MGWCC #812

crossword 7:13
meta 1 day 


happy boxing day, and welcome to episode #812 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Corner the Market” by guest constructor nam jin yoon. for this week 4 puzzle, nam jin instructs us that we are looking for a loanword for which the stress falls on the second syllable. what are the theme answers? in this large (17×17) grid with diagonal symmetry, the two overtly thematic answers are:

  • {Snip, as you might with six clues} CUT ACROSS.
  • {Add something to, as you might six times} DRESS DOWN.

what’s going on here? well, to CUT ACROSS could mean to snip, i suppose, but DRESS DOWN really isn’t adding anything to anything. however, to DRESS can mean to add something to, e.g. a salad. so it looks like we want to CUT six ACROSS clues and DRESS six DOWN clues (or maybe answers).

what about the title? this does not appear to have anything to do with cutting, dressing, acrosses, or downs. but “corner” is a suggestive word, especially in light of the fact that we’re looking for six acrosses and downs, because this grid has exactly six squares that are in top-left corners—in other words, they start both an across entry and a down entry. so maybe this is a good place to start:

  • at square 1, {Canine cry} HOWL crosses {Divine} HOLY.
  • 5: {Overly literary} ARTY crosses {Positive quality} ASSET.
  • 9: {Make content} SEDATE crosses {Ready} SET.
  • 37: {Full ___} MONTY crosses {Brand} MARK.
  • 70: {Hardly off the mark} HOT crosses {Fair} HONEST.
  • 78: {Rip away} PEEL crosses {Gorge} PASS.

what to do with these? well, let’s start with the CUT ACROSS instruction. what if we cut a word (or multiple words) from each one? then we get a shorter clue that could clue a different across entry in the grid. to wit:

  • {Canine cry} becomes just {Cry}, which can clue {Blubber} SOB
  • {Overly} is {As well} TOO.
  • {Make} is, i think, {Depict} RENDER.
  • {Full} is {Whole} ENTIRE.
  • {Hardly off the mark} puzzled me because i was tying to make {Hardly} work, but i don’t think that does anything. instead, i think we need to cut hardly to leave {Off the mark}, which is {Wrong} ERRING. i’d have slightly preferred ERRANT for both the original clue and the extra clue, but ERRING works too, if somewhat less precisely. (and, as we’ll see, there was a good reason it had to be ERRING.)
  • {Rip} is {Streak} TEAR.

the first letters of these other entries spell out STREET, which is promising. without having done the down instruction yet, based on just “street” plus the title and instructions, i’m thinking we’re going to end up at BODEGA, which is a market on a street corner, and also a loanword with stress on the second syllable. but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

so, about those down instructions. most of the down clues are only one word. how should we dress them? ohh, maybe by adding back in the word we cut from the across clue that it meets at the corner! look:

  • {Divine canine} is {Egyptian god of tombs} ANUBIS, who was depicted with the head of a jackal.
  • {Literary positive quality}… i think this could be a clue for {Express} VOICE, as in an authorial voice.
  • {Ready content}, as a verb phrase, clues {Mess with a guest constructor’s perfectly fine clues, say} EDIT.
  • adding the blank to be filled in to {Brand ___} clues {The “N” of 41-Down} NEW. (41-down is NYC.)
  • {Hardly fair} clues {“___ Betty” (ABC dramedy based on a telenovela)} UGLY. the G here crosses ERRING, which is why ERRANT wouldn’t have worked.
  • {Gorge away} clues {Dig in} EAT.

once again (and this is a very elegant touch) the six relevant entries here are all downs, just as the first set of six were all acrosses. their first letters spell out AVENUE.

this is so, so cool. each of the six special “corners” in this puzzle can now be interpreted as the intersection of a STREET and an AVENUE—and just as it is in 41-down (NYC), the STREETs go across (i.e. east/west) and the AVENUEs go down (i.e. north/south).

the meta answer is certainly BODEGA, for the reasons i went over earlier—the click is very strong. i don’t think we’re getting any letter-by-letter extraction of the word BODEGA, the way we often do with the final meta answer; instead, we’re supposed to infer it semantically from the overall structure of the meta, with the title and the instructions as confirmation.

the meta is ingenious in its conception, but the grid construction is, in my opinion, even more of a masterpiece. it’s a 17×17 grid, only slightly larger than a typical grid, but look how much theme is crammed in here—six across and six down answers that need to be arranged in pairs sharing a first letter, plus the instructions CUT ACROSS and DRESS DOWN (that also intersect symmetrically), plus six more acrosses and six more downs that are related to the theme in a hidden way. that’s a whopping twenty theme answers, that all needed to be oriented in specifically one of the two directions.

about the only flaw, if you can call it that, in this meta is the fact that the answer may well be guessable from just the title and instructions. “corner” + “market” + “loanword with stress on the second syllable” can get you there even if you don’t do the crossword. i bet there will be solvers who guess the answer. but the thing they’ll be deprived of is the absolute delight of uncovering how the meta works.

i’m on vacation this week, traveling with my wife and kids to visit my parents for the holidays. so this will probably be my last mgwcc of 2023—i’ll try to line up a guest blogger for next week’s puzzle. but what a puzzle to go out on—thank you to nam jin for this tour de force!

