MGWCC #783

crossword 3:42
meta 0:01 


hello and welcome to episode #783 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Pressed for Time”. for this week 1 puzzle of guest construction month, erik agard is back (for the third time at MGWCC) with a lovely piece of grid art. quite unusually, the 11×16 grid is surrounded by black squares around all four sides, and on the PDF, some of the black square formations are actually brown squares. the entire grid represents an hourglass, and as 16-down tells us, {What the brown blocks in this puzzle’s PDF version represent (purely decorative; don’t try to write in them!)} is SAND. one of the long answers near the top of the grid is {1969 hit for Booker T. & the M.G.’s} TIME IS TIGHT, although i think that’s the only other answer directly tied in with the time theme.

so what else is going on? the puzzle contains five rebus squares:

  • {“The Woman King” star Davis} VIO[LA] crosses {The ___ in Manila} THRIL[LA].
  • {Direction from Kansas to Missouri} EA[ST] crosses {Self-esteem bolsterer} EGO BOO[ST]. erik is based nominally in kansas city—i’ve always assumed on the missouri side, but i guess i don’t actually know.
  • {Start of a scale} DO-RE-[MI] crosses {Underdog in the 2023 NBA Finals} MIA[MI]. well, the series is now 1-1 and the heat have wrested home court advantage away from denver, but i suppose they are still underdogs. i don’t think anybody’s counting them out, though.
  • {“The Matrix” star Reeves} KEA[NU] crosses {Refreshed list of refreshments} NEW ME[NU]. i’m not entirely sold on the crossworthiness of NEW MENU as phrase, but the repetition in the clue is very clever.
  • {Poker payment} AN[TE] crosses {Word after blank or clean} SLA[TE].

taken in grid order, the five rebus bigrams spell out LAST MINUTE, a time-related phrase which seems like it must be the meta answer. the instructions this week gave me a chuckle when i checked them before submitting: This week’s contest answer is how some crosswords are written. ha! on the other hand, this is the first puzzle in a while that’s actually been sent out on friday, so … there are minutes after the last minute, maybe.

speaking of lastness, it’s an elegant touch that each of the rebus squares is located at the end of both its across and down answers. i don’t think there’s anything else meta-related going on in this puzzle, but it’s certainly possible that i missed something. if i did, please do let me know in the comments. assuming i didn’t miss anything, this was a nice week 1 puzzle—a little tougher to solve the grid than usual since i was a third of the way down the grid and not expecting rebus squares when i found the first one. but ultimately the meta answer itself was unmissable.

erik’s voice really comes through here in playful cluing:

  • {Maybe the only reason I would decline to eat a piece of cheese} MOLD. this clue leaves unanswered the question of whether erik would decline to eat blue cheese, in which the mold is (ostensibly) a feature rather than a bug. personally, i’m not a fan of blue cheese, but i do enjoy almost all other kinds of cheese.
  • {Apt-sounding surname for a lover of spreadsheets (another one being Collum)} ROWE.
  • {Like most fish (or if you add an R, how fish is often prepared)} GILLED.
  • {Road sign with an upward-pointing arrow above a red octagon} STOP AHEAD. this clue halted me dead in my tracks for about 30 seconds while i tried to visualize the sign and figure out what it was. STOP was certainly obvious, but i had to think pretty hard to get AHEAD.
  • {White vinegar can help remove one} STAIN. it’s always nice to get practical life tips from your crossword.

all right, that’s all i’ve got for this week. great start to guest constructor month!

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4 Responses to MGWCC #783

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, joon and Erik. 575 right answers this week, so we’re off to a flying start with GCM 2023.

  2. Mike says:

    I mentioned a few weeks ago for the “MGWCC” meta that solving in Alphacross helped as it changes the grid outline color when the grid is completed properly. This time it hurt my solve as I didn’t rebus the affected squares at first and it still gave me the “correct solve” color change despite having MIAM, NEWMEN, etc.

  3. Jeffrey Harris says:

    I’m guessing it was intentional that the LAST letters of some entries are MINUTE, because they have to fit into the rebus squares.

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