Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gremlins - March 2013

March 2014 | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution
This puzzle was hard.

Granted, we're also in the middle of dealing with bed bugs. Longtime loyal Dear Readers will recall our travails with the weird smell (crack?) coming from the neighboring unit at our old building in early 2013. Since then, our streak of luck in love, but lack of luck in living situation, has continued. You can read about it on our blog, starting here.

Don't worry. This will end. Either the bed bugs will die, or we will die.

Bed Bugs on
But this puzzzzzzzzle, prolly even without bed bug distraction: hard. We finished a few days before the puzzle due date. The letter substitution really messed with us. Tooooo tricky! Keeping the transformation vector straight in our mind, uy. "Wait, do I enter with N transformed to R or R transformed to N ... wait ..." Ran though that line of doubt, like, every time.

Woulda helped tremendously if the transformed word were also necessarily a real word, á la ALPHABETICAL INSERTS. Nay. Twas not the case. Those gremlins.

Gizmo, canonical gremlin


  • 1A) They stop pair illegally? Yes and no! (8)
    PAIR => N became R => They stop pain illegally
    YES AND NO * anagram = ANODYNES
    ANODYNES => N becomes R => enter ANODYRES
MMmmm! We just like the word “anodyne.” But are they illegal? Huh. We think of them as clinical analgesic-style. Like: an anodyne is something Dr. House might grab from the nurses' closet. But not illegal per se.
Per Wise Tyler, “illegally” prolly indicates the anagram. Not, like, the illegality of anodynes. Ok MAKES SENSE
  • 17A) What boat poets took for salary, grain-like in sound! (6)
    BOAT => E became O => What beat poets took
    ((salary = PAY) + (grain-like = OATY)) * homophone = PEYOTE
    PEYOTE => E becomes O => enter POYOTE
Haha LOVE this one!
Cheech and Chong
Young Cheech, young Chong

  • 21A) Rapier tossed around hatch (6)
    HATCH => P became H => patch
    RAPIER * anagram = REPAIR
    REPAIR => P becomes H => enter REHAIR
Haha rehair! Love! Even if it's mere accident.
Just for Men
  • 23A) English first used traveling kit having a nap (5)
    KIT => D became T => kid having a nap
    ((English first = E) + USED) * anagram = SUEDE
    SUEDE => D becomes T => SEUTE
Enjoy this use of “nap.”
  • 26A) One who came to find pro quit as Goofy filling in for Big Bird (12)
    PRO => O became P => One who came to find oro
    (QUIT AS) * anagram + (Big Bird = CONDOR) = CONQUISTADOR
    CONQUISTADOR => O becomes P => enter CONQUISTADPR
  • 34A) Propositions in oath disturb mothers around Easter (8)
    (MOTHERS + (Easter = E)) * anagram = Propositions in math
    OATH => M became O => MATH
    THEOREMS => M becomes O => enter THEOREOS
Love this for the math. Love this for the entered result. THEOREOS
  • 5D) Child, cunning around cowboy at times, receives a million dollars (6)
    CUNNING => R became C => Child, running about
    (cowboy at times = ROPER) + (million = M) = ROMPER
    ROMER => R becomes C => ROMPEC
Yah two Rs with crosses, argh the ambiguity, but ignore it, because this clue is so fun! Mike Teevee | Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Also, amused ourself by hoping that the transformation was MILLION dollars to BILLION dollars. What's cooler than a million dollars? Justin Timberlake knew.
  • 15D) Wake yourself from a position in a rumpled bed, one with Tom in it (8)
    WAKE => T became W => Take yourself from a position
    (A + BED + (one = I) + CAT) * anagram = ABDICATE
    ABDICATE => T becomes W => enter ABDICAWE
Nice. Not enough of the bigger anagrammas this month.
  • 24D) Trek in swamp let up—involved oxygen (6)
    TREK => E became K => Tree in swamp
    ((LET UP) + (oxygen = O)) * anagram = TUPELO
    TUPELO => E becomes K => enter TUPKLO
Van Morrison | Tupelo Honey


  • 14A) Pained, made something happen (12)
    PAINED => R became P => Rained
    made something happen = PRECIPITATED
    PRECIPITATED => R becomes P => enter PPECIPITATED
Booooo. Groan. Hisss!!! This clue pained us.
  • 19A) Moisten roast beet (5)
    BEET => A became E => beat
    Moisten roast = BASTE
    BASTE => A becomes E => enter BESTE
Buh. This was one of the very last ones we solved. And we didn't solve it, Sweet V did. UGH there was another crappy BEAT clue, too:
  • 29D) Gets a beat going in lines (4)
    BEAT => O became E => Gets a boat going
    ROWS => O becomes E => REWS
This was the very very last solve of the month for us. And we had to brute force it. Never a good sign.

We had RE-S in the fill. All but the uncrossed third letter. The clue does not have an R, which means that the R in the fill was secure. And the S was likely safe. There are two Ss in the clue. GET- can really only be GETS. LINE- can be a handful (LINED, LINEN, LINER, LINEY (liney?)). Decided that the E in the fill was still the most likely culprit for transformation. Wrote out REAS, REBS, RECS ... all through the alpherbet. Started at the end to rule out some of the easy exotic ones. REZS, no, you can't transform the E or the S to make anything. REYS, there's RAYS, that's not it. REXS, no. REWS and immediately saw ROWS.


