2017 Puzzle 12: “Hidden Bonus Track” Solution

The December MMMM challenged solvers to find a famous rock album AND one of the musicians who played on it. Ten of the clues contain a parenthetical number, such as [Violin part (4)] for PEG. The key to solving the meta is realizing that each clue answer is the name or part of the name of a famous rock album track. The number in parentheses indicates the relevant track number, as follows:

(1)   BLACK / COW
(4)   PEG
(5)   HOME / AT LAST
(6)   I GOT / THE NEWS
(7)   JOSIE

What happened to the second track? Well, it’s also the title track of the album in question, Aja, Steely Dan’s 1977 classic. The second part of the meta is a little trickier. The combined clue for HOME RUN is [Something you have to “hit” to fully solve this puzzle’s meta]. Huh? AJA is hidden in the grid, and becomes visible if you remove (or “hit”) an “H” and an “R” from the letters in RAJAH (clued as home-run hitter Rogers Hornsby’s nickname). One step remains. Removing the H and the R also reveals two more hidden entries going across – WALTHER becomes WALTER and BRECKER becomes BECKER. Putting them together gives Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker, who sadly passed away this year.

I was in the studio this weekend (working on my new record!), and realized I needed to quickly learn and lay down a version of “Aja” to meet my goal of performing all of this year’s meta answers. I hope you like it (and that Walter Becker isn’t rolling over in his grave!).


Selected Solver Comments:

Qatsi   There probably aren’t a lot of albums that lend themselves to having all their track titles hidden in a crossword grid. I especially like the way you were able to hide the title track without giving the game away.   I can’t think of another one.

RPardoe   The parenthetical version was MUCH harder primarily because while I had heard of the album, I am NOT familiar with the track listing at all.   The difficult version depended too much on people knowing some of the songs on the album, which is why I made it optional.

ab   My only quibble is the revealer. I mean, you have to strike an RH/HR more than hit a home run, right?   Quibble accepted.

Ira   Beautiful meta and tribute.   Thank you!

bschoner   I thought that RADIODJ might have been cluing Becker’s partner Donald Fagen and “The Nightfly.”   Have to give him some props too!

patanga   I really like it when the answer is music I want to listen to after I solve.   Me too!  I usually put on the meta song while I’m doing the write-up.

Debbie K   I have the original album that I bought in 1977. Still one of my favorites!

Steve Blais   FINALLY!! A 12-for-12 year.   Congrats!

Raygirl   Please don’t stop making these puzzles!!   OK!   (see below)

LB800   Hope we get to hear you do a cut from Aja!   OK!  (see above)


Clues That Could Have Been Musical:

fheaney and Brent Holman suggest cluing REACTION as [“Psychotic ___” (garage rock classic)].

jagoandlitefoot suggests cluing DEACON as [Queen bassist John].

ConvolutED suggests cluing ELLE as [King of rock and soul].

Stribbs and jagoandlitefoot suggest cluing SWANS as [Experimental rock band founded by Michael Gira].



Evan   Fortunately I was wasn’t reelin’ for years after looking at the easy version.

jeremiahsjohnson   Is that an “AJA” moment?

Steve H   Walter Becker played bass on Deacon Blues so Chuck Rainey didn’t quite hit all the bas(s)es.

m5rammy   Walter Becker is the DEWED we want, er dude that is. I had The RAJAH run around the DIAMOND(S), and there he was, the first baseman, er bassist.


A total of 152 people solved the December meta. The average rating for the puzzle was 4.22 stars out of 5, and the average difficulty rating was 2.88. This month’s randomly chosen winner of an MMMM coffee mug is Nathaniel Lee from Pleasanton, CA. 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 for the mega-meta reveal on December 26. Since so many solvers have solved the mega-meta already, there will be a chance to earn an extra bonus point on this final 2017 puzzle. 

One more thing:  This year the MMMM Tip Jar will once again be going to charity. Similar to last year, if we exceed certain targets, I will commit to a 2018 MMMM! More info coming soon.