This cramped grid had three symmetrically-placed, longish food/drink answers with starred clues. With a nudge from the title you might have noticed that each of these types of food/drink has an example of the form “X&Y”:
40-across CANDY PIECES: m&m
15-down ROOT BEER: A&W
36-down SANDWICH: PB&J
Next, you can find entries around the grid that correspond to the letters of the “combos” above:
M = 16-across THOUSAND; M = 60-down MASS
A = 9-down ACE; W = 67-across TUNGSTEN
Pb = 25-across LEAD; J = 51-down JOULE
The last step is to treat the “&” of each combo as an arithmetic operation and add the clue numbers of each pair together, which it turns out gives you the same answer all three times: 16+60 = 9+67 = 25+51 = 76, which confirms itself as the meta answer by being the clue number for the entry SUM.
Next up is puzzle #18, “Triple Deckers.”
The answer to the metapuzzle is a kind of sandwich. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, July 15 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.