Muller Monthly Music Meta, March MMXXIV

Title: “Magical Mystery Four” by Pete Muller, Mack Meller, and Andrew White
Prompt: The meta for this puzzle is a well-known pop rock band.
Answer: Imagine Dragons

puzzle 9ish; meta 10 mins (Matt)



An easier solve after last month’s SAD (simple and difficult) meta: just 366 right answers on that one, but 547 with an hour to go this time around.

Started filling in the grid, and answers didn’t seem to make such sense: 1-D was [Certain 7.5-hr. exam] for CAT, which could’ve been an exam I’d never heard of; 2-D was [Dissenting reply] for HUH, which didn’t seem “dissenting” in any way I could discern; and then the penny dropped at 3-D, ELA clued as [Optimistic Lionel Richie tune]. I’m not a perfect man but I do know my Lionel Richie, and there’s no song in the great one’s catalogue called ELA but there is one called “SE LA.” Aha! We’re going outside the grid.

Turns out there were 20 answers that needed an extra square above or below the grid to make sense. Forgive me for not typing out any but the first three above, but I have an Oscars puzzle I’ve got to turn in ASAP after the ceremony ends. Taking my word for it, then, be advised that these 20 extra-gridular letters spell four five-letter words: MUSHU SPIKE LADON SMAUG (see diagram for placement). MUSHU made me think of pork, and SPIKE could’ve been a lot of things, but LADON wasn’t something I’d ever seen before and SMAUG only vaguely rang a bell.

Next I took myself over to a website called, where one can type in such words as LADON and SMAUG and see what they are. And it turns out that they are DRAGONS! Cool. Ladon is from Greek mythology, it turns out, and SMAUG is from the Hobbit. MUSHU winds up being a dragon in “Mulan,” and SPIKE is, as any educated person knows, a dragon from the My Little Pony universe.

So what’s the band? Imagine Dragons, which is what you need to do to envision the meta.

4.00 stars. My dragon and Imagine Dragons knowledge was too weak to make this one shine. YDMMV.

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8 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta, March MMXXIV

  1. Eric H says:

    I like puzzles that have answers that go outside the grid, especially when there’s a good reason to do that. Imagining dragons is a pretty good reason.

    I was surprised to have trouble with the fill in a few places. This is my third year of solving MMMM puzzles, but it’s the first time I have looked up any answers.

    Most of my trouble was in the NW, before I figured out the trick. I’ve never heard of a CHEER team. Either it’s something that didn’t exist in my long-ago high school days, or it’s what people in Texas call a drill team. AU LAIT was harder than it should have been.

    I didn’t know the Lionel Ritchie song or the Glass Animals song (would clueing “HEAT Wave” to Martha and the Vandellas be too easy? Too boomer-friendly?)

    When URICH didn’t fit, I assumed there was some reboot of “Vega$” that I didn’t know about. So I abandoned the NW corner for a while.

    Things got better as I moved through the grid, and the SE corner finally gave me the trick (thank you, ANYA Taylor-Joy!).

    The NW continued to stymie me, so I thought I’d see if I could figure out what the outside letters were in the hopes that they would give me the inside ones. As soon as I realized what was outside the grid in the SE, I had the meta answer. I know of only one SMAUG, and once I confirmed that LADON was a dragon, I sent in my answer.

    I still hadn’t finished the NW, but I wouldn’t have known MUSHU anyway. (“Mulan” just doesn’t get the love in crossword puzzles that “Frozen” does.)

    I’m not sure if I have any Imagine Dragon songs, but I really enjoyed this meta.

    • pbfrommn says:

      I shared your surprise and also had to look up some answers. IMO, this crossword (not the meta) was much more difficult than a standard-issue March MMMM.

      • Eric H says:

        It’s glad it wasn’t just me who had trouble with the crossword itself.

        I was not in top form Tuesday. I crashed with the NYT Connections game and had difficulty with the New Yorker puzzle.

    • Pilgrim says:

      I had the same experience. I couldn’t figure out the trick until I got to ANYA, and then the SE corner fell into place. Once I saw “SMAUG” sitting outside the grid, I immediately knew what the meta answer was.

  2. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks Matt-

    547 correct this month, making for an easy March meta, at least after filling in the grid!
    The fill definitely played harder intended for many folks.

    • Eric H says:

      It wasn’t until I read your write-up that I saw I had missed the theme-related spanners of FANTASY NOVELS and INTANGIBILITY. Clever!

      I really enjoyed this one, despite the crunchy fill in a few spots. Thanks!

  3. Seattle DB says:

    MUSHU (moo shu) had me thinking of pork, and SMAUG had me thinking of dragons, but I couldn’t reconcile those two thoughts. And LADON and SPIKE are unknowns to me. Oh well, I might get one of these metas one day…

    • Eric H says:

      SMAUG was the only name that I recognized, but since I know of the band Imagine Dragons, I figured out the meta. I did verify that LADON is a dragon before I submitted my answer.

      I know how discouraging it can be to try to solve some of these metas. I’m in slump of six or seven weeks on the WSJ metas.

      Keep trying! You’ll get one.

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