Muller Monthly Music Meta, May

puzzle 6:02; meta 4 minutes (Matt) 


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.

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10 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta, May

  1. jefe says:


    I found some of those letters, but since some of them are silent and some are elided, I got mixed up with other unpronounced/not-phonetically-pronounced letters. VECCHIO crossing MUSCLE and SOPHOMORE at non-phonetic phonemes really sent me on a wild goose chase I never recovered from. You don’t pronounce all the S’s in GUESSSO crossing SOLTI where the S is pronounced SH as is the SI in TENSION, all of CIAO, the double L’s in LLOYDS/TRAGICALLY, PELEG is apparently pronounced “Pillick”, AJA is like ASIA etc.

    I threw HARRY CONNICK JR as a Hail Mary as you can spell it in the grid from top to bottom.

  2. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks Matt!

    231 correct at the buzzer…tripped up quite a few streaks this month.

    We’re slightly later in the year so I chose not to * the theme entries – I think that would have helped some solvers.

  3. Gideon says:

    Pronunciation varies so much that i had a hard time settling on those letters. Many people pronounce the second o in sophomore and even the r in February. Lloyd and liotta have letters that are clearly just there for show. I agree that starring the themers would have added necessary disambiguation.

    • Al Sanders says:

      Yes I was tripped up by not being able to figure out which letter was supposed to be silent in SOPHOMORE YEAR. I never even considered that second O. ‘O’ well :-)

  4. Norm H says:

    Aw crap, Pete’s email went to junk this month (which I never check) and I didn’t track on the calendar that a puzzle should have dropped (hello, quarantine brain-cramp!). Streak over.

  5. Rammy M says:

    In a small coincidence, I had just started binge watching the Netflix series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
    Her middle name is Cougar

  6. Ned says:

    I got hung up on Muscle Shoals -> Aretha Franklin -> inducted into R&R HoF in its 2nd year … but nothing else remotely fit ?.

  7. Abide says:

    I also liked Pete’s cover video where his kids burned up old Timothy Parker crosswords.

  8. Narlo says:

    I had no idea people didn’t pronounce the “r” in “February.”

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