CALENDAR GIRLS (country rock)
BOND YIELD (folk rock)
WARDROBES (pop rock)
TO PUT IT MILDLY (hard rock)
Each theme answer incidentally begins with an artist whose name starts with double letters: JJ Cale, who plays country rock, AA Bondy, a folk rock artist, ZZ Ward, a pop rocker, and ZZ Top, a hard rock band. Taking one of each of the double letters gives you JAZZ, this month’s meta answer.
“Double Time” turned out to be the toughest puzzle of the year so far, with only 28 solvers getting the answer correct, and a lot of top solvers having their streaks broken. This was completely unexpected! My two test solvers zoomed through the puzzle and the meta, so I made one small change intended to increase the difficulty slightly. Clearly I overdid it! Originally the genres were given as Tulsa sound, folk rock, blue-eyed soul, and Texas blues, instead of country, folk, pop, and hard rock. In hindsight, Tulsa sound and Texas blues really helped identify JJ Cale and ZZ Top.
The puzzle’s difficulty came from a couple of factors: First, some of the artists were unknown to solvers. While almost everyone’s heard of ZZ Top (2.7M Google hits), fewer have heard of JJ Cale (607K hits), ZZ Ward (896K hits), and AA Bondy (266K hits), the last of whom I only discovered while making the puzzle. Second, there were a few duplicate clues designed to throw people off. I thought ZZ TOP coupled with the title would be enough to solve the puzzle, along with a little search-engine help. I will endeavor to be a little more gentle next month.
Big congratulations to Abby Braunsdorf and Dan Feyer, both of whom correctly guessed the mega-meta last month and earned 54.5 bonus points (splitting 50 and 25 for first and second, plus 5 for getting it early, plus 2 x 6=12 for the six puzzles remaining). It was a mixed month for Abby, since this is the first MMMM in three years she has missed! I suspect I may get more mega-meta solvers this month now that people know it has been broken. (If I do, I won’t mention them until the next puzzle is out.)
A few user comments reflecting different solving experiences:
thinman Very gratifying aha! Broke through on JJ Cale, would you believe. Never heard of the middle two.
Jeff G Saw lots of double letters – gOOSEEGG, DDay, seTTEE and lots of double clues – Zilch, Italian Tourist Destination, North/South CA airport etc. Couldn’t make the connection to Double Time. Enjoyed the challenge as always.
gpagano Never heard of the first three to be honest. It took ZZ TOP to clue me in on the meta. Eleventh-hour save!
mt Great puzzle, Pete. ZZ Top jumped out at me, but I didn’t know ZZ Ward or AA Bondy. When I got JJ Cale (duh), that sealed the deal. (Unfortunately he submitted BB King!)
Clues that could have been musical:
Gwinns suggests cluing SETTEE as [Item of furniture mentioned in the Arctic Monkeys’ “Do I Wanna Know?”]
mt suggests cluing PHD as [What Little Feat’s “Rock and Roll Doctor” has in swing]
The average user rating for the puzzle was a solid 3.97 out of 5, and the difficulty level was the second-highest of the year, at 4 out of 5. This month’s randomly chosen MMMM coffee mug winner is Christian Parker from Vancouver, Canada.
Thanks to Matt Gaffney for blogging the puzzle at Crossword Fiend, where you can rate the puzzle and comment on it. The blog post is usually up on Sunday night at 11 ET, and you can see the answer there if you don’t want to wait until my write-up on Tuesday.
Thanks for playing and see you next month!