Sunday, August 24, 2014

4 Across - August 2014

August 2014 | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution

This bad boy nearly did us in, Dear Readers! Been bragging about one- and two-sitting solves and then whammo! August 2014. Finished in time for our solution to arrive at the Harper's office by contest deadline date of August 8th. But only barely. Eep.

excuse: been busy working a fulltime corporate marketing gig which is UGH very lucrative and BLUH very very stupid. The gig is: coding spam for banks and credit cards and stuff. Sometimes Flash ads. The trash of the Internet. Not proud. Don't even want to assign some soothing narrative to it like, “this too shall pass”or “we all gotta make a living” or ”be grateful for a job in this economy.” Don't want to tell self something just to feel better. Prefer to leave it unreconciled.

The Theme

Blues unclued, each four letters across, yielded a WORD CHAIN (51A) that's also A FULL MEAL (4A). See cuz the chain goes:
  • SOUP
  • COUP
  • COMP
  • CAMP
  • CAMS
  • CATS
  • CUTS
  • NUTS
So get it, “soup” to “nuts” OK COOL. Had “AFU------” for a while in 4A and thought maybe it was “A FUN -----” like “A FUN THYME” or similar.

Theme was aight but not sure what its relationship to the puzzle title (“4 Across”) is. Four food groups, four courses ... four letters and can't come up with anything better?

Maltby calls out to the back stairs
“Minion! Minion! Come here lad! Help us name the puzzle!”

Minion looks up from an intimidating stack of mailed puzzle solutions
“How about '4 Across'.”

“Hmmm ... inTRIGuing! Yes, but why, my dear boy. Why??”

“Because I don't care,” whispers minion.


A lot to like this month :)
  • 15A) They reveal the full spectrum in reverse sexism. Sir, please! (6)
    sexisM SIR Please * reverse = PRISM
Dahh!! LOVELY!
Sir Isaac Newton and prism
  • 17A) River was mispronounced? (4)
    WAS * homophone = OISE
Not too unusual a puzzle usual, but took a long time to get this one. Kept forcing URAL. Nyet! Nyet Ural. Nyet this time.

Didn't realize this river is located in Belgium and France. Thought it oise somewhere else, haha ha ... ...

Listen, we can't turn this off people! [points to head].

Ice on the Oise River - Gustave Loiseau
Ice on the Oise River - Gustave Loiseau, 1914

  • 20A) Staggers, heading off swimmers (6)
    (Staggers = TOTTERS) - heading = OTTERS
Yah! Puzzle spidey sense was right on about this one: that a syn for “staggers” minus the first letter would yield an aquatic animal. But took some crosses to get TOTTERS to OTTERS.

Otters! Here you go: a video of napping otters holding hands. You are welcome!

  • 21A) That man tails black cars (7)
    (That man = HE) + (tails = ARSES) = HEARSES
Yussssss delightful! Arses!
Claire's hearse in Six Feet Under
Claire's hearse in 'Six Feet Under'

  • 27A) May emerald, e.g., be rings exchanged in troths? (10)
Mwa! Big beautiful anagram. Nice congruency with “rings exchanged” and “troths.”
  • 45A) Making a doctor walk back from a steroid manufacturer (7)
    A + (doctor = DR) + ((walk = LANE) * rev.) = ADRENAL
Nice psych-out with “manufacturer”! First instinct was like Eli Lilly or another pharmacorp. Nay nay. All the drugs you need right here [points to head].
The brain manufactures plenty of drugs
  • 49A) Sure, a pig has no gravity as a wild animal (5)
    (Sure = OK) + A + (PIG - (gravity = G) = PI) = OKAPI
Usual wild animal of puzzle fame OKAPI forgiven for this delightful narrative. Mmm!

related: this exchange with Amazon customer service a while back:
Turing test with Amazon customer service
  • 50A) Forbidding a woman like you to provide fashionable clothing (8)
    (a woman like you = SISTER) + (fashionable = IN) = SINISTER
A woman like you!! The woman like you is inside your family. The woman like you ... is you. Strong. Here's a swap-gender Mr Sinister (Ms Sinister!!)
Swap gender Mr Sinister | Ms Sinister | Miss Sinister
  • 10D) Emphatically said “Farewell,” joining Resistance with communist (7)
    (Farewell = AVE) + (Resistance = R) + (communist = RED) = AVERRED
Like it! Even though it stacks up neatly, and there's the giveaway capital-R “Resistance” and the usual “communist” = “red”. Somethin bout the fresh use of AVE. Felt real crisp, real nice.

