Saturday, September 19, 2015

Foursomes - September 2015

September 2015 | Foursomes | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution

Hello Lovers, Hello Dear Readers. We're a married woman now. Married unit. It is September 19th, 2015 and we are going to attempt something never before attempted, which is to knock out this entire blog in one hour while our husband Sweet V sleeps and makes sweet Zs, and while Alabama Shakes Sound and Color plays on repeat in the background. We're prolly, like, not even gonna spell check or do read‑thrus. If you're Dear Reading, then you can know that this post is Raw, and Real. Buckle up!

Longtime Dear Readers know: we've been busy. Getting married.
erica and Vlad | photo by Aida Daneshvar
erica and Vlad | photo by Aida Daneshvar
More from the genius Aida Daneshvar

Marriage is going awesome, by the way. The pre‑marital counseling we did this summer has made a big difference. Better conflicts, more productive conflicts. Snags that would have turned into Big Things instead stay what they are, small snags, or fade to nothing at all. Lots of “you're right [full stop].”

Whoof. That one. Saying “you're right.” Took 33 years to learn that one.

Also, and we promise these Personal Highlights will stop soon and it'll be straightforward Puzzle Recap, unbridled Word Nerd, but it was our birthday the other day and we received a very nice present indeed from Colleen and Notorious Marcel's roommate Yorgos. He expressed disbelief that we had turned 33, and we said [improvising], just kidding, we're 29. Yorgos was relieved. “Because you don't look 33. You don't look 29!” Then Yorgos proceeded to be very stressed out as we explained, woops no, no no, actually we really are 33. He wasn't convinced until we gave the years of our birth, high school graduation, and college graduation. Yorgos paused. “Ok, that checks out.”

Like we said. Such a very nice present :)

The Theme!

Foursomes. Seena thisa one before. Four-way rotational symmetry, so you can't really enter anything until you get the cross‑bracing twelvers. We always end up making Daring Guesses and penciling in drafts long before the twelves are in place. We are not a patient woman.


  • 1A) Check for pesky critters (8)
    CRITTERS * anagram = RESTRICT
“Check” as in “checks and balances.” Mwa! Nice and tight, like a clean drum!
  • 15A) Curious bleating coming from concrete (8)
    BLEATING * anagram = TANGIBLE
Wonderfu! The strange sheep!!
Wallace and Grommit | A Close Shave | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 32A) Lose head of steers in woods (4)
    Lose head of (Steers = HELMS) = ELMS
Nice. Thinking now of cowpaths through the woods.
a cow in the woods | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 26D) Season when a hotel becomes hot? (4)
    hotel becomes hot = no “el” = NOEL
Loved the el out of this one! Stockholm syndrome, you guys. We know we've come out firmly against this type of goofy wordplay in the past. It's winning us over. This was awesome. Spent many summer minutes trying to force a French ÉTÉ in there. No need. No el.
Jor-el and Kalel at Noel | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Jor‑El and Kal‑el @ Noël
  • 31A) I got to lay off Tchaikovsky's father (4)
    I + (LAY off = LYA) = ILYA
Lovely! Guess IGOR at the outset, just cuzzin. Content knowledge annoys us often, like “do you know this random triv, broh? If not, yer outta luck!!!” but we love the part of puzzles that asks you to engage your vast ur-mind, the part that can infer, “well, it's gonna be a dude's name that sounds like it would have the last name Tchaikovsky, and it starts with 'I' so ... ” And then you solve it and you didn't have to have the prior content knowledge, also because the puzzle was well‑constructed and you're not left with ambiguous crosses, ahem.
  • 11A) Crafted leather form a Southern state (7)
    LEATHER * anagram = TARHEEL
Omi Cron, adored this one. Normally, as Dear Readers know, we blitz thru the anagrams, no stress. This anagram took us forever, one of our last solves, but delectable indeed. Fine and smooth, like crafted leather.
crafted leather | Casey Gunschel | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 12A) I regret getting a business degree, leaving a stain (6)
    I (regret = RUE ) getting a ((business degree = MBA) leaving a = MB) = IMBRUE
YASS. Originally had IMBAUD which isn't a word. Any digs at getting business degrees: we are in support.
Getty images MBA | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 13D) Second gone, twelve's pickings can be slim (6)
    (Second gone TWELVES = TELVES) * anagram = SVELTE
Lean and delightful!!

