Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ambiguities - January 2015

January 2015 | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution

Heart skippo'ed a beat on this one.

Saw __LIN__OM_NIA in 1A and wha? Could that be something-something ROMANIA?? Could this be a reference to our Romanian Sweet Vlad (The Sweet One)?? Is this a cryptic message just for us???

Not quite.

18A and sister answers 28A and 37A reveal glorious long narrative palindromes:
  • 18A) Oh cameras are macho
  • 28A) Deb sat in Anita's bed
  • 37A) but Anita sat in a tub
Had ITA and IN A TUB in the fill for 37A for a long time and imagined references to FAJITA and later CARNITA. Carnita in a tub! Yum!
Palindromania | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues These are from JON AGEE's PALINDROMANIA. Very nice. Thus, this was not a message in the matrix for we and Sweet V ... or twas it???

While on topic, our personal all-time favorite palindromes:
  • lonely Tylenol
  • a butt tuba
  • taco cat
  • yo! banana boy!


  • 11A) Mad money assuming company has thrifty management (7)
    MONEY + (company = CO) * mad = ECONOMY
We jam econo.
We Jam Econo | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 23A) What the Selective Service does for those making plans (8)
    What the Selective Service does = DRAFTS MEN = DRAFTSMEN
Nice. Had the D and M in the fill and toyed with DELETE MEN. Intense.
  • 33A) Exported Dutch tire announced (4)
    (tire = BORE) * homophone = BOER
Boer like Boer War. Four-letter Dutch export s'gotta be EDAM right? Did you get faked out at first glance like we did? Syke this time twas not so cheesy as that!!
Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues | Boer War
  • 40A) Registered trademark with earliest organized shopkeepers (9)
    ((Registered trademark = R) + EARLIEST) * anagram = RETAILERS
Put in ATTELIERS cuz we'd heard of it and we thought “Registered trademark” = T (misspelled ATELIERS) and it fit ... ish. Nicer this way of carse! Of carse, trouble spiraled out from this mis'entering (see 3D, below).
  • 41A) Fantasy creatures is described by Herb Klein initially (8)
    IS + (Herb = BASIL) + (Klein initially = K) = BASILISK
YESsss! Green deck forevar.
Basilisk | Green Deck | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 2D) Look over little woman: rich and earthy (5)
    (Look = LO) + (little woman = AMY)
LO as in LOOK, HO! Little woman as in Little Women. Yuss.
Kirsten Dunst | Amy | Little Women | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 3D) Mutinous antielitist, taking the head off royalty, is found in space! (12)
    (ANTIELITIST + (head off royalty = R)) * anagram = INTERSTELLAR
We liked Interstellar. We were certain it'd get a shot at movie of the year. Mmmmm made a lot of money. Half a billion dollars money. Money wins Oscars, right? Not this time! Not even onda list. This year's Oscar noms generally just have us stumped. Like “wha? Why did they ... what is thi ... so much Birdman ... ?”
Insterstellar | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 5D) Some spirits turn out to be right, of course (4)
    (right = R) + (of course = YES) = RYES
Nice. Below: our all-time favorite moment from all of Parks and Recreation. In case it's not clear, in that last screenshot dear Ron Swanson is tearing, choked up.
Ron Swanson reads Robert Burns | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 13D) Adventurous sounds played in an alley (4)
    (played in an alley = BOWLED) * homophone = BOLD
Walter and The Dude | The Big Lebowski | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 29D) Who is named by the leaders of Denmark, Yugoslavia, Bangladesh, Brazil, and Britain? Not a living soul!
    (leaders of (Denmark, Yugoslavia, Bangladesh, Brazil) = DYBB) + (Britain = UK) = DYBBUK
Yah! From Wikupiidiia:
In Jewish mythology, a dybbuk (Yiddish: from Hebrew adhere or cling) is a malicious possessing spirit believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person.


dybbuk | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 30D) Play doctor with a lot of doctors (5)
    (doctor = DR) + (lot of doctors = AMA) = DRAMA
Hhahha doctors DO present quite a bitta drama! Enjoy the narrative possibilities of this one. “Hey baby. Wanna play doctor? I play with a lot of doctors.”

btw: salt 'n' pepa Cæsar cut Doug Ross is this month's Nerd Hot Guy. Notttt George Clooney. Dr Doug Ross.
Dr Doug Ross | George Clooney | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 36D) Something to be avoided in losing or taking on an element (4)
    taking on, an element = CARB
cuz if it took “ON” then it'd be CARBON, you carbon-based lifeform you knew that!! Shout out to holiday carbo loading!


