Friday, November 14, 2014

Honorable Mention - November 2014

November 2014 | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution

Mmm, the quality of clues this month: extraordinary. Just exquisite! So many approaching that highest ideal: natural language, telling a human story, lacking in obvious (gimme) indicators. Smooth and cool, like a ball bearing, or the sphere in the movie Sphere.
Sphere | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

The Theme

All I want is a room somewhere. Farraway from the cold night air. With one enormous chair. O wouldn't it be loverly. How much of the musical My Fair Lady do we remember from 7th grade, you ask? Please do go on singing in a nasally Cockney, you ask?
Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Ten answers missing their starting “H.” Just like how they'd be pronounced by Eliza Doolittle before the the brave Enry Iggins teaches her code switching. And then the unclueds at 36A, 17A, and 25A are HERTFORD, HEREFORD, and HAMPSHIRE: three keywords from the linguistic torture porn sections of My Fair Lady.

If you don't know this play, we feel bad for you, son. Ninety-nine problems. Not being able to solve the November 2014 Harper's cryptic is one.

As tis, even those of us now annoying Sweet V with showtunes while he's minding his own business reading the new William Gibson, yes even we lucky ones still got messed up on this knowledge content-based theme. Thought it was HARTFORD. Even believed we confirmed on Googlo that it's HARTFORD. Yah, woops. HERTFORD. Eat your hert out. Dear Reader Eric, that's where we thought the error was.

For-sure error in the footer, tho. Shoulda said “November.” Look, there! The error! BEHOLT!!
Wrong date in footer | November 2014 | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


  • 18A) Mercury or Saturn—that's a bit of a tautaology (4)
    bit of tAUTOlogy = AUTO
Ahhhh!! Like-a-the cars! Nice. Perhaps you read this clue as we did, amused, saying, “but they have ENTIRELY different purview it's couldn't POSSIBLY be a tautology OOOH Maltby, you've done it again!!”
  • 20A) Englishman's back to swinging both ways, as entrée to Italians (7)
    ((Englishman's = SIR) * back = RIS) + (TO * swinging both ways = OTTO) = RISOTTO
Those British men! Swinging about!!
Quentin Crisp | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Your grandma Quentin Crisp is this month's Nerd Hot Guy
  • 22A) I get seated uncomfortably for pictures (7)
    I SEATED * anagram = IDEATES
Mwa! Lovely! Smooth storytelling. Could be a line from an EB White memoir, right?
  • 34A) Engineer helps aid constructions contributing to touchdowns (7)
    HELPS AID * anagram = HELIPADS
Helipads!! So fun!! Let's name helipads in cinema ok we'll start! The helipad in Jurassic Park. Ok your turn.
Helipad | Jurassic Park | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 35A) Wheels that make you mad, mad, covering the full gamut? (5) MAD + (full gamut = A [to] Z) = MAZDA
Appreciate the two uses of “mad.” Would we have been surprised had both “mad”s been used the same way? We would not've. But then this clue would be moved to the Lowlights section.
  • 1D) The man needs a lush, all-encompassing, quiet, Southern subset of doctors (12)
    (The man = HE) + A + (lush = DRINKER) + (quiet = SH) + (Southern = S) = HEADSHRINKERS
Nice. Old school language (fresh language). Makes up for the length of the clue.
Beetlejuice | shrunken head | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 4D) Going off to flashy places where farmers get high? (7)
    TO FLASHY * anagram = HAYLOFTS
Nice surprising anagram! Farmers get high! Perhaps on online dates?