Aright here we go with two of the twelvers. Linch and pin to entering fill. These both count as highlights, the other two are in Tacky.
  • 14A) Has a wrong view of the Church of England—outside it's wildly impressive (12)
    ((Church of England = CE) + IMPRESSIVE) * anagram = MISPERCEIVES
  • 25A) Throw dirt on the embassy? It gives one pause (12)
    (Throw dirt = INTER) + (embassy = MISSION) = INTERMISSION
Fresh INTER. Fresh MISSION. Nice. The Sondheim reference is a little lost on us, yea tho we starred in a Sondheim play in high school (A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM). Another personal note (yes yes you love these) is that we're auditioning for our first Second City production tomorrow, which requires a headshot (thank you to Notorious Marcel) and acting resume. No don't get worked up, it's not that big a deal. Typically about half the people who audition get in. But still we were like, “uh acting resume ... is gonna be blank ...” but our friend was like, just put all your high school stuff on there, there're no years on an acting resume!! Timeless.
Follies | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6D) Trapped, needing time? Uprising does (5)
    (time = T) + (uprising (DOES = DEER) = REED) = TREED
Lovely! One of the last clues we got. Fresh use of DOES.
  • 28A) A mug shot for a position in South Pacific (4)
    A MUG * anagram = GUAM
Simple easy, but shout out to old friend Dr Alicia of Guam!!
  • 27D) Porgy and Bess's finale gets trophy (4)
    (Bess's finale = S) gets (trophy = CUP) = SCUP
Porgy is a fish! Didna kno! Also known as a scup! But love this mostly for the sideways reference to Perry Bible Fellowship:
Perry Bible Fellowship | Skub
  • Rustic Uber taxis (4)
    UBER * anagram = RUBE
Peasants! Always love. Nice Clean Short Clue! V nice :)
Only in Romania | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
The last set of eights were exquisite:
  • 5D) Caduceus designed to be assembled locally (8)
    CADUCEUS * anagram = CAUCUSED
Lovely anagram! Mwa mwa! Speaking of politics, this US Presidential season has a brutal cast of refried beans. Not looking forward to it. Staying in the present.
  • 19A) Goodwill gets work of muralist (8)
    MURALIST * anagram = ALTRUISM
Sweet V and we have a running joke about “pure altruism,” which means doing something nice for others and not getting anything out of it oneself. So, like, hugging someone while trying not to barf on them. Pretending to enjoy a friend's personally moving story while gritting your teeth and hating every second. That's pure altruism. Something to shoot for, as a person.
  • 17D) Sweet letters stir a misunderstanding somewhat (8)
    sTIR A MISUnderstanding = TIRAMISU
A daring spanner!!
  • 21A) It comes after one teardrop, sadly (8)
    TEARDROP * anagram = PREDATOR
Yet another gorgeous anagram that took us three weeks to wise to! Wedding brain, Dear Readers. Beware its impact on your puzzle mastery.
Predator | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


  • 33A) Spanish leaders—each gets official after I empty the sink (4,4)
    (Spanish leaders = SP) each gets (official = UMP) = SUMP PUMP
Meh. Poopadoop. Over‑frequent use of ump removes any oomph.
  • 9D) Special terms for the writer: “Wills Covering Death” (9)
    (writer Wills = GARRY) covering (Death = LOSS) = GLOSSARY
Garry Wills? Will someone explain whodat? Also, do you think people say it “Garry” like “starry” to annoy him? “Why waste the 'r'?” they say. So annoying. So antagonistic. Aight who is Garry?
Garry Wills (born May 22, 1934)[2] is a prolific Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, journalist, and historian, specializing in American history, politics, and religion, especially the history of the Catholic Church.

Source: Wikip

  • 7A) Viet follower follower against government leader (4)
    (against = CON) + (government leader = G) = CONG
When I say Viet, you say Cong! Viet! Cong! Viet! Cong!

