2016 Mega-Meta: “Hall of Fame” Solution

Hall of Fame

Each year, the MMMM concludes with the mega-meta reveal, a final puzzle that ties the year together. This year the mega-meta is a classic hit song.

Each of the 12 puzzles preceding this one has a single triple-asterisked clue, and solvers were told that these clues have something to do with the 2016 mega-meta. (You can see completed grids for all the 2016 MMMMs, with these entries highlighted in bright green, at the bottom of this write-up.)

The first 11 of these corresponding entries (BAG, BITS, IFFY, WIG, GRITS, WAY, LAP, HOTS, SIT, TIE, and SLY) also show up as the first letters of consecutive clues in the first 11 puzzles of the year. For example, the following table shows how BAG shows up in Down clues for Puzzle 1:


OCTAVE B to B, say
SHALALA Al Green song title that concatenates to the name of a Clinton cabinet member
CAKE TIN Gingerbread house?
APEX Summit


Notice that the clue immediately following the ones for B, A, and G starts with an S. Observant solvers looked for this pattern in subsequent puzzles and ended up spelling S-M-O-K-E-S-C-R-E-E-N. Unfortunately, their trail ended at Puzzle 11. Grrrr! SMOKESCREEN is 2016’s red herring, but it does subtly hint that the key to solving the mega-meta is to use each of the letters of these entries separately.

The final puzzle clarifies this, telling solvers to form INITIAL IMPRESSIONS from the 12 words. In addition to the instruction, the 12 words making a repeat appearance in the final puzzle all have double clues. For example, BAG is clued as [Capture / Show disapproval on Chuck Barris’s show]. The second part of this clue points to “Bang A Gong,” the 1971 hit by T. Rex. The final step is to take the initial letter(s) from the artist/group that performed the song, in this case “T” and “R.” Concatenating these initial letters gives you (The) Tracks of My Tears, the 1965 hit from Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, and the 2016 mega-meta answer. The table below shows all the triple-asterisked entries along with their clues:

BAG Capture / Show disapproval on Chuck Barris’s show Bang A Gong T. Rex
BITS Smithereens / Working again Back In The Saddle Aerosmith
IFFY Questionable / “My condolences” I Feel For You Chaka Khan
WIG Hairpiece / My possessions What I Got Sublime
GRITS Southern dish / Cowboy legend Ghost Riders In The Sky (The) Outlaws
WAY Route / “Our whole life is ahead of us!” We Are Young Fun
LAP Luxurious place? / Supplicatory Like A Prayer Madonna
HOTS Red ___ / Solar core? Heart Of The Sunrise Yes
SIT Pose / Immigrant? Stranger In Town Toto
TIE Draw / Relax Take It Easy (The) Eagles
SLY Clever / A clone? Someone Like You Adele
BOB Float / Ox Beast Of Burden (The) Rolling Stones


What about the puzzle’s title, “Hall of Fame” – what’s going on with that? Observant solvers noticed that the initials for “Tracks of My Tears” are TOM T, a potential entry that could be appropriately clued as [Hall of fame].

People really seemed to love this puzzle and I got great feedback – thanks! Many thanks to those of you who have put money in the Tip Jar this year. I’ll get all of the appreciation, but 100% of what you donate will be given to Math for America. I’ve received just under $500 from 25 people so far – thank you! I’m still contemplating the form of the 2017 MMMM  – I will announce that, along with the Grand Prize winner, next week. If the Tip Jar breaks $1,000 (all to charity) or more than 50 people donate, I will definitely do another full year.

Seven solvers solved the mega-meta before this puzzle was published, a truly impressive feat. Here are the seven solvers (and the months they solved the puzzle in): Jangler (July), Veep (August), Brian Cross (August), Mike Berman (October), Brent Holman (December), Jasters (December), and eowynfate (December). Congratulations! In addition, 83 more solvers solved this puzzle, making a total of 90 to get the answer this month.

The average solver rating for the puzzle was the highest of the year, at 4.64 out of 5 stars, and it clocked in at a difficulty of 4.04 out of 5. This month’s randomly chosen winner of an MMMM coffee mug is Ray Hunley of Manassas, VA. Thanks as always to Matt Gaffney for blogging the puzzle at Crossword Fiend, where you can rate the puzzle and/or leave a comment. I really appreciate people taking the time and rating the puzzle – thanks!


Selected Solver Comments:

AK   Dang! I had this answer back in July or August but couldn’t tie it all together to be confident enough to send!!!!!   If this happens again, send in your guess. Downside is only a 1-point penalty!

Steve Blais   How in the heck did anyone solve this ahead of time?   Quite a few people who didn’t solve the puzzle emailed that they understood the mechanism, but hadn’t gotten enough of the songs correct until the final puzzle. There are a lot of choices for some of them.

Cruciverbalicious   This was one of the most fun metas I’ve ever solved!   Thank you!!!

sharkicicles   Wow, that was awesome.

LuckyGuest   Well worth the 12 months it had consumed me…

RPardoe   …nice use of T.Rex for TR and Chaka Khan for CK to avoid looking for 12 letter titles.   I chose a song that wasn’t 12 letters in length to make guessing harder.

mmurphy   Perhaps an apt description for all the metas I messed up or just missed this year.

xhixen   Funny enough, TOMT is my first name & last initial.

ErnieBucket   Did you know that you can form the phrase “A BIG RAP HIT, YO” by selecting a letter from each tri-star clue (in chronological order!)? That did not help.  Entirely coincidental, I assure you.

Chris Popp   …any puzzle that gets me back into listening to Smokey Robinson is a winner!

David Bael   Thanks for another phenomenal year of puzzles! Please keep ’em coming!   I hope to be able to – thanks!



Redhead64   I originally had Prince as the artist who did “I Feel For You”, but that made it “TraPs of my Tears” which obviously wasn’t right (unless there’s a device out there that somehow ensnares teardrops…)

m5rammy   I guess I totally missed the red herring, but the mega-meta answer was kind of Smokey.

Heavy_B   Well, no mater how closely I looked, this one wasn’t easy to trace. Well done!

Howard B   Take a good look at my meta… Wow, this was very clever!


Grand Prize drawing:

The 2016 Leaderboard is posted here. The 2016 Grand Prize drawing winner will be posted in a week. A total of 93 subscribers solved at least 9 of the 13 puzzles and qualified for the drawing.

Finally, a big thanks to Frank Longo, Charles Montpetit, and Susan Keefer for help in editing, fact-checking, and brainstorming. I couldn’t have done it without you!

I really appreciate all the encouraging feedback I’ve gotten this year. Thanks for playing!

2016 MMMM Puzzles
(Click any puzzle to enlarge it)