Dolph Lundgren | Masters of the Universe | He-Man
PS, don' e'en needa' sayt, Dolph Lundgren as He-Man in Masters of the Universe is this month's Nerd Hot Guy.
  • 20A) Real boor has something to download, cry about (6)
    BOOR => P became B => Real poor
    (something to download = APP) + CRY = CRAPPY
    CRAPPY => P becomes B => enter CRABPY
Another one where both Ps cross, and it coulda been either. Mur mur mur.
  • 6D) A bit of silver gone? Si! (4)
    SI => O became I => So
    silvER GOne = ERGO
    ERGO => O becomes I => enter ERGI
Uh ok first of all it's “¡Si!” Second of all this clue is dopey. Wordspanners are usually dopey but this one was super dopey.
  • 28D) I memorize a sigh that stands for something (4)
    SIGH => N became H => sign that stands for something
    I (memorize = CON) = ICON
    ICON => N comes H => enter ICOH
“memorize” = “con”?
2. con - commit to memory; learn by heart; "Have you memorized your lines for the play yet?"

Gross. So obscure, so out-of-date, that it's not even used in its own drang example sentence.

The Tacky!

  • 33A) Heavy lead covering America (4)
    LEAD => O became E => Heavy load
    (covering = ON) + (America = US) = ONUS
    ONUS => O becomes E => ENUS
We had a Peruvian professor in college who really drove it home that the 'US' is the 'United States' and 'America' is a 'continental group', and ne'er should the two be confounded else she'd stop you mid-comment and make you correct yourself, halting your train of thought.

So: we're calling this clue tacky for reasons of USA imperialism. America is a continental group. Deal with it. What about “USA = 'Murka” mm, that's it's own thing. That one doesn't bother us.
USA is not America
  • 32A) US, e.g., rose the wrong way, made changing shape (8)
    MADE => L became D => male changing shape
    (US, e.g. = WE) + (rose the wrong way = FLOWER * reverse = REWOLF) = WEREWOLF
    WEREWOLF => L becomes D => WEREWODF
Male normative. Boo. And confounding subjective and objective. “us” and “we” are both pronouns yah well ... yah, well ... [waits for you to turn away] [quiet so you can't hear] boooo oooooooooooo ooo
Woman Werewolf

Also, look alive whilst doing the April puzzle, Dear Readers! From the Harper's site:
Correction to this month's puzzle: In 15D, the right-hand letter count was reversed; it should have read “(3,4).” We regret the error.
Correction to this month's puzzle: In 15D, the right-hand letter count was reversed; it should have read “(3,4).” We regret the error.

Why would you lurk, sweet thing, when you could c-c-c-c-comment yesssss!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tongue Twisters - February 2014

February 2014 Harper's cryptic answers Hola hola hola Dear Readers. Here's a cool fact: bed bugs. We have them. ARGH yes it's true. It happened. Chicago has the highest rate of infestation in the country for the third year running. Can only live as an urban young person so long before you no longer dodge that cannonball.

We found the first bug in the kitchen, dead, in a cup. And the second, also in the kitchen, alive, in the recycling. And the third, filled with Sweet V's blood, the other morning. UGH!
I will not be defeated, bed bugs
Today we bought one of those heating bed bug death chambers. Morale is currently high as we are flooded with the good feelings of a large purchase, and a return of the illusion of control, success against death, kai, ta, loipa. In part control over bed bugs, but mostly over death. Let's be real.

Ok. Puzzle time. Get it together. BUH no just one more thing, the sound of the terminator's spray this afternoon made us feel very bad inside. Bad for us, bad for the planet, bad for the bugs. Yah, bad for the bugs. We want them dead, and guess what? Also feel bad for them. “Not like this,” we thought.

Ok. For real this time. Puzzle this month was due “by Valentine's Day, and son, you better get right if you don't know when that is.” TONGUE TWISTERS was the theme, with the tangy saucy tantalizing clue in the instructs, “Solvers are invited to decide which of the other twelve unclued entries (all related) is the 28 Across.”


Wanted something homophonic or lingual or like 28A would be “how many pickled peppers DID Peter Piper pick?” and the unclueds would be p-quantities. Instead they were just like twelve rando flavors, available via inference alone:
  • 20A) JASMINE
  • 38A) NUTMEG
  • 7D) THYME
  • 21D) SAFFRON
  • 23D) PAPRIKA
Paprika anime
  • 25D) CHERVIL

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium), sometimes called garden chervil to distinguish it from similar plants also called chervil, or French parsley, is a delicate annual herb related to parsley. It is commonly used to season mild-flavoured dishes and is a constituent of the French herb mixture fines herbes.

