puzzle 8:30, meta 6 minutes (Matt)
Welcome to the eighth edition of the Muller Monthly Music Meta. Pete promised a tough puzzle and meta, and evidently delivered: as of Friday the number of correct entries was in the very low two digits.
Instructions asked for a record label that never released a Beatles album. Curious phrasing! Let’s see what we’ve got.
The theme entries are straightforward: five songs by the Fab Four, clued only with their albums:
17-a [Song from "A Hard Day's Night"] = TELL ME WHY. Hmm, just YouTubed this and not sure I’ve ever heard it. Heard of it, though.
24-a [Song from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"] is SHE’S LEAVING HOME.
39-a [Song from "Beatles for Sale"] = NO REPLY.
53-a [Song from "Beatles for Sale"] = I’LL FOLLOW THE SUN. Lovely little song.
62-a [Song from "The White Album"] = I’M SO TIRED.
So the first thing I noticed is that this is a pretty random collection of Beatles songs; non-fans may not even recognize any of these five. And there doesn’t appear to be much potential for wordplay, since all fifteen words used in these five titles are very common and contain none of the five Scrabbliest letters. So it seems they were chosen because they satisfy some other other requirement (along with handily fitting symmetrically in the grid).
Surprise ending for my story here, as I (for once) spent a minute parsing the title like you’re supposed to and thereby uncovered the meta right away: “Keyword Search” is the puzzle’s title, so I wondered: could the key here be the key these five songs are written in? Yes, as it turned out!
Googling the first two revealed that “Tell Me Why” is written in the key of D, and “She’s Leaving Home” in E. I was sure the next three would be in C, C and A, and they were. This spells out meta answer DECCA Records, the label that famously (though I’d forgotten I knew this and had to re-learn via their Wikipedia page) passed on producing the band’s first album in 1962. Figurative heads rolled over that one, rest assured.
Notice how Pete maximized this idea’s potential: first he came up with the concept of spelling something out with the keys of songs, which means only ABCDEF and G were available to use. CABBAGE isn’t very musical; the Genesis album “Abacab” was available but inelegant because the album was actually named for those musical notes; ABBA is only four letters long so not as interesting.
But then he finds DECCA records, which both provides a solid number of theme entries and allows him the ironic “aha moment” of the answer being a label that passed on the Beatles. That fact is well-known but not well-known enough to give the idea away too quickly, even to those who know it. I’d be very surprised if someone found a way of executing this concept that’s better than the one Pete chose. Outstanding.
The fill was good, especially the big NE and SW corners. Highlight include ESPRESSO (and its clue, [Shot for when you're feeling shot]), IN PIECES, TAILSPIN, DOODLE, VOTED NO, WAYS IN, TELLTALE and DAWG. Tough cross at the C on TICO and CULETS in the SE; I know the former but not the latter.
I loved this meta, and it came with above-average fill and very good clues. 4.60 stars, and we’ll eagerly await the final MMMM puzzle of the year on New Year’s Eve, which will also contain this year’s overarching meta-meta. Mysterious and intriguing — can’t wait to see what Pete’s been sneaking into the puzzles all year.