  • 12A) Unconventional theorist? Hm? Nearest thing to it! (9)
Pffffffffffffffft. Meh. It's ok. Still a lowlight, but ok. Tellya what if they'd tried to pull off THITHERER tho. Well. Then we'd feel the special delight we feel every time we get worked up about the Harper's cryptic. Oooh!! Get that pulse racing!
  • 14A) Pauses, managing a rescue (7)
    A RESCUE * anagram = CESURAE
Never hearda. Booo. We hate learning. Thought it would lead with CAE- but like it'd be one of those words where if you were feeling fancy you'd do some ligature like CÆ. But naw no ligature. Cese and desist.
  • 32A) Narrated story that gives the Chinese weight (4)
    (story = TALE) * (narrated = homophone) = TAEL
BUh have we mentioned that we hate learning ok actually we love learning, actually we're bashful not to know more about Chinese weights and measures. But TALE to TAEL? Single letter translation? Woof. Yah we know it's not an anagram. But, like, when the homophone is so close orthographically then it's like moooooooooo (moo-urns).
Five tael | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 37A) Long-tailed cats, ones riddled with mysteries, so they say (8)
Sphynx cat | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues Another really dum homophone. Dumophone. Yah so the puzzle instructs call this one out as “unusual” and if you're like us, then you shrug and say, “wha like the one Oedipus defeats? The answer to the riddle is man! The answer to the clue is not so unusual!” Why the homophone indicator this be a synonym yo! Yeah but and so with a “Y” it's a real-life breed. oO
Breed Standards

Wedge-shaped heads with prominent cheekbones
[ blah blah —ed ]
Whiplike, tapering tail from body to tip, sometimes with a puff of fur on the tip, like a lion

Source: Wikipedia

  • 38A) Start with hello, right? The heart of Nelson Eddy does this (6)
    (Start with = W) + (hello = HI) + (right = R) + (heart of Nelson = LS) = WHIRLS
Exhausting. Convinced ourself it was SWIRLS for a long time.
  • 5D) Alcoholic content of party: a furtive sip (5)
    (party = DO) + SIP = DIPSO
A party is a “do”? Fine. Dipso?? Was sure it was TIPSY longtime.
dipsomaniac (n.) Look up dipsomaniac at "drunkard," 1858, from dipsomania; slang shortening dipso is from 1880.

Source: Etymonline

  • 6D) Irregular who art where the vattles are ... (5, two words)
    WHO ART * anagram = HOT WAR
As opposed to ... a cold? war? Umunununun. If [x][y] esists, then [-x][y] exists? No. You've heard of cornrows; therefore, corncolumns. You've heard of dreadlocks; therefore, dreadopens. We could keep going. You've heard of right to die; therefore, left to die.

You know where Wikipedia redirects “hot war”? To “war.” Yah.

Theme necessitated not breaking down how many letters per word lest the jig be up. But then, doesn't this sort of elephant-in-the-room cluing exactly raise the jig? Look up, see it? The jig? There's an elephant on it?

The Tacky!

Yah so even though truly we loved the clues this month overall, there were a whoppin THREE we call “tacky.”
  • 13A) Two acts and he's a goner (4)
    (acts = DO) * two = DODO
He's a goner. This one made us sad. For the Earth.
Grumpy Dodo | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 28A) One of three South American flowers planted inside. One grows ... (5)
    One grows = NEGRO
Yah so. Just, doe'n't feel comfortable writing that. It's just the Spanish word for “black.” What's the bigs? Yah. We feel you. But if you're inviting us to alienate ourself from our emotional instincts ... good luck. Five years ago, two years ago, woulda been much easier. This year, you would have a rough go of it. Not gonna alienate ourself from our feels. And the feels? They're bad and weird, even contextualized by Latin America.
Pizarro | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 10D) Touring East, dancing role exhausts people who do it religiously! (12)
    (East = E) + ROLE EXHAUSTS * anagram = HETEROSEXUALS
Longtime readers knew we were gonna call this one out. What religion? What orthodoxy? The religions and orthodoxies so pervasive they need not be named.

Maltby has clearly never heard of the OTO, and eleventh level ritual buttsex.

This clue, it's like: why not “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”? Why tremble at the precipice? Just go for it. Name the infidels, the unclean, those whose way of love profanes the Creator and Creation. Say it. Queers are going to hell. Say it.

Tell it to the sisters.
Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Know and love.

Yah we're a little punchy this month. Ya.