  • 13D) Sounding sick, aid a cycling participant (6)
    SICK AID A * homophone = CICADA
YUS!! Can I get a wut wut for biology?? Had the terminal A from 26A) ETA, and was hung up for some time that it was a play on GIARDIA. Sometimes one's puzzle instincts stink.
  • 17D) Sex appeal leads to love, love on speed (5)
    (love, love = OO) + (speed = MPH) = OOMPH
DeLIGHTful! Favorite clue of the puzzle! Narratively striking! Love gone awry on a chemical flume.
Kanye and Kim | Motorcycle
Unsafe at any speed.

  • 18D) Whoopee! Latin lawyers fight. You might take one to a bed, when working out! (11)
    (Whoopee! = WHEE) + (Latin + L) + (lawyers = BAR) + (fight = ROW) = WHEELBARROW
Yah the cakewalkiness of this one is mitigated by the fun of the cluing! Take the Latin laywers to bed! To bed, for whoopee!
  • 23D) Really funny thing, church spirits—not very good (6)
    (Really funny thing = HOOT) + (church = CH) = HOOTCH
Nice. Hootch! Not very good. Never a good sign when that's whatcher drinking.
Prison Hooch | Pruno Creek Prison Wine | This S**t Will F**k You Up
  • 29D) They help addicts rebel as, after rehab, small number gets taken in (8)
    (REBEL AS + (small number = N)) * anagram = ENABLERS
Nice congruency with addicts and rehab.


  • 23A) Cat's word for piece of the pie (3)
    tHE Pie = HEP
Nope! Nope nope. “Cat” as in like a really cool cat man, this is a real happening joint, dig?
  • 26A) Letter with information about your flight (3)
    information about your flight = letter = ETA
In a shocking twist, ETA, which would normally just be a composite part of a bigger, better answer, this time, is the answer. Moo. Snooze times. Would prefer not to see one iota of eta for the rest of this era.
  • 38A) Ace tax forms, chance to win big (6)
    ACE TAX * anagram = EXACTA
A method of betting, as on a horserace, in which the bettor must correctly pick those finishing in the first and second places in precisely that sequence. Also called perfecta.

Source: The Free Dictionary

This wierdo held up most of our progress in the southeast until the frustrated, bitter end. “Exacta”? Never hearda? Exactly.
  • 43A) Dieter's suffering black out again? (2-4)
    DIETER * anagram = RE-EDIT
Re-edit and weep.

If you cut your hair, do you talk about re-growing your hair afterward? If you take off your clothes, do you say, “hold on, I gotta re-robe” later? What's the meaningful difference between editing and re-editing? Is it that an editing session might be any session 1 through n, but re-edit is session 2 through n?
  • 3D) Professional writer and outlaw (9)
    (Professional = PRO) + (writer = SCRIBE) = PROSCRIBE
This clue is where imagination has come to die.
Branded Outlaw by L Ron Hubbard | book cover
  • 7D) No end to what's inside comic, silliest man in France (9)
    (SILLIEST + (man in France = M)) * anagram = LIMITLESS
Limitless The “France” part was a real « quoi? » for us. As in like M. for monsieur but mmmmmmmmmm really necessary? Really? Mmmmno. Coulda gotten away with just “man” wethinks.

Q. Who is the silliest man in France?
A. Every man in France.

FYI that we are headed to France in September with our mommazon! She's been talking about visiting Provence for 20 years. This year we said, “Mommazon! Provence 2014. Let's do it.” So we're doing it! Very excited. Been sending her a daily jpeg from Pinchrest. This place! We'll be here!
Your Daily Provence
  • 8D) Primary character changes in crustacean's hood (7)
    (crustacean = LOBSTER) * primary character changes = MOBSTER
Appreciate that “hood” in this instance is not cultural code for “thug” aka “gangbanger” aka “young black man.” Pretty silly tho.

Do they say “gangbanger” where you live? Chicago is the only place we've lived where they say it. In every other city “gangbanger” means “someone who participated in a sexual gangbang.”

You know what else they say in Chicago? And also they put it on the official municipal roadsigns? SPEED HUMP.

  • 11D) Endures sole formats (5)
    LASTS (double syn.)
Annnnnnndummmmm ... we don't quite get it. SOLE as in LAST like “The Last Unicorn”? Ummmmmmaaaaaaaybe. Maybe.
The Last Unicorn
Ah so per Brother Eric yea but there is another meaning of last: these things. Shoe trees. We award this clue last place.

update: per Notorious Marcel, lasts are more like patterns for shoes than “shoe trees.” Annnnnd that makes more sense. COOL
Shoe last
  • 33D) A TV set taken back—help, it's heaven on earth 
    A + (TV set = RCA) + ((help = AID) * rev. = DIA) = ARCADIA
From Wokapeetya:
In European Renaissance arts, Arcadia was celebrated as an unspoiled, harmonious wilderness.