Too mucha gimme gimme.
  • 28D) Something between springs that adds energy to sleep (4)
    adds (energy = E) to (sleep = NAP) = NEAP
It's always neap. Can't we get something original to tide us over?
  • Newt (not Gingrich) enters for fear that I'm least conservative (7)
    (Newt = EFT) enters (for fear = LEST) = LEFTEST
Thought we eft that word in the dust, because it's used so often. Buh.
Newt Gingrich wink | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 10A) Contributor to blessed existence (4)
    blESSEd = ESSE
which we suppose means “existence”?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • 2D) Spottings produced by palsies (7)
    PALSIES * anagram = LAPISES
Like lapis lazuli? Meh.
  • 29A) Find some wool itching—that's nutty! (6)
    wooL ITCHIng = LITCHI
Dint we just have LITCHI in the puzzle? Buh.
The Lich | Adventure Time | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 23D) Heir to the throne leaves church in a French town (5)
    (church = CH) + (French town = ARLES) =  CHARLES
Meh, British royalty normativity. Meh, Anglo normativity. Meh meh.

The Tacky

  • 7D) Big post with a hundred locks and staffs up on it (12)
    (hundred = C) + (locks = HAIR) + (staffs = MAN) + (up on it = HIP) = CHAIRMANSHIP
  • Humors people taking time to be seen in paintings (12)
    (people = MEN) taking (time = T) seen in (paintings = TEMPERAS) = TEMPERAMENTS
People = men. Male normativity. Booooooooooooo.
men's rights | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Up in Vermont for our wedding, we read The Martian, which was a fun light read. But toward the end the [white, male] lead character is like, “wow, a whole planet was rooting for me, put their resources together to try to save me, people are awesome!” Like: he's grateful. But he's not surprised.

And wouldn't it have been interesting to explore the experience of someone who maybe feels the world doesn't value his or her life. People of color. Queers. Women [yah, going there]. People with disabilities, people with cerebral palsy. People who are told every day that they're defective, not as valuable. What would happen if that person were alone on Mars? What would that person feel when Earth rallied to save him or her?

total writing time: 5 hours 18 minutes
but that's with a break for breakfast and a break for hanging out with Colleen. So, not bad.

Come on and comment, lovers!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Reconciled - August 2015

August 2015 | Reconciled | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution

The Theme!

Haaaaaayted this. First, thought it was CAME TOGETHER at 1A and thus hunted for slantwise Beatles references. Upon revisiting CAME and switching to BACK, thus groking the theme after solving nearly every other clued entry, ah, ok, at last, it all fell together. Fine.
Come Together | The Beatles | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 17A) backPACKER
  • 18A) backPEDALS
  • 24A) backDATE
  • 33A) backSTABBING
  • 36A) backTALKING
  • 46A) backCOUNTRY
  • 1D) backBREAKING
  • 6D) backGAMMON
  • 8D) backHANDED
  • 14D) backLASHES
  • 29D) backSTRETCH
  • 31D) backSTROKE
  • 34D) backBITING
The instructs specify
the thirteen other unclued entries, will create a group of words that have something in common.

Emphasis added. —ed

and 6D, GAMMON, t'ain't no word. Yah ok so alright so the instruction “create” means that it's the BACK- forms of the theme answers that are words. Meh. We were convinced it was GAMBON for the actor Michael (aka Dumbledore II) or possibly a river in Africa (we were thinking of the GABON, wups).
Michael Gambon | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
a note about construction
By our count, this puzzle left 53 out of 194 squares unchecked. That's 27%. It sounded super high to us but then, for reference, the July 2015 puzzle had 41/144 or 28% unchecked, and June 2015 had 54/169 or 31.9% unchecked.

Ok but so this puzzle seemed to have like sooooooo many unclued theme answers crossing each other. It just like felt that way, right? Of the 82 theme squares in the fill, we count 29 that are unchecked or crossed with another unclued theme answer, i.e. 35%. In other words, we were 35% focked on theme entries. Mm. That's not quite the way to phrase it. If you know what we mean you're welcome to rephrase betterly in the comments ↓

Ok so contrast this puzzle with June 2015: 46 theme squares entered in code and only 10 uncrossed or theme crossing (21%). July 2015 doesn't make for a good comparison since it's straightforward “Sixes and Sevens,” But February 2015 “To Have and To Hold” is good: 24 out of 77 unclued theme squares are unchecked or theme crossing (31%).

In conclusion, this puzzle's unchecked count was maybe a little high. Like your dad.