Do that which is sacred unto this blog's kreator. Leave a komment!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Playfair Square - October 2014

October 2014 | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution

This was some real bullshit.

We say this even though we were the winners this month, and this is a plural “we” as ye shall see. Sweet V necessar-y. But the sweetness of victory can't stop the smell of pee (the smell is coming from the puzzle).

There are those within our readership who welcome this type of fuckery and unto you we say, “excelsior!” Go for it. Love it. But this type of next-level nonsense was imposed on we vanilla variety cryptic doers, and why? Why do the puzzle instructions trigger psychogenic hallucinations? Why do we feel a Python script is necessary to decrypt this tomb of terrors? Where is that fun lateral-thinking “knowing it's right” quality? Why has it been replaced with a K-hole of trial and error and self-doubt (and nightmares)?

The Theme

Four answers encoded with a “Playfair” square. From Wiki:
The technique encrypts pairs of letters (digraphs), instead of single letters as in the simple substitution cipher and rather more complex Vigenère cipher systems then in use. The Playfair is thus significantly harder to break since the frequency analysis used for simple substitution ciphers does not work with it.

Yar. At times like these, we think of Bohemian Rhapsody: Did you think you could stomp me and spit in my eye? Did you think you could love me and leave me to die??

Freddie Mercury | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Natürlich Freddie Mercury is this month's Nerd Hot Guy
And then we draw power and defiance, and feel confidence in our self-reliance. And we have the courage to start solving the problem. Which, starting is the hardest part. Hard part's over.

Ok so: we solved the entire puzzle, including theme clues, but for:
  • 1A) Floor kiss—it's not worth much in Moscow (6)
    (Floor = KO) + (kiss = PECK) = KOPECK
The other three themers:
  • 33A) Objects to having in new girls' school heads (6)
    to having in new girls' = THINGS

  • 10D) Criminal cowers—I'm held up in a bank, maybe (6)
    COWERS * anagram = ESCROW

  • 20A) Baroque motets produced by some Poles (6)
    MOTETS * anagram = TOTEMS
And so then by filling in the rest of the grid, we had a solid group of pair mappings to work with.

TH maps to S and something else (no cross)
IN maps to NG
GS maps to ST

This was clutch. Because the only way these mappings could work was if I N G were in the same row (or col) and if G S T were /also/ in the same row (or column). It made much more sense for them to be in the same row, though, as a character string in the code word at the top of the Playfair square. And prolly all five of them in the same row.

Ok COOL. We pulled out our trusty Scrabbo set. So useful for times like these.
Scrabble | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
We set up our Scrabbo tiles as I N G S T at the top, as a string in the keyword:
Scrabble 2 | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
The other mappings:

ES maps to HG
CR maps to DA
OW maps to something (no cross) and X

TO maps to I and something else (no cross)
TE maps to GA
MS maps to LT

So exactly as the Wikipedia entry on Playfair says, it confused and perplexed us mightily that mappings for individual letters are not unique. In particular on TOTEMS that MS maps to LT but in THINGS GS maps to ST. Shouldn't the S to T part necessarily have a unique correspondant? Right?

Wrong. The pair has a unique map. Not the individual letter. We were slow to grasp that. We read it, on the Wikipedia. But even then, nope. Still didn't GRASP

We left the tiles on the table for Sweet V and took a nap. When we awoke, the Sweet One had solved it.
Vlad solved it for Erica | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
The Playfair Square Solution | Harper's October 2014 | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Erica loves Vlad | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Yielding the Northern Hemispherically seasonally appropriate key word HARVESTING.
The Harvest | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
How did he do it!! “The Scrabble tiles were clutch,” he said. “I could slide columns around and then check.” Once S T I N G was tried, the rest fell into place quickly. Dear Readers with efficient systems for solving are invited to leave comments belowwwwww.

Keyword decrypted, thus yielding the unchecked crosses (underlined below):
We hope this was at all helpful to you in parsing the stupid terrible awful bullshit nightmare of the Playfair Square. If you were unlucky enough to attempt it without a Sweet Vlad by your side, may the g0ds have halped ye.