Via Wikedpedia



  • 18A) Sadly leery about upsetting party with singer who gets high (7)
    (LEERY + (party = DO)) * anagram = YODELER
Was sure this was going to be SOPRANO but no! So much the better!
  • 19A) Spanish America's the house of ill repute (5)
    SpaniSH AMErica's = SHAME
Reasoning on “ill repute = shame” strikes us as wobbly but thesaurus dot cron supports it so if the Internet says so it's prolly true.

Reminded of The House of the Spirits set in Chile, and early in the book the patriarch of the family visits a whore with big dreams and gives her a very generous tip. And then SPOILER ALERT he meets her again later, and very narratively gratifyingly you find out she used that big tip to start a very successful feminist whorehouse.
  • 26A) Small lock, or how wimp gets to be pimp? (4)
    how wimp gets to be pimp = W is P = WISP
ARGghghhhhhhhhh this is some real DEVILY SHIT and the only reason we say that is because we didn't get this one. Sweet Vlad did. Knew it had to be WISP, knew it had to be WISP, couldn't get the logic on it, and it was Sweet V to the rescue, parsing that which we could not parse, picking up the pieces where our brain left off. Thank you, baby!
  • 36A) Jewish gathering has broken about four (5)
    (HAS + (four = IV)) * anagram = SHIVA
Mmm! Shout-out to all m'Jewish brothers and sisters!

1. a period of seven days' formal mourning for the dead, beginning immediately after the funeral.
“she went to her sister's funeral and sat shiva”

Source: The Goog

  • 11D) Latin caught in sack ran (4)
    (Latin - L) + (sack = BED) = BLED
Sack like “hit the sack.” Ran like “o no! I washed my discount flag and these colors ran!”
  • 10D) Radical introduction of euro has me retroactive convert to cash (6)
    (Radical = RED) + (introduction of euro = E) + (ME retroactive = EM) = REDEEM
“radical = red” eh? Reminds us of this shirt: T-shirt: Please kill a commie for my mommy


  • 14A) The first characters seen in fair hair are ... space cadets! (8)
    (The first characters = HEADS) + (seen in fair hair = AIR) = AIR HEADS
At least, that's how we think the logic goes. Summin like 'et.
Yah so per Wise Tyler, it's: “the first [letters] in the words 'fair' or 'hair,'” i.e. “characters before the string 'AIR'” i.e. AIR HEADS


Here, let's look at a still from Airheads: Airheads
PS, Brendan Fraser? February Nerd Hot Guy. Callin' it. Happy Valentine's day.
Brendan Fraser | Nerd Hot Guy
  • 16A) To some extent, is eventide between 6 and 8? (5)
    iS EVENtide = SEVEN
Uh. Too mucha gimme. WISH wish wish it were some reference to “the number six is afraid of.” That would REDEEM this dum clue.
  • 39A) Shoe store's known tie with criminal organization (8)
    KNOWN TIE * anagram = NIKETOWN
Ewwwwwww brands EW! One day we will live in a world where all Niketowns are razed, replaced with Funkytowns. One day.
  • 31A) After Florida upset, Crimson's defeater of Vikings (6)
    (After = A) + (Florida upset = LF) + (Crimon = RED) = ALFRED
NICE! Behold, the brave visage of Alfred the Great! Alfred the Great, defeater of Vikings
Ugh tho. Any reference to capital-C Crimson and the Cult of Harvard annoys us. Because people who went to Harvard annoy us. Mostly the B-school kids. If you went to the Harvard Business School, well. It's time you knew what we think of you.
  • 12D) Union charges in announcing list of things to accomplish (4)
    (list of things to accomplish = DOES) * homophone = DUES
But just as easily coulda been DOES. And a list of things to accomplish is more properly TO DOS. DOES also, uh, isn't it DO'S? Yah, we hate the apostrophe misused, cuz it's not indicating a possessive w/r/t a person named “Do”, cf CD's, which always burns us out (“Does the CD own something?!??!? NO!!!!!!!!”). You could just suck it up and hope context makes it clear with Dos and Don'ts or do it is DOs & DON'Ts, but that's a little shouty. Never write about your lists, is the solution.

Which reminds us of a game we co-invented with our friend Matt called The Dating Dos game. You're welcome to play along! The game is: there are no Dating Don'ts. You play by describing some behavior that's clearly beyond the pale of inappropriate for a date. Like peeing your pants ... ON PURPOSE. And then the game is to explain, no matter how thin or backwards the logic, how that behavior is really ok. More backwards = more points.

So peeing your pants is ok because it shows you're not afraid of your body, you're comfortable in your body. Actually, most Dating Dos can be justified by how they demo your courage. Extra points for describing Dating Dos you've Dating Done. Super extra bonus points if you play Dating Dos while committing a Dating Do.
  • 34D) Went off in amphibian (4)
    WENT * anagram = NEWT
Nothing newt to see, here. Wish it were “Ambibian went off (4)” next to a gif of a classic Kermit flail. Here: Kermit flail

The Tacky!

  • 33A) Fancy woman starts going with unnamed man (4)
    (WOMAN start = W) + (unnamed man = HIM) = WHIM
Calling this one out as kinda slut-shamey, if you want to read it as slut-shamey. But then, you could just as easily call it slut-promoting. Like the other day, Sweet Vlad's German roommate Barbara asked, “what do you call in English a woman who dates many men?”

