2014 Finale: “Sound It Out” Solution

Sound It Out

The final puzzle of 2014 focused on the “mega-meta” hidden in the previous 12 monthly puzzles. Solvers were instructed to HIT THE RIGHT NOTE to find a GUITAR RIFF. What did this mean? Each of the monthly puzzles had a single clue similar to this one (from January):

A TEAM [Mr. T’s TV group (Note: Also a song from Ed Sheeran, with “The”)].

The “A” in A TEAM represented the first note in the riff, which altogether consisted of 12 notes, one per puzzle. This puzzle identified the first six notes as SIXTEENTHS, the next one as a dotted QUARTER, and the final five as QUARTER notes. When you put them all together, you get something like:

Layla Musipediia

If you sound it out (using musipedia.org, say), you hear the famous guitar riff for Layla, the 2014 mega-meta answer. For those less musically inclined, there were other straightforward paths to figuring out the riff. Perhaps the easiest was googling something like “A C D F D C D famous song,” which returns “Layla” references on the first search page. Also, the December puzzle mentioned that the mega-meta song started in D minor, another helpful clue.

The 2014 puzzles contained a RED HERRING, which attempted to trick solvers looking for the mega-meta. Each of the first 10 puzzles had an “add a letter” clue along the lines of this one (also from January):

STAR [Alt-rock band Mazzy ___ (or a Beatle if you add a letter)].

If you string together all the added letters, starting with the R for this clue, you spell out RED HERRING. Sorry about that. (Not really.)

Finally, the puzzle has an additional hint for the mega-meta, with two symmetric entries clued as follows:

ADDY [“Game of Thrones” actor Mark (and a clever way to corroborate the mega-meta answer)]
LALA [Bit of a popular song refrain]

At least one solver went straight for this shortcut and “ADD”-ed “Y” to LALA to get LAYLA.

Click + to see a full table with all the NOTE and RED HERRING add-a-letter clues in the 2014 puzzles.


Answer Clue Note Length
A TEAM Mr. T’s TV group (Note: Also a song from Ed Sheeran, with “The”) SIXTEENTH
C CLEF Symbol on a viola player’s staff (Note: John Cale of the Velvet Underground plays a mean rock viola) SIXTEENTH
D CUP Large supporter (Note: Also the co-producer of “We No Speak Americano”) SIXTEENTH
F STOP Camera setting (Note: Also the record label for singer-songwriter Matt Hires) SIXTEENTH
D MARK Stale German bread? (Note: Also the stage name of a European trance music DJ) SIXTEENTH
C SPAN D.C. TV (Note: Also a recent music compilation publisher) SIXTEENTH
D DAY Start of a famous invasion (Note: Also a song by Blondie) DOTTED QUARTER
G STRING Part of Nicki Minaj’s outfit on the cover of her single “Anaconda” (Note: Also part of a guitar) QUARTER
TROOP ’60s TV comedy (Note: The show’s theme music was written by Looney Tunes composer Bill Lava, who favored diminished seventh chords) QUARTER
MAG Slate, say (Note: Slate has an extensive collection of music articles in its Music Box section) QUARTER
NET Tech review and download website (Note: Good place to download music-editing software) QUARTER
MIN The saddest key, per Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel: Abbr. (Note: Also the starting chord for this year’s mega-meta) QUARTER


Answer Clue Add a Letter
STAR Alt-rock band Mazzy ___ (or a Beatle if you add a letter) STARR
BIB Baby’s garment (or the nickname of the teen pop star who sang “Baby,” if you add a letter) BIEB
EASE Facility (or jazz trombonist Michael if you add a letter) DEASE
META Type of crossword (or a conductor if you add a letter) MEHTA
BSS Some tech. degrees (or a Gershwin title soprano role if you add a letter) BESS
HEAT Basketball team (or a rock band if you add a letter) HEART
LODE Ore deposit (or a pop star if you add a letter) LORDE
PPS Additional afterthought (or a famous backup group if you add a letter) PIPS
WIGS Hairpieces (or a ’70s band if you add a letter) WINGS
ORE Gold or platinum source (or “It’s My Party” singer if you add a letter) GORE

The first six notes were sufficient for Abby Braunsdorf and Dan Feyer, both of whom correctly guessed “Layla” after the June puzzle. An honorable mention goes to Jeffrey Harris, who guessed the Bill Withers song “Ain’t No Sunshine” in April. Coincidentally, “Ain’t No Sunshine” starts with the same five notes as the “Layla” riff. Seeing that two people had solved the mega-meta helped others get there. A total of 16 solvers got the mega-meta in July (after the seventh note), and another eight solved it before the final puzzle. A total of 56 people solved the mega-meta this year, 30 after seeing the final puzzle.

A few selected user comments:

Jonesy   #13 on my favorite album, woulda felt like a real chump if i missed this one. great year!

Erin Milligan-Milburn   My first correct Muller mega-meta! Thank you for so much fun the past three years.

rachaar   Man did I have to dig deep into my years of piano and marching band to figure this out. I actually started by looking at lists of the greatest riffs of all time, then counting how many notes each riff was on my fingers…when I hit 12 for Layla, I looked up the sheet music for the riff, noticed the sixteenth notes and dotted quarter right away, and then dug back through the puzzles to find the right notes. Absolutely stellar job and I can’t believe I didn’t notice the hidden notes earlier! Thanks for a phenomenal year, and I can’t wait for 2015 puzzles!

Jeff G.   Hey Pete, outstanding conclusion to a wonderful year of metas! I loved the way it all tied together in the end – brilliant! Took me a while to figure out the notes pointed to the notes I needed, and even longer to figure out the song. The piano lessons for my 13 year old twins finally paid off when they kept playing the notes over and over again until it finally clicked.

Sheep1234   That red herring was so incredibly evil I’m giving it 4 stars.

Alex   ARGH! I had long suspected this was the method, but I don’t know music. Googling ACDFDC after week 6 got me nothing, so I gave up trying. It turns out I should’ve waited till week 7, where ACDFDCD is a dead giveaway!

David Bael   Thanks for a great year of puzzles!

The average user rating was 4.65 stars out of 5, the highest for any MMMM to date! Solvers gave the puzzle a difficulty rating of 3.67 out of 5. This month’s randomly selected winner of an MMMM coffee mug is Abby Braunsdorf of Lafayette, IN.  Since she has previously won, she can elect to receive another mug or contribute a theme entry to a future puzzle.

Thanks for all the great feedback. I had a lot of fun creating the puzzles and I’m glad you enjoyed them! The MMMM will be back in 2015, with 12 monthly puzzles and a mega-meta. There may even be another red herring. The January puzzle will be coming your way January 20, and thereafter on the first Tuesday of the month. The final puzzle will be on the last Tuesday of the year.

Thanks to Matt Gaffney for blogging at Crossword Fiend (where you can rate the puzzle or leave a comment).

Grand Prize Drawing

A total of 39 solvers qualified for this year’s Grand Prize drawing by correctly solving at least 9 of the 13 metas. The drawing will take place before next week.

New this month– I’ve created a few Spotify playlists with selected songs featured in the crosswords. You can access them here by clicking on the links below (you’ll need to sign up for Spotify – free – to access the playlists):

Spotify Playlists:

2014   Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec

Please let me know if you like these and I’ll continue making one every month.

Thanks for playing and see you next year!

2014 MMMM Puzzles
(Click images to enlarge)