Source: right here (1st ¶)

Ok COOL but that TV = RCA equivalence is a leetle shaky here in 2014:
RCA stood for Radio Corporation of America, a company which later became RCA Corporation which was taken over by General Electric in 1986 and then split up.

Source: yuh here (1st ¶)

  • 48D) Good name for a ragout chef, say! (3)
    ragout = STEW, homophone for STU
The chef's last name is Pid.


The Tacky!

Once again, we rail at USA imperialism. The losing battle (lost battle) that we still fight.
  • 9D) Part of series One of America's Greats (4)
    sERIEs = ERIE
The Great Lakes! Love them! Buttttttttt (repeat after we):

“America” is a continental group, not a country.
The US is not America
Commit it to memory, correct other people obnoxiously. Say “US” instead of “America” when referring to the US. Feel goofy doing it and still do it.

Ok but then as for “American” noun as in ”we were the young Americans,” or “American” adjective as in “the existence of Fridgehenge makes me feel very very American, and proud to be so, as does every person who appears in The Blues Brothers, including the Canadian Dan Aykroyd (especially the Canadian Dan Aykroyd)”
The Blues Brothers
wellllllllll those use cases ring less imperialist to our ear. Use your judgment.

If even one Dear Reader is more thoughtful in his or her language as a result of this blog: that would be amazing. That would amaze us.

Ok and then basically the same thing for da'other:
  • 44D) America in, interminably, the back seat (4)
    (America = US) in (THE * interminably = TH) = TUSH
MmmmMMmm that's right even Yiddish slang for butt cannot save this clue from our ire! UGH it feels rancid and rong to even type out that equivalency (“America = US”). Argh! See above!!

Tell your puzzle friends about this puzzle blog. That or leave a comment. Your choice! The power is your's!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sixes and Sevens (And Twelves) - July 2014

July 2014 | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution
We're back, Dear Readers! Back and better than ever! Travel to Europe with Sweet Vlad was incredible. Some photos on the Tweeter.

And THANK YOU to all those in the past month who responded to our Call and reached out, commented, emailed, passed along dollar support, kai, ta, loipa. We felt the love. Love is bond.

Din't e'en ha' ti' to check answers this month nor check our logic so this post is likely RIFE with errors and a reminder that this is a SAFE SPACE for correcting logic. Also: sincere question for the comments: how many people, would you estimate, participate in the monthly Harper's cryptic contest? Hard to know, right???????

The Theme

We've seen this bad boy before. Unclued six, seven, and twelve letter answers. A couple handfuls with clue numbers. Straightforward fun.


  • 9D) Mail boxes I put out (5)
    (Mail boxes = POST) + I = POSIT
Nice! Tight. Simple. This clue puts out.
  • 6g/5A) I'm right in front—entralled by quiet, soft, tiny thing
    (IM * rev = MI) + (quiet = SH) + (right = R) = SHRIMP
SHRIMP makes frequent puzzle appearances but this one charmed us for the narrative. The quiet soft tiny thing! It enthralls!
  • 24A) Reactionary, unmoved, shows a bit of kindness at heart? Unreal! (5)
    ((unmoved = DEAF) * rev.) = FAED) + (bit of kindness = K) = FAKED
  • 7D) Entering one by one, managed to become an extra in Argo (5)
    (one by one = I I) + (managed = RAN) = IRANI
Also nice. Very much enjoyed Argo for the Arkin-Goodman scenes, but it's a drag that we don't have any blockbuster superstar Iranians for the mostly unnamed Iranian roles. Hashtag institutional racism, hashtag shitty things. Hashtag frustration with culture.
  • 1A) Notice something that grips counsel (6)
    (Notice = AD) + (something that grips = VISE) = ADVISE
Sweet. Simple. Love.
  • 6a/31A) The least ordinary poems about death initially take a little time
    (poems = ODES) + (death = D) + (time = T) = ODDEST
Prolly coulda taken out “initially” for to make cleaner smoother, but still quite nice.
Emily Dickinson | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6h/17A) Gets into office, lets CEO endlessly become agitated
    (CEO * endlessly = CE) + LETS = ELECTS
Oh we wish! We wish politics were antagonistic to corporate business! Agitation!!
  • 6j/21D)Breaking rules, tenor gets fruit
    (RULES + (tenor = T)) * anagram = RESULT
Like “fruit of labors” or “fruit of loins.” Nice. Thought this would involve SAX or somehow become SYNTAX.
  • 7b/8D) A coward gets the most out of work
    (gets the most out of = MILKS) + (work = OP) = MILKSOP
OP like opus prolly. Nice clue, and love the word MILKSOP.
  • 7c/1D) Medusa's masks put on
    MEDUSAS * anagram = ASSUMED
Mmm! Very nice narrative flavor to this one! Mythological! Anagramical! Love.
  • 7g/10A) Disease you can get from the beach? Quite the opposite!
    DISEASE * anagram = SEASIDE
Worked hard to make “Disease you can get from the beach” the definition side. Our margin notes say “sunstroke” “rickets” (cuz the sun and Vitamin D, and rickets is a Vitamin D deficiency, so it's “quite the opposite” of a beach disease ... it's thin reasoning! We know!)

