The December MMMM, “How Revealing!,” proved to be the toughest of the year. The meta is described as a “well-known rock song.” The grid contains two starred clues (HEY [“Psst!”] and LIE [“That’s not true!”]) in addition to five theme entries, all classic rock songs: AND I LOVE HER, YOU SEXY THING, DON’T GIVE UP, LOSE YOURSELF, and NOT FADE AWAY. Revealed inside these five titles (in a diagonal arrangement) are the five words AND YOU GIVE YOURSELF AWAY, the repeated chorus line of the well-known U2 song With or Without You, and this month’s meta answer.
What about the starred clues? They help confirm the answer. [“Psst!”] can also clue HEY YOU and [“That’s not true!”] can also clue YOU LIE, so both work with or without “you.”
Surprised at the small number of correct answers on Friday, I offered solvers an optional hint for less credit: “The starred clues are only necessary to confirm your answer.” I thought by clarifying that HEY and YOU weren’t integral to the meta, I would make things much easier. Wrong! The hint only helped eight people out of the 143 who asked for it. Sigh. I considered “Pick one word from each theme entry” for the hint, but figured that would be too much of a lay-up. A total of 28 solvers cracked the meta without a hint, making a total of 36 solvers this month.
In five years of the MMMM, I don’t think I’ve underestimated a meta’s difficulty as much! I’m convinced that if the same chorus phrase were contained in just the first (or just the last) words of song titles, it would have been much more straightforward. Having to use the words in a “diagonal” way (first word of the first two themers, middle word of the middle one, last word of the last two) made it much harder. December is usually a pretty busy month for people so I tried to create an easier meta. Sorry!
A few solver comments:
m5rammy It was worth getting the hint (whatever I may have said) (He sent an email griping that the hint was useless and then solved the meta five minutes later!)
jeremiahsjohnson Is that right? I think so but heck if I’m sure. (I hate it when experienced solvers aren’t sure they’ve solved it when they’ve gotten the right answer. A good meta is supposed to click, so comments like this one – and I got a few – reflect poorly on the puzzle.)
thanman2 This may have been the hardest meta I’ve seen in the MMMM thus far.
Katiedid I’m glad you had HEY and LIE for verification!
ErnieBucket Almost tricked me with FOUR Beatles clues in one puzzle. (I do usually stick in a red herring or two in a late-month puzzle. Probably didn’t need to this month!)
Yvensong sent in Rihanna’s “Man Down” – a pretty funny Hail Mary.
Rich Pardoe noticed that the first letters of the five songs anagram to DYLAN – an unintentional red herring!
The average solver rating for the puzzle was 3.79 out of 5 stars, and it clocked in at a difficulty of 4.32 out of 5 stars, by far the hardest of the year. This month’s randomly chosen winner of an MMMM coffee mug is Jeremy Horwitz of San Francisco. Thanks as always to Matt Gaffney for blogging the puzzle at Crossword Fiend, where you can rate the puzzle and/or leave a comment. Matt was among the many stumped this month.
The final puzzle of the year, the mega-meta reveal, comes your way Tuesday, December 27 – so far only seven solvers have cracked it. You can still earn five bonus points for solving it before the deadline. Thanks for playing and see you in a few weeks!