2019 Mega-Meta: “The Dark Side” Solution

Each year the MMMM features a mega-meta, hidden across all 12 monthly puzzles. This year’s mega-meta was a famous rock song.

This puzzle, the mega-meta reveal, provides an additional prompt: The 2019 mega-meta is a famous rock song whose title describes what I did 12 times to my copy of this grid before I wrote the clues (thanks to Francis Heaney, who suggested this meta phrasing). Filling in the grid was challenging, as many of the clues didn’t make sense unless you left one or two squares blank. For example, the answer to [Stuttered syllable at the beginning of a big Bowie hit] is _ _CH, and [Some extra-base hits] are TRIPLE_S.

After finishing the grid, you had to figure out that there are 12 instances of contiguous blank squares that can be filled with the letters “IT” and still make a valid crossword. That leaves a lot of possibilities for the meta answer: “Leave It Alone,” “Beat It,” “Shake It Off,” “Work It Out,” etc. Which one to choose?

Observant solvers also noticed that all of the triple-asterisked entries (one for each of the 12 MMMM puzzles this year) are in the grid, and in order. When you remove the “IT” from these entries you get the following: CH-OO-SE-TO-PT-E-NS-T-O-NES-SON-G, or “CHOOSE TOP TEN STONES SONG.” There’s only one Rolling Stones song that works and was a legitimate Top Ten hit, and that’s this year’s mega-meta answer, Paint It Black.

A big shout-out goes to the earliest 2019 mega-meta solvers: tabstop got it after only three puzzles, george and LL after four, and Leslie and Jerry Miccololis after five.


Meta Song


Red Herring

There was a nasty red herring in the first eight puzzles. The clues to the triple-asterisked entries in those puzzles all contained a year, and exactly one other clue in the puzzle also contained the same year, as shown in red in the table below. The first letters of those entries spelled out T-U-R-N-B-A-C-K or TURN BACK, and the ninth puzzle clued ITO as [“How was ___  know that was a red herring?!”]. As I said, it was nasty! But at best it provided a temporary setback for the 185 solvers who managed to crack the mega-meta before this puzzle came out. Congrats to all of you – well done! There were 141 incorrect guesses, some from solvers who eventually got to the correct answer. See the bottom of the page for more red herring details.


Selected Solver Comments:

Maggie W.   Oh, you bastard! (And I say that in the most bastard-positive sense.) That was one heck of a red herring.  Why thank you!

genefaba   Don’t know how those that got it after a couple months did it.  It wasn’t too hard to deduce that the word IT needed to be in the song title. From there some educated guessing was likely involved. Some of the early solvers guessed a few times before they got it, but given the scoring system, that was well worth it.

pxofferson   Fingers crossed … never successfully solved the mega-meta before!   Congrats!

slubduck   Another great year Pete, the quality of the puzzles is unmatched, in my opinion. Thank you!

Mr. Sparkles   I really enjoyed my initial frustration when solving the puzzle.   I aim to please.

lhj   Hard to believe this song is more than 50 years old.

ASB   Brilliant finish. Difficult, even though I knew the answer!

ERO   Will there be a 2020 MMMM??   Yes!


Alternative Music Clues:

Charles Montpetit suggests cluing PEN as [“Addict With a ___” (Twenty One Pilots hit)].

Evan suggests cluing SLAM as [1993 Onyx hit with the lyric “Make noise, b-boys”].



Abide   Hopefully my 19th Nervous Breakdown is over….

dpl11   Getting this correct would surely give me a lot of Satisfaction.

Laurabrarian   If I look hard enough into the settin’ sun / My love will laugh with me before the MMMM comes

haverwench   Probably should have guessed IT sooner…


A total of 260 solvers found their way to the correct answer this month. The average rating for the puzzle was 4.40 stars, and the average difficulty rating was 3.64. This month’s randomly chosen winner of an MMMM coffee mug is Beth Albers from Beaver, PA. Thanks to Matt Gaffney for blogging the puzzle at Crossword Fiend, where you can rate the puzzle (thanks!) and/or leave a comment.


The updated 2019 Leaderboard has been posted. Please let me know if you think your score is not correct. A total of 123 people have qualified for the Grand Prize drawing by getting the mega-meta early and at least eight other metas this year. Congratulations! The drawing will take place this coming week and the winner will be announced on January 7th.

I’m pleased to announce there will be a 2020 MMMM, and the first puzzle of the year will be coming your way January 14th. Thanks for all your kind words inspiring me to do this for another year, and for being part of the MMMM community!


2019 MMMM Puzzles
(click images to enlarge)


2019 Red Herring

Entry Clue Red Herring Clue
ITCH “The Seven Year ___” (1955 movie) TON One of 16 in a 1955 Tennessee Ernie Ford song
ITOO “Am ___ Blue” (1988 Lucinda Williams song) USED “___ to Love Her” (1988 Guns N’ Roses song)
SITE www.pmxwords.com, e.g., since 2012 REX “Partysaurus ___” (2012 Pixar short film)
TITO European leader on the cover of “Life” in 1949 NATO Defense gp. since 1949
PITT Oscar nominee for “Moneyball” in 2012 BOISE Home to the Treefort Music Fest since 2012
ITE Suffix first used with “krypton” on a radio series in 1943 ALEUT Islander captured before the 1943 Battle of Attu
NITS Hoops competitions since 1938, for short CAN “Now It ___ Be Told” (1938 Irving Berlin song)
ITT Tech school that declared bankruptcy in 2016 KEN 2016 Hall of Fame inductee ___ Griffey Jr.
ITO “How was ___ know that was a red herring?!”