  • 15A) Being close to a woman about to acquire a cape (12)
    TO + (woman = HER) + (acquire = GET) + (cape = NESS) = TOGETHERNESS
“Ness” is a cape?
ness (n.)
obsolete except in place names, Old English næs "a promontory," related to nasu "nose" (see nose (n.)). Cognate with Old Norse nes, Danish næs, Swedish näs, Middle Dutch nesse.

Source: Etymonline

Fresh way to get to Ness WE GUESS. Not mora dis:
Ness | Costner | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 34A) Initiating it: a license to produce biased writing? (6)
    IT A LICense = ITALIC
Din't w'jus DO “italic = biased”? Like, recently? Googly search says no. Ok well. Ok.
  • 1D) Pacific telephone system follows quietly, each incorporating extra energy (9)
    (telephone system = CABLE) follows (quietly = P) + (each = EA) + (extra energy = E) = PEACEABLE
“telephone system = cable”? Mhurrrrrrrrrr.
  • 8D) Not quite ordinary opera (5)
    not quite (ordinary = NORMAL) = NORMA
Norma? What is?
ACT ONE: The action takes place in ancient Gaul, under Roman occupation, where the Druid priestess Norma has fallen in love with a Roman official named Pollione and has secretly borne him two children. Norma is also the daughter of the Druids' leader, Oroveso.

And later sounds like it gets RULLY good!

ACT TWO: So far, Norma has come across as an unpredictable and even dangerous woman. Now, we find her sounding vulnerable and filled with doubt — and with a knife in her hand.

Source: NPR

Hoped for a second this was a reference to Sally Field as brave and plucky union activist Norma Rae. We always mix Norma Rae up with tragic whistleblower and union activist Karen Silkwood.
Norma Rae | Karen Silkwood | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues Also: jotted Turandot in our notes cuz: it's always Turandot.

The Tacky!

There were three we didna like this month! Ein zwei drei(sbach)!
  • 12A) Female writer's name, in the long run 
    (name = N) in the (long run = JOG) = JONG
Erica Jong | Fear of Flying | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues “long run” to preserve idiom but a jog is not a very long run per se. Generally connotes a short run.

“I took a jog this morning: two miles.”
“Good for you!”

“I took a jog this morning: 20 miles.”
“You bitch that is not a ‘jog’ that is a run.”
“It was at jog pace!”
“Like that matters. Twenny miles! Twenny miles!! ‘Jog’ ... sheesh ... ” [eats donut]

Wooot Erica Jong but buh, whysit gotta be female writer why not just writer you know like a real writer, unqualified, just that subtle shit that quietly rots female writers from the inside. Robble robble robble.

You wanna refer to Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues as the premier female comedic blog review of the Harper's cryptic?


probably. anyone else out there? holla!

The other Wednesday we had our first improv class at Second City. We expected Second City to be kindof dirty and gritty, like an old theater. Instead it's clean and expansive, like a new university student center, or Scientology headquarters* (*we imagine).

Anyway we arrived ten minutes early. And there was an earlier class in the room still wrapping up, but we figured, prolly ok to stand in the back and watch. But then the class teacher said in a very obnox way, “claaaaaaaasss hasn't started yet!” Which was a drag of a first impression to make on us.

We texted Sweet V about it: “He confirmed all those stereotypes you hear about men in comedy. Like how men in comedy are really chill, and funny.” And V texted back, “I've heard rumors that men can be funny, but never believed it could be true!”