Deep in Manhattan whilst deep in a Manhattan, Maltby pauses sipping and mentally composes an email, subject line: “Too much time on her hands.” He deletes the mental draft. Better not to entertain the thought. Better to play high status in this game. A game he knows all too well. From the adjacent chamber a feline mewls. There will be wet food tonight, oh yes. Wet indeed.
Princess Athena | spoiled cat | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


  • 12A) Man in the middle of St. Patrick's, doing a somersault (4)
    (in the middle of St. Patrick's = NAVE) doing a somersault =  EVAN
Fresher than usual way to get NAVE!
  • 28A) Passes over developed regions (7)
    REGIONS * anagram = IGNORES
Just a nice sweet anagram. Give them to us! Nice narrative on the clue, too. Flying over those developed regions, headed where? On whose authority? And for what purpose??
  • 43A) On the outside, doctor can make a dollar from pot! (4)
    On the outside (doctor = DR) can make a dOLLAr = OLLA
Putting this in highlights because most sins of this entry (puzzle'ese OLLA, tortured cluing) are overshadowed by the super-fun narrative. Dr Drug Dealer. Love!
Doctor or Dealer | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 44A) Shot at, I'd alter having a lock at the back (9)
    AT I'D ALTER * anagram = RATTAILED
YASS. Love the anagram, love the narrative, and love what it yields! Rattailed! That hot haircut from early elementary school. Beautiful.
Rattail hairstyle | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 3D) Fliers prepare to shoot a gun at nothing—so upsetting (9)
    (prepare to shoot a gun = COCK) + (nothing = O) + (SO upsetting = OS) = COCKATOOS
Loved this. The step-by-step quality, oft annoying, here was in service of some super fun narrative.
cockatoo dog Photoshop | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 5D) Show inappropriate habits? Cover Dre's solo entry (9)
Automatic highlight for Dr Dre, this month's Nerd Hot Guy.
Dr Dre | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 7D)        watch TV? Bedtime dilemma for man in ring! (8)
    TO READ OR (watch TV) = Bedtime dilemma = TOREADOR = man in ring
Hope we explained our logic hear even medium coherently. Mang we loved this! In contrast to that terror from last month with DEBARS (where “t'get de drinks” if you remember that nightmare). This is how that sort of clue can be done well. And by “well” we mean “in a way we like.” Shout out to relativism, wut wut! cf exposition in our other blog.
  • 9D) Dorothy's aunt and father receive nothing in turnover (8)
    (Dorothy's aunt = EM) + (father = PA) receive (nothing = NADA) = EMPANADA
Was hunting for the GALE in this. Shout out to Wizard of Oz trivia. Shout out to empanadas! And shout out to Roundathon who took us out for empanadas in Chicago three years ago and we're still thinking about them.
  • 18A) Ring up Kitty (4)
    (Ring = LOOP * up = POOL
Lovely! So clean!
  • 35D) Good woman's name? (6)
    (Good = G) + (woman's = LADYS) = GLADYS
Mwa! The simplicity! Bam.
Hard Bodies | Gladys Portugues | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


So there were a whopping seven clues that we had to look up, having never hearda:
  • 11A) Italian flower gets name for French flower (5)
    (Italian flower = ARNO) gets (name = N) = ARNON
Cool use of “flower” the same way twice …not!  Buh. Shout out to Notorious Marcel and Colleen who saw the Arno last month on their lovers' tour of Italy!
  • 19A) Taro root, central to fodder, turned back (4)
    central to fODDEr turned back = EDDO
Uhhhhhh … whhut?
eddo: a taro corm or plant, especially of a West Indian variety with many edible cormlets | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 23A) Cordial adjustment to ponder (6)
    PONDER * anagram =  PERNOD
Had vaguely heard of Pernod before. Un alcool with which we we suspect Ol' “Single” Malt[by] is familiar.
Pernod | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 2D) No arcane deconstruction for this poet (8)
    NO ARCANE * anagram = ANACREON
Hoo? Anacreon
Anacreon was a Greek lyric poet, notable for his drinking songs and hymns. Later Greeks included him in the canonical list of nine lyric poets.

Surs: The Wikip

  • 20D) Seed men spilled in place of the Lord (7)
    SEED MEN * anagram = DEMESNE
“Lord” as in “lord of the manor.” Quickly inferred that this would be an anagramma of SEED MEN, but with three uncrossed letters was at a loss until the last minutes of solve. Boo.
  • 30D) He boxed naked, they say (4)
    (naked = BARE) * they say = BAER
Possessing perhaps the most powerful right hand in heavyweight history, Max Baer was a flashy performer who wise-cracked and clowned his way through his career. Although he never fully realized his tremendous potential, Baer won the heavyweight title, and his showmanship entertained an America rocked by the Great Depression.