“Uh ... smart? Having fun?” we said.

We love (love!) that it's in political vogue right now to call out slut-shaming as a bad thing! It is bad to shame sluts! We love (LOVE!) that “slut-shaming” is a phrase in the public consciousness.

Our own thinking on sluts was very much shaped by our friend Chris in San Francisco, who said, “I think sluts are sexy. I think it's sexy when someone wants to have sex with you.” Well said, brother.
Slut pride | slut march | slut parade!

Leave a comment it makes us feel soooooooo good inside!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Cross-Purposes - January 2014

january 2014

Mouseover for the Greek letters.

Welcome to 2014, Dear Readers! 14 is our lucky number, so we look forward to a Lucky Year. Because THAT'S how it works! Boom kaboom :)

To the puzzle!

Oh! There were some guh-ORGEOUS clues this month! Glorious. And, the puzzle included second favorite puzzle instruct of all time: “Any confusion you may feel will be explained by the entry at 31 Across.” Any confusion we may FEEL?


First favorite puzzle instruction of course and for all time is “included just for fun” from News Clippings in Septembre 2013. Just for fun! !! #puzzlefun

Special magic varietal dirty business this month: ten across clues (and their associated downs) include a transliterated Greek letter as one box's worth of fill. Which, if you're special, and magic, you entered it as the Greek letter and not the transliteration. And, if you have courage in your heart, you entered the Greek capitals and not the lower-cases even though several of them look like Roman capitals and to the untrained eye it might appear you misspelled your answers Some Greek capitals that look like Roman characters but with square jaw edged with integrity, and a steely eye of righteous nerd, you did it anyway. Because you are correct, and your correctness has set you free, and you don't give a fuck about anything. You are Jennifer Lawrence.

Jennifer Lawrence not giving a fuck about anything, a free person
We used the more recognizable Greek lowercase letters above. We're more like Josh Hutcherson. Josh Hutcherson? He plays Peeta in The Hunger Games? No?

PS, Jennifer Lawrence is this month's Nerd Hot Guy. If you're hung up on gender, and it's important to you that a “guy” be a “guy” well, haha! Not important to us! In that regard we are, indeed, free.

Only wish that the puzzle title had some subtle nod to Greek/Greeks/Greece. Like maybe title it “TAU TE CHING.”

The Greek from The Wire season 2 | Bill Raymond
The Greek from The Wire Season 2, as played by Vermont's favorite theatrical son Bill Raymond


  • 13A) Can miso soup? Such things are unquestioned
    (Can = AX) + MISO * anagram = AXIOMS
Love this for the smoothness of the clueing. Unquestioned!
  • 18A) Chilling mouthful from police organization including an afterthought
    (POLICE + (afterthought = PS)) * anagram = POPSICLE
So sweet (like a popsicle). Sweet Vlad got this one :)
  • 25A) Going west, uranium comes into range—New Mexican?
    (range = OVEN) * reverse + (uranium = U) = NUEVO
Was certain this would involve UTES. Nu! It did not!
  • 27A) Every second of my first spy appointment gets recognition
    mY fIrst sPy aPpointment gEts rEcognition = YIPPEE
Thought this was YIPPIE because ... we were like, “oh, it's YIPPIE,” and wrote it in, because that's how we spell YIPPIE. All the time. Not just when we're thinking about Abbie Hoffman.

What's your favorite Abbie Hoffman prank? Ours is when he threw dollar bills on the New York Stock Exchange floor.
  • 41A) I hate that kind of square shoe!
    (I hate = BOO) + (kind of square = T) = BOOT
Delightful! We also hate square-toed, and square-lame, shoes. Square toed boots
  • 7D) A curious update about ten books may come from this
    A + (UPDATE + (ten = IO)) * anagram = AUDIOTAPE
Lovely lovely anagram! But “ten = IO”? Uhhhhhhhh no, ten = X. That is what ten equals. What you're gonna just treat "10" as a string, you're gonna just, like, pretend like it's just concatenated digits? Wut that's KRZY!!!
  • 4D) Beliefs are adjusted for one woman's magazine
    ((are adjusted for one = IS) + (woman's magazine = MS)) * anagram = ISMS
Love this. ARE ADJUSTED FOR ONE mmm!!!! Subject-verb number agreement reference!!! And nice to see Ms. as the woman's magazine as opposed to Glamour or US Weekly or something.
US Weekly - via LiarTownUSA
Via the amazing LiarTownUSA.

  • 37D) Jockey can—true horeman?
    CAN TRUE * anagram = CENTAUR
YUSSSSSSSSssssss centaur. Yes. And this: Centaur job interview (transcript) - SNL - Christophers Walken, Kattan, and Parnell
  • 32D) Drunken revels: they give you a lift
    REVELS * anagram = LEVERS
“Give me a lever and a place to stand! I will move the world, betches!” — Archimedes

In drunken-related news, how's sobriety going, thanks for asking, it's going well. Current struggle is with frustration-annoyance when we tell people--especially people who knew us in our Deep-Drinking Time, and especially-especially when those people have a fresh drink in hand ready to offer us--that we don't drink anymore, and the person says, “good for you!” And when every bar, every party, every family dinner, every tech meet-up, every event involving writers: it's like being Galadriel and Frodo offers you the One Ring. And you know exACTly how good it's going to taste, and you let the dark power grab hold of you, and even lie to yourself a little that this time it could be different. You could control it. You'd be the good queen. There's the ring! Right there you could just grab it!!!! But you come back to your right-mind, and you say no.