This has prompted much extended trolling on the topic of Whether Men Can Be Funny, or Whether Men Are Capable of Being as Funny as Women.
“It's not sexism, it's a brain thing.”

“Seriously: men are biologically wired to hunt things, to punch things. They're warriors. Not comedians.”

“I'm sure you could name me plenty of exceptions. But the fact remains that most so-called male ‘comedians’ simply aren't funny.”
Soooooo satisfying to use the tactics of the oppressor. A little dangerous. We lose track of whether we're joking or not. We must be careful to use in moderation.

The second:
  • 14D) Sporting place whose hero shamelessly takes in university (10)
    (WHOSE HERO takes in (university = U)) * anagram = WHOREHOUSE
Great. What is sported, pray tell? Erections? Casts the phrase “sporting chance” in a new light.
  • 13A) Bishop washed out a significant continental address (5)
    (Bishop = B) + (washed out = WAN) + A = BWANA
Bwana | The Thing | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues Murr. Even if “bwana” is used extensively in a thought experiment by the telepathic gorilla in Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, a book we love. Even if it's used in The Thing, a movie which we also love.

BWANA is just a slip-tip of the tongue away from MASSAH. See what we mean? Language of oppression. We didn't like it. Boo(ana).

Comment (yes).

Monday, December 15, 2014

Nothing for Christmas - December 2014

December 2014 | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution

Cute. Empty calories.

The Theme!

The ten unclued entries have haha “nothing” in common because they're synonyms for “nonsense.” Why not synonyms for “nothing” to better fit the title? Cuz titles don't matter, fools!!! Titles are ... nonsense.

Anway: cutie cute theme. Inferred POPPYCOCK (35A) and latched onto this theme early. Altho some of the synonyms for “nonsense” were prutttttty weird.
  • 43A) EYEWASH (wut?)
  • 47A) TOMMYROT (Tommyknockers!!)
Tommyknockers | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 1D) HUMBUG (altho we put down HUBBUB)
Hubbub | Waiting for Guffman | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 11D) SCHMEGEGGE (we didn't get this one)
More on SCHMEGEGGE under “The Tacky.”


  • 15A) B-b-b-b-bugs (4)
    BEES (the letters and the insects)
A goofy loverful fun one! Sweet like honey!
  • 18A) Nucleoli, etc. circulating around, top to bottom line, like some debts (13)
    (NUCLEOLI ETC + (bottom line * top = BL)) * anagram = UNCOLLECTIBLE
Big bombossa anagramma! You know we love!
  • 22A) I could make binge begin either way, that's life (5)
    BINGE or BEGIN * anagram = BEING
YESssss! The wisdom of the Third Anagram! So sweet. Also reminded of an all-time favorite classic SNL sketch: “George F Will's Sports Machine” with Dana Carvey as George F Will:
George F. Will: Very well. Let us engage the sports machine. Gentlemen, as always, the questions will focus exclusively on baseball, the only game that transcends the boundary between fury and repose. All right, hands on buzzers. The precarious balance between infield and outfield suggests a perfect symmetry. For $50, identify the effect of that symmetry.

[ the contestants stare cluelessly, as the buzzer sounds ]

George F. Will: Sorry. The answer is: "The exhilarating tension between being and becoming." Being and becoming.


Dana Carvey | George F Will's Sports Machine | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 32A) What's wrong with getting a new leader? That's the point (5)
    WRONG * getting a new leader = PRONG
YuhhhhhHHHhhh normally, like if the “P” isn't suggested somewhere, this would be a farty bum clue to us but the language! So natural and so smooth!

Our lovely Romanian Sweet V has been politically engaged by his home country recently during the Romanian presidential runoff elections. At the time of writing this paragraph (Nov 16th) there's a 5 km line in Munich to vote for Romanians residing outside Romania. Think about that kind of line for a second. 5 km. 3 mi (ish). In Chicago, that's like you can vote in Daley Plaza and the end of the line is in Lincoln Park. In San Francisco, that's like you can vote at the Ferry Building and the end of the line is in the Castro. In New York, that's like you can vote at the Empire State Building and the end of the line is at the Manhattan Bridge. In St Johnsbury, Vermont*, that's like you can vote at the Athaeneum and the end of the line is at the Green Mountain Mall.
* shout out to ABEvF!!

