Muller Monthly Music Meta, June 2023

puzzle 8ish; meta 12 mins (Matt)


Title: “Chain Link Offense””
Prompt: One of the long across entries in this puzzle needs to be replaced by the meta answer, an alternative rock band of the same length, in order for the theme to make sense.
Answer: Lifehouse

Got to this very late (started solving at 10:10 PM ET, so 50 mins before deadline) so excuse the rushed review. Theme entries are:


From the title, saw a (broken) chain made by re-slicing the theme entries:


…but then it breaks down, since NIGHT HANDLE and BAR BOAT aren’t really things. So can we come up with an alt-rock band of 9 letters (since HANDLEBAR is the entry to be replaced) that will form two new legit phrases with NIGHT-something and something-BOAT?

Nothing came to mind, so I started list-scouring, ultimately finding a band named LIFEHOUSE that fit the bill (forming NIGHTLIFE and HOUSEBOAT). Never heard of them or any of their songs; I found them listed as the 80th-greatest Alt-rock band of all time here though so I went with it. Not a big fan of their music, which sounds AI-generated to my ear. But being the 80th-best alt-rock band of all time is more than I did today so whatever.

3.75 stars, assuming I’m right. How’d you do?

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22 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta, June 2023

  1. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks Matt

    309 correct this week.

    Lifehouse had a couple of big hits, but you were far from the onky solver who needed google.

    They are the only nine-letter alternative band I could find (with a Wikipedia page) that fit with both NIGHT and BOAT, but I can see how you weren’t 100 percent sure.

  2. BethA says:

    My first thought was that bar boat was not a thing, but then this came right up —

    And I didn’t think Pete would be so devious to make one of the end words the replacement, since I wasn’t really sure if it should wrap around or not. I thought I’d never get it, but finally my mind let go of certain assumptions. Today I saw the light!

  3. bergie says:

    Lifehouse had two top-5 songs in the US. Not too shabby. I think they’re pretty know-able.

  4. Maggie W. says:

    Ha, I went through all 250 alt rock bands here…but they’re not there!

    Knew what needed to be done but just gave up looking after that, alas.

    • Neville says:

      Same experience here, Maggie. Didn’t find Lifehouse on the lists I checked, and I’d never heard of them.

      It did not help me that “wheelbase” (though it shows up in M-W and countless other places) was also foreign to me, and I couldn’t be sure whether or not there was supposed to be “wrap around” to the chain. This wasn’t one for me to get, I fear, but there’s always next month! :)

      • Eric H says:

        WHEELBASE is a standard measurement for cars. But if you’re not into cars (which is fine), I can see why it might be unfamiliar.

  5. Eric H says:

    Woof! Either you’re wrong, Matt, or I am. (I’m sure it’s me.)

    (And I think you meant that your answer of Lifehouse gives you NIGHT LIFE and HOUSEBOAT.)

    The title seemed like such an obvious play on “chain link fence.” I noticed that all the theme answers other than HANDLEBAR had a word or word fragment that could precede or follow “off” — RACE off, WHEEL off, off BASE, and either off NIGHT or NIGHT off.

    Having used the “off” part of the title, it occurred to me that “chain link fence” could be a song title. The British alt-rock band The Go! Team has a song by that title, and if you leave out the exclamation point (as you would in a crossword grid), it fits the HANDLEBAR slot.

    I found this to be the least satisfying MMMM meta this year. It’s circular in that you need the missing theme answer to figure out the theme, but to find the missing theme answer, you need to understand the theme. (Your Lifehouse answer makes a more sensible theme than my answer does. But on the other hand, it seems like a pretty obscure band to expect people to come up with. What if whatever list of alt-rock bands a solver consults doesn’t include them?)

    Also, whatever you replace HANDLEBAR with, you’ve got nine Down answers that are now nonsense. I’d be OK if the nine new Down answers were words that needed to be reclued. I’d be gobsmacked if they fit the existing clues (in other words, if the missing theme answer was a Schrödinger answer).

    I read something by a meta puzzle constructor (I want to say Pete Muller, but I’m not sure it was him) to the effect that “If I’ve done my job as a constructor right, when you get the meta answer, you’ll know it.” I’m not sure this puzzle meets that test.

    I’ll be looking forward to the July puzzle.

  6. jefe says:

    I found them on here:
    but only because I was initially looking for (NIGHT) LIGHT- something.

    I’m sure I had heard of Lifehouse before but certainly wouldn’t have gotten it without searching.

    • Me says:

      I used that list as well, but I started from A so it took a while to get to the L’s!

      I don’t understand the “Chain Link Offense” title. I was thinking it should be “Chain Link Fence,” which I’ve heard of. Google isn’t showing me anything called, “Link Offense.”

      • Charles Montpetit says:

        “Chain Link Fence” is indeed the common phrase we’re meant to think of, but “Offense” makes it a pun since, in this particular instance, the word chain is defective to start with.

        • Eric H says:

          It’s occurred to me now that in all the thousands of crossword puzzles I’ve solved in the past few years, I don’t think I have seen a word chain theme. Maybe if I had been more familiar with that type of theme, I’d have parsed the puzzle title correctly.

          • Me says:

            Charles Montpetit, thanks for explaining how the “Offense” fits in. I just wasn’t seeing that.

            Eric H, I’ve seen the word chain before. I feel like it’s been in the NYT but couldn’t swear to that.

            • Eric H says:

              Thanks, Me.

              I may just have forgotten seeing a word chain before. I know I have seen lots of word ladders, not that that would have helped me get this meta.

  7. Eric H says:

    I know my comment from last night sounds a bit whiny.

    This just wasn’t my weekend for meta puzzles. I got absolutely nowhere with Friday’s WSJ meta. I got the correct answer for yesterday’s WaPo meta, but it was just a lucky guess — I got the first step in solving the meta, but didn’t know where to go with it.

    At least my short Wordle streak remains intact, even if it’s taken me four or five guesses on each of the last ones.

  8. Dusty Gunning says:

    I thought I picked up a brilliant meta theme- there are 5 clues which are questions and ambiguous. One of them, Rose bowl, COULD refer to “ball-game”. Awesome!
    But the rest were duds. Too bad, that would have made it a stellar solve.

  9. Matt says:

    I went with Grouplove ( to make “Love Boat” as I don’t believe word chains typically require you to loop back to the beginning again. I know most normal steel chains don’t.

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