MGWCC #612

crossword 3:01 
meta 2 minutes 


hello and welcome to episode #612 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “They’re Falling for You”. in this week 3 puzzle, the instructions tell us we are looking for a snack you might buy from a vending machine. okay, what are the theme answers? there are six vending machine snacks in the grid, all down answers, and all clued similarly. presented from left to right in the grid, they are:


what do we do with these? taking a hint from the title and the vertical orientation of the answers, i surmised that the mechanism had to do with “falling” (or moving downward in the grid), and then the first thing i tried worked: each snack food contains exactly one instance of the letter in its clue. then counting down from that letter by the number of squares in the clue puts you on another letter. so for example, for SNICKERS we start at the I and go down 1 square, because we pressed I-1. that puts us on the C.

repeating the process for all six theme answer produces the circled letters in the screenshot above, which spell out COMBOS. hey, remember combos? that is pretty much the only way i’d eat a pretzel, but that’s just me.

this was a fun meta! easy enough, i think, but a mechanism i’d not seen before, so it was fun to work it out. i liked how all the coordinates in the clues were plausible vending machine inputs (letters only from A to I, numbers from 1 to 5); there was nothing far-fetched like “PRESS Q-12”.

other stuff:

  • {Boxer’s weapon} FIST. double-crossed! in crosswords, i default to assuming “boxer” always means dog, but here it actually means pugilist.
  • {“___ from Queens” (Awkwafina series on Comedy Central)} NORA. idly curious when we’ll start seeing LUM clued as awkwafina instead of abner’s pal from old radio.
  • {Gates may support this portal} MSN. tricky clue. that’s revolutionary war general horatio gates, who … okay, no. i’m not even going to finish the joke.
  • {Adam or Ozzie} SMITH. this is a fairly amusing arbitrary choice of two people with this ultra-common last name. my favorite smith recently in the news is sophia.
  • {M. Scherzer, e.g.} NAT. the clue is short for monsieur scherzer, so this is a hint that the clue wants the abbreviated form of the french translation of “heterochromic pitcher”, which is NAT.
  • {Genre for “Get Out”} SATIRE. this is an evil clue, since the answer could well have been either HORROR or COMEDY as well.

that’s all i’ve got this week. i hope this puzzle satisfied your case of the munchies!

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21 Responses to MGWCC #612

  1. Alex Bourzutschky says:

    Anyone else noticed ARAMIS hiding out there?

  2. Steve Thurman says:

    As a 55 year old who loves snack food and has used plenty of vending machines in his life, should I be worried that I had never heard of Combos? Is it not a West Coast thing?

    (I mean, I got the answer. I just had to Google it to make sure it was a thing.)

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 456 right answers this week.

    One solver pointed out that vending machines don’t usually have an I button, so customers don’t mistake it for a 1. I avoided unlikely vending machine combos (did anyone notice this hint towards the answer? It was a bit tenuous) like your Q-12 example, but didn’t realize most vending machines big enough to have an I don’t (and I’m not 100% sure it’s true but it sounds truthy enough).

  4. Amy L says:

    I had a French teacher who said she loved English. The example she gave of what a wonderful language it is was the ad for Combos, it “Cheeses your hunger away.” She loved that. That was the first time I heard of Combos. I guess you had to be French to appreciate the cleverness of the phrase. I was also a little disappointed to learn that a French person ate Combos. I thought they ate things like croissants and pâte à choux, but I guess those wouldn’t have cheesed their hunger away.

  5. Jim S says:

    I’m a big idiot. My paper has “CMOBSO” (in clue order) and “MOOBSC” (in alphabetical order based on bending letter) but I never circled them in the grid and looked left to right. I’m a bad anagrammer so I looked at both of those and said “nope, got nothing”.

    • Jim S says:

      *vending (not “bending”; for whatever reason, editing my comments on my iPhone never works – it claims to save them but never shows my fixes)

    • Mikie says:

      I also immediately came up with CMOBSO but having never heard of Combos, nor thinking to circle the letters and read left-to-right, decided I was off track. Alas.

  6. Brian says:

    In honor of this puzzle (I can only assume), Claire Saffitz of Bon Appetit just (an hour ago) released a video about making a gourmet version of Combos –

  7. Gideon Fostick says:

    I had never heard of Combos before (I’m not in the US BTW) – except that by an amazing coincidence, I learned of them that very day – when they appeared as an entry somewhere in the Patrick Berry Sweet 16 puzzle suite.

  8. Seth says:

    Matt, why did you decide to make this week easy? You described your last puzzle as being unexpectedly tough, but there were 406 correct answers. That seems pretty accurate for a week 2.

    • Jonesy says:

      I agree that last week felt like a week 2 but Joon barely got it!

      Matt might’ve gotten a lot of comments about it being hard or possibly also a lower % correct than normal? But I agree with you that the # correct seems week 2ish…

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I can’t believe nobody mentioned the fact that Mr. Goodbar bars are rarely seen in any format other than as part of a bag of Miniatures. If you ever see a vending machine with a full-size Mr. Goodbar, take a picture of it for me!

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