And then Frodo says, “good for you!”

Frodo offers Galadriel the One Ring
Or “healthy.” Like we just took a big shit. “Healthy choice.” Like going for a jog is a healthy choice, or switching to decaf, or eating Healthy Choice cereal. When really it's more like paying child support. You could choose /not/ to do it--plenty of people do! But eventually, you're going to end up in an institution where you don't want to be, broke, and with the people who love you crying. That is the other choice. So, kindof like cake or death, except in this example, cake means you don't get to drink.

But sobriety-proper is going well! We still drink in our dreams.
  • 14D) Versifier has no time for a versifier
    (Versifier = POET) - (time = T) = POE
Ahhhhh!!!!! One of the greats!!!! Love this.
  • 21D) Down inside fantastic rabbit hole—initially this is where cardinals clean up
    RABBIT HOLE * anagram = BIRDBATH
GLORIOUS anagram. We revel in the warm bath of these long anagrams.
  • 23D) Siege is mixed up with sex: this explanation is critical
    (SIEVE + SEX) * anagram = EXEGESIS
Another nice anagram! Sexy! Literate! Mmm! BEST sexy!


  • 36D) Capital just makes me more confused
    MORE * anagram = ROME
Murrr. Guh. Appreciate the very nice sentence'iness of the clue, but puh. Zsh. No MORE ROME anagrams. Sawdust.
  • 42D) Waiters do build men! What are the odds?
    Build men = BIDE
Can someone 'splain why number agreement is just, like, shat upon sometimes by the puzzle k thanks in advance. And after that wonderful 4D, too.

The Tacky!

Two in the gray area.
  • 10A) Sentimental art—university states it's the horny part!
    (Sentimental art = CORN) + (university = U) = CORNU

cor • nu

: a horn-shaped anatomical structure (as either of the lateral divisions of a bicornuate uterus, one of the lateral processes of the hyoid bone, or one of the gray columns of the spinal cord)

cor • nu • al (adjective)

Source: Merriam Dubs

Guess what? We hate the word horny. Love the feeling, hate the word. Worst word. Crass and tawdry. “horny” is for middle schoolers harassing each other about green MnMs.

Appreciate the clue's internal congruency about hot hot co-eds in heat, tho.
  • 28D) People hid from this deviant!
    PEOPLE HID * anagram = PEDOPHILE
Reminded of RADIO THE RAPISTS from February.

Whhhhhaaaat is with the sexual assault in our Harper's cryptic. S'like every month there's gotta be something from Harper's: Special Victims Unit

We know this isn't how puzzle construction works BUT, for the record, PEOPLE HID can also be rearranged to spell HOLED PIPE and ELOPED HIP. Two well-known English language phrases. So. There were options there. Folk pipe
Courtesy David Munrow.
Eloped hip!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Hex Signs - December 2013

Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues | December 2013 Look alive it's another Harper's puzzle! Hannukah came early, and so did the end of the December 2013 cryptic contest.

Before we begin

As we dive deep into the holiday season, consider giving the gift of money to your favorite cryptic crossword blog. We'll just leave this heeeeeeeeeeere for you:

If money makes you uncomfortable, consider leaving a comment. If breaking your lurker code of silence makes you uncomfortable, consider telling a friend about this blog and how much you like it SO MUCH. And then your friend can be like “yah, crossword puzzles I know about those” and you can be like “ERMEHGERD no CRYPTIC crosswords VERY different omygourd omegrod you don't even know! Let me now launch into a twenty minute unbroken monologue to EXPLAIN.”

Any of those things would make us very very happy :)

To the puzzle!

Hex signs. There was another one'a these a couple years ago: BEEHIVE in May 2011. We never got around to a write-up, but one of the answers was the archaic ethnic slur BOHUNK:
bo•hunk /bō,həNGk/
noun informal offensive
1. an immigrant from central or southeastern Europe, esp. a laborer.

Source: The Goog

Is it fine to use a racial slur in the puzzle when most of the negative power of that slur has been lost to time? Is it wrong to sport a mohawk and never consider what it means with respect to the slaughter of the Mohawk people? Do you feel kinda bad right now? We feel kinda bad right now. Glad we brought it up!


Tons of fun had in this puzzle! Four unclued answers relate to each other, and, in some truly sweet visio-linguistic symmetry, the relationship is that each six-letter answer is entered hexagonally and the four unclueds are synonyms for “hex signs”:
  • 8) SPELLS
  • 11) CHARMS
  • 47) JINXES
  • 44) CURSES
We found traction early in the north and proceeded steadily counter-clockwise. Several correct guesses about fill placement were crucial to a lean mean two-day solve. We got real lucky, Dear Readers.


