! Just not this one.)

    • jefe says:

      I figured it had to be Breakeven, and only 15 minutes ago did I realize there were EX’s to remove instead of just X’s. Came up with the anagram HALVE IT, SON!

  2. RPardoe says:

    The letters are rearranged to CUT INTO HALVES

    This suggests BREAKEVEN (as you will break something evenly if you break it into halves). This song is also known as FALL TO PIECES but that is longer than 10 letters, but does allude to the puzzles title (Borderline Crazy).

    I admit I backsolved (sorta) in that had no idea what to rearrange the letters to. Parsing the second clue there was only one hit really from The Script in the 2000’s and then realized the two titles for the song cold work and then got the desired rearrangement on the letters.

  3. andeux says:

    I got as far as you did. Submitted “This = Love” under the logic that the “Minus Two” in the grid could refer to the two omitted letters, knowing full well that it was a stretch – too inelegant for one of Pete’s metas, plus it’s from the 2010’s.

  4. Matt says:

    Yeah but the instructions didn’t say it was a hit.

    • RPardoe says:

      Agree….but figure that Pete rarely uses very obscure songs from an album without more clarity. I did make the solve path, but like the transcontinental railroad actually finished it in the middle by working at it from both ends (using the proper song as the starting point from the answer end as other songs didn’t fit as well).

  5. Matt says:

    What was the reason the “less than ten letters” instruction?

    • Pete Muller says:

      I wanted people to be clear there was another step once you found the 13 letters and that they didn’t anagram into the meta answer.

      I also thought it would help narrow things down if you wanted to back-solve.

  6. jps says:

    I got CUT INTO HALVES but didn’t know what to do with that. I’d never heard of The Script and thought “script record” was referring to a soundtrack. I searched for “script record” and only got results about computer technology.

  7. Heidi Birker says:

    I chose only the entries where the x was at the end – cutex, lux, hoax and vex. Didn’t give me much, but since halo was in there, I also chose Rusty Halo. The best anagram I came up with was “Have clue out” :)

  8. Tim Mitchell says:

    I got really hung up on the fact that the two directions both started with the “C” in square 1, but ended on different letters. Also, the clue for USD probably should have been changed so it didn’t have the word “exchange” in it. I wasn’t able to find a sensible anagram of the leftover letters, but I don’t think I would have made the leap from CUT INTO HALVES to “Breakeven”. Too much ambiguity in this one. Even seeing how the answer was derived doesn’t give me a click.

  9. ant says:

    I thought the letters would anagram to a name of a band, and that band would have, say, 2 or 3 albums released in the 00s, but only one would have its title written in script…and THAT album would only have one song less than 10 letters. Unfortunately, there is no band called The Vionals.

  10. Les Yonce says:

    Fwiw… I backsolved by using (2) and the decade in the prompt to get to the 4 songs Matt mentioned. Then thought about which song Pete was most likely to learn and play, plus the title Borderline Crazy sorta translates to Breakeven (Falling to Pieces).

    Only thing I missed was the anagram. Spent time trying to rearrange CUTITSVONHALE but didn’t work at it hard enough.

    So an 80-90% educated guess panned out. First time that’s happened for me on a meta.

  11. David Glasser says:

    We missed VEX entirely somehow, so spent a while trying to find a band or album called HAILSTONE. Ended up just calling in the only Script song we’d ever heard of.

  12. Dan Katz says:

    I’m with Francis on this one. A thirteen-letter anagram with no given enumeration isn’t elegant or particularly fair to the solver. I also was thrown off by the fact that EX can be a name for the character “X,” so I wasn’t even looking at the right letters.

    What am I s’posed to do when the anagram’s tough and I’m stumped by you? Fortunately, there’s only one Script album in the decade specified, and only four songs on it that are short enough. Only two of them were singles, and I figured Pete would want to cover a song people had heard. I won my coin flip.

  13. Austin says:

    i figured out (2) first and luckily there aren’t many songs of theirs under 10 letters. and then i’m terrible at anagrams but also luckily there’s the internet and i used to find an anagram that would work for one of the song titles. yay teamwork.

  14. Rammy M says:

    Though I did find what Matt called “the first step” quickly, and ultimately solved it, for quite some time I was really leaning towards …
    Borderline = I’m on “the edge” of glory
    Crazy = (lady) Gaga
    also the puzzle has “U and I”
    under 10 letters, in the 00’s …
    the meta must be “Poker Face”

    in addition, up against the edges we have
    ONE is
    minus TWO
    NINE digits
    and SIX spelled backwards (or upsidedown!)

    does that have to do with Poker?

    (spoiler: no)

  15. Pete Muller says:

    OK – I confess I’m a bit bummed to see some of the low ratings on this puzzle.

    There’s nothing more frustrating than working hard to solve a meta and then not being satisfied with the answer. If that happened to you – sorry!

