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.