  • 1) A corny bit? Sounds rank!
    (rank = COLONEL) * homophone = KERNEL
“Colonel” was one of those words we encountered in our early literacy that really bugged the hyeck out of us. “But it's spelled 'coll-oh-nell' ... ”

Same with “Europe.” Both left us with the sneaking suspicion, “ ... there aren't actually any rules here ... why is everyone pretending that there are ... ?”
The Little Colonel | Shirley Temple | Lionel Barrymore
  • 3) Hour in the evening is for returning a little seafood!
    (Hour = HR) in (((evening = PM) + IS) * returning) = SHRIMP
Was hung up for hours so certain it was SCAMPI. Love it, though.

Oh yeah—you should know that several of the highlights this month are just ones that we got hung up on, and then felt disproportionately satisfied to solve. Our intuition was dead on in entering fill, but way off for solving.
  • 5) Taking off, entirely untidy. Untidy!
    UNTIDY * anagram = NUDITY
Lovely! Say it out loud. Guaranteed that you can't help yourself from delivering a histrionic hissing “Untidy!”
  • 12) Merchant tarred, feathered
    TARRED * anagram = TRADER
Ohhh! Loved this one! Took us a very long time to solve just because it's so sweetly nestled in the idiom.
  • 14) Everything Spanish the English geneticists feature
    (Everything = ALL) + (Spanish the = EL) + (English = E) = ALLELE
YuSSSssss! Opportunity for us to showcase our 7th grade memory of genetics. Insisted on trying to fit “TODO” and “TODOS” for several rounds, though.
  • 4) More like Frost—with an edge, that is—right?
    (edge = RIM) + (that is = IE) + (right = R) = RIMIER
MmmmmMMMmmmm so good it's bad but then good again, burning hot like fire and cold like ice, oh sweet heavenly Turandot this is DIABOLICAL. Took us forever to get, too. One of the last solves. Can't get over the “Bob Frost = rhymier” implication because mMMMmmmmm!!!!!
Jack Kennedy and Bob Frost
  • 20) Mad hatter's in danger
    HATTER * anagram = THREAT
So nice. So sweet and tight.
  • Speaker of English in back row
    OF + (English = E) + (ROW * reverse) = WOOFER
YESSSssss. Love when a common indicator IS NOT THE INDICATOR! You won't homofind the homophone this homotime. (whispers to self: make every time homo time)
  • 31) Can your city lawmakers employ some leaders in repeated patterns
    Can your city lawmakers employ some = CYCLES
Sweet Vlad got this one. We were hung up on synonyms for lawmakers (ALDERMEN? ROB FORD?)
Rob Ford
The Coward Robert Ford
  • 52) Docks airman flying around
    AIRMAN * anagram = MARINA
Another hangup! Thought it was ARMANI and kept trying to force “docks” as fashion-related. Very nice how the indicator syncs with the anagrind. Mwa!

Also, this:
Had a drink in a part of San Francisco called 'The Marina.' It single-handedly ruined my vision of San Francisco. -harikondabolu
  • 48) Entreat other elements to accept the Cross
    (OTHER + (Cross = X)) * anagram = EXHORT
Ooof! We were nearly burned by this one, and entered HECTOR. We were capital Confused by that capital Cross. Tricked! Didn't get this properly until the very end when checking our answers against that longo anagram in the instructs (POPE COMPOSED &c).


  • 9) Risk a hearing, being blue
    RISQUÉ (homophone)
Too mucha gimme. Murrrrrrr.
  • 15) Puts down question covering more than one line
    (question = QU) + (more than one line = ELLS) = QUELLS
“line” like as in train line, like the elevated trains here in Chicago. Yah uh. No. It's “L” thank you, and if absolutely necessary then spelled out “el.” And so then plural would be “els” like the golfer. Maybe this is a reference to some other kinds of train lines in some other kinda city #chicagochauvinism

Also, we reference this scene from Tommy Lee Jones's Oscar-winning performance in The Fugitive about once a month:

Don't ever argue with the big dog; big dog is always right. Nice to see Joe Pantoliano playing a good guy.
  • 7) Phones back around one for the Bushes
    (Phones = CALLS) * back around + (one = I) = LILACS
Tired of the Bush/bush thing, is all. Was swell at first, but the swelling's gone down.

As a sidenote, we do not know how to parse George W. Bush's new (career? hobby?) as an acrylic painter. We could understand pictures of fruit, or mountains, or tall buildings. But instead the Bush works out there are so nakedly vulnerable.
George W. Bush bathtub
George W. Bush with doggies
  • 21) Fitting left queen one of those fighting
    (Fitting = DUE) + (left = L) + (queen = ER) = DUELER
Dueler is fun but murrrr, sick of queen = Elizabeth Regina = ER. So convenient is the lazy convenient queenly ER.
  • 26) Make a home on bench
    SETTLE (double syn)
“Settle” is a kind of bench? Yes. Never hearda. It is telling that every picture of it on Wiki'edia is in black and white: A settle bench
  • 32) Take someone's money, some of which is elevating
    whiCH IS ELevating = CHISEL
“CHISEL” means gouge someone of their money? Like, metaphorically? Not, like, literally? Buh.
  • 39) Throat lozenge finally taken in by one taken in ahead of time
    (lozenge finally = E) taken in by * ((one taken in = GULL) + (time = T)) = GULLET
Just these tortured convolutions. These frustrated squeaky little fart clues. All effort, no payoff.
  • 54) Set upon a path with an old song
    (path = WAY) + (old song = LAY) = WAYLAY
LAY is an old song? LAY is an old song. More anachronesia.
1. (Literature / Poetry) a ballad or short narrative poem, esp one intended to be sung
2. (Music, other) a song or melody
[from Old French lai, perhaps of Germanic origin]

