Muller Monthly Music Meta, year-end finale — “Lyric Hunt”

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.

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38 Responses to Muller Monthly Music Meta, year-end finale — “Lyric Hunt”

  1. Matt says:

    PS — for my entry I took a random stab at the nine-word O’ER THE RAMPARTS WE WATCHED WERE SO GALLANTLY STREAMING.

  2. Giovanni P. says:

    Hmm, this one still baffles me even with the hint.

    My interpretation of “Just the two of us” was to focus on duplicated clues, like “Grammy category” from the first puzzle or “Big name in bubbly” from this puzzle. Not all of the puzzles had duplicated clues however; which meant a dead end. Words that only showed up twice amongst the clues didn’t give me much to deal with either.

    Also of note: ALEX and AXEL, two anagrams next to each other in the grid. Are those the “TWO OF US” Pete is referring to?

    Either way, four correct entries is a shockingly small amount. I’d hope the meta-meta this year is a bit more gettable.

  3. Pete Muller says:

    Four correct. Shocking to me as well, since I thought the meta meta was actually easier than the last puzzle. Three of the solvers used the hint. The fourth got it before the hint.

    Will give one of them a chance to post for another 15 minutes or so, and then will reveal the answer.

    A few of the last minute lyric guesses made me laugh out loud…

  4. klew archer says:

    I hope I was one of the laugh out loud answers, as I was still on the DARK SIDE IF THE MOON as the clock ran down

  5. Pete Muller says:

    To get the meta meta, you had to find JUST THE TWO OF “US” when you went LOOKING FOR CLUES. Exactly one clue in each puzzle had the letters “US” in consecutive order. If you took the 9 answers associated with those clues, all you had to do was SHAKE YOUR BOOTY to get the song lyric…

    (which will be revealed here in another 15 minutes)

  6. klew archer says:

    There’s no success like failure and Pete, that hint was no hint at all

    • Pete Muller says:

      I struggled with how much of a hint to provide – perhaps I erred on the side of making it less helpful than I could have. I figured knowing that a literal interpretation was required would at least encourage efforts in the right direction.

  7. Giovanni P. says:

    My hat’s off to the person who got the meta-meta before the hint. That person must really know their way around metas.

    Still, bravo to the other three who solved it correctly. Anyone who solved it deserves the praise.

    By the way, thanks for a fun set of puzzles Pete. I look forward to the new batch in 2013.

  8. klew archer says:

    I figured Matt of all people might get it. The fact that he was DNF gives hope to us mere mortals.

  9. klew archer says:

    Reel around the fountain…

  10. klew archer says:

    Rave on, it’s a crazy feeling

  11. klew archer says:

    It’s some kind of Bob Dylan lyric, isn’t it. I asked Bobby Zimmerman, but he couldn’t help me either.

  12. David Stein says:

    Wow ! I was nowhere even close. I thought the two of us meant to use the two meta answers that came from the US- LA woman and American Pie. Did anyone else notice MESSAGE in the first letters to the clues in the LA woman puzzle.? I decided that just couldn’t be a coincidence – which, of course, it was. I tip my hat to the four of you who figured this out – amazing!

  13. jimmy d says:

    Pete, you could have sent as your hint “Anagram all of the answers with the letters US in the clue” and I still wouldn’t have gotten it… because a) I stink at anagrams and b) I hate the song American Pie and only know the first line of the lyrics (which came in handy a few months ago)…. as soon as i hear that line… click!

    But still, it was a good, hard meta-meta to end the contest, and looking back at all of the past puzzles again made me re-appreciate a few of the beauties you gave us this year… Kudos to you and can’t wait for the next round!

  14. klew archer says:

    Still waiting for the four horsemen of the metapocalypse to step forward

  15. Huda says:

    I don’t do any of the metas (yet), but as a neuroscientist, I’m fascinated to see how you all think, both the constructor and the solvers. Amy, your blog was terrific to read. You came so very close, trying on then tossing out various possibilities, you only needed to let go of one assumption- that the clues “start with US” rather than contain it.

