Muller Monthly Music Meta, October

puzzle 7:33; meta 12 mins (Matt) 


Title: “Mind the Overlap”
Prompt: The meta for this puzzle is a British pop hit of the 1980’s.
Answer: “More Than This” by Roxy Music

Just 127 right entries with half an hour left, so a pretty tough one, judging by that and the comments at the Muggles Forum.

MOR jumps out right away at 1-A [It has the fifth-largest economy in Africa: Abbr.], which is the abbr. for Morocco. 1-D was MAME so this could’ve easily just been FOR/FAME to avoid the abbr., so MOR is definitely part of whatever’s going on here.

Saving that info for later, we make our way to the puzzle’s only overt theme entry at 39-A: [Like many marine steam engines] = TRIPLE EXPANSION. So there’s our big hint; what to make of it?

Well I already had the number 3 on the brain since noticing that highly suspicious MOR at the start, and here we have a reference to the same number in the central grid-spanner, so let’s take a look at the three-letter entries in the grid and see if they lead anywhere.

Even with all this information and guessing the right idea straightaway, it still took me a while to see what was going on, since this idea is simple but beautifully hidden as well. All you do is take the ten 3-letter entries in the grid (in order of first letter in the grid), and string them together. They look like this:


That’s Roxy Music’s biggest hit, 1982’s “More Than This,” with each three-letter word expanding two of its letters into the next word. Deceptively simple, elegantly hidden, novel, clever, and you’re 100% sure once you see it that it’s correct. What more can you ask of a meta?

Note how Pete mixed these ten three-letter words nicely between Acrosses and Downs so they didn’t jump out nearly as much as they would’ve as all Acrosses. And yet more cleverly deployed squid ink this month with evocative longer entries masquerading as theme: SMOKES POT, POSTERIZE, HELLHOLES, NINETY-NINE, UNINSTALLS, and LESSER APE, all on the downs, and none of it theme. Pure evil. Love it! Not quite as sneaky as in recent months since the single 15 could reasonably and correctly be inferred as the only theme entry, but you never know so the smokescreen was probably still fairly effective.

Also note how difficult it must’ve been to come up with a song title that worked. MOR made me wonder and THI made me wonder even more, but the ten 3-letter entries mostly did their main job which was not being suspicious enough to attract too much attention. I caught it early but if I hadn’t, I might not have caught it at all.

4.75 stars. Outstanding meta.

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13 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta, October

  1. BethA says:

    I tried many things, but in desperation started trying to form word squares with some of the three-letter words. Realized I hadn’t even included all of the three-letter words, then was led to the stair step of all the three-letter words! Enjoyed it!

  2. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks Matt!

    People seemed to like this one, although a few reported some pretty long solve times.

    130 correct this month, the lowest on the year so far. But much higher than my guess for how many will be correct next month (cue evil laugh).

    I was just emailed a question that someone asked on the Muggles forum. If someone asks for a “nudge” and then submits a correct answer, should they get credit?

    I don’t think there is an easy way to address this and please everyone, but I’d love to hear if others have thoughts on the topic. Thanks!

    • David Plass says:

      I propose partial credit if someone takes a hint. /shrug

    • BarbaraK says:

      Now that MGWCC has been collecting solo/group solve data for almost two years, it would be interesting to see the results. From the recent report on 2019 medalists, a large majority of those who solve all or most of the puzzles are solving with friends. But that doesn’t really say anything about all the rest.

      Personally, I love solving metas every way I’ve ever tried. It’s fun sticking it out on my own till the very end. It’s fun doing group solves, bouncing ideas back and forth. (I’ve only done that via email, but I’m sure if I could find someone interested in co-solving in person, that would be fun too.) It’s fun having a bunch of ideas and getting someone to nudge me whether there’s anything useful in them. It’s fun trying to figure out the perfect nudge to get someone else going in the right direction without spoiling it for them.

      All that to say that I’m content with whatever rules any contest runner wants to make, and I’m glad that all the contests do not have exactly the same requirements.

  3. Tom Wilson says:

    A few factors at play here, I s’pose, including basic fairness and whether a nudge still requires a preponderance of solver know-how to bring it all home. My personal rule? If I get help through the forum, I won’t submit. But I would never judge another’s Code of Meta Ethics!

  4. TMart says:

    I missed this one. I’m not a fan of “nudges” for the more established metas that have leaderboards and prizes – it skews the “difficulty meter” of the result totals a little bit knowing that some (growing) percentage of the solvers had help. I guess it’s up to the constructor to set the rules, as Matt has done with his solo solve checkbox.

    For our Muggle Meta Monday puzzles, we have Nudge Wednesday, with nudges posted by our (mostly amateur) constructors to make the experience more enjoyable, as these puzzles are done more as a learning experience for both solvers and constructors to help us all get better at solving (and creating) metas.

    Shameless plug: I’ve got one up today:

  5. Alan says:

    I second Tom’s point of view. I do puzzles for my personal enjoyment and the nudges of others don’t change my fun. Now that being said, I do quite appreciate the rare moments reading about puzzling HOFers who struggle when I cruise.

  6. Tom Wilson says:

    Don’t let TMart’s post fool you: There’s nothing to be ashamed of in his plug. It’s a well-crafted puzzle AND a perfect antidote to the Monday Blues!

  7. Hector says:

    Very nice puzzle. I am not sure, but I think I might have gotten there more quickly without the title and central entry.

    I happen to solve alone, and don’t ask for a nudge unless I’ve accepted the DNF and can’t wait for the reveal. It doesn’t bother me at all that others have different solving practices and submitting standards, and I much prefer the present Wild West approach over any culture of policing and shaming.

    OTOH, I think the no-spoilers norm is important (and I’m glad that it’s enforced on the Muggles board firmly but not harshly), and I agree with TMart that it would be interesting to know how many of the solvers did it solo. Matt does provide a check-box, but I don’t think it affects the leaderboard. It might be nice to see something like “233 solvers, 212 solo.”

  8. Naptown Kid says:

    Did not solve this one and am still somewhat of a novice at meta-solving. I participate strictly for enjoyment so I agree with TMart’s approach to the nudge issue. (Is that like a “wedge issue”?) Anyway, I really got lost in the long downs in this puzzle, once I noticed that each corresponding pair had a series of letters in common: UNINSTALLS — NINETYNINE: NIN; LESSERAPES — HELLHOLES: LES; SMOKESPOT — POSTERIZE: PO. Just couldn’t pull an ‘80s hit out of POLESNIN. Great fun being befuddled, though.

  9. Oh dear, I just could not put this one together, I’m looking right now at my list of the three letter entries and I can’t believe I didn’t see it. Next to that list I was working on four letter entries that you would remove one letter to get one of the three letter entries like ROWE/ORE, ANTE/ANT, OMAR/MOR. I think I overworked this one to the point of brain death. I did sense that the long entries were red herrings. And if you looked at where they intersected with TRIPLE EXPANSION (mind the overlap) you could draw two perfect boxes connecting those letters. That intrigued me for awhile. The whole thing was genius. *sigh*

  10. rageismycaffeine says:

    MAN. I got partway there! I definitely noticed ETH/THA and ANT/NTH, probably because they were right next to each other, but never connected the others. Instead I got bogged down in IONS/IONIA and the ION of the central entry directly beneath. I knew TRIPLE EXPANSION should have been a big hint, but I was in the wrong place. Beautifully constructed, Pete!

  11. Jackson says:

    Only solo solves count for a “win.” It’s as simple as that. Until and unless there is a group-solve category it is the only fair way. Matt recognized that with his solo/had-help button on his other meta site.

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