The twelves were spectacular, and much anagrammious:
  • 12a/23A) Screwing up as tenderfeet, use the bay to get rid of something
Like bay window. Mwa!
  • 12b/4D) Is one's mutual interaction coincidental?
  • 12d/16A) In perversion of altruism, get left imprisoned—it makes Man of steel lead copper, perhaps
    (ALTRUISM GET + (left = L)) * anagram = METALLURGIST
Full Metal Alchemist | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 12d/6D) After buildup, king takes care of overreaches
    (buildup = HYPE) + (king = REX) + (takes care = TENDS) = HYPEREXTENDS
Excellent! Wonderful. So nice when the component syllables break up in a fresh way relative to the answer.


  • 11A) I got in with buddy in the 'hood for life (4)
    I + (buddy in the 'hood = BRO) = BRIO
Didn't go for ELAN this time. Went for zippity-zip puzzle'ese synonym number two, BRIO. A'ight. BRO makes us thinka dis:
Backwards upside down visor | bro | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
“I am Broseidon, lord of the brocean.”
  • 2D) Provide man cave with a fork? Say you didn't do that (4)
    (man cave = DEN) + (fork = T) = DENT
Uh ... as in:
“Did yeh do dat?”

“I dent, mama! I dent do dat!”
Cuz ... No.

Per Brother Steve below, woops it's DENY. “fork” = Y. Yah. More sense makes.
  • 26D) Jumbos or squirts (4)
    JETS (double syn.)
Squirts. Gross. What is this, a misguided marketing campaign for the MS Zune (RIP)?? Zune - Squirt!!! | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6f/25A) Repeatedly, drops in first indications of rain easily show eventual excessive saturation
    rain easily show eventual excessive saturation = RESEES
  • 6i/14D) He prevents a pass. Can the Queen?
    (Can = SACK) + (the Queen = ER) = SACKER
ER or Er may refer to:

[...] Elizabeth Regina, the Latin form of Queen Elizabeth II

From Wikpdja

We always forget and think that “Regina” is her middle name but nah. It's for Lady Rex. Always gonna feel snooty about these -ER words. Restrict the -ER words to the Scrabble game, where they belong! Keep them out da puzzle!

sidenote: a couple years ago for our grandmother's birthday, our aunt wanted us to Photoshop grandma's face onto a banner-sized image of Queen Elizabeth II. Which was strange because 1) grandma is French-Canadian and 2) also not particularly interested in Queen Elizabeth. But our aunt was like, determined. Which then got sidetracked into explaining why a 200x200 jpg was not of adequate resolution to support a 6'x6' banner. And ultimately we avoided having to do it at all. But only narrowly.

This aunt also visits a psychic on a regular basis, and a couple years ago she texted me
ERICA, i visited my medium and he wants to know that there are people on the other side who are watching you

[2nd text]

they want you to know you WILL reach your goal! he named you SPECIFICALLY
which was pretty cool. And still is. Just to be able to jack into that kind of certainty in things working out, and love and support unseen but still there. What we're saying is: we love our aunt. We're still glad we didn't have to participate in this QE2 Photoshop project.
  • 6l/15D) People encouraging a heartbreaking novelist?
    EGGERS (double syn.)
Mmmf. More of this -ER word nastiness. Also, Dave Eggers: part of a discouraging new generation of painfully self-conscious detached writers. cf Sheila Heti. We're not a fan. We made it through about 100 pages of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and then threw it across the room. And then eight years later, an acquaintance said that our writing reminded him of Dave Eggers's and the acquaintance meant it as a compliment but we were like, “noooooooooooooooo!

