Muller Monthly Music Meta, July

puzzle 8:27; meta: 20 minutes with the hint (Matt)


Title: “Six Characters in Search of a Pop Song”
Prompt: The meta for this puzzle is one of Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
Answer: “Every Breath You Take” by the Police

Just one overt hint in this one, at 1-D/33-D: [With 33-Down, replace something, metaphorically, and what literally to do to solve this puzzle’s meta] = FLIP THE SWITCH. Kind of a strange phrase which doesn’t ring idiomatically for me. You can “flip the script” where you give everybody a totally different way of looking at a situation, but what is “flipping the switch”? It doesn’t Google well in the sense given in the clue.

But moving right along: what could it mean? I looked for various things: parallel NO-HITTERS and SPAGHETTI have the ETTI string flipped between them, but that led nowhere. Nothing else jumped out, but I knew there had to be a lot going on since FLIP and THE SWITCH were both scrunched against the left side of the grid, indicating there were some serious constraints in the rest of the grid.

You knew it was tough, since Jangler got it in 30 minutes (!), then LL (another excellent meta-solver) 5 hours later, and then no one for the next 2 days! Pete decided to send out a hint on Thursday which read:

The letters S-W-I-T-C-H need to be changed in the grid in six places to make new words.

That opened the gates, as 176 solvers (which isn’t really that many) have now entered successfully with 30 minutes before deadline. As Pete instructed, I looked for entries that could change one of those six letters to form another entry. Easiest to start with the W since there are only two of them in the grid and one is used in THE SWITCH so unlikely to be used a second time. It was in WREATH at 29-D, which could become BREATH with one letter changed. That brought to mind the Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” which seemed highly likely to be on the Rolling Stone list. The rest fell quickly:

EVERS at 3-D becomes EVERY
WREATH at 29-D becomes BREATH
IOU at 43-D becomes YOU
HAKE at 58-D becomes TAKE

What happened to the T and the C? They are identifying the band at 27-A and 30-A, where THC and POLITE become THE POLICE.

So, this meta would not go onto my list of the Muller Music Meta’s Greatest Hits. Reasons being that 1) The solving mechanism is too random. You expect change-a-letter ideas like this to form words in both directions, but here they only work in one direction so they’re tougher to spot and less elegant. I assume it was impossible or Pete would’ve done it but it was a bit underwhelming as it stood.

Also 2) The order of the words in the grid is strange. EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE is in standard top-to-bottom, left-to-right order, but then THE POLICE is doing its own thing in the upper right. If you read them in standard order they’d be EVERY THE BREATH POLICE YOU TAKE. The key is to take the Down entries first to get the song title and then the two Acrosses to get the band’s name, but it was off-putting and seemed scattered.

And 3) I just don’t feel that FLIP THE SWITCH works to describe what’s going on here. You’re just changing those six letters, you’re not “flipping” them to my ear. I was looking for reversals and similar things in the grid that more accurately describe a flip.

3.50 stars from me. Interested in hearing what others thought about it.

Also my streak is still alive at least! See you back here next month for August’s puzzle.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta, July

  1. Burghman says:

    Agreed. I got the hint, focused on the Ws, found only BLED / DREATH as options to make a word in both directions, figured that couldn’t be it because while DREATH seems to be a “word” (something about dream deaths) it certainly wouldn’t be used in a xword. Wasn’t about to go through flipping all the other more common letters – must have been scores of S, I, T, C, and H to sift through, and wasn’t doing that on a whim that didn’t seem to be likely to pan out. Extremely frustrating, but I seem to be in a funk of meta frustration lately so maybe it’s just me.

  2. Hector says:

    “You expect change-a-letter ideas like this to form words in both directions.”

    Yep. It seemed like a clear dead end when trying out one (a natural one!) of the zillion things the hints could mean led to gibberish in the grid.

  3. Giovanni P. says:

    Sorry Pete, this one was flawed. Having the new letters only work in one direction seems like it leaves too much room for noise. Plus, as Matt noted, FLIP THE SWITCH doesn’t feel quite right with the clue and mechanism. Maybe if we were flipping letters, entries or the grid (all of which I tried prior to attempting with the hint) it might make more sense.

    Also, how many Police songs are we up to as MMMM answers? Three?

    See you next month.

  4. ant says:

    I had NOHITTERS flipping to SWITCH HITTERS and RELAYRACE flipping to RELAY SWITCH…but then nothing. GAS SWITCH and (PO)LITE SWITCH were really reaching for me.
    I never asked for the hint.

  5. Bit says:

    Just lucky I got this one without a hint. I figured you’d need to switch letters (pretty common mechanism), and the fewest occurrences are W’s –and PWN looked exactly like the thing to change to PAN, PEN, or PIN. But a quick search of a recent RS500 list showed no titles with these words. I also realized an awful lot of titles had 1- and 2- letter words in them, so those would be out (maybe, unless they were doubled up in a single entry).

