Muller Monthly Music Meta, October

puzzle 8:49; meta 75 minutes (Matt) 


Title: “Large Print”
Prompt: The meta for this puzzle is a famous band.
Answer: Crosby, Stills & Nash

First thing you notice on this one is that it’s probably a grid-based meta, maybe a picture or something, since the longest entries are a quartet of 9-ers that didn’t feel like a theme set (BLOW-DRIED, ATTRIBUTE, CRITIQUED, BRAZIL NUT). But before grid-scanning let’s look at the two clues that provide a hint of where to go:

47a.[This month’s meta answer, for one], TRIO, and 41d. [“Apologies!” (or what you might say for not including an occasional additional band member in this puzzle)], SO SORRY!.

Now, this is a lot of information we’ve been given here, since it’s not super-common for a famous trio to have “an occasional additional band member,” especially since this wording strongly suggests that there’s exactly one occasional additional band member, not a core group of three with a few secondary players floating in and out over the years. So the obvious band that entered my mind was Crosby, Stills & Nash, with Neil Young the occasional fourth (when they went by CSNY instead of just CSN).

So CSN was going to be my Hail Mary if I couldn’t solve it, especially since some quick Googling didn’t turn up another such instance of a band with this specific (3+1, all bandmembers’ identities very clear) makeup. This turned out to be right, so I think Pete gave a bit too much away here; I think it would’ve been better to just clue SO SORRY in some other way unrelated to the theme to lessen the guessability factor. But there’s also another subtle piece of info in that clue: note the wording: “…for not including an additional band member in this puzzle.” So the other three band members are represented somewhere in the grid, he’s telling us.

It took me about 45-60 minutes to get this far; I’d gotten stuck in a few rabbit holes, like thinking the fourth band member would have the initials S.O. (from SO SORRY), and listing all the capitalized letters in the grid (from the title, “Large Print.”) But then I finally had the aforementioned realization, as the lack of long theme entries supported, that there were three band members hidden somewhere in the grid. Also supporting this hypothesis were some oddly drecky areas of the grid, like the upper-left and middle-left with WABC, ACTO, WAAC, CAMI, LAIC, and AMER in one section. So something was going on.

And then BOOM! There it was: all those C’s in that section…CSN…connect those C’s…aha! They form a C, and there are no other C’s anywhere in the grid. Adrenaline pumping now…do it with S’s…yep…there it is…they form an S…and now the N’s…uh-huh! CSN emerges from the grid, and we can certainly forgive the constructor for leaving the Y’s out of this.

It’s intriguing how tough this one is playing. With 20 minutes left before the deadline we’ve got just 84 right answers, so it’s the toughest puzzle of the year so far — yet it’s not super-complex, and it’s sitting right there in the open, requiring only one insight. I almost didn’t get it myself, but once you see it you say — what took me so long?

This puzzle is close to a beau ideal for this type of meta: the mysterious difficulty level, considering its relative simplicity; the inability to un-see it once you’ve seen it; and the elegant spareness of the idea. Why, it’s just three letters!

4.65 stars from me. The only slight ding is the too-generous hint at 41d., but if it doesn’t lead to a bunch of successful Hail Marys then maybe not such a ding after all. Last month was a slight hiccup for our meta-maestro but this is a lovely return to form.

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21 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta, October

  1. Jim S. says:

    Brutal solve for me – I never even finished the grid due to its difficulty. I thought I caught the trick early on, though – “Watering hole” cluing BISTRO with OASIS crossing, then GATOR and TOAD crossing for the swamp clue. In order, that gave me “AS” and, without being able to complete the grid to look for others, I sent in Asia (I know, not a trio).

  2. jefe says:

    Didn’t grok it at all, but guessed CSN due to the trio/4th member clue.

  3. andeux says:

    Unfortunately ,without the strong extra clues it would probably just be too hard. I don’t think I would have noticed the “obvious” CS&N in the grid if I had not been specifically looking for something involving those letters.

  4. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks Matt!

    Just a few last minute Hail Marys to bring the total to 90 this month.
    Quite a few people mentioned that they back-solved the way you did.

    I struggled with whether or not to include 41-D.
    After trying really hard to get a large “Y” in the puzzle, I had decided to have no Y’s, but then SO SORRY showed up as a fill possibility and I thought maybe Mr. Young deserved an apology :)

  5. Justin says:

    Wow. Not even close for me but this was beautiful. The extra Y was a very nice touch in my opinion!

  6. BarbaraK says:

    I don’t think the hint about the sometimes extra member was necessary, but I’m grateful that the band included a letter early in the alphabet. When I had the thought of looking for large letters by connecting the small ones, I checked A, B, C and when that one worked knew I had it.

    I loved this puzzle with the simple elegance that was so hard to see until it clicked.

  7. Beth A says:

    The FIRST time my wild last minute guess would have been correct, and I decided not to submit it! ☹️

    Normally I believe in guessing because you never know what might have been in the back of your mind to trigger it. For this puzzle though, I had such a strong feeling that we were looking for a surf music trio, because of references in several clues, and none of my guesses have ever been right before, so I just didn’t bother. Too bad!

    I felt strongly that the capital letters and acronyms were important but couldn’t get anywhere. Much later, DERRIÈRE made me think of butt print, and maybe something with a large print, like T REX, a different tack on the puzzle, also going nowhere. Never came close to seeing the giant letters.

    • rageismycaffeine says:

      You aren’t the only one! The very first thing I did on my printed grid was circle the “surf” clues! Then I realized the Beach Boys weren’t a trio and after digging at that avenue doggedly for a while anyway gave it up.

  8. Rammy M says:

    I did think 41D meant “… but the three members ARE in the puzzle”
    And I thought the title meant “Oversized Letters In Grid”,
    However I was looking for answers that would draw letters with a “seven-segment display”, like in old digital watches.
    Eventually my Hail Mary took me in a totally different direction

  9. LauraB says:

    What I thought was so lovely — and as a few in my solving group pointed out — was that the capital letters closely resembled the CSN “Celtic knot” logo — which was, incidentally, designed by Phil Hartman.

  10. Dan Katz says:

    Early on I thought of CSN as a likely guess based on the clues. Never bothered to guess it. :(

  11. Howard B says:

    Oh, no way. Not even close here. :)

  12. rageismycaffeine says:

    I threw CSN as a Hail Mary last night after fussing at the meta forever. I had so many false leads – I noticed a preponderance of answers derived from other languages (EIDER, NEUN, UNO, EPOQUE, MAFIOSOS, etc) and ran down that list. Then I made a list of every four-letter answer in the puzzle, because I noticed that several of them share three of the same letters, thinking that if I could identify the leftovers that would spell something out. Because trio with occasional fourth, obviously.

    Clearly, none of those were the right paths, and I never could figure out what ‘Large Print’ had to do with anything. Thank goodness for TRIO and the clue for “SO SORRY” or I never would have had the slightest clue.

    Another incredible puzzle, Pete. Wow.

  13. dbardolph says:

    Personally, I was grateful for the hints, because there was no flippin’ way I would have gotten there without them. Like Matt, I was looking for CSN. I can’t imagine that I’d have spotted the letter pattern without the shove from 41-D. Great puzzle.

  14. jack says:

    Wait.What? “CUPPA” is some kind of british what? Gimme a break! MMM clues are trash.

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