If you agree that this blog is Egger-ific, please never say.

“What is the What” is supposed to be good though. So.
Dave Eggers Looking Silly

The Tacky!

Two this month, making up for the zero last month:
  • e/14A) Woman burned up about her husband's death? Tut! Sadly, look around (6)
    (TUT + (look around = SEE)) * anagram = SUTTEE
Ugh no! This is bad, you guys! This is bad. Not a cool* pun.
*“cool” used here is not, itself, meant to be a temperature-related pun, further escalation.

Suttee turned out ok for Daenerys. Not for a lot of ladies, tho. Violent murderous misogyny. Some real woman-hating bullshit.
Daenerys suttee | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 23D) After the princess got offed, did it to me, too! (5)
    ((princess = DI) removed from DID = DI) + (T) + TO = DITTO
Ai! Princess Di! Beloved! Too soon! It's been 18 years and guess what: in another 18 years it'll still be too soon. The heart still tender.

Also weird double DIs. Right? Super weird!
Princess Diana with her engagement ring | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Nice congruency with the earlier QE2 reference, tho.
Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Di | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

Sincere question for the comments:

About how many people do you think solve the Harper's cryptic every month, id est, how steep is the competition, how vast and deep our community? We're guessing it's somewhere between 10^3 and 10^4. Sound right to yeh?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Full Circle - June 2014

June 2014 | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution

Before we begin

one lil' thing just a sec: this site has many lurkers. You know who you are. Some of you lurk but a mere moment, here via Google image search (driven by our relentless alt-tagging on images).

Some of you though, yes we know SOME of you, are lovers of Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues. That's the word you use: “love.” But you've never left a comment, you've never put a couple bucks in the PayPal tip jar, and you've never emailed to say “omg such funny awesum blog pls keep it up thank you erica.”

Consider switching that up this time. Not for us. For you. Do it for you. It'll feel good! We're asking you to participate in the things you enjoy. Participate in your own life. “The only thing I'd want to comment on is your flawed reasoning or grammar,” you say, and hey, that is a-ok brother-sister! This is a safe space for correcting broken logic. Promise.

Alright, to the puzzle. We much to did dislike. Buckle up.

First thing we disliked: appearance of usual puzzle suspects (t/ern, Oreo), and generally easy/particularly uninspiring cluing.

Second thing we disliked: the dum jerk of a theme that we stared at and stared at and could not parse. We had all the clued entries filled in and maybe 1/3 of the theme entries completed by inference, but with no discernable linkage. Thought perhaps the words were included in song lyrics, or a famous poem, or some cultural reference we were not up on (cf Ring in the New Year - January 2011).

Sleepy sweet V looked over at the clipboard, said, “gimme dat,” and instantly said, “it's the months.” And as we groaned with frustrated ego, he added, ”fulllllllllll circle.”

  • 1D) JANitor
  • 34A) FEBrile
  • 43A) MARine
  • 44A) APRicot
  • 29D) MAYhem
  • 1A) JUNiper
  • 30A) JULep
  • 10D) AUGment
  • 18D) SEPulchre
  • 22A) OCTane
  • 6A) NOVena
  • 32D) DECent


  • 15A) Getting to the point, record call (8)
    (record = TAPE) + (call = RING) = TAPERING
OHhhHHH very sweet playing with component syllables here. One plus one equals three. Excellent. Much love. Respect.
  • 17A) Assert tailoring produces stunning creations (6)
    ASSERT * anagram = TASERS
Inventive. Nice. Related: something usually unmentioned w/r/t “Don't tase me bro!” is that it took place at a John Kerry event. Weird, right? Theoretically this guy was 2004's lefty alternative to the war machine. And yeah, the young heckler dude was rude, but under JK's watch the situation rapidly escalated from words to uncomfortable violence. Watch it here, and decide for yourselves.
Don't tase me bro | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Contrast with this account from Charles Monroe challenging then-President George HW Bush at the G7 summit:
Charles Monroe Now, this I remember. Because I just assumed I was going to be arrested. I knew I wasn't going to be shot. That hadn't happened yet, so that's cool. And I'm like, "This is it." And what happened next was amazing because nothing happened next.