    So I focused on the other W, and when I realized it wouldn’t work in both directions, the only ordinary word I could think of was WREATH to BREATH. And this immediately triggered the idea it would be “Every Breath You Take”. Only problem was, that’s only 4 words of title instead of the 6 that I was expecting. Only by reverse-solving and trying to make my guess work did I realize the remaining 2 words would be the band name…

  6. David says:

    I agree, Matt. “Flip”, as it’s usually used, means to change something from one state to another – usually in a constrained way. It doesn’t mean “replace”, and it certainly doesn’t mean replace randomly.

    Solvers hoping to draw a connection between 6 letters to be changed and a consequent 6 word (6 letter?) title (as per the usual convention) were mislead – the “Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” wasn’t a song, it was a song plus band name. Even if you thought “Breath!”, you immediately realized that Every Breath You Take only has 4 words. Sure, that might have sent you back to the grid to find The (undercover) Police, but not if you had already rejected the thought that EBYT was the meta solution.

    I wasted far too much time thinking that the Six Characters were, literally, characters, and thought of songs with a cast of personalities. “Walk on the Wild Side” looked awfully promising for a few minutes; Raisinets are a “Candy” and Wreaths are sometimes made of “Holly”, but, an APB for Little Joe or Sugar Plum Fairy didn’t land any missing characters. Further efforts to track down Alice and the White Rabbit proved equally time consuming and there was no Yellow Brick Road to be seen.

    I’m surprised this one “felt good” when it was set free upon the world. “Realize that flip means change”, “Change 6 of the 64 occurrences of an S, W, I, T, C and H” to one of the other 25 letters” following no particular pattern, and only working in one direction”, and “realize that the band name might be an unexpected part of the solution” got me to Miami F-L-A with most of my hair plucked, let alone my eyebrows.

    • Small Wave Dave says:

      Six Characters, plus STAN in INSTANTTEA and LOVES in the grid brought to mind 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.
      All I had to do was search the grid for Jack, Roy, Gus and Lee, then mathematically prove that 5=6. Failed on both counts.

  7. Pete+Muller says:

    Thanks Matt

    180 correct and it looks like 34 without the hint, but I’m confirming with each of those solvers since our tracking mechanism isn’t perfect. I’ll update the scoring at once I hear back.

    I agree with most of the criticism on this one. While a number of my solvers told me they enjoyed the puzzle, far too many people had difficulty with the mechanism.

    It’s my job to create a puzzle that’s fun and challenging to solve, and I didn’t do that particularly well this month. Sorry!

    In hindsight, making the title “Flip the S-W-I-T-C-H” and having the changes work in both directions would have been better.


  8. FrankieHeck says:

    I first tried reversing the letters of SWITCH, or replacing them in the symmetrical location, to no avail. Then I became convinced that I had to switch Is and Os in words, as in power on and off symbols. Not “literal,” of course, but I did find six words that worked well…but only in one direction, and not the crossing words. Then after reading the clue over and over, I thought maybe I had to just use “Flip” and not “Flip the Switch,” so I tried flipping the grid on itself symmetrically, filling it in upside down, and various other dead ends. I finally broke down and took the hint, and hours later I could finally set the puzzle aside. Definitely a struggle for me.

  9. Rammy M says:

    I tried and tried (no hint) but decided it was just too tough and gave up.
    That happens sometimes sometimes.

    My main thought was (along the lines of what ant said), that 11D was a big hint that it had to do with computers
    41A Relay (plus another word) [type of switch]
    10D (a word plus) Hitters [goes with switch, but not a “type” of switch]
    60A Instant (plus another word)
    34D (words…) Gas
    Do we do something with the extra words?
    and a few more entries, stretching, that go with switch (maybe??), but not all have extra words.

    logic gates? switching AND, and OR to something? spell them backwards? swap across/down somehow? or O and I (for zero and one)

    Also those “L” shaped blocks of 4 black squares look like they could be switches. Something to do with the letters around them? moving?

    oh well.

    • Burghman says:

      I thought it might be visual too – I tried moving the block from the short leg of the L to the other side (as if the switch was flipped) and did the same with the 2 sets of 2 black squares (4 Ls and 2 Is of black squares and all others were singles – seemed promising).

  10. Dean Silverberg says:

    I couldn’t get my mind off the title since I am a “Twilight Zone” fan. There was an episode “Five Characters in search of an exit” from which I believe the title was taken from Sartre’s “No Exit”and Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author”. Well, I kept looking at the number of combinations of the two letters “in” going up, down, backwards, and diagonally and counted 11. I figured if I changed them somehow to “out” as an exit it would work. Sometimes when you get a crazy idea in your head, it’s hard to shake it. Only when I realized the idea was wrong that I was able to get down to business. By the way, Pete, if you’re out there, is that where you got the title?

  11. Phil says:

    Even if I was talented at these Meta’s I can’t imagine relating the meaning of ‘Flip’ and what happens to SWITCH.

    Maybe better as
    Or to be symmetrical

  12. Elaine says:

    I cannot find anywhere an extra hint provided by you. I’m probably not the only one. How do you find it?

Comments are closed.