Not minimizing what happens in USA to keep voters from voting. Democracy is fucky lots of places. Specific to the Romanian character, though:
On Sunday, some Romanians waved toothbrushes to protest long waits at polling stations abroad and thousands protested in Munich, according to Mediafax news.

Source: WLOX

Toothbrushes! They brought toothbrushes to wave at the cameras!!
  • 45A) Revolution counters macho street gangs (11)
Ahhhhh glorious! Annnnnnnnnagrams! Annnnnnnnagrams! Nice story. Double entendre on “counters.” Just beautiful. Just glorious.

In case of revolution break glass | Guy Fawks masks | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Speaking of Guy Fawks masks and V for Vendetta: Hugo Weaving is this month's Nerd Hot Guy.
Hugo Weaving | Lipstick | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Hugo Weaving in a blue shirt | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 46A) Forward or behind in the outskirts of Sydney (5)
    (behind = ASS) in (outskirts of Sydney = SY) = SASSY
Ohhhhhh so wonderful. Oh so lovely :)
Sassy street fashion in Sydney | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 2D) Look up study of the past (5)
    ((Look = LO) * up = OL) + (study = DEN) = OLDEN
Nice and neat. Trippingly off the tongue.
  • 7D) Liquor secreted in barracks (6)
    secreted in bARRACKs = ARRACK
Never hearda ARRACK but this was a nice double-use of “secreted” and also it reminds us of Arrakis. So, automatic highlight.
Arrakis concept art by Mark Molnar | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clue
Arrakis concept art by Mark Molnar. Source

  • 9D) Hero, he goes around a soldier in pursuit of love (6)
    HE goes around (A + (soldier = GI) in pursuit of (love = O)) = HOAGIE
Oh!! Such daring natural language, and lovely payoff.
Jared from Subway | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 16D) Physical condition that is largely misunderstood (7)
    LARGELY * anagram = ALLERGY
Allergies | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 20D) A porgy, sir, swims in bands in the water (9)
    A PORGY SIR * anagram = SPIROGYRA
Definitely uncommon! I like.
Spirogyra | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Was convinced tho, and still not entirely unconvinced, that there's a synonym for dolphin or porpoise that uses a good percentage of those letters. Some old-timey old-fashionedy word, like that might be all over Moby Dick. Any Dear Readers know what we're talkin bout? Not grampus, altho grampus is an AMAZN word!
  • 24D) High-fliers, expert in French and appearing in nightwear (8)
    (expert = PRO) + ((French and = ET) appearing in (nightwear = PJS)) = PROPJETS
Lovely! High-fliers maybe a little awkward, little tiny? But lovely payoff. French nightwear! OUI
French silk PJs | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 30D) Pippin, opening canceled in its limited programs (7)
    (Pippin = APPLE) + (opening canceled in ITS = TS) = APPLETS
SO solid! So NATURAL!!
Pippin with pippin | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 38D) Outcome of democracy: being blue (4)
    outcome of democRACY = RACY
Mmmmm v nice! And if one takes it to mean that democracy yields more liberal “blue state” thinking, then fodder for our sister blog Bleeding Heart Liberal Harper's Cryptic Clues??
  • 40D) Good actor? Bad actor, I'd say (4)
    (Bad actor = HAM) * homophone = HAMM
As in Jon. Look at this photo and then try to even. You will find: you cannot. You can't even.
Jon Hamm | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 37D) It used to be contracted as belonging to an old airline? (4)
    It used to be contracted = belonging to (an old airline = TWA) = TWAS
We like this one even though it rides sooooo close to the line of TWAT. Sooooooooo close. Taunts us. Wants us to say it. We shan't. Nice try, Maltby!!


  • 12A) Peter Fonda played this title-role part for minuscule effect (4)
    miniscule effect = ULEE
Whoa, Ulee! Didn't expect to see you'lee here, in a puzzle of all places jk jk. Jk. We always expect Ulee in the puzzle. Ulee in the puzzle is like when someone complains about their shitty landlord. A landlord? Being shitty? Well I never!