  • 6A) Grouse hunting, initially, after old soldier enters Kansas City (6)
    (hunting initially = H) after (old soldier = VET) enters (Kansas City = KC) = KVETCH
Nice. We have an excellent friend, Miguel, whose dad cybersquatted the site “” for years. He was sure it'd be a seller: an online forum [for Jews] to talk about health [problems]. medkvetch. No takers. Catchy title, though! Kvetch | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 14A) Saint-Exupèry's fictitious nation (English) (7)
    (NATION + (English = E)) * anagram = ANTOINE
Antoine, quit playing. Big Gay Al | Antoine quit playing | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

This was an excellent psych out! So certain were we that a Le Petit Prince reference was in store. B‑612. Non non!

PS that we and our mommazon took a trip to France the other week. Nice and not-Nice. We had to make a lot of “Nice/nice” puns before our mom caught on. But once she was wise, she was a ruthless punster like her daughter. Michele and Erica | Palais, Paris | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 15A) Go right up to nameless, upset Ann Davis at a screening (5)
    (Go right = GEE) + ((ANN * nameless = AN) * upset = NA) = GEENA
Strong. Love Geena. Geena Davis | Commander in Chief | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 18A) Part of the Masters of Sex cast act in Entering the Womb (10)
    (act = DO) + IN entering (womb = MATRIX) = DOMINATRIX

From Old French matrice (“pregnant animal”), from Latin mātrīx (“dam, womb”), from māter (“mother”).

Source: Witchinary

Takin' the matrix back to its mother roots! Like 14A), this clue was another psych-out: we were certain it'd be a Lizzy Kaplan or Michael Sheen reference. By the way, have you watched Masters of Sex? Our brother and mommazon love it, so we gave it a shot. But it's so annoying to sit through the “revelations” about human sexuality. Like they have to reconstruct the female orgasm from primitives. Like: “woman's sexual pleasure, a recent invention, a new discovery! Kama what now?” It saddens us a little for the people who lived through that time, alienated from their own bodies and the bodies of their partners. But mostly we get annoyed. Ain't no time for that.
  • 20A) Close Encounters II—semantic issues from it (10)
Oh, just wonderful! Loved. Big anagrams like this always love. Shout out to young Dick Drife.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 23A) Edward Snowden, for example, is more desolate having got leadership removed (6)
    (more desolate + BLEAKER) * leadership removed = LEAKER
Thought this might be something fun and inflammatory like “AMERICAN HERO.”
Edward Snowden at TED | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 28A) Stuck in a hotel, perhaps (7)
    LODGING (synonyms)
Stuck in a hotel ... just a few lines down from the Snowden clue and is that mere coincidence???
  • 30A) Build up or tear down, it's all the same to my ears (5)
    RAISE (homophone)
Yesss! Love. Similar to UNITE / UNTIE. A word so nearly its own opposite, contradictory, containeth multitudes. Excellent.
  • 31A) Relaxed state, finally, in death, introduced by heads of England (8)
    (state finally = E) in (death = END) introduced by (heads of England = LOOS) = LOOSENED
“'Ello, love! Gotta use the loo, Cheerio!” That sentence is a good example of what we might say to you were we showing off our British accent. Just imagine how good our British accent is. Pret-ty good!
  • 1D) Group of soldiers cut off the rear? (6)
    DETAIL (de-tail)
Sweet. Simple. Narrative. Lose the question mark at the end and we think it's perfect. Detailing a lobster | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 4D) Victory over Stravinsky produces zip (5)
    (Victory = V) + (Stravinsky = IGOR) = VIGOR
Excellent!! So fun. Igor Stravinsky | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 5D) It's liable in N.Y. to be mismanaged on a regular basis (10)
Sweet sweeping anagram! Cutting narrative. Beautiful. Not sure why for to include the periods in “N.Y.” except to maybe specify “New York [City]” but then, mismanagement could perhaps duly apply to the whole state, non? N'est-ce pas? Sorry, did we just French? We were just in France, did we mention? Accidentally Frenched you, there.
  • 7D) Through with looking old, finish off medicine that keeps you up for hours (6)
    (Through = VIA) + ((looking old = GRAY) * finish off = GRA) = VIAGRA
Nice. Excellent narrative. Through with looking old [in my pants]! Where's the medicine that will keep [my penis] up??? Viagra | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 8D) Understanding the heart of XXX? (7)
    (XXX = TEN TEN TEN) * heart = ENTENTE
Whoa. This was a fresh take on XXX. Inventive. Lovely.
  • 17D) Silences working things needed for driving (8)
    SILENCES * anagram = LICENSES
This one not pertickly specktaclar, just a fun straightforward annagramma, but calling it out cuz it reminds us of working on a Canadian Tire spam email at that corporate marketing gig and one of the late edits was to change “license” to “licence.”


