2017 Puzzle 11: “Number Please” Solution

The November MMMM asked solvers to find “an R&B group.” The puzzle lacks any obvious theme entries, but many solvers quickly noticed that five grid answers are band names missing a number, as follows:


The letters in the grid occupying the squares with those five numbers (1, 5, 20, 21, and 38) spell out T-S-F-F-Q. That can’t be it??!? At that point, many got stuck. The key to getting unstuck is realizing you need to use the full grid entries corresponding to each of the above numbers, not just the letters. And in three cases you had to choose between the Across and Down entry:

1-Across TURN   (not 1-Down TECS)
5-Across SPOT   (not 5-Down SHOES)
20-Down FOR
21-Across FAMOUS
38-Across QUARTET    (not 38-Down QR CODES)

The correctly selected entries spell out TURN SPOT FOR FAMOUS QUARTET. Turning SPOT, in a cryptic sense, gives TOPS, and points to the famous quartet that is this month’s meta answer: The Four Tops.

Some solvers noticed the cryptic nudge in the clue for TURN, which references the April MMMM (that puzzle involved turning around different beats in the theme answers). Only 128 people found their way to the solution this month, the lowest total of the year.


Meta song:
This month I chose to cover a Four Tops cover. They had a hit with “Walk Away Renee” in 1968. My version is based on a Rickie Lee Jones live recording that I highly recommend checking out. Hope you like it!


Selected Solver Comments:

m5rammy   So hard, and yet so straight-forward. very nice.

Raygirl   This was a great aha moment. Got the bands quickly but then what? After hitting a dead end with initials I started to look at the words. I was just saying “Turn spot for famous quartet” over and over and thinking 180? U-ey Abbey Road? And then…

Diana   The clue for 1A was perfect for solving the meta.  1A is TURN; see above for explanation.

jsolomon1999   I guess the grid is too small for BLINK or HAIRCUT.   I did consider using LEVEL 42, but figured they weren’t as well known.

BarbaraK   I was actually thinking about the Four Tops early on, because HOUSEtop, BOXtop, FLATtop, and UPtop. That did not seem up to your usual standard of elegance though. So I kept looking. And I’m glad I did. Turning SPOT was lovely!

Gwinns   Only thing I’d wish for is some sort of Jackson 5 trap (could 1D be TITO?) since the 4 Tops is the only other R&B group with a number that leaps to mind.   That would be devious! A few people got lucky and guessed the correct answer this month.


Clues That Could Have Been Musical:

Evan suggests cluing PEREZ as [Bandleader Prado nicknamed King of the Mambo] and MARATHON as [Rush song that begins “It’s not how fast you can go / The force goes into the flow”].

Redhead64 suggests cluing SWAMPED as [Lacuna Coil song featured in the soundtrack to “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”].

fheaney suggests cluing PADDY as [McAloon of Prefab Sprout].



JanglerNPL   Normally I don’t include a punny comment, but this time I can’t help myself.   That’s alright, sugar pie honey bunch.

Abide   Spot on!

Paul Coulter   THE best! FOUR Stars (out of 4) It was the TOPS!


The average rating for the puzzle was 4.37 stars out of 5, second-highest of the year, and the average difficulty rating was 3.83, the highest of the year. This month’s randomly chosen winner of an MMMM coffee mug is David Erb from London, England. Thanks to Matt Gaffney for blogging the puzzle at Crossword Fiend, where you can rate the puzzle (thanks!) and/or leave a comment.

Thanks for playing and see you in a month!