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)

Leave a comment. It will increase your wealth and happiness.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Twofers - April 2014

April 2014 | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution
You guys, we did the thing we always swear we're not gonna do but then every month we do it, which is: solve the puzzle in one big gulp, and think of all kinds of cool jokes along the way, all the funny stuff we're gonna put in the write-up, and then forget about the puzzle until a month later when it's like “OH SNAP Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues time!!!!!”

To be fair: bed bugs. You'll be delighted to know: we hired a beagle (Shaggy) to come in and officially declare our apartment bed bug free. AHhhhhhh YES that was a glorious feel!!
No more bed bugs! | Shaggy the dog
Ok. To the puzzle!

The Theme

Twofers. Kinda a lot like News Clippings from September 2013. Each clue indeedth two clues, joint wi' nary an indication of whereth the twain weret cleft. Mirrored fill. We happened to enter our answers opposite to how they are in the Harper's answer key, which, looking now at the “cryptic” directions
for consistency in the solution, the answers that are two-word phrases are listed in left-and-right order
we cannot parse if that means that YES there is an absolute answer key or NO it's arbitrary, it's fine (like life, which is arbitrary, and fine).

Unclued entries at 1, 14, 21, and 28 across are related. The relation turns out to be: big fat anagrams found by inference. Glorious elevensies. Mmm!!!! Our favorite flavor. Anagrams for us are like the “good parts” of a salad. The croutons, the marinated tofu. You know. The good parts. Dear Readers who are like, “there are no good parts of salads; all salad parts are bad,” well, we're getting a little old for that kind of thinking, aren't we? Not old as like a maturity thing, old as like a body breakdown thing.

Those theme anagrams are:
As we type, Sweet Vlad adds, “be sure to mention who helped you with the puzzle. Because, you know, I heard you had some help.”

“I usually credit you,” we said. “ ... wait ... you don't read Tacky Harper's!”

“No, I don't! But I still want credit!” He paused. “Actually, no, I don't care either way.”

“That's even worse!” we said.

We are now reminded of our anniversary, right around Thanksgiving, and we'd both spent the day with the Dreisbach family, but now it was just before bed at the hotel, and we(I) turned to Sweet Vlad, pupils in little heart shapes, and said, “sweetie, it's been such a wonderful year with you, and I love you so much.”

“Yeah,” said Vlad. “By the way? Your brother Tom is definitely the funniest Dreisbach.”

“ ... why would you say that to me?” we said. Then we immediately texted Tommy to tell him. Underneath the blow to our ego (and there was definitely such blow) was joy to have a partner who digs our brother so. Both brothers. Because Chris is definitely the coolest. Vlad will say like, “you've never heard of [something something obscure band]? I bet Chris has heard of them.” COOL THX. Tommy is the funniest, and Chris is the coolest, and poor Sweet V is stuck with the oldest. Olllllllllllld sister.

As we look over at Vlad now, we notice the piercing in his left ear. Who put that piercing there? We did. In the dining room about a year ago. Because Vlad noticed our reaction when he wore a fake earring around the house (it had been a party favor the week before). He said, “baby, you like this fake one so much, let's do it for real!” We were like, ok, we go to a piercing place? V was like, “that's just a rip-off. We can do better. Sterile needles are $5 on Amazon. And for an earring I still have my old nipple ring.” And then, in a supreme act of love and trust, Vlad let us pierce his ear.

So. It's not all harsh unfiltered truths around here :)


  • 9A) Letters from alumni (“Hi, luminaries!”) mean nothing to an old Italian-American flower child's leader wearing gold in rings (7)
    alumNI HI LUMinaries = mean nothing = NIHILUM
    (child's leader = C) + (gold = OR) + IN + (rings = O O) = old Italian-American flower = ORINOCO
Putting this in Highlights because of NIHILUM.
Nihilists | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
But mostly felt “sigh” about this one. Flow-er like a river flows, as always, as ever-forever. Sweet wordplay that we've seen a million times. French word for gold, not Spanish. Ok fine ok wutevr.

Why is the Orinoco Italian-American? Any Dear Readers able to parse that? Colonialism something something? Per Wise Tyler below, “Old Italian” = Latin. Languages never die, they just find nerdy places to creep.
  • 10A) Wise guy Herb Salinger's girl oddly eliminated? News to me (4)
    Wise = Herb = SAGE
    (nEwS) + ME = ESME
A nice double syn, a nice reference to the usual Salinger girl of puzzle and literary fame. Sometimes the puzzle usual suspects are also wonderful and make us happy to see. Like Dr Dre! Make every day Dre Day.
Make every day Dre day | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 12A) Stay the night, maneuvering torso with mouth open, making love (5)
    TORSO * anagram = Stay the night = ROOST
    love = mouth open = AGAPE
Racy. It's a common misconception amongst no one that we're against racy clues in the puzzle. Nay nay. References to fun, consensual sex are most welcome! Kinda like how Game of Thrones is supposed to be so sexual, but fun consensual sex is extraordinarily rare in that show. Like saying WWF has a lot of dancing. ”Really? You'd call that 'dancing'? So often it's just painful to watch.”

Also, YES an agape reference! Mmm!
agape (n.)

c.1600, from Greek agape "brotherly love, charity," from agapan "greet with affection, love," of unknown origin. Agape was used by early Christians for their "love feast" held in connection with the Lord's Supper. In modern use, often in simpler sense of "Christian love" (1856, frequently opposed to eros as "carnal or sensual love").

Source: etymonline

One word for “love” is not enough! More words! More words for love!