I didn't get arrested. He had this thing where he had his hands on the podium, and he kind of moved his hands. I don't know what signals they have, or whatever, but they didn't arrest me. And then the worst possible thing in the world happened to me. He ain't going to arrest me, and he's about to engage me. And I was like, "Oh, my god. The President of the United States is speaking to me right now, and he basically started asking me questions. And I was like, "Holy mackerel." I really almost passed out.
  • 26A) Singers backing up headliner (4)
    (Singers = RATS) * rev. = STAR
Rats like in ratting out yer fellow crooks. Clue is nice and neat (how we like).
Frank Sinatra | Mugshot | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 31A) Done head to toe, but without depth (3-1)
    DONE * first letter to end = ONE-D
Delightful! Although letter translation instructions always annoy us. Just give us the anagram! Subtler indicators! We're big girls! We can handle!!
  • 38A) Bay leaves left out of plant disease (5)
    (plant disease = BLIGHT) - (left = L) = BIGHT
Often we don't like the uncommons so much, but this was fun! Had the medial G already in the fill, so tried forcing ERGOT several rounds. Also thought it might use laurel, the other name for bay leaves. But bight! We've hearda the Bight of Benin.
Bight of Benin | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6D) Be off guard? It's a fuzzy area (3)
    NAP (double syn.)
Very nice. Very much enjoy this use of “nap.” Sweet Vlad got this one. “Naps are my specialty,” he explained.
  • 8D) Fresh and young, but right away, corrupt (6)
    (corrupt = VENAL) + (right = R) = VERNAL
Delightful! Corruption of the youfs!
'Just make sure your children hate authority and theyll do fine' -John Waters (w/his parents)
  • 9D) Hebrew characters—they have their lives in order (4)
    NUNS (double syn.)
Always appreciate the chance to exercise our limited knowledge of the Hebrew aleph beth.
  • 21D) One crossing your palm with one third of litter of cats (8)
    (one third of litter = LI) + (of cats = FELINE) = LIFELINE
D'aw, this was a sweetie one! V took one look and blurted out “lifeline!” and we followed up with the reasoning.
Amazing fortune telling cat
  • 25D) Small storage unit Michigan takes in is found in Washington (8)
    (Michigan = MI) + IN + IS + (Washington = DC) = MINIDISC
Yus. Fun! Anachronistic tech!
  • 35D) Teacher finds the legal profession uplifting, swinging both ways (5)
    ((legal profession = BAR) * rev.) + (swinging both ways = BI) = RABBI
Nice. Woot bisexuals!
Bisexuals on TV | Prince Oberyn | Frank Underwood | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues Is it just us, or does it seem like Kevin Spacey must put it in his contract rider that his character 1. sing and 2. be bisexual ?
  • 39D) Gull in Swan Lake—it's a step up (3)
    (in Swan Lake it's a step = PAS) * rev. = SAP
Gull as in easy mark, as in the kinda sap that gets rolled. Little bitta ballet knowledge required. Or French knowledge (same thing). Just pleased this wasn't another T/ERN clue.


  • 11A) Schedule for members of Polizia, Gendarmerie (6)
    PoliziA GENDArmerie = AGENDA
A wh-hopping five of the letters in this wordspanner are right there in Gendarmerie no, this was just a no. We felt made fun of to our face by this one.
  • 16A) I'm ten, holding reporters manuscript in back—that's one way of seeing things (13)
    IM + (ten = 10 = IO) + (reporters = PRESS) + (((manuscript = MS) + IN1) * rev.) + (one = I) = IMPRESSIONISM
Torturous. Murderous. More of this quantity-treated-as-concatenated-string business that we hate so much. Buh.
1With acknowledgements to listener Don.
Monet umbrella | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 28A) Spin doctor, if there's time at the end, winds up producing this! (9)
    SPIN + (doctor = DR) + IF + (time = T) = SPINDRIFT
That is no good tossing a syllable wholesale in there. Bluh. Gross.
Spindrift | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 36A) College race that never starts heading west (4)
    (race = RELAY) * never starts * reverse = YALE
Ugh. Cult of Yale, cult of Harvard. Why must for to have cultural fluency in these places for rich men, for to cultivate more rich men. Such why. Buh.
  • 2D) Quaking aspen—they don't go very high on a beach (5)
    ASPEN * anagram = NEAPS
Murrrrrr too easy! Eight words for the definition half makes too easy too easy. Not in service of a tighter narrative congruence or waddy wah. Add NEAPS to the list of too much puzzle usual.
  • 7D) Sweet choreographic element (4)
    chOREOgraphic = OREO
You'd think we might like for the nice and the neat but buh. Brands. Corporations. The cookie that's always in the puzzle. Muh.
  • 14D) Crooks, so-called high-fliers in Atlantic City, perhaps (5)
    (Crooks = TURNS) * homophone = TERNS
Originally thought this might be a five-letter city that borders the Atlantic Ocean, which caused Sweet V to say, “Ugh! There's four continents that border that f*cking ocean!” This rapidly devolved into a discussion-argument (discurgument) about whether Antarctica “counts” as a continent.

