MGWCC #428

crossword 3:54 
meta -3:54, or 2:00 


mgwcc428hello and welcome to episode #428 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Border Crossing, ID Required”. for this week 2 puzzle, matt challenges us to find a U.S. city with a more famous European namesake. i’m going to level with you: based on “ID” in the title and these instructions, i was thinking moscow, idaho before i began. but what are the actual theme answers? there are six long across answers in the grid:

  • {Bank headquartered in San Francisco} WELLS FARGO.
  • {Without concern for consequences} FREEWHEELING.
  • {Spotted hybrid} SAVANNAH CAT. i don’t know this cat.
  • {Landmark that says “THE BIGGEST LITTLE CITY IN THE WORLD”} THE RENO ARCH. i wasn’t aware that this was a thing, but i certainly recognize that nickname and associate it with reno.
  • {It covers much of the Great Plains (this one’s a little different)} BUFFALO GRASS.
  • {Show with the sketches “Thai Food Bridgetown Weekly” and “Kickstarter Film Awards”} PORTLANDIA. never watched it, although fred armisen is generally pretty funny.

okay, so each of these pretty obviously contains a u.s. city: fargo, nd; wheeling, wv; savannah, ga; reno, nv (overtly); buffalo, ny; and portland, or. (there’s also a portland, me, and for that matter, a wells, me, but that seems to be irrelevant.) and with the title in mind, the next step is pretty clear too: these cities are all at the borders of their respective states. what’s on the other side of the border?

  • FARGO borders minnesota.
  • WHEELING borders ohio. (it’s in the northern panhandle of wv, not the eastern panhandle.)
  • SAVANNAH borders south carolina.
  • RENO borders california, right on lake tahoe. i’ve driven there from the bay area.
  • BUFFALO borders ontario, which is in, like, a whole other country. (hence “this one’s a little different”.)
  • PORTLAND borders washington.

take the first letters of these bordering states/provinces, and you get moscow, which is in fact the meta answer. and it’s apt, as moscow is right on the washington-idaho border, across from pullman, wa. both are college towns (university of idaho and washington state); off the top of my head, i can’t think of two other relatively major state universities from different states that are adjacent like that. so my instinct was right.

anyway, this was a fun, not-too-tough geography meta. the title certainly steers you in the right direction.

that’s all i’ve got this week. it was great to see many of you at lollapuzzoola last weekend. if i may self-promote for a moment, my website, outside the box puzzles, is approaching its first birthday. after a successful year 1, i’ve opened up subscriptions and renewals for year 2, which starts in september. if you enjoy variety puzzles, check it out. and feel free to ask me any questions you might have about the site.

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16 Responses to MGWCC #428

  1. sharkicicles says:

    Whoa, I took a totally different route to get the right answer.

    Each of these cities is also a county seat, so from the title I looked for an Idaho county seat with a European name.

  2. Zifmia says:

    I ended up submitting Moscow based only on the ID from the puzzle title, plus it had 6 letters matching 6 theme answers that I never figured out what to do with. I kept trying to come up with a textual or grid-based interpretation of border crossing rather than looking at a map.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 338 right answers this week.

    At least watch “Thai Food Bridgetown Weekly”:

  4. Matthew G. says:

    Wow, I got this right without even noticing that the bordering states spelled MOSCOW.

    I solved the grid, knew that every one of the cities mentioned in the grid was on a border, and since I knew that Moscow, ID, fit in the same category, I sent my answer in without even thinking to look for further confirmation.

    It was good to meet you on Saturday, joon.

  5. Jim Curran says:

    I was 99% sure it was Moscow just from the question and the ID in the title. I saw all the border cities but never got the M-O-S-C-O-W pattern. I submitted it late Monday night anyway, still 99% sure :)

  6. Paul Coulter says:

    I’m with Joon and Jim – I strongly suspected Moscow, ID from the title. In Week 2 racing mode, once I spotted Gorby (with an indirect Moscow reference in the clue) crossing PORTLANDIA, it was enough for me. I figured there’d be something similar crossing all the other border towns, but it turned out to be irrelevant! Before going to the atlas, I submitted Moscow, ID, anyway. Whew – got lucky! 4 lucky stars from me.

  7. Tony says:

    Followed the same path as Joon, but without realizing that Ontario was the bordering province until much later, after submitting MOSCOW, which I knew of but did not realize it was a border city itself.

  8. Dele says:

    I’ll also fess up to missing the letters spelled out by the bordering states, but submitting Moscow just because it continued the theme pattern of border-adjacent cities (and fit the title and instructions). It seemed a bit too simple, so I suspected I was missing something (and I was), but I was still fairly sure it was right anyway.

    This is eerily similar to what I did on the State Quarter meta from last May, where I also failed to notice that the initials of the relevant states spelled out an important six-letter word, and instead just submitted an answer (Indiana, which was accepted) which simply continued the theme pattern. Oddly enough, the intended answer to that meta was also… Idaho.

  9. Norm says:

    This was a fun meta, even though I missed the ID hint until I’d submitted, and I had multiple C’s [from Carolina & Canada] until I saw the light.

  10. Bret says:

    Joon, regarding the “two fairly major state universities” comment, UTEP (University of Texas-El Paso) and New Mexico State are further apart than Washington State and Idaho, but still only about 35 miles between them. And UTEP is only a few miles from UACJ, the major university in Juarez and the state of Chihuahua.

  11. pgw says:

    I too suspected Moscow from the beginning.

    This was a nice theme idea but I was a little put off by the fact that two of the theme answers directly reference the city involved in the theme. (I don’t mind the indirect reference entailed in Wells Fargo, whose co-founder was also the namesake of Fargo, ND [and, incidentally, was mayor of Buffalo.]) My suggested fix: expand 16-A to the 14-letter WELLS FARGO BANK and replace PORTLANDIA with PORTLAND CEMENT (which has nothing to do with Portland, OR); and change THE RENO ARCH to YUMA INDIANS (who, like Mr. Fargo above, gave the city its name but could be clued without reference to the city.)

    This would also solve my other quibble with the puzzle which is that, while Reno technically does border California in a couple of spots, anyone who’s been there should know that to get to California from Reno, you have to leave town entirely, go through the desert, and then cross the border at what is essentially a glorified truck stop, an unincorporated town called Verdi.

    • David Glasser says:

      Huh, I sent Matt the quibble that Reno didn’t quite border California, but your map makes me retract my concern!

      I’ve walked under the Reno Arch many times without actually realizing it was a well known landmark!

  12. Jason says:

    I took the Jim Curran approach to solving the meta. Moscow looked appropriate from the start and I had trouble deciding which particular city applied to the answers, as some of them had more than one state (didn’t even think about borders even though it’s right there in the title). I’m Canadian, I don’t know a lot.

  13. Amanda says:

    Ugh, I’m so embarrassed. I got that they all bordered other states, but didn’t make the leap to Moscow from the first letters. I overthought it. I kept trying to add “ID” somehow to the border states’ two-letter code.

  14. Jim Schooler says:

    I thought the title itself was elegant.

  15. jefe says:

    Am I the only person who’d never heard of Moscow, ID before this puzzle?

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