  • 16A) First sign of a thaw in cure for disorder in reading (3,3)
    IN CURE * anagram = ICE RUN
What kind of run, now? Our margin notes speculated “SAP RUN?” and “PIG RUN???”
Cute pigs | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 24A) Polish 14A, brilliant only for self-revelation (5)
    brilliant only = ANTON
Relies on getting ANTOINE for 14A, and boo. We hate those non-standaloners. “self-revelation” as an indicator for hidden words ... annoying. But also fresh. Haven't seen that one before.
  • 27A) Gin, i.e.: distilled strong spirits (5)
    GIN IE * anagram = GENII
Ummmmmmmm too easy. This is a mysterious uncommon? Handed over on a platter right in the first two words? Djinn | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 2D) Geometric pattern that's a cross between an endless test and a short-cut is a number, an indefinite number of times (8)
    ((test = QUIZ) * endless = QUI) + (short CUT = CU) + (number = N) + (number = N) + (times = X) = QUINCUNX
We like quincunx, and shout out to June 2012 where last it appeared in the Harper's. But “number” to mean “N” ... twice?? Quincannot. Quincome on.

The Tacky!

Nothing outright tacky to us, aside from the play-nastiness of the Play-Unfair Square. Invented by this guy, Charles Wheatstone: Charles Wheatstone | via Wikimedia | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Image via Wikimedia

Awesome for use as a code. Hard to break. Hard to even, like, do with the instructions AND answer key in front of you. Does it belong in a garden variety cryptic ermmmmmmmmmmmmmm no.

Ok but so this victory! We got a voicemail (from Puzzle Minion???) informing us! No letter this time. That was nice. A phone call. Old school. Classy.

Please leave a comment. Especially if you have comments on how to solve a Playfair Square without enormous efforts of trial and error.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

One-Upmanship - September 2014

September 2014 | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution

We're back, Dear Readers! We quit that corporate job a couple weeks earlier than planned. The stress of working there manifested physically. Had to get out.

We think of ourself as a robust and resilient individual. Not as a fragile, delicate flower. And we've done corporate before: four months in 2009, three months in 2010. We hated it then as we hated it this time. The 2009 and 2010 managers were bad, just as our 2014 manager was (is) (she was, and still is). The 2009 and 2010 workplace morale was low, just as the 2014 morale was low.

But 2009 and 2010 didn't manifest with the same level of physical stress. We were drinking a lot in 2009 and 2010. Perhaps alcohol was a necessary anesthetic. Hard to look at: maybe we just can't handle working corporate anymore. Which, we don't want to work corporate, but it's still kindof a drag to feel one's options are limited. Like when someone you don't like says, “I don't want to date you.” Awww! Why not??

For the best. Reap the benefits, Dear Readers!!


The Theme!

Just, like, a bajillion clues this month. All in service of the alphabetical theme: twenty-six clues entered with one letter shifted “up” in the alphabet. On the plane from Frankfurt to Chicago in July, Sweet V and we just happened to do the February 2009 puzzle (“Upgrades”) with a very very similar variety. The Feb 2009 instructs were similarly cagey about just what kind of “upgrade” was required, but Sept 2014 gave it away with “Z reverts to A.”