Anyway. Our initial puzz-tuition was wrong on this one. No need for new geography learnings. It's dum regular usual forever puzzle bird, the TERN.
A tern sits on a sign that reads: Nesting birds, you must not go beyond this notice.
  • 34D) Favorite interior becomes vacant lot (4)
    (Favorite = F) + (interior becomes vacant = ATE) = FATE
    FAvoriTE * interior becomes vacant = FATE
That cluing for “ATE” is rough. Maybe nicer neater:
  • Bolted after failing a lot (4)

Yah so actually per Dear Reader Don it's a little less rough than we thought. Notice how Don spotted some faulty reasoning, and had the urge to say something, and did he tamp that urge down? No. He did not. He commented. That's right.

That's it. No tacky this month. Believe it: nothing particularly body-shaming, or slut-shaming, or hetero-normative, or racist, or racist-y, or rapey, or sex-negative, or what now. The whole puzzle was just kinda tacky in form, not in aspect.

Comment time. You know what to to do. It's so easy. It makes such a difference. Yesssss!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Theme and Variations - May 2014

May 2014 | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution
Welcome to spring, Dear Readers! Love, above-freezing temperatures are in the air!

The Theme

1A and 3D are related, yielding three theme words with two variations each. 1A turns out to be TRIATHLON and 3D IRON MAN und dann the theme words are the three legs of a triathlon:
    variation: kindsa swimming strokes
    • 11D) DOG PADDLE
  • 38A) BIKING
    variation: definition of component word parts
    • 6D) HERMAPHRODITIC (bi)*
    • 21D) MONARCH (king)
    variation: other famous battles
    • 29A) WATERLOO
    • 25D) HASTINGS
*we shall explore why this is tacky at the und


  • 12A) Good going in underwear worn before 50? (5)
    (underwear = BRA) + (50 = (5 = V) + (0 = O)) = BRAVO
Always with the brar always brar brar. And very much dislike this style of breaking up quantities into components, treating them as concatenated strings. It feels bad, and it is bad.

But forgiven for the mature underwear dance party this clue intimates! YUSSS! Bryan Cranston underwear | Breaking Bad | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

Needtit be said? This month's Nerd Hot Guy: Bryan Cranston.
Bryan Cranston headshot in Fast Company | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Sweet portrait via Fast Company

  • 17A) Opening, except for the third word that goes on the next line (5)
    (Opening = WINDOW) * (except for the third [letter]) = WIDOW
Typography nerds! Stand on the next line and rejoice!
typography: orphans and widows | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 18A) Seafood ring served in concessions (8)
    (ring = CALL) in (concessions = SOPS) = SCALLOPS
Scallops used to be our favorite seafood. Yum. And favorite line from the translation of Ulysses we read in seventh grade: “Blast and damn / must I be a milksop all my life?”

  • 23A) Pedantic gossip carries on—one's heart follows (7)
    (gossip = DISH) + ON + (one's heart = N) = DONNISH
don•nish [don-ish]

resembling or characteristic of a university don; bookish; pedantic.

Got this one and was like, “ ... do they ever make donnish puns in Mad Men?”
Funny you should ask, I *am* DONNISH
  • 24A) Heads off a ghost (5)
    HEADS * anagram = SHADE
Mmmm1!!!! Now this is what we love. Pure. Tight. Clean. Narrative.

Also very much enjoy when a likely indicator instead serves as anagrind. Delightful.
Disney's Sleepy Hollow | Headless horseman | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 31A) Turned up, I rutted in depravity (9)
    UP I RUTTED * anagram = TURPITUDE
Mwa! Anagramas! We loves! Always appreciate sex-positive references to perversions and depravity. TURNT UP!
I don't always turn up, but when I do ... [volume at 11]
  • 35A) Loaded in electric heater (4)
    electRIC Heater = RICH
Nice wordspanner.
  • 45A) Profligacy in various sexes describing Second Coming? (8)
    (SEXES * anagram) + (SEC * reverse) = EXCESSES
Liked this one, as usual, for 1) anagram 2) narrative. What always love. What love every time. Same always. “what good” is “what like.” You know.
  • 1D) Why water isn't hard? What's wrong? (4)
    WHAT * anagram = THAW
Oh very sweet, very nice play on “hard” water, very nice use of idiom. Mwa.
  • 14D) Gussied-up den, set like some tables (6)
    DEN SET * anagram = NESTED
BAHAHA YUSssSS!! Nested tables! If you want to code an email to look the same in every client, like exACTly the same, your choices are to either make the whole thing one giant jpeg and hope ever'body has images turned on, OR nest tables within tables within tables. Web 1.0 didn't go anywhere. Because the people who still use Eudora 1.0 didn't go anywhere. They're not all dead (yet).

