2022 Puzzle 7: “Six Characters in Search of a Pop Song” Solution

The July meta challenged solvers to find one of Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” The clue for the combined entry FLIP THE SWITCH [… replace something, metaphorically, and what literally to do to solve this puzzle’s meta] was intended to show the path forward. But the puzzle proved to be much harder than I intended, and after two days, only two solvers (JanglerNPL and LL) had found their way to the solution. Yikes! Even the November puzzle shouldn’t be this hard!

I offered an optional hint, and 280 solvers took me up on it. The hint reads as follows: The letters S-W-I-T-C-H need to be changed in the puzzle in six places to make new words.

This certainly makes things easier. But there’s still the issue of figuring out which S, W, I, T, C, and H to change. The entry point for many was changing WREATH to BREATH, since there are only two W’s in the puzzle and the other one is in SWITCH. For others, the insight came from realizing POLITE and POLICE are one letter apart, and then searching the Rolling Stone list, which only has one song by the Police (“Roxanne” was on the 2010 list but isn’t on the current one).

As shown on the grid above, the solution involves changing the letters in six words as follows:



Putting it together gives you the classic Every Breath You Take by the Police, this month’s meta answer.

The July meta proved to be one of the more controversial MMMMs, for a couple of reasons. First, even though the letters in SWITCH that were changed appeared in the grid in order, the song title appeared horizontally and the band vertically. Some considered this artistic, while others cried foul. Second, the changed letters didn’t work for the crossing words. This added an additional layer of difficulty, which some found challenging and fun, and others unfair.

Where’d you come out this month?


Meta Song:

The Kindred Souls recorded our second cover album earlier this year (it will be released in early 2023), and this is one of the tracks. Enjoy!


Selected Solver Comments:

docison   Not sure how people found the path without the hint. My hat is off to them.

I. K. Snamhcok   Hard, but with hint, do-able — and very fun!

Kitchendiva   All six words in the grid. How cool. And now I cannot unsee it. Why did we find it so difficult? No idea.

Don E   I had to reverse-solve this one when I saw WREATH could change to BREATH

pxofferson   What a workout!

BenChen71   It might have been easier if the letter changes had worked in both directions.


Alternative Music Clues:

Evan suggests cluing RAN as [“And I ___, I ___ so far away” (A Flock of Seagulls lyric)] and DOT as [Musical score marking that indicates a staccato note].



Schoonbach   Every breath I took…every move I made…every single day (this week) was spent solving this one. Can’t wait to hear your cover of this song!

jps   I guess I’m a “Crying” “Loser” but would like to know “What’s Goin’ On”.

Steamed Hamms   This puzzle really Stung without the hint.

Gezi   I really wanted to claim a stake to solving this without the clue. I needed the clue; my poor heart breaks.

Spelvin   Until I asked for the hint, the answer and I lacked Synchronicity.

kurtalert   At Last! (Etta James, 1960) The meta has been solved. I tried to be Stronger (Kanye, 2007) than this, but I finally admitted that I needed you to Help Me (Joni Mitchell, 1974) Beat It (Michael Jackson, 1982). I tried to Work It (Missy Elliot, 2000) so many different ways and I nearly ended up Crying (Roy Orbison, 1962) in the corner. I thought that maybe I would Get Lucky (Daft Punk, 2013) and the answer would come to me in my Dreams (Fleetwood Mac, 1977) but, alas, days later, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (U2, 1987). Major Respect (Aretha Franklin, 1967) to my two Heroes (David Bowie, 1977) JanglerNPL and LL, who were able to solve this without the extra hint- I Stan (Eminem, 2000) you two. Pete, congratulations, You Really Got Me (Kinks, 1964) this month.


A total of 180 solvers found their way to the correct answer this month, but I suspect only a handful without the hint. The average rating for the puzzle was 3.5 stars out of 5, and the average difficulty rating was 4.82, the highest ever for an MMMM. I’m still tracking down which solvers took a hint. Once that’s sorted, I’ll announce the mug winner. 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!