Source: International Boxing Hall of Fame

Max Baer | boxer | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 32D) OK, nail disreputable china maker (6)
    OK NAIL * anagram = KAOLIN
Hwat? kaolin clay | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
kaolin, also called china clay, soft white clay that is an essential ingredient in the manufacture of china and porcelain and is widely used in the making of paper, rubber, paint, and many other products. Kaolin is named after the hill in China (Kao-ling) from which it was mined for centuries.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

  • 40D) Love performing? Time to enter horse‑show movement (5)
    (LOVE * anagram) + ((Time = T) entering) = VOLTE
We're no stranger to dressage, mais quoi? This word does come from the French, does it pas? Invoking La France reminds us to shout out to Sister Mercedes, moving to Aix‑en‑Provence this month! Home of Cezanne, Roman ruins, cobblestone. Dear Readers may recall that we were there last October with the Mommazon. Got it warmed up for the Merç.
The Mommazon in Aix | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Ok so eight clues: that's a lot to have to look up, we're saying. Particularly in a puzzle where more than 25% of the fill was uncrossed. We've mentioned this, right? We mention again here in case you've forgotten. These posts have so many words, we don't want you to miss out on Key Insights™ from the first paragraphs.

Back to regularly scheduled Lowlights:

We're putting the two clues below in “Lowlights” altho the truth is we're not sure how we feel ab'ut these two:
  • 13A) Arab man returning from South American capital (4)
    returning from (South American Capital = LIMA) = AMIL
  • 16A) Frost recalled the title for “Prince of the Desert” (4)
    (Frost = RIME) recalled = EMIR
Amil! Not the usual go-to “stereotypical Arab name” for the puzzle. Mostly didn't like ambiguity on how to lay these in the fill without crosses. And for a puzzle so cross-poor, these were annoying indeed.
  • 25A) Lady of Rock announced. Not her! (3)
    announced (Not her! = OH NO) = ONO
“Oh no: it's Yoko!” She's never heard that joke before.
Yoko Ono | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
People like to take their digs at Yoko. She believes in world peace. We think that's cool. We believe in the possibility of world peace. Hard‑hearted Dear Readers out there who do not believe in world peace, perhaps you can believe in the possibility of a world without war-as-we-know-it-now in which soft-handed bureaucrats send young people to die.

We also believe in the possibility of a world where global conflict is decided by sex‑fighting. Like full-contact naked capoeira. Try as you might to convince us to restrict our belief such that we would deny even the possibility of international sex‑fighting in place of war as we know it, you will fail. Haha you will fail so badly!!
  • 27A) Some bombshells best docked outside, on leaving London (7)
    (best = BES) docked outside (on leaving London = LOND) = BLONDES
Our friend Sparky once said, “ stops being fun as soon as you realize that every white woman with blonde hair gets a minimum of an 8 out of 10, and every black woman gets at best a 6.” This was circa 2005 for the early iteration of HotOrNot that was like Kitten War but for human people. Now it's turned into something else. A dating site?

Shout out to Sweet V, taking us off the dating market in just a few weeks!!
  • 30A) Thorny situation for brother putting on airs, awkwardly (6)
    (brother = BR) putting on AIRS awkwardly = BRIARS
Meh. Super obvi. C'mong make us sweat a little yah?
  • 39A) Renaissance makes English victory viral, circulating all around (7)
    (English = E) + (victory = V) + VIRAL circulating all around = REVIVAL
And that is a Request Denied on making us sweat even a little. Bu. The anagram shouldn't rhyme with with the anagrind fodder.
  • 41A) Unholy terrors, i.e., one raising a bit of hell (9)
Now we're just getting ultra-finicky. Picky picky. But mang these -ER words cluttering up the puzz! Maybe if there weren't so many unclued entries, maybe if it were in service of a dense tight grid. Maybe baby. We're in an allergy mode, where increased exposure only increases the reaction. Alright just two more:
  • 4D) Get rent drop (4)
    Get rent = drop = TEAR
One of those ones we guessed immediately, followed by, “no, that's too stupid …”

  • 11D) Downloaded things heard during recess (4)
    (Downloaded things = APPS) heard = APSE
Bringing APSE into the puzzle for the billionth time*, if you apse us, might have stunk this in Lowlights from the outset but there was probable cause to read this as either APSE or APPS. Perhaps this is our ongoing problem with linear time and the puzzle? Linear time seeming to be an unspoken constraint, which we are not apparently constrained by, thus introducing occasional but severe perplexion. Wouldn'ta been a problem except the last two letters were uncrossed.
*shout out to our knave, NAVE!