    I do agree that anagramming 13 letters into an unknown number of words is super tough and bordering on unfair. I thought this was somewhat mitigated in two ways:
    – Once you figure out it’s a Script song, there are only four possible choices (and only two that have their own Wikipedia entries…).
    – If you wonder whether CUTEX should be included or not since it’s in the instructions…the answer doesn’t change – so you’re anagramming 10 letters.

    The click wasn’t as strong as I’d like. Perhaps ten percent of the people that solved it sent in a comment saying they weren’t completely sure they were right – that shouldn’t happen!

    • LauraB says:

      FWIW I liked it a lot! I had two other metapuzzles to blog over the weekend (I got time but she got freedom) so it was a pleasure to just solve (what I am supposed to say), and had fun figuring it out with my solving buddies (the best part of me was always you). I’ve always loved that song — an excellent power pop hit of the ’00s — and did the backsolve once I figured out the band in step one (tryna make sense of what little remains).

      (But no wise words gonna stop the bleeding.)

    • Flinty Steve says:

      I could be all wrong about this, but wasn’t 2010 the last year of the 00’s? I seem to remember lots of pedantic grumbling in December, 1999 that the twenty-first century wouldn’t start until Jan. 1, 2001. If that’s right, then I think the Script album that came out in 2010, the one with my wrong answer (This=Love) on it, is at least still in the 00’s. Right? Maybe?

      Sadly, this was the end of my MMMM streak of over 20 months . . . and a violin plays softly somewhere . . .

      • BarbaraK says:

        My semi-pedantic view is that the first decade of the 21st century is 2001-2010, but the 00’s are 2000-2009. Sorry about your streak.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      It’s OK, Pete — even Homer nods and some solvers certainly did get it without too much trouble besides.

      I can see how anagramming those 13 letters to get CUT INTO HALVES and then from there to “Breakeven” might’ve seemed simpler to you than it turned out to be (for me at least). It’s only 13 letters, right? But without enumerations or any idea of what to look for the # of combinations of those letters gets hard to handle pretty quick. I had written them out 7 times it turns out without finding it, plus I’d used an anagram generator but that yields a crazy amount of possibles.

  16. Beth A says:

    I gave this puzzle my highest ratings! Was glad to solve it before the WSJ meta came out, because I can’t deal with two unsolved metas simultaneously. But most MMMM puzzles have not given me a real difficult struggle. So I enjoyed wrangling with it for longer than the more quickly solved ones.

    I think people can’t help but dislike metas that they didn’t solve. I have been guilty of this anyway.

    I was a little perplexed about whether to use ex or just x, but it wasn’t that hard to explore both options. And it so happened that the way I wrote down the ex words, they were mostly in order, just switch a couple of letters around!

    One more thing, before sending in my answer, I read the lyrics of Breakeven. Then a little while later it hit me why we removed EX – because it is about a breakup, and the ex-boyfriend and ex- girlfriend’s hearts did not break even! That really tied it all up even more tightly for me.

    Ps. I have never heard of the band or the song before!

  17. Norm H says:

    Count me as “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” — i.e., I couldn’t get it. My experience was exactly like Gaffney’s — same process, same duration, same end result.

  18. slubduck says:

    Pete, i love your metas, and i didn’t solve this one, but got as far as Matt did (I resign myself to not understanding some of yours and Matt’s metas each year, so getting a good toehold actually felt good on this one), but here’s the real takeaway, now that i’m laughing at my scratch paper and “CUTITSVONHALE” is written there with some nonsense attempts at anagramming below it ….. i’ve just seen a fantastic anagram of the entire string :


    now, what i still really, really, really wanna know is why there are no asterisked mega-meta clues this year ….. or maybe i’ve missed something major in the instructions or in the pdf files somehow ….. please, anyone, advise this poor soul!

  19. Pete Muller says:

    @ LauraB @Beth A – thank you!

    My (optional) solver ratings usually correlate with Fiend ratings pretty closely – this month has been an exception, so I’m glad that some people who liked the puzzle spoke up…

    @slubduck …

    There are no asterisked mega-meta clues this year.
    If you look at mega-metas in previous years, there have been some without asterisks.
    That’s all I can say.
    33 people have gotten the mega-meta so far.

  20. Howard B says:

    Oh heck no. I never got past the anagram step, and never would have, in retrospect.
    That said, I am still loving this year’s puzzles! Can we just go less obscure on those meta answers? ;)

  21. rageismycaffeine says:

    Man. I got the borderline instructions. I started anagramming. I looked at a list of Script songs. I, too, saw “Exit Wounds.” I submitted “This Love” even though it was missing some letters because I had nothing else.

    Even if I’d gotten the anagram, I never would have connected “CUT INTO HALVES” as meaning “Breakeven.” Usually I kick myself for missing the meta, but this one I think was just far enough that I’m going to cut myself some slack on it.

    Still, I am as ever in awe of your skill, Pete.

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