Muller Monthly Music Meta — December 2022

puzzle 10ish; meta: 20 min. (Matt)


Title: “What’s in the Box” by Pete Muller and Mack Meller
Prompt: The meta for this puzzle is a famous artist.
Answer: Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam

Lovely meta this month from Pete Muller and one Mack Meller. My hijinks antenna went nuts on this purported coauthor’s name, since 1) It’s December’s puzzle, so massive trickery of any kind cannot be put past our meta-maestro; 2) it has the same (4/6) enumeration as PETE MULLER, and 2.5: the two surnames are one mere letter apart, and 3) I’ve never heard the surname “Meller” before so could’ve been created for use in this meta! Also, not a byline I’ve ever seen on a crossword. Adding all those things up, I have this “Mack Meller” at a 51% chance of not existing. We shall see…

Solved the puzzle, and one clue stood out so suggestively that I circled it for later ponderage. After finishing the grid I didn’t see anything obvious, so I went back to this clue — and the meta fell right away. I had caught the rabbit, as they say over on the Muggles Forum.

The sus clue was [City in the British Isles] at 3-D for YORK. Several antenna-rattling aspects of it: York is in England, York is in/on Great Britain, York is in the U.K. None of those would’ve raised an eyebrow…but why specify that York is in the British Isles, which includes Ireland plus some other outlying areas like the Channel islands? I thought Schrödinger…was there a city further out in those British Isles that was one letter off? Aha! CORK, Ireland, popped into my head, and off to the races.

I put the Schrödinger C/Y in that square, then went off in search of others. They were:

1-A: [Like someone close to you] = LOCAL/LOYAL + 3-D: [City in the British Isles] = CORK/YORK
6-A: [Element in butane?] = LONG A / LONG U + 10-D: [Spanish 101 word] = ANO/UNO
11-A: [Diminutive, informally] = ITTY / ITSY + 13-D: [Spin around] = TWIRL/SWIRL
34-A: [“That was a ___!” (solver’s reaction to finishing this puzzle, maybe)” = BEAST/BEAUT + 26-D: [Doesn’t do anything, in a way] = PASSES/PAUSES. Very nice! This was the last one I found, and I already had the answer so I knew I was looking for S/U, and I was pretty sure it had to be in that section of the grid, and it still took me several minutes. Just couldn’t see the U in BEAUT.
35-A: [Holds off] = DETERS/DEFERS + 27-D: [It may be lemon-flavored] = WATER/WAFER. Nice clue to tie that pair together.
55-A: [Puts back in place, in a way] = REPENS/REPINS + 46-D: [Hightails it] = FLEES/FLIES
57-A: [Kind of flu] = AVIAN/ASIAN + 43-D: [They’re often on one-year cycles] = LEAVES/LEASES
78-A: [Chair part] = SEAT/SLAT + 61-D: [Entangle] = SNARE/SNARL
79-A: [H-bomb trial, e.g.] = N-TEST/A-TEST + 72-D = [Take ___] = TEN/TEA
80-A: [Fragile, in a way] = WISPY/WIMPY + 67-D = [Frightening noise] = BOOS/BOOM

The Schrödinger squares spell two names of a great singer/songwriter: CAT STEVENS, under which he became famous as a singer in the 1970s, and YUSUF ISLAM, the name he took after converting to Islam in 1979. Note that he was also born Steven Demetre Giorgiou, though we can forgive Pete and Mack for not attempting to Super-Schrödinger that name in as well.

Lovely meta — and what about the Mysterious Muller Monthly Music Meta Maker, Mr. Mack Meller? He appears to be a Scrabble player of note, so we shouldn’t be surprised that he’s skilled in another field where letters go in boxes. So I hereby withdraw my suspicions regarding Mr. Meller’s existence…but I regret nothing! Meta-solving rewards paranoia. I present my now 27-meta-long MMMM streak as evidence of this.

4.85 stars. Bravo to the authors.

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10 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta — December 2022

  1. Eric H says:

    Nope. Never saw the Schrödinger thing.

    But now that it’s been explained to me, I’m quite impressed.

  2. jps says:

    Note that the Schrödinger squares are symmetrically placed. I always check for symmetry in a MMMM puzzle as Pete is excellent at that technique. That helped me track down the rebuses.

  3. BethA says:

    My entry point was DEFERS/DETERS or WATER/WAFER.

    TOTALLY ASTOUNDING that there were 9 similar opportunities I totally overlooked while solving. This was the only one that stuck in my craw enough to break through!

    After the fact, I wondered if Meller/Muller was a hint? And what about Miller? Something hinky?!

    Wow, wow, wow!!!

    This was one I knew I had but still didn’t have. The take-the-puzzle-out-to-dinner type. I had just found all of the locations, but wasn’t sure about the ordering yet. While driving to the restaurant, the letters were floating above my head, and thought it might be Cat Stevens. Confirmed at the restaurant, and then saw the beauty of the alternative letters spelling Yusuf Islam.

    This is a thing of beauty! A true work of art!

  4. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks Matt-

    109 found their way to a solution this month.
    Mack Meller is indeed a real person and a scrabble champion who’s pretty new to crosswords.
    I’m excited that he will be working with me on the MMMM and other puzzles next year.
    Crazy coincidence that our names are so similar!

    One more puzzle left for the year – the mega-meta reveal later this month…

    • Pete Muller says:

      I wanted to make sure to give kudos to Andrew White for suggesting both the puzzle title and clues for the C/Y pair (LOCAL/LOYAL and CORK/YORK) when I was wondering whether doing this puzzle was even possible.

  5. Bob D. says:

    Hoping to get partial credit for my answer, SLASH, as you need one in each of those 10 double-lettered boxes.

  6. David Benbow says:

    This was his only meta that defeated me this year. I kept going back to 52A: Music boxes? I was sure this was the way in because it shared the word ‘box’ with the title. Furthermore, the answer ‘CDCASES’ led me down long rabbit holes involving roman numerals and the fact that several other entries contain the word ‘CASES’ in various orders with one additional letter (e.g., CESSNA). An unrelated rabbit hole involved trying to put letters in the black boxes, such as an EL between ARK and PIETA to make KELPIE.

    It was a beautiful meta, but the title completely led me astray.

  7. Abide says:

    Excellent Easter egg with CATS MEOW, not to mention the whole Schrodinger cat theme.

  8. WP says:

    Loved this one!

    We live-solved it on our most recent podcast episode – you can listen here:

  9. Giovanni P. says:

    This one reminded me a lot of a 2017 Gaffney meta with Cassius Clay:

    Though this one has the added wrinkle of the clues working for both entries too, rather than just the crossing.

    Nice puzzle Pete! And a big thank you from me for doing these for the past ten years.

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