2020 Puzzle 5: “That Which Should Not Be Said” Solution

The May MMMM challenged solvers to find a singer whose name is 14 letters long. The title, “That Which Should Not Be Said,” comes into play twice. First, it’s an indicator that one should look for silent letters. But in which words? There are four obvious theme entries, and it turns out the seven-letter middle entries are themers as well. If this puzzle had run earlier in the year, those entries would have been starred to make it easier.

The first words of the theme entries – MUSCLE TENSION, SOPHOMORE YEAR, GUESS SO, SIGN FOR, TRAGICALLY HIP, and FEBRUARY STARS – contain the following silent letters in order: C-O-U-G-A-R. There’s a little ambiguity here, as pronunciations vary, and some silent letters are not 100% clear (e.g., is the “E” at the end of MUSCLE or the second “S” in GUESS silent?). This provides an extra challenge, which, as you can see in the comments below, some people liked more than others!

The second step involves remembering (or googling) a singer who once used “Cougar” as part of his stage name – and that’s John Mellencamp, this month’s meta answer. Mellencamp started his career as Johnny Cougar, then went to John Cougar, then John Cougar Mellencamp, and finally just John Mellencamp. So not using “Cougar” anymore is the second way “That Which Should Not Be Said” comes into play.

Meta Song:

I recruited my kids again to have a little fun with this one. I’m joined by Jazzly Moné (yes, that’s her real name) and Whools on the guitar and background vocals.


Selected Solver Comments:

rachaar   This was a GREAT a-ha moment. Grinning hugely right now.

I. K. Snamhcok   Fun! And clever in the way the title and mechanism tie so tightly.

Kranke   Raspberries to this one. Seven letters didn’t stand out as long fill. And silent letters aren’t necessarily consistent.   Thanks – I like to hear when people don’t like a puzzle too!

Stribbs   Maybe I’m stuffy but I definitely pronounce the second o in sophomore and the first r in February.

Ben Kramer   LOL-ed on this when Cougar came into view. These silent letter puzzles are so subjective with regional pronunciations, but this one was worth the payoff.

billkatz   Back when I was a disk jockey on WBRK (and chief engineer) he was still Johnny Cougar.   Very cool!

PTJefe   My first MMMM! Fun!   Welcome!


Alternative Music Clues:

pbfrommn suggests cluing BONER as [“Gary’s Got a ___” (Replacements song)].

Gwinns suggests cluing IT’S ME as [Part of a greeting in a Todd Rundgren title].

Redhead64 suggests cluing HAND as [“The ___ That Feeds” (Nine Inch Nails’ second Top 40 hit)].

Evan suggests cluing RAUL as [Grammy-nominated jazz musician Midón], NIGER as [Festival on the ___ (music festival held on the banks of a major river in Mali)], and OTERI as [She impersonated Lauper and Morissette on SNL during the 1990s].

Beanbag Amerika suggests cluing SOPHOMORE YEAR as [First line of “Fall of the Star High School Running Back” by the Mountain Goats].



Steve Blais   This was so good it hurt.

TMart   Nobody likes to be called a cougar!

Laurabrarian   Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of solvin’ is gone.

mlangschwager   Truly a “Hurts So Good” moment! M.M.M.M. in the U.S.A. yeah, yeah! Puzzlin’ in the U.S.A!


A total of 231 solvers found their way to the correct answer this month. The average rating for the puzzle was 4.03 stars out of 5, and the average difficulty rating was 3.00. This month’s randomly chosen winner of an MMMM coffee mug is Alex Buckmelter from Acton, MA. 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 next month!