    And this must be so much fun to construct– plan out and orchestrate the entire series! I’m in awe of all involved.

  16. klew archer says:

    I don’t really want to rain on the scarecrow anymore than I already have but this one was so confusing but I didn’t even understand that the answer was the answer when Pete revealed it above- I thought it was yet another hint.

  17. KarmaSartre says:

    I ended up with BROOKLYN EGG CREAM.

  18. Patrick L says:

    Didn’t submit, partly due to an extremely busy week / weekend, and also because I had little confidence that my efforts would pay off. I did work on it for a little bit though.

    When I saw the title, I did think of the epic MGWCC ‘hunt’-themed puzzle involving a stoned shaman – basically solvers had to spell out a sentence using certain words from a block of flavor text. I actually figured that might be Pete’s meta-meta strategy months ago – that we would have to spell out a phrase with words from previous puzzles, or possibly an acronym.

    Then, when actually faced with this puzzle, all of that somehow went out the window because of various distractions – ‘Two of Us’ was embedded in the 1st song, and ‘Twist and Shout’ was in the lyrics of the 2nd. So I was thinking that a Beatles lyric might be the answer.

    I also thought of so many other ways to incorporate previous puzzles – i.e., use similar solving strategies like lyrics, album covers, titles, keys, etc. Or maybe look at previous puzzle titles or meta answers. And there’s always lots of options for using numbers in some way. At one point I even thought Pete might require us to do something crazy like stack all the grids on top of each other and find something in the 3d diagonals – a actual meta-meta in form. All the possibilities just seemed exhausting to me. In fact I’m already feeling weary just imagining next year’s meta-meta.

    As someone who used the browser applet each time, I didn’t have any saved screens with both the puzzle clues and answers, so I would have needed to click back and forth between Pete’s puzzle and solution pages (if I had somehow managed to find all the US clues). I think I need to start using Across Lite for next year.

    Overall I enjoyed this series very much. Thanks Pete for the puzzles, and Matt for the blogs. I’ll definitely tune in next year.

    By the way – congrats to the person who solved this meta. That’s kind of my dream – to be the only one to solve a difficult puzzle without hints.

  19. abide says:

    Im still not sure what the hint to send a video meant

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      If you literally shake your booty in the process of trying to crack the meta, send Pete a video of your rump-shaking session!

      • abide says:

        (scales falling from eyes) well, I’m glad I finally understand something now about this meta!

        Reflecting a bit, this might have been gettable if there were a song “JUST THE NINE OF US” since that “two” turned out to be a major distraction for me. I found two other songs (14-letters) that I think might have made things a wee bit clearer: “DONT GIVE UP ON US” and “TEARING US APART”

        Even then, I think with that lyric as the answer the hint should have referenced American Pie because that lyric doesn’t resonate with me at all like “…drove my chevy to the levee” would have.

        Regardless, I greatly enjoyed this series and hope to see More Muller Metas!

  20. Abby says:

    Good week for me. :-) Since I was only half a point down before, I guess nobody beat my total, though I was hoping to make it to the top. Well, besides alphabetically.

    I didn’t think it was too hard to figure out, but I see how it could’ve been hard to execute. I was walking home juggling the printed puzzles when I decided that was the right way to go. Waited ’til I was home out of traffic to work it all the way through.

