The October MMMM, “How Cryptic!,” was billed both as the toughest of the year and my personal favorite. User feedback confirmed both: Only 46 solvers found their way to the correct answer this month, the lowest total for the year. Solvers gave it an average 4.15 out of 5 in difficulty.The average rating for the puzzle was 4.3 stars out of 5, the second-highest of the year (it would have been the highest if I only counted correct solutions!).
Solvers were told to “Ignore the word ‘the’ in the names of any musical artists that might be part of this puzzle’s theme.” Huh? The grid contains seven theme entries, all clued with a definition and then a seemingly random number in parentheses. For example, THOUSAND is clued as [Grand figure? (1)]. How cryptic! The key is figuring out that each theme entry corresponds to a song title, if it were part of a cryptic clue. For example, “Twist and Shout” could be part of a cryptic clue for THOUSAND, where “twist” is a word indicating an anagram of AND SHOUT.
The next necessary step is to use the number in parenthesis to select the corresponding letter in the name of the band that did the song. In this case, the Beatles did “Twist and Shout,” so the appropriate letter is a “B.”
The seven letters we end up with are:
THOUSAND –> Twist and Shout –> Beatles –> B
BATHER –> Locomotive Breath –> Jethro Tull –> O
BEACH HATS –> Rock the Casbah –> [The] Clash –> L
NIGHT –> Wild Thing –> [The] Troggs –> S
THINK DEAR –> Dancing in the Dark –> Bruce Springsteen –> T
LIVE ON –> Crazy in Love (or Drunk in Love) –> Beyoncé –> E
TRIES ONE –> Moving in Stereo –> [The] Cars –> R
which spells out BOLSTER. One more step to go – If BOLSTER were in the grid, it would point to the famous B-52’s song Rock Lobster, this month’s meta answer.
Selected Solver Comments:
RPardoe I love cryptic puzzles, so right up my alley.
kzcondor This is as stumped as I’ve ever been. (You weren’t the only one!)
thanman2 Oh so hard! Oh so clever! (Thank you!)
Spelvin Cool idea, but it felt a little bit ambiguous. (Some of the songs were done by multiple artists.)
Paul Coulter Getting it finally did wonders to BOLSTER my confidence.
Quicks?lver A point off for reusing ROCK (also in ___ the Casbah). But it was 5-star fun! (I wish I found a way not to duplicate ROCK, but I’ll go with Matt Gaffney’s interpretation: this double-usage was intended to be a click strengthener.)
Solvers were challenged to find the longest possible alternate theme entry that could have been used in the puzzle.
Francis Heaney ran away with this and gets 3 bonus points for his efforts. He came up with the following:
MONSIGNORI –> Bad Moon Rising by CCR (This was the longest one I found)
TURNING SHAFTS –> Wild Things Run Fast by Joni Mitchell
OTHER WAY ROUND –> Throw Down Your Heart by Bela Fleck
Steve Blais understood the contest to be looking for the longest entry in the grid that could be clued that way. He gets 1 bonus point for finding FETA –> Twist of Fate by Olivia Newton-John.
This month’s lucky winner of an MMMM coffee mug is Jeremy Conner of Los Angeles.
One more solver has cracked the mega-meta: Veep joins Jangler, Mike Berman, and Brian Cross as the only four to get the mega-meta so far this year. Congratulations!
Thanks to Matt Gaffney for blogging the puzzle at Crossword Fiend, where you can optionally rate this month’s puzzle and/or leave a comment.
Thanks for playing and see you next month!