  • 13A) Bust free to entertain a Hungarian named Nagy I'm regarding (4)
    IM + (regarding = RE) = a Hungarian named Nagy = IMRE
    (free = RID) + A = Bust = RAID
Imre Nagy! Another frequent puzzle reference. Surprised that “bust free” didn't somehow translate to BRA-LESS (low-hanging fruit).

Imre Nagy | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 20A) City that can make one testier or (great improvement) take one's breath away (7)
    TESTIER * anagram = City = TRIESTE
    OR GREAT * anagram = GARROTE
Two anagrams, so, no surprise, we loved it. Nice clueing on “take one's breath away.”
  • 26A) Tool for logging in pay—Eve manipulated returning U.S. soldier to follow St. Mark (6)
    PAY EVE * anagram = Tool for logging = PEAVEY
    ((U.S. = American = AM) + (soldier = GI)) * returning = IGMA) to follow ST = mark = STIGMA
Very much enjoy the sense of “mark.” Peavey for logging? Never hearda. Here's the Peavey we usually thinka:
Eddie Van Halen | Peavey | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

  • 4D) Even contributors to girlie shows (French) land in water bed, using some narcotics (3)
    (even contributors to girlie = gIrLiE) = French land in water = ILE
    using some * narCOTics = bed = COT
Reminded of course of Thirty Rock's TGS, aka The Girly Show.
TGS | The Girly Show
  • 22D) Goose someone? Never! Partially tie up space? That's upsetting (4)
    someoNE NEver = goose = NENE
    (space = ROOM) * upsetting = Partially tie up = MOOR
Nene goose


  • 18A) Improve Google? Hearing, after arrival, shows something unpaid (6; 4,2)
    (hearing = EAR) after (arrival = ARR) = something unpaid = ARREAR
Ew! As much as we use “Google” to mean “look up” ew! Out of the puzzle! Get out! We want our puzzles to walk a fine Goldilocksing line! Not too old, not too new. Jusssssst right.

ARREAR also, pretty dum, pretty boring.
  • 27A) Womenswear made of sternest stuff (about $500) occasions incessant alteration (4,5; 9);
    (STERNEST + (500 = D)) * anagram = Womenswear = TENT DRESS
    INCESSANT * anagram = occasions = INSTANCES
“Womenswear” and s'like, ok, definitely gonna be BRA, right? Nah. Instead it's TENT DRESS. Which we assume is some kinda body-shaming muu-muu, right?

looks up TENT DRESS ...

Ok so, a TENT DRESS is actually pretty cute. Not for the body-shamed per se. Still not fond of “$500 = D.” Although “occasions incessant alteration” is very nice. Pure.
  • 2D) My tea, given a different accent, sounds strong, dry, and ferrous? (6)
    MY TEA * homophone with new scansion = strong = MIGHTY
    dry and ferrous = IRONIC (double syn.)
The first? Mighty easy. The second? Buh! Ptui! No more of this connection between irony and the element iron! No more! It used to be fun. Now it's tired. Like flow-er. Out out!
  • 6D) Bring Army rifle in past friend, drive to where the Vatican is, coming back around, not all the way (5)
    (Army rifle = M1 = MI) + (past = AGO) = friend = AMIGO
    (((where the Vatican is = ROME) * coming back around = EMOR) * not all the way = MOR) + TO = drive = MOTOR
Ugh. Such convoluted. Wow painful. Here's a MOTOR POPE to cleanse the palate:
Popemobile | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 17D) Ballerinas appear on this pinto, dancing with energy in mufti—a trick of doctors (6)
    (PINTO + (energy = E)) * anagram = Ballerinas appear on this = POINTE
    muftI A TRIC = of doctors = IATRIC
The first, POINTE, a super gimme for anyone with vague acquaintanceship with ballet. The second? Buh. Barely acceptable. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to pass a suffix off as a word.
Black Swan | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 19D) Italian family being locked in irons, I make money again, or nearer, from it (6)
    IRONS I * anagram = Italian family = ORSINI
    NEARER * anagram = make money again = REEARN
Two grossies. Orsini who? What is this, a Eugene Maleska puzzle? Y'all gotta learn to walk the line, Maltby! Not too old, not too new!

And REEARN? Ugh. Any of the words that are meant to be native English words but that The New Yorker would print with an umlaut are gross. With the exception of cooperation. The N Yorker prints it “coöperation.” Tru story. Because they think us mouthbreathers are gonna be like, “cooperation? Like, a corporation in a chicken coop I DONT GETIT??????”

The Tacky!

  • 25A) Dangerous group of Chinese grasping arm zip in, howitzer out (4)
    Dangerous group of Chinese = grasping arm = TONG (double syn.)
    howitZER Out = zip = ZERO
Um. So, referring to Chinese people in the plural as “Chinese” rings, if not racist to our ear, definitely tacky. Dehumanizing. As bad as “Chinamen” no, not as bad. Much better? No. Not much better.
Talking about preferred nomenclature
Second, had never hearda TONG before. From W'pedya:
These organizations are described as secret societies or sworn brotherhoods and are often tied to criminal activity.


Today these associations provide essential services for Chinatown communities such as immigrant counseling, Chinese schools, and English classes for adults, among countless others.
If it had been “yakuza” or “triad”, ok, yah, that fits better as “dangerous.” Tongs
Image courtesy TV Tropes's Triads and Tongs page

Commmmmments, pls! Especially re: how Orinoco is Italian.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gremlins - March 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Gizmo, canonical gremlin


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

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


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

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


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

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

The Tacky!

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tongue Twisters - February 2014

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

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

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

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


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

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

Via Wikedpedia



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

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

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

Source: The Goog

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


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


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

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

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

The Tacky!

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

“Uh ... smart? Having fun?” we said.

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

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

Leave a comment it makes us feel soooooooo good inside!