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13 Responses to MGWCC #812

  1. You can spell BODEGA from the intersections of the key words in the grid.

    But I *completely* missed that their first letters spell STREET and AVENUE. That’s brilliant!

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, joon — about 200 correct answers this week (I accidentally closed the submission window on Tuesday at noon, so solvers have had to email me their answers over the past 24 hours. Don’t worry, those solvers — you’ll be getting credit before ths Friday’s puzzle).

    Joon, you dialed right in on this one! Well done. And thanks to Nam Jin for this creative burst of energy. Whenever anyone asks if we’re going to run out of new meta ideas soon, I think of puzzles like this one and say, I don’t think so…

    Also Joon: there was indeed a remarkable reveal on BODEGA: the letters form from the intersections of the six pairs! Corner market, indeed…

  3. Paul+Coulter says:

    Yeah, I thought it would be bodega as soon as I saw the title and the prompt, but I never found the mechanism. Which now that I read it, congratulations to Nam Jin Yoon. This was brilliant. I didn’t submit bodega, because my personal rule is that you have to be able to explain your answer. Guess that comes from all my years of teaching. Anyone else have a personal rule like this?

    • Hector says:

      Far from it! I sent in BODEGA as soon as I read the prompt and title, well before the puzzle was posted. Matt marked my entry as incorrect, which … well, morally speaking, sure. 😆 I do that sometimes for the heck of it, but always (try to) solve anyway. Very glad I did that this time. Brilliant meta.
      I didn’t see AVENUE — now I get why the stressed-second-syllable thing was needed.

  4. Mutman says:

    I had the right idea from the beginning, but didn’t crack it until hint #1 came out. I thought the intersections would be found because of the diagonal symmetry, but instead it was the 6 A/D corners.

    Well done!

  5. Mikey G says:

    After all the wild shenanigans of snipping clues and reattaching them, I saw AVENUE but didn’t see STREET. I saw AVENUE and, for some reason (likely thinking the answer was going to be BODEGA), saw the letter immediately below AVENUE *almost* spelled out BODEGA. So, I’m thinking, “What’s going on?”

    Then, I realized the *other* parts of the clues I previously discarded *also* played a role. And then I got their intersections, missing STREET in the process, however. Wow!

    And, of course, that makes it seem like I didn’t spend about 16 hours on this, which I did, haha: 7 one day before the first hint, 7 the next, and 2 the third day when I finally felt like victory was inevitable – and things finally fell into place. This puzzle was an exercise in my hubristic obstinance, and I love it for that.

    Simply brilliant in every sense of the word: metas are alive and well! Thank you for the incredible challenge, Nam Jin!

  6. clonefitz says:

    Wow! I danced all around this but just couldn’t make it come together. I even guessed the NYC/Street/Avenue theme, but couldn’t find a path to the answer. I had to go through the explanation above and work through the grid myself to see how it all played together. What a crisp, clean meta with a great reveal. I can’t fault the grid, clues, title or prompt; as always it seems so simple in hindsight. Great job, Joon! Only one more chance (2026) for Matt’s Christmas badge, unless he pulls off another Saturday release next year (hint, hint).

  7. Mike says:


    Just from having AVENUE crossing STREET Joon was able to surmise BODEGA was the answer and thought it made perfect click-y sense?

    But BODEGA was also logically found in the puzzle itself?

    Just making sure I have this straight for those of us who aren’t that concerned with bodegas (or party stores, even).

  8. I got BODEGA the hard way pretty quickly – DIVINE CANINE was my entree into the path. But I did not see the STREET/AVENUE aspect until a solving buddy pointed it out; with the wonderful title and added reference at 41D – what an astounding puzzle this is. I honestly can’t stop thinking about it and about how everything ties together so perfectly. What brilliant fun!!

  9. Richard K says:

    I didn’t solve this meta, but now I can see what an amazing construction this is. Congratulations, Nam Jin! I got completely sidetracked by the clue for HOT — “Hardly off the mark” — because the first three initials spell HOT and the last word (“snipped off”) appears in the grid right above it. I couldn’t convince myself that it was a coincidence, even though I never found anything else in the clues or grid like it. (“Shared numbers on Broadway, say” did have me looking all over for SNOB, without success.) Oh, well, one more try in 2023!

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