2014 Puzzle 5: “Backup Singers” Solution

Backup SingersMay’s MMMM, “Backup Singers,” asked solvers to find a guitarist who could serve as the puzzle’s final theme entry. RED AS A BEET, CHERRY BOMB, and FASHION OBSESSED are the three longest entries in the grid, and the theme entries. The fourth-longest entry, ENCLOSURE, stretches across the center of the grid, and hints at what is going on.

Four singers, SADE, MOBY, BONO, and DIDO, are located symmetrically, and each one has the word “singer” in its clue. SADE is “enclosed” in RED AS A BEET, BONO in FASHION OBSESSED, and MOBY in CHERRY BOMB, all going “back up.” DIDO is conspicuously missing, and so the fourth theme entry must be a guitar player whose name contains DIDO backwards. A little searching gives one the meta answer, BO DIDDLEY.

I considered putting asterisks on the clues for the three theme entries to make them easier to spot, but decided to throw in a little extra difficulty. This gave some folks trouble, but not the 113 solvers who got the correct answer this month. There were 19 incorrect answers. A few people missed the final step and submitted DIDO, and a dozen or so guessed famous guitarists (Slash, Chuck Berry, and Prince were popular). One solver guessed “Anthony Ocaña” (GUANACO is in the grid), another came up with “Scott Ian” (NAIROBI is in the grid), and a third came up with “Warren Haynes,” which contains ENYA backwards (unfortunately ENYA is not in the grid). All of them are creative attempts, but too flawed to serve as alternate solutions.

Some user comments:

Nice one! I especially like “enclosure” in the center   Brent Holman  (thanks for noticing!)

Finally a meta suitable for my age group  Eduardo  (I’m guessing last month’s puzzle wasn’t as big a hit with him)

That is a nice concept! I chisELED Away at this one until I worked out first the theme, then the remaining singers, then the final answer.   Howard B

I had NO IDea that MichAEL Flatley and Taylor dAYNE even played the guitar.   Pancho 

I spent a large portion of the puzzle saying “is 1D really going to be ASS?” Simon McA  (ABS was clued as [Often-admired body part on Gwen Stefani])

Clues that could have been musical department:

Veep points out that SKYS could have been clued referencing the best-selling Temptations album with “Just My Imagination” on it, “Sky’s the Limit.”

Heavy_B suggests cluing ALIMONY as the [1988 Weird Al parody].

Robert H suggests [Site of Bob Marley’s first concert in Africa] for NAIROBI and [Home of indie rock band Ewert and The Two Dragons] for ESTONIA.

The randomly chosen winner of an MMMM coffee mug this month is Jimmy Williams from Elgin, IL. The average user rating for the puzzle was 4.15 stars out of 5 (the highest so far this year!) with a slightly below-average difficulty rating of 2.9 out of 5. Thanks to Matt Gaffney for blogging the puzzle at Crossword Fiend.

Thanks for playing and see you next month!