Ambiguity in the puzzle. Buh. The puzzle, especially the cryptic puzzle, is where we go to experience chaos and ambiguity at a remove. In a world gone hysterical, the puzzle is rational, ordered, finite, solvable. Except when more than a quarter of the fill is uncrosst! That makes us quite cross indeed.

The Tacky

  • 26) Upper-class item in chicken: more crackers (8)
    (chicken = FRIER) = FRUITIER
Bugs Bunny | Carmen Miranda | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues From mother etymonline:
fruit (n.)
Meaning "odd person, eccentric" is from 1910; that of "male homosexual" is from 1935, underworld slang. The term also is noted in 1931 as tramp slang for "a girl or woman willing to oblige," probably from the fact of being "easy picking."
Code for “freak,” yes. Also code for “gay.” And not in a fun in-group sense. We admit, this clue is not very tacky, especially for a Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clue. Like, it's not as if the answer was FAGGOT clued as “bundle of sticks.” And the puzzle like a brutish 9th grader, What? What? That's what it means!!

In other news, did not know that there is a chicken that is named for the act of its consumption. Brutal. A couple years ago we were in line at the grocery store and there was a chicken bone on the floor by the register. Someone had eaten from the hot bar and tossed the bone. Suddenly out of context, 23 no longer parsed it as food but as carcass. As the real leg bone of a real creature. One of those Vegetarian Awakening moments. Tho the moment passed.

In other news, eight days until Jeopardy! round two auditions. We don't even know how we feel, except that what we feel is real.

Come to the mountain orgy and do what my lovers do (7)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sixes and Sevens - July 2015

July 2015 | Sixes and Sevens | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution

Yeah we're havin trouble concentratin at Tacky Harper's HQ right now because moments ago we got an email from Jeopardy! saying we'd gotten into round two of Jeopardy! auditions.


How many people get this far in the process? We don't know, they keep that information tight. What are our chances of actually getting on the show? Approximately 0.0000001%. But a lass dreams.

Unnyway it's that time of the month! And that time, she waiteth for no calm spell betwixt wedding planning and exciting but EXTREMELY disruptive emails.

To the Theme!

Good ol' sixes and sevens. Boom boom boom. La la la.


  • 23A) Opposed to a church prank, Holder in Los Angeles, left (12)
    (prank = ANTIC) (Holder = ERIC) in (Los Angeles = LA) + (left = L) = ANTICLERICAL
Needed Sweet V's help on this one. Prolly wise to have capitalized “Holder” in the clue but ah how we wish that it could have been lowercase for to introduce ambiguity, “holder” being a likely indicator … Wut, you don't have Eric Holder top of mind, ready to hand, close underfoot?
former Attorney General Eric Holder | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Didn't realize he was no longer in office, so cruised his Wikipedia and was surprised to read: “During the Fast and Furious investigation, [Eric Holder] became the only cabinet member in U.S. history to be held in contempt of Congress.”

Wut? And also, wut is the Fast and Furious investigation!
"Gunwalking", or "letting guns walk", was a tactic of the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which ran a series of sting operations[2][3] between 2006[4] and 2011[2][5] in the Tucson and Phoenix area where the ATF "purposely allowed licensed firearms dealers to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers, hoping to track the guns to Mexican drug cartel leaders and arrest them."

Source: more Wikipedia

SPOILER the “stop violent cartels by arming violent cartels” plan did not work very well. Holder is out. Now we have Loretta Lynch, the woman who took down FIFA. Tite :)
Loretta Lynch  | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6D) Not in a union context, ram a Ritalin capsule inside (12)
    context ram a Ritalin = EXTRAMARITAL
A daring word spanner!
  • 7D) Girl's goal—to be supported by electrical engineering (5)
    (goal = AIM) + (electrical engineering = EE) = AIMEE
Ladies in STEM fields, wut wut! Of note: there are currently more women in Sweet V's old robotics lab than men. Add this clue to our brand new sister blog,!
  • 9D) Washes off not very sensible shoes (5)
    SHOES * anagram = HOSES
How do you warsh it? You hose it! Enjoyed the narrative here of shoes made from mud.
mud feet | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6a) Wind and wind online (2,4)
    ONLINE * anagram = EL NIÑO
Nice and clean, efficient and TITE!
  • 6d) Butch is bored by one, for the most part
    (Butch = MANLY) is bored by (one = I) = MAINLY
Gonna leave the “butch = manly” equation alone this round. Marvel at our restraint! Big Boo's makeup | Orange is the New Black | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Big Boo's makeup game on point

