2023 Mega-Meta: “Back to the Beginning” Solution

The 2023 mega-meta challenged solvers to find two songs from the ‘70s. I’ll describe the mechanism hidden in the 12 monthly puzzles below. This puzzle, the mega-meta reveal, provides an alternate path to the solution using a similar mechanism.

Two Across clues reference a “lyric from a XXXX song,” and six Down clues reference a “song lyric from XXXX.”

For example, KEEP is clued as [“Booze and ladies, ___ me right” (lyric from a 1973 song)], a lyric from “We’re an American Band.”

Solvers were told that they had to NAME THAT TUNE [1950s game show rebooted in the 1970s (mega-meta step 1)] and then asked, MAY I HAVE A WORD [“Can we talk?” (mega-meta step 2, twice)].

As shown in the table below, finding the appropriate song and choosing the right (highlighted) word gives two new song titles, namely this year’s mega-meta answers, American Pie and I’d Love to Change the World.


Click + to see the relevant clues in this puzzle.


KEEP [“Booze and ladies, ___ me right” (lyric from a 1973 song)] WE’RE AN AMERICAN BAND
CAKE [“That body looking nice, I got ___ and I know he want a slice” (lyric from a 2022 song)] SWEETEST PIE



SEE [“So you ___ I love you so much, and I don’t want to watch you leave me babe” (song lyric from 1967)] I’D RATHER GO BLIND
ROOM [“The breathing gets harder; even I know that. Made ___ for me” (song lyric from 2007)] LOVE SONG
DAYS [“And then the cold came, the dark ___ when fear crept into my mind” (song lyric from 2010)] BACK TO DECEMBER
LONG [“There been times that I thought I couldn’t last for ___” (song lyric from 1964)] A CHANGE IS GONNA COME
DEVA [“Jai Guru ___, Om” (song lyric from 1969)] ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
GIG [“Strange, where were you when we started this ___?” (song lyric from 1998)] REAL WORLD


Why these two songs? A few solvers who have been with the MMMM since we started understood the connection. “American Pie” was the first-ever mega-meta, back in 2012. Only a few people got it that year, so I thought it fair game to bring it back slightly more than Ten Years After (the band that did “I’d Love to Change the World”).

Congratulations to the 50 people who solved the mega-meta before this puzzle came out, earning bonus points and increasing their chance to make it to the Grand Prize drawing. First was LL in June, and then Hector, jefe, Rocklounder2424, gpagano, Steve Williams, and Jds in July. How’d they do it?

Each of the 12 monthly puzzles contained two relevant clues, one with “song lyric from XXXX” and the other with “lyric from a XXXX song.” These clues would usually contain an artist name, but in these cases, they didn’t. For example, January’s puzzle contained EYE [“Slip inside the ___ of your mind” (song lyric from 1996)] and TREE [“A ___ can grow right through a rock” (lyric from a 1976 song)]. The two songs indicated are “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis and “If I Don’t Have You” by Orleans. Oasis and Orleans both start with the same letter, and this is true for each artist pair in the 12 puzzles. Those letters in order spell out O-N-E-W-O-R-D-A-T-U-N-E or ONE WORD A TUNE.

The next step is to select the appropriate word from each song to spell out two sets of song lyrics. As shown in the table below, you can make “Don’t know what to do so I’ll leave it up to you” and “I can still remember how that music used to make me smile,” which leads to the mega-meta answers.


Click + to show the full set of mega-meta clues.

I’d Love to Change the World (“Don’t know what to do, so I’ll leave it up to you”)

EYE [“Slip inside the ___ of your mind” (song lyric from 1996)] Oasis Don’t Look Back in Anger
HIDE [“I no longer have to ___” (song lyric from 2002)] Nirvana You Know You’re Right
SIN [“I’ve seen a good man ___” (song lyric from 1998)] Everlast What It’s Like
DUG [“I ___ you so much, I took some for the team” (song lyric from 2009)] Weezer (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
STORM [“So you were born in an electrical ___” (song lyric from 2005)] OK Go Do What You Want
ZONE [“I think she was born in an arctic ___” (song lyric from 1980)] Rolling Stones She’s So Cold
THAT [“Anything ___ you need, you know, it’s only a touch away” (song lyric from 1989)] Taylor Dayne I’ll Be Your Shelter
HARD [“Awkwardly stretching and yawning, it’s always ___ in the morning” (song lyric from 2006)] Arctic Monkeys Leave Before the Lights Come On
CAUSE [“Don’t pick our destiny, ___ you don’t know us” (song lyric from 1984)] Twisted Sister We’re Not Gonna Take It
MAMA [“My ___ told me ‘Be careful who you do ’cause karma comes back around'” (song lyric from 2005)] Usher Caught Up
LOVE [“I was born to ___ her and I will never be free” (song lyric from 1983)] Naked Eyes Always Something There to Remind Me
NOW [“Had all I can take, ___ I’m leaving …” (song lyric from 1985)] Eurythmics Would I Lie to You?


