Based on the number of correct submissions, this month’s meta was the hardest so far. Only 43 solvers got the correct answer, DECCA Records, the five letters of which corresponded to the musical keys of the five Beatles songs in the puzzle. TELL ME WHY is in D, SHE’S LEAVING HOME is in E, NO REPLY is in C, I’LL FOLLOW THE SUN is also in C, and I’M SO TIRED is in A. Decca Records is famous for rejecting the Beatles after auditioning them in 1962 (you can read about it here), which made DECCA a particularly satisfying (if challenging) meta answer. The title (Keyword Search) once again provided an important hint. My thinking was that even people who aren’t musically inclined know that songs have keys, and that they range from A to G, which made me think using keys was fair game.
After constructing the meta (using “The Beatles Complete Chord Songbook” as a reference and checking the recorded versions), I checked to see whether Wikipedia listed keys for the songs. Only two songs had keys listed, but one of them (“I’m So Tired”) had the wrong key (Bb instead of A)! What to do? I thought I had two choices:
- Do nothing, and have solvers decide that the meta had nothing to do with keys since how do you spell a word using Bb? This seemed too devious, even for me.
- Alert solvers that “Wikipedia may have errors” which seemed pretty inelegant and also provided a pretty big hint.
And then I realized there was a third choice: Edit the Wikipedia page. After triple-checking, I went ahead and made my first ever Wikipedia edit to the “I’m So Tired” page. Then I edited the “Tell Me Why” page to add a note that the song is in D major. Then I stopped, figuring if you got as far as D _ C _ A, it wouldn’t be that hard to fill in the blanks with a record label.
This month’s randomly selected winner of an MMMM coffee mug is Jeremy Horwitz of San Francisco, who has gone 8 for 8 in the contest so far. Including Jeremy, there are thirteen solvers who have gone 8 for 8, and eight solvers with 7 correct and half-credit on Puzzle 6. Full contest standings can be found here.
The average user rating was 4.16 stars out of five. On the difficulty side, the average rating was 3.56 out of 5. Both numbers are somewhat biased (especially the difficulty rating), since typically only those solvers that get the answer submit ratings.
Thanks as always for the feedback and thanks to Matt Gaffney for blogging the puzzle at Crossword Fiend. Some selected solver comments below:
OK, So here it goes. Stared at the grid nothing came to me but.. I’ll Follow The Sun. SUN Records? What follows SUN Records? STAX Records. But nothing else to go with this and anyway the Booker T. and The MGs album McLemore Avenue is basically a cover of Abbey Road, so in a way it is a Beatles album. What else follows SUN? The Sun KING? KING Records? Nothing else to go with that. CHESS Records? IN PIECES? But nothing else. Think. What label is even famous enough for Pete to make it the answer? MOTOWN? At which point I started hearing Stevie Wonder’s ex-wife singing “She’s Leaving Home” from an album he produced for her. Hmm. Look at the Northwest of the grid. It’s says TAMLA, sort of! Started at that TAMLA corner and looked around for more Motown stuff, digging deeper but still coming up with lint. So I gave up and when I went to sleep that night I had a dream in which a man on a flaming pie told me the answer. No I didn’t. But the next morning I began thinking about the title “Keyword Search” and thinking of the lyrics of those songs or the titles and lyrics of other songs on the albums they were from. Still doing this on the crowded subway getting nowhere. I waved at a musician I saw at the other end of the train. A few stops into the city when the crowd thinned out and my musician friend left I got a seat at which point I finally switched from “KeyWORD Search” to “KEYword Search” which gave me the answer immediately. When I climbed up to the surface I checked the key signatures of those tunes at Alan W. Pollack’s Notes On Beatles.
I probably should add something. My very first thought when I read the clue for the meta answer was: maybe this is a trick and the answer is APPLE, because even if there is a picture of an apple on the label, it could be that those records were licensed by Apple Corps. but still actually released on Capitol/EMI/Parlophone. But then I figured that even if somehow that turned out to be true, there would be too many lucky guessers and too many annoyed solvers for it to be worth building Puzzle 8 around. At some point it occurred to me reasonably early on; What’s a label famous for turning down The Beatles? DECCA! But how can he clue that, it’s not even a real word. So I suppressed the thought.
Patrick Lipawen writes that the key for the mono version of “She’s Leaving Home” is F. The sometimes reliable Wikipedia suggests that the original key was E and that the song was speeded up for the mono release.
Abby Braunsdorf writes If I hadn’t understood the solution, I probably would’ve guessed that anyway. I’m guessing you’ll get more right answers than you should. And she was right: At least two people admitted guessing DECCA.
John Wilson suggested that IN PIECES could have been clued as a Garth Brooks album. And Michael Marcus tells me that S.R.O. is the title of a 1966 Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass album. I’ll have to use that in a future puzzle.
Finally, Andy Arizpe, who is 8 for 8, writes Whew! You really gave me a workout on this one. I spent so long concentrating on the “word search” part of the title. Finally decided that was getting nowhere, then got it almost immediately once I thought about the “key” part of the title. Looking forward to the finale!
The 2012 MMMM finale will be coming to you on New Year’s Eve, Monday December 31. See you then!