  • 6e) Mystical group started reeling, was in the present
    (reeling = SWAM) + ('was' in the present [tense] = IS) = SWAMIS
You know, Dear Readers, we've come out in the past against this tense play. By which we mean wordplay with tenses of the verb “to be.” But then we chilled out, had a snack, and decided we love it. This trick opens up so many language possibilities!

Maltby looks up from a snifter of amber liquid, be'moccasinned feet resting on a shabby tiger skin rug. He senses a disturbance in the Force, as if something long struggling against him had ceased to resist. Puzzle Minion enters with Maltby's dinner on a tray: steak and bananas.
  • 6f) Cell-phone app, like Angry Birds and The Disheartened
    (phone app like Angry Birds = GAME) + (THE disheartened = TE) = GAMETE
Oh we are definitely hot to play a cell-phone game called The Disheartened! Lately we've been playing a lot of Angry Birds. Because 2010 didn't go anywhere.
Angry Birds fan art | DesignInc | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Image courtesy DesignINC

  • 6k) Acted badly with end of paragraph cut off
    (ACTED + (end of PARAGRAPH = H)) * anagram = DETACH
Raise your hand if you were certain “acted badly” and “six letters” would yield HAMMED. Yah. That's our hand raised right thar. We got got.
  • 6l) Gambol, like in dry beds
    (Gambol = PLAY) + (like = AS) = PLAYAS
Wut's up to Dear Readers fresh off of Fourth of Juplaya. And catch y'all at Burning Man in the far flung future, when Burning Man is super played-out and lame and relaxed and uncool and poor. When Burning Man is for the poor people. That's when we'll be there.
Fourth of Juplaya | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 7a) Distributing $100 bills among needy characters, that's a good quality
    ((100 = C) + NEEDY) * anagram = DECENCY
V nice anagrama! See as well:
  • 7d) Crash dummies for midsizes
    DUMMIES * anagram = MEDIUMS
Oh, mwa! Dimly remembered from a childhood in the '80s: The Crash Test Dummies. But was their sole function a public service announcement? Or did they also have broader comedic purpose?
Crash Test Dummies | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 7e) Steady, unwavering pinch of the ears
    (pinch = ROB) + (of the ears = OTIC) = ROBOTIC
Frequent puzzle visitor OTIC forgiven for this nice neat clue! Here's our favorite, Hannah Georgas:

  • 7g) Bash in bone—get it together
    (bone = SHIN) + (get it = DIG) = SHINDIG
Brain kept insisting this was SHINBON :)   O, brain.
  • 7j) Mammal, bird, or reptile: Am I not ridiculously English
    (AM I NOT) ridiculously + (English = E) = AMNIOTE
The instructs called this out as uncommon, but we figured it out quickly and painlessly. Internet search confirmed our guess (we are not so learnéd in Mother Science that we know “amniote” offa top). Also love the narrative of the clue, and the use of the Oxford comma!
embryonic chicken | amniote | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


There were a lot we didn't like this month.
  • 11A) Say, “Food, goodbye” (4)
    (Say = homophone) * (Food = CHOW) = CIAO
No. Ciao forever, we say to this clue. Sidenote, wut's up to Notorious Marcel and Colleen on a lovers' jaunt to Italy right now! They've “planned” a trip with no agenda, no rules, no constraints … just like their love!
  • 16A) Where to file sketch artists or briefs? (12)
    (Where to file = UNDER) + (sketch artists = DRAWERS) = UNDERDRAWERS
That is a bold way to clue “under.” File this one under B, for boooooooo. Of course, reminded of a favorite Mitch Hedberg joke:
Mitch Hedberg | receipt | donut joke | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 28A) Toymaker's heart's set on kayaks? Just the reverse! (5)
    seT ON KAyaks = TONKA
Oft'n nostalgia buys at least a litta bitta goodwill with us, but meh, no. More of this unnecessary “just the reverse” stuff, like as if variety cryptic solvers are bound by left-to-right syntax or linear time. Nay. We are free from such limitations of mind. Heads up on that to The Listener, if you're the listening!

