Only 58 solvers cracked the August MMMM, the lowest success rate so far this year. The meta instructions asked for a “well-known singer-songwriter.” The grid, at 15×17, is slightly larger than the normal 15×15, and suggests something else is going on aside from the four obvious theme entries: ALICIA KEYS, MILES DAVIS, FLEETWOOD MAC, and RUPERT HOLMES. The central “three”-letter entry, TRIO, clued as [Half of a sextet], provides a hint. All the trios (three-letter entries) in the puzzle are disguised halves of song titles from the theme entry artists as follows:
ALICIA KEYS: FAL + LIN = “Fallin”
MILES DAVIS: SOW + HAT = “So What”
FLEETWOOD MAC: DRE + AMS = “Dreams”
RUPERT HOLMES: ESC + APE = “Escape”
Putting together the remaining three-letter entries in the grid gives you ALI + SON = “Alison,” the 1977 classic from Elvis Costello, and this month’s meta answer.
As we are nearing the homestretch, the puzzle contained a few red herrings: CYAN was clued as [Kind of blue], which is also a Miles Davis album. SEAT was clued as [USHER], leading some to look at his collaborations with Alicia Keys. Ten solvers saw MAC and DAVIS and submitted MAC DAVIS, which sort of takes half of half of the theme entries. One solver went a step further and noted that Mac Davis has a song called “Half and Half (Song for Sarah)” and submitted Sarah McLachlan.
Some solver comments:
Jim Q and Jonesy Having the clues “Kind of blue” and “Usher” in the same puzzle where MILES DAVIS and ALICIA KEYS are theme answers was very, very cruel. I’m a bad, bad man.
Bob J My Wikipedia research on EC tells me that putting RHINO in the grid clued as the record label was probably not a coincidence. Actually, it was a coincidence!
jefflouie I stared at this for a couple days, and then I suddenly saw DRE+AMS and the rest fell within a minute. This is the best kind of meta solving experience. That’s what I’m aiming for!
revbean The song that came on as the train was pulling into my stop was in fact “Alison.” The universe likes you.
Raygirl For years I wished my name was Alison because of his song. Have you listened to the lyrics? 🙂
JanglerNPL I knew there had to be a reason it wasn’t PAL/PARR (or CAL/CARR)! It’s very tough to fool Jangler. But this kind of reasoning is exactly what makes him so good at solving metas.
Groaners (I know this just encourages you):
David Bael I sure did Get Happy!! when I finally figured this one out.
ab By now, you know my aim is true.
Kranke It’s so funny to be seein’ that solution after so long girl.
Clues that could have been musical:
Evan suggests cluing APE as [“Very ___” (Nirvana song)]
Mike W suggests cluing AONE as [Lawrence Welk lead-in]
As the metas get harder, I try really hard to make the payoff worthwhile. Solvers liked this puzzle a lot, giving it 4.32 stars out of 5, the highest rating so far this year. (The rating would have been even higher if I excluded the solvers who thought “Mac Davis” was the correct answer!) The average difficulty rating was 3.88 out of 5, close to the hardest of the year. This month’s randomly chosen winner of an MMMM coffee mug is Charlie Haley from Chicago. Thanks as always to Matt Gaffney for blogging the puzzle at Crossword Fiend, where you can optionally leave a comment or rate the puzzle.
Mega-meta update: A total of 27 people cracked the mega-meta through July. Extra bonus points are still available for solving it early (5 + 2 points for each month remaining in the contest, so a total of 13 points if you get it this month).
September will be classical music month. Thanks for playing, and see you then!