Source: The Free Dictionary

  • 23) Extreme alarm caused by man who hires prostitues, as they say
    WHORER * homophone = HORROR
Tried working JOHN for several rounds.

Wouldn't the WHORER be the pimp or madam? Right? Cuz isn't the -ER suffix like -MONGER? Like “roofer,” or “baker”? Like: “I was feeling rather lonely, so I talked to my local whorer ... ” ?
Marlon Brando - The Horror
“The horror!”
Also, this: Area Girlfriend Still Hasn't Seen Apocalypse Now Woulda called 23) the tacky clue ofda month if not for:

The Tacky!

  • 6) Busted for swinging scythe
    SCYTHE * anagram = CHESTY
Once again, female anatomy. Shmuh. At least it's just “Busted” and not “Irresistably busted.” At least it's not like, “Something a guy from the '50s would say about chicks (rumpled hour lost as ecstasy)”
Chesty Morgan That's the thing with these tacky clues. They would have us all be cryptic apologists. Muttering, “it could be worse ... ”

Wherrrrrrre are the puzzle-worthy cocks? One cock. Per puzzle. That's all we ask.

Or how about some butts? The butt: the Great Equalizer. Everyone loves butts.


Special congrats!!! to October 2013 contest winner Anand Sarwate of Chicago, whom we met at the Darwin Deez show at Shuba's in April. We'll never remember how our introductory conversation turned to cryptics. Vlad might remember. Vlad would probably explain, “you immediately started talking about the cryptic, as usual. Except this time, somebody actually knew what you were talking about.”

Proud of you, Anand!


What's this? In the answer key for HEX SIGNS, there is a NOTE:
NOTE: The clue for 7 (LILACS) was not an accurate reversal. The clue should have read “Phone back around one Sunday for the Bushes.” Due apologies given.
For reference, the clue as printed was: Phones back around one for the Bushes. Yah. We interpreted “back around” as an anagram indicator because we don't get too hung up on anagram indicators, because, as Dear Readers of this blog know well, we lve anagrams. Love blinded us.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Foursomes - November 2013

Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues | November 2013
Hola hola hola, readers! Before we begin, it occurred to us recently that in all our years of writing this blog: there has not been even one single challenge to what we've deemed “tacky.” From Day One, we were girded and ready for accusations of “reading too much into things” or “o u femnizt what du know” ... but no! And while we hate to think silence implies consent (cf feminist) maybe in this case silence implies enthusiastic agreement?

Which is to say: this month's quote-unquote “tacky” clue is a stretch, Dear Readers! Tit's a stretch. Feel free to call it out. You'd be the first.

To the puzzle!

Theme title: foursomes. Sexy times. Four-way (radial) symmetry and clues grouped in unnumbered foursomes to keep it lively, but left-to-right text directionality in English meant placement wasn't ambiguous for too long, not like with News Clippings a la Septembre.

This was a fast solve. Return to form! Started in the evening, finished up in the morning. Barely any time to get help from Sweet V, who usually looks over our shoulder and lands at least one of the long answers. No, this time our solve was pretty much solo. Big Girl puzzle solving.


  • 2D) During move, ram platform to make the band too loud (7)
    mOVE RAM Platform = OVERAMP
Reminded of Ani Difranco's Living in Clip. Ani Difranco | Living in Clip We got rid of most of our physical CDs in 2009 in a Great Purge before leaving San Francisco and the Internet doesn't have record of the story we are about to relate (!), but in Living in Clip's liner notes there's an explanation of the eponymous phrase:
“clipping an amp”: “overloading an amplifier with a sonic signal that exceeds the machine's power capacity, resulting in a terrifying snapping sound and the illumination of a tiny red warning light on the face of the amp indicating that it is about to blow.”