American Pie (“I can still remember how that music used to make me smile”)

TREE [“A ___ can grow right through a rock” (lyric from a 1976 song)] Orleans If I Don’t Have You
COAT [“Baby, take off your ___” (lyric from a 1972 song)] Randy Newman You Can Leave Your Hat On
ANGEL [“Do you want to be an ___, do you want to be a star?” (lyric from a 1973 song)] Emerson, Lake, and Palmer Still … You Turn Me On
ARMS [“Sun on the rise, the highs are gonna fall, but nothing is different in my ___” (lyric from a 2021 song)] Jessie Ware Remember Where You Are
THAT [“I get ___ drunk sex feeling, yeah, when I’m with you” (lyric from a 2012 song)] Rita Ora How We Do (Party)
ONE [“___ of these days, maybe your magic won’t affect me” (lyric from a 2007 song)] Rihanna Hate That I Love You
IS A [“What the people need ___ way to make ’em smile” (lyric from a 1972 song)] Doobie Brothers Listen to the Music
SEE [“… won’t ___ no tears, they all dried up yesterday” (lyric from a 2018 song)] Anne-Marie Used to Love You
DOOR [“I’m not ashamed to come and plead to you, baby, if pleadin’ keeps you from walkin’ out that ___” (lyric from a 1966 song)] Temptations Ain’t Too Proud to Beg
TAKE [“Don’t have to always be right, let me ___ some of the punches” (lyric from a 2005 song)] U2 Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own
I’VE [“And ___ been wrong, ___ been down, been to the bottom of ev’ry bottle” (lyric from a 2001 song)] Nickelback How You Remind Me
TRUE [“Please believe it’s ___ when I tell you I love you” (lyric from a 1993 song)] Gloria Estefan I See Your Smile


This puzzle also revealed this year’s red herring, a former record label, to be APPLE RECORDS [Lennon’s label, once (and the MMMM red herring)]. Apple Records has not issued any new material since 2009! The first puzzle of the year clued YOU as [“Addicted to ___” (song by an EDM artist who left us in 2018)]. Each of the next four puzzles had a clue worded similarly, as shown in the table below. The first letter of each of these artists spell out A-P-P-L-E, or the defunct label APPLE RECORDS.

Click + to reveal the red herring clues.


YOU [“Addicted to ___” (song by an EDM artist who left us in 2018)] AVICII
RED [“Little ___ Corvette” (song by an R&B/funk artist who left us in 2016)] PRINCE
NEED [“I ___ to Know” (song by a rock artist who left us in 2017)] TOM PETTY
COAL [“___ Miner’s Daughter” (song by a country artist who left us in 2022)] LORETTA LYNN
HOOD [“Boyz-n-the-___” (song by a rap artist who left us in 1995)] EAZY-E


Mega-Meta Songs:

Of course I had to cover both of them! Here’s a solo version of “American Pie,” and the Kindred Souls hippied out and covering “I’d Love to Change the World.”


Selected Solver Comments:


Chris Popp   Total masterpiece! Thanks for this one and all this year’s gems.   Thank you!

gpagano   Referencing the very first year of the MMMM, and a band called Ten Years After for the extra throwback…Here’s hoping for another year of these!    Ask and you shall receive!

samkat9   This was tough, but satisfying!

Rocklouder2424   Your construction never ceases to amaze me.   Thanks!

QScott   Two of my fave songs of the 70s   Mine too!

ky-mike   Hopefully you will cover both songs at the end of the contest.   But of course!

LB800   I had the phrase months ago and it took me this long to crack it!! And I know EVERY SINGLE WORD of American Pie!! Absolutely LOVED this entire year. Thanks so much for the fun. Pete!  Aw, thanks. I love creating these!


Alternative Music Clues:

EasyNow suggests cluing FORD as [“___ ev’ry stream, follow ev’ry rainbow, till you find your dream” (lyric from a song featured in a 1959 musical that was later adapted into a Best Picture-winning film)].

pbfrommn, on the other hand, suggests [“___ Econoline” (Nanci Griffith song)] for FORD and cluing TOP HAT as [1935 film featuring the #1 hit song “Cheek to Cheek”].

Evan suggests cluing IRAQ as [Birthplace of the oud player Naseer Shamma], and has a third choice for FORD: [Glam rocker Lita].



Mikey G   And that’s a McLean sweep!


Totals this month:

142 correct (50 before this puzzle), 53 incorrect

Rating:   4.43 out of 5 stars (4.61 from early solvers)

Difficulty:   4.03 (4.33 from early solvers)

Red Herring solvers:   124

Monthly mug winner:  Jen Daly from Albany, CA (again!)

Thanks to Matt Gaffney for blogging the puzzle at Crossword Fiend, where you can rate the puzzle (thanks!) and/or leave a comment.

Thanks to Tamara Brenner for the graphic.


Grand Prize drawing:

The 2023 Leaderboard has been posted. Please let me know if you think your score is not correct. A total of 105 people have qualified for the Grand Prize drawing by getting the mega-meta early and at least eight other metas this year, or the mega-meta plus 10 other metas.  Congratulations! The drawing will take place this coming week and the winner will be announced on January 2, a week before the first MMMM of 2024 comes out.


Thanks for all your kind words inspiring me to do this for another year, and for being part of the MMMM community!


2023 MMMM Puzzles
(Click images to enlarge)