Feb 2009's upgraded entries did not always necessarily result in a new word, but Sept 2014's did. Er, at least, bore that conceit. And in service of such an ambitious theme, the bajillions of clues.

Also: what the heck was this note in the answer key? Puzzle editing by Dan Asimov? Whodat? Puzzle editing by Dan Asimov | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


  • 1A) We entered, or ran outside, became more than buds (8)
    WE + OR + (ran = FLED) + FLOWERED
    F becomes G
Nice narrative on this one. Once outside, we became more than mere “buds.”
  • 7A) E.g., apples in a pie I left in—throw up, perhaps (7)
    (throw up = FLING) + I + (left = L) = FILLING
    L becomes M
BARF this one took a long time! Had every cross in place, with FILLING and FILMING the only possibilities, and still (still!) could not backwards-solve against this clue. Pie filling! Of carse!!
  • 14A) A quiet remains after an explosion (3)
    A + (quiet = SH) = ASH
Nice and easy. Smooth and still.
  • 17A) Heartless character, popular, married, appearing in Sun (3, 3)
    (married = M) + IN + (Sun = TAN) = TIN MAN
Very nice! Narratively intriguing. “popular” perhaps unnecessary.
  • 25A) Revolving gun, halfway done (4)
    (gun = REVOLVER) * halfway = OVER
Just love the rhyme on this one! Don't get many rhymes in the cryptic.
  • 33A) Leaves supporter to follow a star (5)
    STALK (double syn)
    L becomes K
Convinced ourself this was RASTA! Anagram of A STAR and “Leaves supporter” as in marajuana. Wups! Martha Stewart | 'Of course I know how to roll a joint'
  • 30A) Boy goes around that place hot and bothered (8)
    ((Boy = LAD) + (that place = THERE)) * anagram = LATHERED
Hot and bothered! All afroth! Nice.
  • 41A) Funny Girl is whimsical? (3)
    Funny Girl = whimsical = FEY (as in Tina))
Btw this month's Nerd Hot Guy, none other: Tina Fey | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 56A) Snake-bite? That's sporting! (7)
    (Snake = BOA) + (bite = STING) = BOASTING
    B becomes C
Lots of neat little tight ones this month! Offsets the baddies doing the dirty business of making the theme work.
  • 58A) Doctor pushes 'em—I'm for things that sound better (10)
Scrumptious! Big beautiful anagram, topical health care reference. Love.
  • 1D) Lacquering done to blur something flowery and loud (14)
Bombastic lovely 14-er anagram. Love.
  • 3D) Gets friendly with guns (5)
    (with = W) + (guns = ARMS) = WARMS
    M becomes N
OHHhhhhhh so strong! Simple. Elegant. Very nice.
  • 4D) English: certainly visionaries! (4)
    (English = E) + (certainly = YES) = EYES
Clean lean and mean! How we like.
  • 8D) The Strip is therefore taking in a million (7)
    IS + (therefore = THUS) + (million = M) = ISTHMUS
Solid. Worked “Vegas” for several rounds before getting right with this one.
  • 31D) She's off, but first: Does the man have drugs? (8)
    (SHE + (Does the man have = HAS HE)) * anagram = HASHEESH
  • 32D) Prayers for a timeless article of clothing (4)
    A + (article of clothing = VEST) * timeless = AVES
    V becomes W
The vest!! Timeless!! Brooks Bros vest image chosen by Notorious Marcel. Mens vests (timeless) | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 35D) Emulate Bloomberg? Like soft-boiled eggs? (5)
    Emulate Bloomberg = RUN NY = RUNNY
    R becomes S
Ah! So nice again! Political commentary? Why “Bloomberg” and not “de Blasio”? Which mayor all the more like a soft-boiled egg??? Bill de Blasio | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • Love Jay-Z's final covering of “Endless Love” (4)
    (Jay-Z's final = Z) + (Love = EROS) * endless = ZERO
    Z becomes A
Here's the prefix referenced in the instructs. AERO (AERO-). Please now let's please imagine Jay-Z and Beyonce covering Endless Love, amazing right?
  • 44D) Jay Leno's leadership is piercing, its casts aside (5)
    (Jay Leno's leadership = JL) + ITS = JILTS
    J becomes K
Subtle dig on Jay Leno?? Team Coco, btw. Even though he seemed like a jerk sometimes in Conan O'Brien Can't Stop.
  • 49D) Sartre's already writing of French-German agreement (4)
    (of French = DE) + (German agreement = JA) = DEJA
Requires some contintental linguistic prowess. The narrative simplicity is so good. Narrative narrative. Love a tight clue telling a little story. Right? Don't you??
  • 52D) On the fifth of March, I'm The Man (3)
    (fifth of March = H) + IM = HIM
Nice and lean. Capitalizing “The” bugs and tugs just a lil' but letting it go. She's the Man | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


