Title: “That Which Cannot Be Said”
Prompt: The meta for this puzzle is a singer whose name is 14 letters long.
Answer: John (Cougar) Mellencamp
Played easy for me, but with only 230 correct answers on the board with 30 minutes before deadline it clearly played tougher with most other solvers.
13×15 grid, and we had four grid-spanning entries that were presumably theme, but then also two shorter ones that turned out to be theme as well:
15-A: [Headache cause, possibly] = MUSCLE TENSION
20-A: [Major decision time, for many] = SOPHOMORE YEAR. That major decision being choosing your major.
27-A: [“S’pose”] = GUESS SO
34-A: [Accept, in a way] = SIGN FOR
41-A: [Longtime popular Canadian rock band, with “the”] = TRAGICALLY HIP
47-A: [Foo Fighters song with the rhyming lyric “temporary scars”] = FEBRUARY STARS
Scanned the grid for anything wacky, but didn’t see anything, so checked out the title again. Lo and behold, my first thought turned out to be the key: silent letters. Take the one silent letter in each entry, highlighted in the grid at right, and see what happens:
Those spell out COUGAR, which suggests contest answer John Mellencamp, who started off his career as Johnny Cougar, then became John Cougar, then John Cougar Mellencamp, and finally just his birth name of John Mellencamp. This is what happens when you gradually become a big enough star that you can finally tell your record company that you want to record under your real name.
So the “silence” of COUGAR here is that you don’t say it anymore since he records as “John Mellencamp” now. I had no problem with this because I’m 47 and so grew up with his music, but it’s a bit oblique of you’re not familiar with this nuance, which may partially explain the low number of correct entries.
Also from Indiana: DENIECE Williams at 8-D. From next door in Ohio: [Home city for Devo and the Black Keys] = AKRON at 44-D.
Tricky clue: [African river with two countries named after it]. Five letters, so gotta be CONGO, right? Except that it’s NIGER.
Fun idea, 4.15 stars. I’m 4/5 this year so the pressure is off and I can just enjoy these! Tell me how you did in comments.