Muller Monthly Music Meta, June

puzzle untimed; meta: 90 minutes (Matt)


Title: “Triple Switching Hour”
Prompt: The meta for this puzzle is a rock band.
Answer: The Replacements

So many rabbit holes traveled down before finally regrouping, taking a deep breath, and finding the answer fairly quickly thereafter.

We have four theme entries, identifiable by their mysterious parentheticals:

20-A:[Screw-ups (alternative rock band from 16-Across)] = BLUNDERS. 16-Across is OHIO.
29-A:[Domestic routine that’s also a John Mayer song (half of a hip-hop duo from Virginia)] = HOME LIFE
46-A:[Something to avoid in a farm field (famous rocker)] = COW PATTY
54-A:[What “rhododendron” literally means (vocal R&B trio)] = ROSE TREE.

OK, so the first thing I looked at with “Triple” in the title was the three-letter entries, of which there are only five. A highly suggestive number, since it’s both very low for a 15×15 grid and exactly one more than our four theme entries. Surely the answer lies through performing some mechanism four times on each of the theme entries using one of the three-letter words, and then the meta answer is derived from performing that same mechanism using the last remaining three-letter word on a famous rock band.

But no, those five three-letter entries turned out to be completely irrelevant. What!?

Next, in some order:

Did you know that Chad Hugo is half of a hip-hop producing duo (along with Pharrell Williams, whose name has three sets of double letters, which also cost me 90 seconds) from Virginia, and that CHAO is in the grid, one letter off from CHAD, and HUG IT OUT is an answer, which contains HUGO? Did you know that Nine Inch Nails is an alternative rock band from Ohio, and that NIN is found in the THE SHINING at 11-Down and that NON is one of the puzzle’s five three-letter entries? Did you know that the Isley Brothers are a famous R&B trio (originally a trio, at least) and that ISLETS is in the grid?

And on and on like this, finding patterns in the noise…OK, so time to do the old take-a-deep-breath-put-the-puzzle-down-and-when-you-come-back-you’ll-see-it-right-away trick…

And it worked. Took a half-hour break, came back, said: “Wait a second — why is he using these specific entries here?” I’d done everything except…you know, look at the theme entries. Once I did, TOM PETTY emerged from COW PATTY with three letters changed. He fits the parenthetical “famous rocker” and is, as the title suggests, a “triple switch” away from the original entry.

The others work the same way. All four in grid order are, with changed letters in bold:

HOME LIFE –> NO MALICE (that’s “No Malice,” stage name of Gene Thornton of the duo Clipse)

I admit I had to look the RONETTES up. Of course I know who they are but changing three letters in an eight-letter word with all common letters leaves a ton of possibilities.

Anyway, so those replacement letters spell…RE-ENACTMENTS? Is that a band? I Googled it and came up empty. Weird, since I thought I was going to be getting the REPLACEMENTS as the answer since 75% of that works from the theme entries and it would be spot-on perfect as a meta answer.

Was puzzled for a while, but then I thought: let’s do the theme trick one more time. Pretend that RE-ENACTMENTS is a theme entry, replace three letters and get…meta answer the REPLACEMENTS. Lovely.

I can’t stand Paul Westerberg’s voice but here’s a song anyway:

So simple in retrospect, but so hard to see, and the final twist of having to perform the meta trick one last time was an amusing final hurdle.

Novel meta idea, marvelous execution (can’t have been easy to make this work — would love to know the construction time), and that funny and fitting final touch.

What more do you want from a meta? 4.90 stars. Bravo to the constructor.

I’m 6 for 6 in 2021 and maybe you are as well. We’ll keep things rolling here in July.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta, June

  1. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks Matt!

    272 people made their way to the answer this month.
    Separately, four more folks cracked the mega-meta before this puzzle came out, making a total of five on the year.

    Congrats on your 6 for 6. Almost halfway home …(but it’s gonna get harder)


  2. BethA says:

    The main thing that shattered my confidence was that REE and NTS were in the “triple” areas, next to three black squares, but the other two weren’t, and also that the first one I identified was REE which had three letters next to each other. The other three were separated. It seemed like there should be more consistency in both respects.

    The only one I came up with on my own was Tom Petty. I was glad to see Ronettes, but was not really familiar with NoMalice or Breeders.

    Was determined to get it, since I rushed through and missed Come Together a couple of months ago.

    Very tough for me, and required extensive googling.

  3. sharkicicles says:

    super easy for me mainly because, uh, there’s only one rap duo from virginia. And while i couldn’t remember their names once I googled and got “NO MALICE” i was pretty sure i had this down.

  4. BryanF says:

    I got to the REENACTMENTS point very quickly (COWPATTY to TOMPETTY jumped out to me almost immediately). It was the next step that got me. I didn’t think to simply triple switch that one. So I went down the re-enactments rabbit hole and learned all about the power metal band “Civil War” from Sweden with their songs about Custer’s Last Stand, Tombstone (VERY weird music video), USS Monitor, and… that’s where I got stuck. :P

    I also learned about the Pylon Reenactment Society rock band from Georgia!

    Way too many rabbit holes, but great puzzle!

  5. Mike says:

    So much fun!

    Looking forward to the Muller Family Singers posting a video of themselves performing “Gary’s Got a Boner” tomorrow…

  6. Steve H says:

    I think this meta is the jump the shark moment for me. I know I am in the minority but this was absolutely no fun. I do crosswords to relax and use my (limited) brain. To have to search the web or even think of how to search is just something I am no longer interested in. Seems like a lot of metas are doing that now. Going to unsubscribe from this list and go back to enjoying crosswords and not spending extra time trying to figure out these complicated metas.

    Those that enjoy these, have at it and have fun. I’m out.

  7. Trout Almondine says:

    TOTALLY got nowhere on this one. I Googled the heck out of the parentheticals and never came close. Wikipedia doesn’t list The Breeders under its entries for “alternative rock bands from Ohio,” and when I first tried, “Clipse” did not come up as an example of a hip-hop duo for Virginia (although it came up first after the hint was posted–did we shift the algorithm)?

    None of this is a complaint, though. The puzzle was beautiful, the mechanics were satisfying, and I like that there would have been a little extra boost for people with especially wide-ranging musical tastes and knowledge. I have NO IDEA how one would even BEGIN to construct a puzzle with this many layers that ties together so exceptionally neatly.

  8. Charles Montpetit says:

    Just one glitch, in my view: 62-Across’s clue structure is similar to that of the four themers (i.e. with what seems like a bracketed alt-definition at the end), and since Johnny BOND sang “Hot Rod Lincoln” long before Commander CODY did, the letters BND really appear to be part of the theme. Even the symmetry of the themers in the grid seems to confirm this, given that OHIO, in the opposite corner, is referenced in the clue to 20-Across!

    No matter. It can’t have been easy to find four entries which turned into something else when three letters are replaced, in order, by REE, NAC, TME and NTS — what kind of warped mind thinks that way? This was a pretty stunning construction feat!

  9. Adam Thompson says:

    I guessed that the bands were Nine Inch Nails (NIN) and TLC, leading me down a rabbit hole I didn’t get out of.

Comments are closed.