2018 Puzzle 9: “Borderline Crazy” Solution

The September MMMM challenged solvers to find a song from the ’00s whose title has less than 10 letters. The clues for 1-Across and 1-Down are a little unusual:

CUTEX   [Nail care brand since 1911 (1)]
CHOOS   [Jimmy ___ (alternative to Manolo Blahniks) (2)]

The first step in the search (suggested by the puzzle title and the (1) and (2) in the clues) involves looking along the puzzle borders to find instructions. Doing this yields:



The next step is to find all the entries that contain “EX” and rearrange (or anagram) the leftover letters. The five “EX” entries are CUTEX, EXITS, VEX, EXON, and EXHALE, and the leftovers are {C U T I T S V O N H A L E}. There are 13 letters (or 10 if you exclude CUTEX which is in the instructions – incorrect but a plausible hypothesis), so there must be one more step before we find a song by the Script with less than 10 letters.

And there is. The letters above anagram to “CUT INTO HALVES,” which points to the Script song Breakeven, this month’s meta answer. The song features the repeated line “I’m falling to pieces,” which also relates to the puzzle title. (And it’s a song the lead singer is singing about his “EX.”)

Anagramming 13 letters is challenging (Darrell shared with me that he stumbled upon LIVE TACOS HUNT, COUNT THE VIALS, and another very unprintable anagram before throwing in the towel). A number of people got to the answer by back-solving. The Script only have four song titles in the ’00s with less than 10 letters, and only two of them received much airplay.


Meta Song:

I took a stripped-down approach to “Breakeven.”  Hope you like it!


Selected Solver Comments:

Ked_Ki   I really enjoyed this one!

docison   Nice multilayered meta!   Thanks!

Laura M   It would have helped if I had any clue about music from the 00s and could recognize The Script as a band name, but that’s my own problem 🙂

touchdown   Brilliant! Although how did you ever find The Script? And how did you come up with the idea?  I was familiar with the band and song before building the puzzle – but the constraints on a puzzle like this are so great that I had to let the grid tell me what would work. SHANIA (Twain) would have also worked in the spot where SCRIPT was, but I couldn’t find a way to point to one of her songs.

Gwinns   The border message was amazing. Then I had to backsolve an anagram starting from what Wikipedia tells me is the only semi-famous song from a band I had never heard of.   I heard from a surprising number of solvers who do not enjoy anagramming.  Message received!

Jonesy   Without the clue (ie the numbers on one down and across) would’ve been much harder but I think still doable!   If this puzzle were slated for November, I would have omitted those numbers.


Clues That Could Have Been Musical:

Redhead64 suggests cluing TIP as [Q-___ (“Vivrant Thing” rapper)]

Evan suggests cluing REN as [Cartoon dog who dances to the song “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” while wearing the Happy Helmet].

Stribbs suggests cluing FLAXEN with a reference to Debussy’s “The Girl With the Flaxen Hair.”



Beth A   This puzzle drove me borderline crazy because I knew almost right away what I was expected to do, but then had trouble with execution. I needed my experience, expertise, and extra googling! It was excruciating until I solved it, but now it’s exquisite!

billkatz   My favorite anagram of the required letters is “naive sloth” – someone has to smarten up those sloths!

Jesse Lansner   I removed EX from the ends of the words Now I’m tryna make sense of what little remains.

Laurabrarian   What am I supposed to do when the best part of MMMMe was always you?


A total of 100 solvers found their way to the correct answer this month, the lowest total of the year. The average rating for the puzzle was 3.97 stars out of 5, and the average difficulty rating was 4.35, by far the highest of the year. This month’s randomly chosen winner of an MMMM coffee mug is Jared Dashoff  from Washington DC. Thanks to Matt Gaffney for blogging the puzzle at Crossword Fiend, where you can rate the puzzle (thanks!) and/or leave a comment.

A total of 33 people have solved the mega-meta so far, with three months to go in the 2018 contest.

Thanks for playing and see you next month!