  • 13A) Bar one moves to the right in lady's lingerie (9)
    (lady's lingerie = BRASSIERE) * one moves to the right = BRASSERIE
The “one” in this case being the “I” skipping two places over. Lowlight by virtue of bringing up the ever-forever cryptic crossword gotta-have-it garment, the always-mentioned unmentionable: the BRA. In this case, a BRA variant. Meh! Meh we say!

Just once! Can we get a JOCK, a BRIEFS, or a BANANA HAMMOCK?
Borat and his banana hammock | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
And BRASSERIE? Wut? Ok fine.
  • 19A) One going both ways? A side of India often seen (4)
    NAAN (pun* (*wut? — ed))
Uh no. It is not enough to say, “think India, think palindrome, annnnnnnd you're done!!” Why is this new “pun” category of Harper's clue a) acceptable and b) always so dum? (cf last month, STU).
  • 21A) Capital needed to start a mental hospital (4)
    (mental hospital = SANATORIUM) * start = SANA
Pasting in a screenshot from W'pedia because Arabic characters are proving tricky to re'create:
Sana'a | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues Seems the more accepted transliteration has the second “a” but ok fine.
  • 24A) Bird mentioned in Uncle Remus (3)
Request: no moa emu in the puzzle. Thank you and you're welcome in advance.
  • 53A) Sounds like an illness went away quickly (4)
    (illness = FLU) * homophone = FLEW
Nice clue. But boo on using both FLEW and FLED (1A) in the same puzz.
  • 45D) Brother circles the heart of Texas, a big county there (5)
    (Brother = BR) + (heart of Texas = EXA) = BEXAR
“Brother” = “ “BR”? Uh, that's not what Googo says: Brother abbreviation according to Google | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Actually thought the equivalency was “Brother” = “bear” This guy: Brother Bear from Disney | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 47D) Moves the camera up for a shot (4)
    (Moves the camera = PANS) * rev. = SNAP
    N becomes O
Putting this in Lowlights just cuz it took us forEVer. The cast of 'Soap' | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 55D) Band of Japanese heading off in the desert (3)
    (desert = GOBI) - heading = OBI
Japanese OBI. Another usual suspect. Too much to ask for OBI-WAN? Too much. Ok. Obi Wan | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

The Tacky!

  • 53D) Me, Friday? Since you brought it up, I'm a lesbian! (3)
    (ME + (Friday = F)) * rev. = FEM
No. As if negotiating one's gender performance is necessarily gay. There is a butch-femme spectrum to every Kinsey number. You want to tell us that Bill Clinton isn't a bottom femme? Or that Barack Obama isn't a top femme (femme of the highest order)? That Michelle Obama isn't a bottom butch, or Hillary Clinton a top butch? All four of them presenting as unambiguously heterosexual.

Can't get with the Harper's puzzle's insistence that gender and sexuality are orthodox like dat. Cannot. Barack Obama with bangs | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

Questions? Comments? Desire to correct our flawed logic? Each and every one is a love letter to us, baby  XOXO

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!!

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