Muller Monthly Music Meta — November

puzzle untimed; meta 6 minutes (Matt) 


Title: “How Romantic!”
Prompt: The meta for this puzzle is a song from the ’70s.
Answer: “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” by Meat Loaf

Puzzle was fun but tough — don’t remember my time but it was high. Wide-open with big corners but without immediately obvious theme entries. Great fill/theme included GQ MODEL, ODD DUCKS, TIT FOR TAT, ANN WILSON, VESPUCCI, CITY BOND and WII SPORTS. Needed some glue to make it all work, like AKEE clued as [Tropical tree that rhymes with “tree”] but overall the dreck was worth the grid.

Now what? As I scanned the grid, the idea slowly began to take shape. Chain of thought was:

1) There are a lot of longish acrosses. Seven in total of 8 or 9 letters in length. Doesn’t mean much, but let’s keep looking.
2) Each of those is multiword. Again, doesn’t mean much, but let’s keep going.
3) The first word in each of these is exactly three letters long. Interesting — that might not be a coincidence.
4) Each of those three-letter words contain a certain letter exactly twice. Unlikely to be a coincidence now, so let’s list them:


5) Those doubly-represented letters spell out, from top to bottom, AIN’T BAD, meaning our contest answer is Meat Loaf’s cheesy-but-probably-not-meant-entirely-seriously ballad “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”

I thought this was an excellent meta (it’s a bit easy for November, but let’s judge it on its merits instead of on expectation of difficulty). The idea is clear, uses a novel mechanism, amuses the solver, and points unambiguously to the meta answer. This is close to my beau ideal of what an easy meta should be, so 4.65 stars.

Actually I see that this is playing tougher in general than it did for me: with just an hour to go before deadline, we’ve only got 161 correct responses. So maybe this is a SAD meta (Simple And Difficult) instead of just an easy but elegant meta after all. I also see we need to ding the puzzle for using A LA, which is two words, when all the other are one word. Is BBQ one word, though? So I guess it’s most accurately described as “the three-letter lexical chunk that begins each theme entry contains two of one letter and one of another.” Didn’t notice it while solving so not a big deal I think.

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11 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta — November

  1. David Glasser says:

    2/3 use a single word for the three letters, so that ain’t bad.

  2. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks Matt!

    169 correct this month…

    One more to go for 2019 (not counting the mega-meta).
    I hope people have been enjoying the puzzles this year.


  3. Rachael says:

    Another miss for me. I definitely noticed the weird beginnings of what I assumed were the theme entries, and yet somehow completely missed the idea that they spelled something out. Pete, I don’t know how you keep coming up with different tricks for every puzzle, but seriously, I’m in awe.

    Question for the commentariat here. How do I get better at metas? I’ve been doing the MMMM for years and also subscribe to the MGWCC, and any time there’s a meta crossword suite out there I snatch it up. But I still struggle with them – I’d say my meta solve rate is probably no better than 50%. Any tips?

    • Besides just getting practice doing lots of metas, I find that just writing out in a notepad file the potential theme answers, their clues next to them, any bizarre answers or bizarrely worded clues, and any ideas I might have about how the meta could work really helps. On metas where I’m really stuck, I might reach out to other friends who are similarly stuck and we’ll co-solve. Plenty of times one of us will figure out what to do just from organizing our thoughts together.

      • Rachael says:

        Thanks, Evan! I don’t know anyone else who solves the metas, so I just work them alone. Time to drag someone else into the madness with me. :D

        • PJ says:

          Hello Rachael – I’m part of a small online group that solves metas. A couple of the group are really good while most of us are ok. Solving with this group has helped me get better at it.
          Email me if you would like to be included.

  4. Amanda says:

    How would you get this if you hadn’t heard of the song?

  5. BrainBoggler says:

    In retrospect, this looks like a nice puzzle, but things usually don’t click as quickly for me when I haven’t heard of the song. While I know at that point I’ll need some browsing assistance, unfortunately, I didn’t see “ain’t bad” spelled out either because I had spent too much energy in rabbit holes trying ideas involving “Roman”tic Numerals and had limited time to work on the meta anyway. Congrats to all who solved.

  6. Steve Thurman says:

    This was the first MMMM I missed. I spent hours on this puzzle and I’m very frustrated by the result. I skipped over the triple letters quickly (first thing I noticed) because “a la” is two words. I worked out every “romantic” angle I could think of (languages…like Latin for “quid pro quo”…moonlight/heart…) only to see nothing pan out. I should have gotten it anyway, but it was far from elegant. A different title would have made a big difference.

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