Miniscule effect indeed.
Ulee's Gold | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
“This honey is like GOLD!!”

  • 30A) Not loud, more than just a broadcaster (5)
    (more than just = FAIRER) * (not (loud = F)) = AIRER
Loud like in musical notation loud.

Frequently we have been an AIRER of grievances against -ER'isms in the puzzle. They make a Scrabbo game more interesting. They make a puzzle so much less so.

The two-letter word list also makes Scrabble much more interesting. All you vocal two-letter-word list haters (there are many of you, and you are very vocal): eat a cookie and go take a nap. Call us when you're ready to play Big Girl Scrabble, with the big girls. We have the TWL list** pretty well committed to memory, but usually play with the list printed out and open on the table, no penalty for any player to consult it. Which is fair, right? Very fair. How's that cookie?
** yah, fuck SOWPODS! Fuck ZO! TWL 4evr baby!!
  • 34A) Great: get back sheep before they're shorn (4)
    ((Great = G) + GET)* back = TEGG
Grumble grumble. The plural implication with “they're” messed us up. You ever do that in the cryptic? “Decide” you know the answer and don't think too hard about the reasoning behind it? And this Scrabble dictionary says TEGS is a word. Anyway.
Sweet V with sheep | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Sweet V with Cousin Vasile's sheep

  • 41A) Lead-free clothing gets hearing (3)
    (clothing = WEAR) * lead-free = EAR
Meh. Eh. Frequent indicator (“hearing”) instead the definition portion but blahhhh. Guh.
Lead-free clothing | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 44A) Consumer appliance with the front removed (5)
    (appliance = HEATER) * front removed = EATER
Nice to split a phrase like “consumer appliance” but otherwise, not particularly fun. HEATER and EATER even rhyme, yo. It's fine when they rhyme. But we all have a better time when it's a little more creative, a little more lat'ral. You feel?
  • 3D) Distributor of beer (Coors) decentalized things old-timers played on (6)
    BEER + (Coors decentralized = CS) = REBECS
What's a rebe—ok fine. Learning.
Rebec | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6D) Tees off for hot times at the Fontainebleau (4)
    TEES * off = ETES
Callin this out cuz ETES is toujours in the puzzles and can we get a PRINTEMPS can we get a HIVER? S'il vous plaît? Can we get a Spanish month that's not ENERO? This is the United States: everybody knows at least a little Spanish. Not joking. Can we get a MAYO can we get an ABRIL. Can we get a JULIO.
  • Acid that helps make you rich (4)
    yoU RICh = URIC
Uric acid is a component of urine. This is the part where we pretend to you, Dear Readers, that we are not a gross person. Eww. Pee that helps make you rich. Pee barons. Gross (haha).

The Tacky!

Why tacky? No, not [just] because it's a word synonymous with penis.
schmegegge definition | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

Source: Dictionary.com

Dear Readers, if you knew 11D that is wonderful. Excellent and glorious for you. We were at a loss (our goy is showing). Confident in all our crosses, including faulty TEGS. Leaving us with some frustrating letter guessing games. Scumegense? Scamegeese?

Unclued theme word with letters unchecked? Boo. Not a very nice holiday present. Nuh tat tall. Usually this space is reserved for culturally tacky clues, but this time it's just a tacky cryptic clue qua cryptic clue. By which we mean: “we didn't like it, because we couldn't solve it.” Ego.

We're gearing up early for New Year's Resolutions, Dear Readers. 2015 is the Year of Freedom. Especially including freedom from ego. In preparation, we're queueing up some all-purpose responses for the next time we feel defensive-vulnerable-insecure.

Favorite right now: “eh ... probably!”

“Your blog is not very funny.”
“eh ... probably!”

Jk jk, everyone thinks this blog is funny!!

[eyes to the left]
[eyes to the right]

Commenting feels good and makes you more attractive [to us]!!

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 Dictionary.com "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 “medkvetch.com” 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.