MGWCC #659

crossword 4:40 
meta 20:00 


hello and welcome to episode #659 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Blank Stares”. for this week 3 puzzle, the instructions tell us that the answer is what you might say after you get the meta. okay. what’s the theme? there are eight different crossings in the grid where the across and down answers disagree:

  • {Captains’ superiors (abbr.)} MAJS crosses {___ button (navel)} JELLY at the J/B.
  • {Genre you can find on Spotify} OPERA crosses {___ a coin (see who gets to go first, maybe)} FLIP at the O/I.
  • {Hong ___ (special administrative region of China currently in political crisis)} KONG crosses {Periodicals, casually} ZINES at the O/I.
  • {Vietnamese ___ (currency of southeast Asia)} DONG crosses {Lunes or martes, por ejemplo} DIA at the O/I.
  • {Person rocking a baton} TWIRLER crosses {“___ Nights” (1997 drama starring Mark Wahlberg and Julianne Moore)} BOOGIE at the W/B.
  • {___ Wars (1970’s-80s advertising rivalry that included ads featuring Lionel Richie)} COLA crosses {Barbecuer’s needs} COALS at the L/C.
  • {Noted movie of 1933} LITTLE WOMEN crosses {___ chi (Chinese martial art)} TAI at the M/T.
  • {“Free ___” (1993 movie about a boy who befriends a killer whale)} WILLY crosses {Cruel ruler} TYRANT at the W/N.

okay, so what’s going on? for each of the squares with a conflict, you can take the two possible letters going there and make a two-word (or hyphenated) phrase out of one of the crossing words by using both values: JELLY BELLY, FLIP-FLOP, KING KONG, DING-DONG, BOOGIE-WOOGIE, COCA-COLA, MAI TAI, and WILLY-NILLY. sometimes it’s the across word that gets used and sometimes it’s the down word; sometimes the word is the first half of the resulting phrase and sometimes it’s the second. neither of those appears to matter.

what then? well, the seven resulting phrases can each be an alternate answer to a different clue in the grid:

  • JELLY BELLY is a {Well-known candy brand}, like 29a YORK.
  • a FLIP-FLOP is a {Casual shoe}, like 26d LOAFER.
  • KING KONG is a {Noted movie of 1933}, like 76a LITTLE WOMEN. in fact, it’s much more noted; although LITTLE WOMEN has been made into a film several times, i was only aware of the 2019 and 1994 adaptations.
  • a DING-DONG is a {Foolish person, in dated but amusing slang}, like 86a YOYO. at first i wanted this one to be the well-known candy brand, but DING DONGs are snack cakes, which is not exactly the same thing as candy.
  • BOOGIE-WOOGIE is a {Genre you can find on Spotify}, like OPERA. it’s the second time one of the theme clues has been reused in the other part of the theme, which is unexpected. i’m not sure how i feel about it. maybe it’s good?
  • COCA-COLA is a {Popular soft drink}, like 51a ORANGE SODA.
  • a MAI TAI is a {Cocktail made with rum}, like 43d MOJITO.
  • WILLY-NILLY means {In a random way}, like 18a HAPHAZARDLY.

taking the first letters of the answers to these eight extra clues gives HOLY MOLY, which is the meta answer. it’s not what i said when i figured out the meta, but that’s because i was still confused about the DING DONG thing. but it’s a really good meta. i have to admit that i don’t understand the title, though. what was it supposed to mean?

i didn’t get around to this one until after mystery hunt, and perhaps sleep deprivation over the weekend is why it took me a while to actually fully grok the theme. but it’s a lovely puzzle, and i wish i’d left myself more time to write up my thoughts about it. how’d you all like it?

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14 Responses to MGWCC #659

  1. sps says:

    All the squares with two answers came from clues with blanks.

    • joon says:

      oh wow, how about that. seems pretty obvious, i guess, but maybe sleep deprivation is again to blame. (then again, it’s easy enough to just notice them as the squares where the two crossing answers disagree.)

      at any rate, thanks for letting me know!

    • pgw says:

      I didn’t even notice that – though what I ended up doing, since I was solving in Across Lite, was just leaving the ambiguous squares blank, so it sorta made sense that way too.

  2. Mutman says:

    I’ll admit I never saw the mechanism to derive HOLY MOLY. But when I found those 8 pairs, that was the only logical answer.

    I’ll take it …

  3. C. Y. Hollander says:

    I briefly wondered whether HIP-HOP (a genre you can find on Spotify) and CLIP-CLOP (arguably a sound that might be heard in a stable, though it’s a bit of a stretch) were connected to the theme, but they proved coincidental.

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 504 right answers this week. One of these years I will remember to give an extra day on Puzzle Hunt weekend.

  5. Seth Cohen says:

    I got the answer, but is there any logical way we’re supposed to order the letters for HOLY MOLY? Or just anagram the letters?

    Also, I was even more confused at first because I didn’t notice that DING/DONG was a special answer. Vietnamese DiNG sounds just as correct as Vietnamese DONG to someone who isn’t well-versed in every currency name in the world. I guess the obvious *other* way to clue DONG wouldn’t fly…

    • Reid says:

      If you click on the grid joon posted, you’ll be able to see that the letters appear in the grid top to bottom and left to right.

  6. Naptown Kid says:

    I’m with Joon in wondering how the title applies. Maybe it doesn’t, thus causing Blank Stares?

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