“Man, the amps are, like, living in clip.*” - Ani's sound guy
(*paraphrasing — ed)
  • 1A) Jailbird rants and rages—not in these places, I hope!
    (Jailbird = CON) + (rants and rages = VENTS) = CONVENTS
Like as in, “I hope no convicts go to a convent and raise a stink; those nuns wouldn'a handle it”? Nuns are tough. They'd be fine. They'd offer the convict some tea, give the convict some toilets to clean and a bed to sleep in. Cool those rants right down. Only mildly related, we've appreciated imgur's general collective fandom for the new Pope. There'll be a cool jpeg of Pope Francis, maybe with some cool words he said recently written on top, like, “it's ok to be gay! What, me judge?” Pope Francis And then the title of the post and the first 50 comments will be, “as an atheist, I say the new Pope is dope.” The Hierarchy of 2013 Internet Love goes like:
  1. Pope Francis
  2. Neil deGrasse Tyson
and they keep toggling top spot. Speaking of which, obv, do we even need to say it, this month's Nerd Hot Guy:
 Neil deGrasse Tyson

  • 21A) Shy nuns, I fancy, like a nice day (8)
    SHY NUNS I * anagram = SUNSHINY
Thought this was SUNNYISH. Wups. Check it out, another nun clue! Nunsense. Nunsense
  • 33A) Granted, The Wire going in had one great shot (8)
    (wire = CORD) + going in (one great shot = ACED) = ACCORDED
Mention of The Wire, right there as the first clue in the puzz, caused us to lose our mind. Got this one only near to the very end of the solve. Golf reference is forgiven because The Wire. The Wire alignment chart
  • 9D) Incompetent has a try, then, starting to sag, butts out here (8)
    (HAS A TRY) * anagram + (starting to sag = S) = ASHTRAYS
Oh but(t) how we wanted it to be ASSHATRY. The butts are really out here tonight! Some real asshatry on display!
  • 23D) I'm found in an article describing the persona of a woman (5)
    IM + AN (article = A) = ANIMA
Herr Jung. Reminds us of a story: years ago, we went on a date via craigslist with a young man we'll refer to here as Unattractive Kenneth* (*name changed to protect the innocent). Our date was to walk around Golden Gate Park. Unattractive Kenneth said three deal-breaking things on this date. The first was that he felt indifferent about Barack Obama. Indifferent! This was November 2008, and we could not relate to indifference about Barack Obama. True love, seething frustration: these feelings we could relate to. Indifference? The second was that he found the Star Trek universe rich and robust, but the Star Wars universe thin and uninspired. Huwhutt? Why would you even ... who would even ... what? The last nail in the space coffin for ol' Unattractive Kenneth was when he said he really liked “uh-NEE-muh” and we asked what that was and he said, “you know, Japanese animation? Uh-NEE-muh? I'm really into it.” And we nearly yelled, “no you are NOT into it! This date is OVER!”

This story reflects more poorly on us than on Kenneth. We love telling it, though.

All the 12s were lovely:
  • 25A) One might make a case for the president after election (12)
    CABINETMAKER (double syn)
Barack Obama convenes!
  • 14A) Royalty you get from printer cable (two words) (12)
  • 7D) Substitute taking shot in soccer in two games at once (12)
    (Substitute = DOUBLE) + (shot in soccer = HEADER) = DOUBLE HEADER
  • Proud to find spelling of vous original (12)


  • 7A) The father of modern art?(4)
    DADA (double syn)
We just had a Dada clue in September. We're Da-done with Dada clues. Especially thin little gimmes like this one.
  • 13D) Small noisy joint? Hot dog! (6)
    (small = WEE) + (joint = KNEE) * homophone = WEENIE
Meh. Was sure this would be SPLIFF, somehow. Instead it's a little doggie weewee clue. Hot dog Oh, and while we're on it
  • 24A) Makes a sound on bended knees, perhaps? (5)
    KNEES * anagram = KEENS
which, first, it's another knee clue, and we are not exactly lapping them knee clues up. Second, those anagrams that are single-letter translations BOOOOOOO!!!! Jeremy's iron. Boo.
  • 15A) Carved gate in front of university city in South Korea (5)
    (GATE + (front of university = U)) * anagram = TAEGU
This is the uncommon proper alluded to in the puzz instructs. Meh. Here's Taegu, though. So pretty with the night and timelapse. Taegu
  • 16D) Young European in a line from Joseph to Ebenezer (6)
    josEPH + EBEnezer = EPHEBE
We had it in mind that EPHEBE and EPHEBIC related strictly to ancient Athenian homonormative behavior, like “Peloponnesian twink ca. 100 BC.” But no. Lo:
e • phebe [ih-feeb, ef-eeb]
a young man, especially an ephebus.

Origin: 1690–1700; < Latin ephebus < Greek éphebos, equivalent to ep- ep- + -hebos, derivative of hebe manhood

Prolly maybe we got confused because we first encountered the word while reading Proust. Oh, don't freak out, we didn't read much Proust. Just enough to read about “sweet beautiful ephebes” again and again and like, “ok, Marcy, put away the hankie. We've cracked your code.”

The Tacky!

Not really tacky just gross. But kinda fun gross, awakening our inner eight-year-old boy, like a gross bug, or Ren & Stimpy. And not even actually gross, mostly gross in our head. Anyway.
  • 27D) It's slathered on with love at the end of a month (4)
    (love = O) at the end of (month = MAY) = MAYO
Slathered mayo. Gross (cool). Mayo But we were certain, so extremely positively certain, with M--O already in the fill, that this was gonna be MONO, aka The Kissing Disease, aka Slathering with Love. And then it turned out to be MAYO so then it was like mayonnaise kisses slathered on and so gross you guys.

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