    Hey, when Matt gives partial credit, you’re in for the month but not for the week. If it’s the same thing here I’ll finally get my damn mug. :-)

  21. Pete Mitchell says:

    I went down all the same wrong paths everyone else did. Matt G., you were damn close! I knew instinctively that we were looking for certain clues and that the answers would be rearranged to make the lyric, so it was the “Just the two of us” that was the key. I fought it all weekend — clues with “two” in them, (or “duet” or “duo”), repeated clues, 2nd clue of each puzzle, 2nd word of certain clues, 2nd letters of clue-words, songs that only made it to #2. I finally took the hint, in desperation, only to find it didn’t really help (other than to confirm that I was on the right track and that it was getting me nowhere). It finally dawned on me that maybe it wasn’t the “two” but the “us” that was key. Luckily by this time I had deconstructed all 9 puzzles into an Excel spreadsheet (puzzle #, clue #, clue, answer), so it was an easy task to search for “us” in the clues and answers. (Yes, I’m a geek.) Was a little surprised that Pete drew from the same well on two different metas, but it was a nice quote from an iconic song. My guess, if I hadn’t figured it out, was going to be: “There must be some kind of way out of here.” (from All Along the Watchtower).

  22. Chris says:

    Wait, the meta did not include any of the answers that came from the puzzles? That doesn’t seem right. I enjoyed the puzzles but this meta is very, very unsatisfying. What was the point of getting all the other answers if they were irrelevant in the end? Bah…

    • Abby says:

      It needed one answer from each of the nine puzzles.

      • Chris says:

        yes, the answers, but none of the META answers, right?

        • Abby says:

          Right. Guess that makes it more a megameta than a metameta.

          However, one of the meta answers was the song (and the meta involved its lyrics), which may have been a clue. Personally, I found that slightly discouraging, but I didn’t see any way that answer could work and be wrong. That’d be a freaky coincidence!

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          This wasn’t my favorite MMMM, but I don’t have a problem with the meta-meta dealing with previous puzzles’ clues instead of with their meta answers. After all, the answers to the previous 8 puzzles are freely available on Fiend and at Pete’s site, so there’s no benefit on the Finale to having solved all of those correctly.

  23. Pete Muller says:

    A few people have mentioned that they were surprised the final meta used one of the songs. Originally I was going to say the lyric was from a song mentioned in one of the previous 8 puzzles, but decided that would make it too easy (oops). I definitely mis-gauged the difficulty level on this one, probably because I was so focused on making sure every puzzle had exactly one US.

    Abby, I’m happy to inform you that you get a mug this month for solving the megameta (probably a better term than meta meta). Please email me your address.

    I haven’t done the drawing for the grand prize yet, but am going to go with a suggestion from Peter Gordon that points should be awarded in inverse proportion to difficulty (as measured by number of possible solvers/number of actual solvers). This gives rough values of 1 for the first 3 puzzles, 2 for the next four, 5 for Keyword Search, and 50 (!) for the megameta.

    Even with the large megameta bonus, preliminary calculations show that Abby has a 7% chance of winning the grand prize, and the other three solvers plus Abby have a 20% combined chance of winning the grand prize.

    The drawing will be later today and announced tomorrow.

  24. Howard B says:

    Thanks, Pete, for the series of musical entertainment! Looking forward to your next creations.
    No idea on the meta; had the right ideas, didn’t know the lyric. Regrets, I’ve had a few. Oh well :).

  25. abide says:

    Amy Reynaldo says:
    January 7, 2013 at 2:13 pm
    If you literally shake your booty in the process of trying to crack the meta, send Pete a video of your rump-shaking session!

    (scales falling from eyes) well, I’m glad I finally understand something now about this meta!

    Reflecting a bit, this might have been gettable if there were a song “JUST THE NINE OF US” since that “two” turned out to be a major distraction for me. I found two other songs (14-letters) that I think might have made things a wee bit clearer: “DONT GIVE UP ON US” and “TEARING US APART”

    Even then, I think with that lyric as the answer the hint should have referenced American Pie because that lyric doesn’t resonate with me at all like “…drove my chevy to the levee” would have.

    Regardless, I greatly enjoyed this series and hope to see More Muller Metas!

  26. Earl says:

    It’s been awhile since I interacted in the community, but it’s awesome to see that there are fun outlets like this one as well as Matt’s weekly contest to add some flair to the solving experience. I wish I would have gotten to the party earlier!

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to the next one…probably will be lost, but at least I’ll have fun trying.

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