Not sure what nested tables mean to a non-coder. Or what they would have meant to us ten years ago. Sure as heyk know what they mean to us now. O the painstaking! O the meticulous!
  • 27D) Miso soup is full of energy—it affects the cells (7)
    (MISO IS + (energy = E)) * anagram = MEIOSIS
Oh HAYLE yes! Ninth grade biology. Much love.
Meiosis | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 39D) Cows members of flock in Episcopalianism (4)
    floK IN Episcopaliamism = KINE
Ohhhhhh YUS in yet another highly specific and not particularly interesting memory from Erica's past: we know the word “kine” because it comes up in some crowd work on Buy Me Bring Me Take Me Don't Mess My Hair ... Life According to Four Bitchin' Babes, V. 1. Megan McDonough sings a song about kine, and explains, at length what “kine” is.

This is the songbook cover for the second line-up of the Four Bitchin' Babes.
Four Bitchin' Babes | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Notable line-up change was swapping in Julie Gold for Patti Larkin. Yes, From a Distance is great. But also yes, Patti Larkin is way better and funnier then alla dem bitches put together. We said it. This paragraph is for the nonexistant Dear Readers who love the Harper's cryptic AND '90s folk music.


  • 9A) Spoken in the past tense, this would make a planet spin (5)
    ((planet = WORLD) * homophone = WHIRLED) - past tense = WHIRL
Ew! Ohhhhhhh so torturous. Bleh.
Imagine whirled peas | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 15A) New or otherwise, it's a second crop of hay (5)
    NEW OR * anagram = ROWEN

a second growth of grass or hay in one season.

Source: Goog
This one was called out in the instructs as uncommon. Yah. Twas uncommon. Meh!
  • 20A) Point of an instant message? (3)
    AIM (double syn.)
Wowee wowee wowee!! 1998 has come to join us in our world.
  • 2D) Before, I never disputed small state of a flower! (8)
    (I NEVER + (small state = RI)) * anagram = RIVERINE
Riverine? Riverine? These uncommons are uncommonly bucolically bluh.

  • 28D) Illness in the ear—took a powder for it (3)
    (took a powder = FLEW) * homophone = FLU
We first learned the phrase “take a powder” by reading IT at a much too young age. “too young” as in “not personally able to absorb without being disturbed, perceiving monsters in the dark, etc.” Another 11-year-old might have been fine. We were not. Anyway the character who grows up to be a driver (Eddie?) talks about taking a powder from his job when he gets the call that the monster resurfaced in his rural Maine hometown. At the time we assumed “a powder” meant “cocaine.”

There's a nice narrative quality to the clue, but “take a powder” = “flew” is weak. Appreciate the (accidental?) association with floo powder, tho.
Floo powder | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 36D) First to last, what's thrown around by gamblers? Getting murdered (4)
    (what's thrown around by gamblers = DICE) * (first [letter] to last) = ICED
Indicator is heavy-handed for a single-translation anagram of a word which is, like, one of the top three most common puzzle words. #PuzzleComplaints

The Tacky!

One and a half this month! And the “half” is us being sensitive ... or perhaps too sensitive? Which is it? Dear Readers can decide!!
  • 22A) Mobile home tethered, at first, to a piece of fencing (5)
    (tethered * at first = T) + (piece of fencing = EPEE) = TEPEE
Callin' this half-tacky because of the class associations between mobile homes and poverty, and the reality of rampant poverty on American Indian reservations. So dire such poverty, it has its own Wikipedia page. Would prefer that references to tepees also mention “stolen land” “colonialism” &c.
Custer's Last Stand | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

Und, from up top:
“Intersex” qua “bi” is quite the stretch. “bi” commonly abbrevs “bisexual,” and without qualification, bisexual ≠ intersex. Altho, likely, non-zero intersex folks are bisexual. Altho, more likely, when you already occupy such a non-normative sex then what's the point of clinging to the gender binary anyway such that “bisexual” even holds meaning, and why not just call yourself “queer” and do whatever the fuck you want? Fuck whoever the do you want? Exactly.

Why don't we all just do that? Exactly. Gender queer | gender fuck | Fuck Yeah Hard Femme | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Source: (our favourite)

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