Muller Monthly Music Meta, September

puzzle 8:13; meta: 11 mins (Matt)


SPECIAL ZOOM EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT!: This coming Friday, September 17th, at 8:30 PM ET, Pete Muller and I will be holding a Zoom talk to celebrate 10 years of the Muller Monthly Music Meta. We will discuss the history and future of the feature, analyze a couple of favorite MMMM puzzles from the past decade, and Pete will take questions, both those sent in before the talk and from solvers who want to ask Pete a question live.

More details forthcoming from both Pete and myself this week, but mark your calendars for this Friday, Sept. 17th, 8:30-10:30 PM. Should be a lot of fun!

Now, on to this month’s meta…

Title: “Odd Men Out”
Prompt: The meta for this puzzle is an alternative rock band.
Answer: Muse

Getting late in the year and fearful of PYRMs (Perfect-Year-Ruining-Metas). This one fell quickly for me, though, so 9-for-9 now in 2021 and loving it.

Four clearly-indicated theme entries from Pete, which are:

20-A: [Desert surfers (4)] = SANDBOARDERS. Surf’s up, dunes!

32-A: [Fight from behind (2)] = UPHILL BATTLE

40-A: [Mule-like quality (3)] = STUBBORNNESS

53-A: [Sonic backdrop (1)] = AMBIENT NOISE

With a cue from the title, I crossed out every other letter in the theme entries (the odd-numbered ones, of course), which left me with this:


Obviously I was quite certain this was the correct path after ADORES and PILATE were things, but then panicked suddenly when I saw TB????. But TBONES saved the day.

Now what? Scanning the grid, I saw MICKEY in the lower-right and remembered its notably dull clue [Famous Disney mouse]. Now I saw the reason for it: that clue would also work for MINNIE. Our three other extracted words can also be satisfied by other clues in the grid:

ADORES could answer [Loves to death], which clues EATS UP at 14-A
PILATE could answer [Bad actor in the Bible], which clues USURER at 12-D
TBONES could answer [Some cuts of beef], which clues SHANKS at 44-D

Getting closer! Let’s now arrange the four in-grid answers to those clues that satisfy our odd-lettered extracted words, using the parenthetical numbers in their clues as our guide:

(1) = MICKEY not Minnie
(2) = USURER not Pilate
(3) = SHANKS not T-bones
(4) = EATS UP not adores

At first I had mistranscribed T-bones instead of SHANKS so I had MUTE. Didn’t ring a bell but it’s an amusing alt-rock band name (as in, if they came on TV you’d want to mute them). Google didn’t turn anything up, but I soon realized by error and found contest answer MUSE. Who I have heard of, even if I don’t know their music.

Not my cup of tea, but YMMV. Estimated budget for the video: 500 quid.

Fell quickly for me, thought just 267 right answers with an hour to go so played reasonably tough. I liked the extraction mechanism, though .10 ding for MICKEY and Minnie sharing their first letter. Typically wide-open Muller grid with lots of good mid-length fill like EINSTEIN, NANOBOT, ALIBABA, MANILA, and BIGEYE.

4.50 stars. Unstumpable in 2021! Ready for the pain starting in October.

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5 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta, September

  1. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks Matt!

    272 correct this month.

    Congrats on 9 for 9!

    I’m looking forward to our Zoom interview Friday…hope to see a lot of folks there…


  2. Bill Katz says:

    I made the same mistake as Matt – accidently put TBONES in my solving list and came up with MUTE – which Google listed as a punk band. LUckily I double checked my work and came up with MUSE before submitting.

    • Terpagator says:

      Same! I spent a good 5 minutes trying to figure out if Mute was something the kids are listening to these days.

  3. GlennG says:

    Is there going to be a general trend of these getting easier on a crossword level? This one was rather surprising on that front compared to the usual trends for some reason.

    • Pete Muller says:

      Hi Glenn

      The difficulty of the crosswords varies between Tuesday and Thursday NYT, in a mostly random way.

      The metas gradually get harder throughout the year, with a pull-back in December.

      I originally planned for this puzzle to just be titled “Alternative Rock,” but I thought that would make getting the meta a little too hard. Using “Odd Men Out” seems to have made it easier to get than the last few months.

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