What Makes a Song Title a Good Clue?

Who doesn’t like a little music with their crossword? At 32-Across on Wednesday we got the clue [1978 song with the line “There’s no need to be unhappy”] for a four letter response, which turned out to be YMCA. It’s especially fun to find a song title with a line of it, because often the solver will think “I know this … but what song is this?” Just seeing the lyrics on the page and then having to put music on it seems to stimulate the brain in a new way.

Of course, the YMCA entry didn’t need to be identified with the song, but some titles do. Sarah McLachlan’s 1998 ballad “Adia” has become a staple of crossword puzzles, appearing 34 times in the New York Times crossword puzzle since its release. Other titles, such as LAYLA by Eric Clapton and HEY YA by OutKast, are also commonly seen in puzzles and almost always performed musically.

The shorter song titles, like SOS (Abba and Rihanna), BAD (Michael Jackson) and LOW (Flo Rida) are of course easy to understand otherwise. Steely Dan’s AJA is generally aware of the song, although with A’ja Wilson winning the WNBA MVP award last year, we have a more current way of determining this now.

On the other end of the song title length spectrum, we have this puzzle in which builder Ardeshir Dalal smashed the letters of the song “Mary Poppins” SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALODOCIOUS into the grid entries. Pretty funny, and you certainly won’t see this title as often as ADIA in your puzzles.

Got a song title you’d like to solve? Tweet it at #beastxword and I promise I’ll listen to it.

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