puzzle 9:05; meta DNF (Matt)
Pete Muller’s Monthly Music Meta has been one of the cruciverbal highlights of the past year for me, and I’d like to wrap the whole thing up with a successful solve of the 2012 meta-meta. But thus far I’m completely stumped, so I’m going to do what Joon Pahk does and see if blogging it doesn’t jog the answer out of my head. Pete apparently wasn’t kidding when he said the finale would be tough: with an hour left to the deadline, he tells me that a mere four solvers have cracked it!
Instructions tell us we’re looking for a lyric from a well-known song. The puzzle, entitled “Lyric Hunt,” looks pretty straightforward, as the three long acrosses are presumably the only theme entries:
20-a [1981 hit for Washington and Withers] is the familiar JUST THE TWO OF US.
36-a [1980 Robert Palmer song that feature a xylophone solo] is the unfamiliar but extremely suggestive LOOKING FOR CLUES.
48-a [1976 hit single whose B-side was "Boogie Shoes"] is KC & the Sunshine Band’s very familiar SHAKE YOUR BOOTY.
Now, what do we do with these?
The first thing I did was put each of the year’s nine puzzles on my desktop, since Pete had stated that the meta might refer back to previous puzzles.
The second thing I did was Google the lyrics to each of these three songs, just to familiarize myself with them. I suspect that these three’s lyrics are not crucial to the meta, however, since nothing jumped out upon browsing them, and the lyrics to “Shake Your Booty” consist almost entirely of “Shake shake shake / shake shake shake / shake your booty.” As an aside, I’d also like to add that lyrics sites are some of the worst pop-up ad swamps on the internet.
Moreover, the three song titles themselves sound very much like meta hints: JUST THE TWO OF US could point to a lot of things, LOOKING FOR CLUES seems quite direct, and SHAKE YOUR BOOTY suggests that we’re going to be anagramming words or perhaps rearranging a set of words.
The key, then, seems to be what to make of JUST THE TWO OF US. So my first real stab was to take the first letter of each 2-down answer from May until New Year’s. That yielded TSUMINCAL, interesting because seven of its nine letters form MUSICAL, and all nine together make CALUMNIST. But I couldn’t see a way to go from there, and I realized taking the letters in the 2-squares was ignoring the suggestion that I be LOOKING FOR CLUES.
So I wrote down each of those nine clues and took their first words, second words, last words — but nothing made sense. For example, the first words of each of the year’s 2-down clues spell LAKE IT WHAT JOSEPHINE ANDERSON IAN JIMMY DON TO. That’s no lyric I’m familiar with, and no amount of shaking will change that.
Then I wondered if the US in JUST THE TWO OF US was actually the U.S.? Could it be the postal abbreviations for U.S. states in the clues? Didn’t look promising: I found NY, CA, TX, FL, UT, CA…just looked like a normal collection of mostly-large states, about what you’d expect to find if that had nothing at all to do with the meta.
Also took some other dead-end paths, none of which bore fruit and several of which were rather embarrassingly unlikely.
It’s 10:30 PM here in Virginia so I have 30 minutes to crack this.
Pete sent out a hint offer a few days ago to those who hadn’t yet puzzled out the meta: in exchange for receiving only half-credit for a successful sovle, he would give solvers the following nudge:
Literal thinking will help you interpret two of the song titles.
If you use literal thinking for the third, please send me a video.
OK, so I’m not sure if that helps me. LOOKING FOR CLUES I was taking literally already, and JUST THE TWO OF US — does that mean the letters US? Because it makes sense with the hint to anagram things as a non-literal interpretation of the last.
OK, so let’s take the first one very literally: JUST THE TWO OF US might be just the letters U.S. I had actually spent a few minutes on this path earlier in the week, looking for clues that have the initials US. Or maybe that just start with US? Let me see where that goes. Well there are tons of clues that start with S, so that doesn’t lead anywhere. Are there any clues that start with the initials US? Here’s one in November’s puzzle: [UFO, sometimes] for BLIMP. Are there others? Can’t find any.
16 minutes, pretty desperate here, let’s try a backsolve. Let me assume that the lyrics is nine words long (one from each puzzle) and that we’ll be taking one word from each puzzle. Pete released the last puzzle at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, so presumable the lyric will have something to do with the new year. Could it be from U2′s “New Year’s Day” or perhaps from “Auld Lang Syne”? Let me brave the lyrics sites to see if I can find a plausible nine-word lyric from either of those.
“A crowd has gathered in black and white” seems plausible for a crossword meta, taken from the above-mentioned U2 song. But it’s not that well-known a lyric and it’s only eight letters. “Auld Lang Syne” yields nothing I can see, either.
10:48 PM, one last shot. Think, Gaffney! JUST THE TWO OF US. How do you take that literally, if it’s not the letters U-S or a reference to the United States? Is it something from a patriotic song?
OK, I’m defeated. I suspect so strongly that the key is understanding the literal meaning of JUST THE TWO OF US, specifically what that US refers to, but I can’t see it. Looking forward to Pete or a successful solver elucidating in comments; I finish the year 7/9 on MMMM, and, while I’m not happy to miss the year-end finale, I am quite happy both that Pete decided to launch his site this year and that he’ll be doing another MMMM in 2013.