Muller Monthly Music Meta, July

puzzle untimed; meta 75 mins (Matt)


Just 205 correct entries with a half-hour left to play this month, so things are starting to toughen up around here. And I was stumped as well during my first 45-minute post-solve think, when I couldn’t even find much to be suspicious about.

But I tried: why was that A in RASA/ISA not an H or a P? That was about all I could find, but RASA/ISA isn’t horrible, and turned out to be irrelevant.

With no obvious theme entries (and there turned out to be no theme entries at all) and no entries longer than 8 letters I figured we were looking for some kind of “grand pattern” meta, but I couldn’t see it at all. Looking for meaning in the title I found instances of two like letters being separated by an unlike one, but that’s hardly unusual and led nowhere.

So I put the meta down for a while, and then, as so often happens, I spotted the rabbit within 90 seconds. Namely: Pete has hidden ten instances of the trigram GNR heading southwest-to-northeast in the grid, and indeed these three letters only appear in the grid in these ten formations. In a music context that GNR means Guns N’ Roses, which means that must be our meta answer.

Or does it? After a confused check at the instructions I realized we were being asked specifically for “a famous rock musician,” not a band. Huh? Was that a mistake? But then after another moment’s thought the penny dropped: the answer is SLASH, a.k.a. Saul Hudson, the lead guitarist for Guns N’ Roses. Why him? Since those ten GNR formations each form a slash (the punctuation mark) in the grid!

I think this is a wonderful meta, elegantly simple once it’s solved but difficult to spot in the first place, and for interesting reasons: 1) GNR consists of all common letters, so none of them jumps out in a grid-scan the way they would for, say, XYZ or XTC. 2) GNR is well-known enough as a short form of the band’s name, but it’s not their actual name, so again, doesn’t stand out as much as it would if it were, and 3) A three-letter trigram on a diagonal just isn’t as easy for the eye to notice as one on a horizontal or vertical entry.

Then the added touch of each forming a slash-mark, in reference to the bandmember, added one more layer of elegance and a very nice final a-ha! moment. This is one of those so-simple-once-you-see-it ideas that works so nicely (with the guitarist tie-in) that it almost gives the impression that the constructor merely discovered the idea instead of creating it. Everything fits so perfectly that it almost seems like it already existed in the framework of the universe and was only waiting for someone to notice. And Pete did.

Bravo. 4.85 stars.

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17 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta, July

  1. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks Matt!

    207 correct this month.

    In addition to those who sent in SLASH, I also gave full credit to solvers who sent in AXL ROSE.

    Bizarrely and coincidentally. AXL ROSE fits with the puzzle title, as in ‘Triple AXL’ and ‘Rose Up’


    PS. We got our first correct mega-meta solution this month!

  2. Eric H says:

    Nope. Never saw the GNR’s and probably wouldn’t have connected them to Guns N’ Roses even if I had, since I was never a fan of their music.

    I found a bunch of ME’s in the grid, but that obviously went nowhere.

    Oh well. The puzzle itself was fine. I really liked the clue for MANO.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Surprised by these ratings. What is the objection? That GNR wasn’t familiar as short form for Guns ‘n Roses?

  4. sharkicicles says:

    Pete, as I said in my comment when I submitted, I was 50/50 torn between Slash and Axl. Slash of course fit the grid better, but Axl fit the puzzle’s title better. So this was a bit of a difficult one. Glad you took both answers.

  5. jefe says:

    ahh, I only saw the GNRs on the main diagonal, which made it clear you were going for Slash. What was the Slash/Axl Rose submission count?

    • Pete+Muller says:

      29 sent in AXL ROSE – the rest SLASH

      • Flinty Steve says:

        Thanks for the amnesty for the AR29, Pete. This was a coin toss for me: I saw the “slashes” in the puzzle, but was also distracted by the title and several (surely unintentional) ROSE anagrams in the grid (starting at 3D).

  6. Rammy M says:

    When I first saw the title, I thought it would be something like “trip up” + “le” = triple up”
    So the puzzle would have answers with extra “le”s stuck in, that we would need to remove (or vice versa).
    Which clearly was not a thing.

  7. Iggystan says:

    If you had CCR in a puzzle, I would know who you were talking about, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard Guns ‘n Roses referred to as GNR. I know of them, but don’t have any of their music, so there’s that. I saw the GNRs but didn’t make the connection, that’s on me.

    • Eric H says:

      I never even saw the GNR’s, despite seeing the hint to look for a repeated three-letter sequence.

      CCR is certainly a more familiar band for me, but I’m not sure I’d have noticed them in the grid, either. Since probably 95% of crossword puzzles involve only across and down answers, my brain isn’t used to looking for letter patterns along a diagonal.

    • BarbaraK says:

      I didn’t recognize GNR as an abbreviation for Guns N Roses either, but google did.

      • Eric H says:

        I saw that. Maybe if I had seen the GNR’s in the grid, I’d have Googled it when nothing came to mind.

  8. Norm H says:

    Great puzzle! I love the “hiding in plain sight” aspect.

    Sorry if someone else has mentioned this already, but one more layer of elegance is that there are no Gs, Ns or Rs in the grid outside of those in the “Slashes”.

    I also love how Matt’s trained eye spots details like RASA/ISA, whereas I miss them entirely. Obviously the difference between a professional and an amateur.

  9. BrainBoggler says:

    I fell short of solving this one, even though I had unknowingly identified some of the intended GNR’s by looking at each row and column and noting which letter(s) appeared 3 times. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the grid from a different angle, and while I’m familiar with Guns ‘n’ Roses, GNR just wasn’t a strong enough click, especially since I did have other letters, such as A, E, O, and S, that appeared exactly 3 times in a given row or column. I couldn’t escape the rabbit hole of seeing 2 things after that: ORANGES (using those letters) and the 53A-67A grid combo of BEE GEES. Nonetheless, I can appreciate in hindsight the beautiful construction. Nice job, Pete.

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