Anyway so at least that K in the middle of TONKA is probably in service of a nice cross, right? Something fresh, and true, and real. Right?
  • 26D) Store from which you can get one parrot (4)
    (one = I) + (parrot = KEA) = IKEA
Nup, TONKA crosses IKEA at K junction. Brands in service of brands. Ks rubbing against each other like erections made of marketing dollars.

Sweet V says, “and anyway, IKEA is not a store, it's a church!” Here's a kea:
kea parrot | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 29A) Gets out of serious racing cars? (4)
    GETS * anagram = GTES
Buh. Here to take the edge off, this is Idris Elba with a Jaguar, but let's pretend it's a GTE for the purposes of right now:
Idris Elba | Jaguar | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 2D) Relative to rein in, reordering members (2,2)
    REIN * anagram = IN RE
Ewwwww. “relative to” and “in re” as synonymous reads as shaky to us, at best.
“in re” is like “this is the topic”
“relative to” is like ”here's an associated tangent.”

And of course, REIN to IN RE, buh. There's no trickitty trick to this anagram. What they call a No Trick Pony in the circus.
  • 23D) Caught in bazaar, ghostly word from a pirate (5)
    bazaAAR GHostly = AARGH
One time our friend's roommate was talking about his Halloween costume. He was going to go as Haddock, a character from Tintin. Except he said it Frenchly, so Tahnh-tahnhn. And without thinking about it, we said in our dummest chef-from-Little-Mermaid French accent, “hunh hunh hunh!”
Chef from The Little Mermaid | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
“Really?” said the disappointed roommate. His mother is a French teacher. 99% positive yes, French teacher, not French national. Does that really make it better? And who are we to dictate the limits of others' outrage? Is this not a nerd outrage blog?

Anyway now it's our turn to say, “really?” when this clue invokes “pirate” and chases it immediately with “aargh! [ayma pirate!]”
  • 24D) Land temperature I'll wager (5)
    (temperature = T) + (I'll wager = I BET) = TIBET
Doesn't Tibet wend its way into the puzzle, like, once every two months? Usually with this exact synonym for “land” = “[one specific] country”?
  • 6c) Cartoon kid fell down? No, up!
    (fell down = SINNED) * (no, up = reversal) = DENNIS
One of our favorite things in The Far Side 10th Anniversary: when captions were “accidentally” swapped:
Far Side - Dennis the Menace swap | 'If I get as big as Dad won‘t my skin be too TIGHT?' | 'I see your little, petrified skull … naked and resting on a shelf somewhere' | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
So alright that clue is fine on its own, but then so close nearby, so much nearly the same:
  • 6i) Star turns, wrong for some Arabs
    (Star = SUN) + ((turns = reverse) (wrong = SIN) = NIS) = SUNNIS
It's a sin to invoke SIN so often, sin remorse.
  • 6g) A right to have refuse placed outside ten times over
    A (right = R) + ((refuse = DENY) placed outside) = DENARY
Umh. Ok.
den•a•ry (dĕn'ə-rē)
1. Tenfold.
2. Divided or counted by tens; decimal.


Sweet V made such the sour face at this one! Artist's rendering here:
Sweet V makes a face at 'DENARY' | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6h) Straight, not attached hereto
    HERETO * anagram = HETERO
Buh. Just, not a great anagram at all. Allow us to fix:
  • Proof shows it's true without men, confused or straight (6)
(softly, under breath) Nailed it.
  • 6j) Rules out where t' get de drinks?
    get de drinks at … de bars! = DEBARS
Swore this was DEWARS for most of the puzzle. Dewars White Label being a favorite from our drinking days, by virtue of being very whisky and very cheap.
Dewars White Label Whisky | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Couldn't work out why DEWARS, but we were rock-solid certain. No cross on that W, so. We couldn't imagine something so bad as this clue. Start with the overall badness. Move on to how DEBAR for “rules out” is a bitto'a stretch at best. We understand DEBARS as something you do to a person [lawyer]. Not to, like a suggestion.

“I've debarred your idea for this case.”
“It doesn't matter! I'm no longer a lawyer; I've been … ruled out.“

This is the worst clue we have ever seen in the puzzle. Bottom of the whisky barrel. But reminds us of this charming joke:
A lady is throwing a party where each guest shows up as their favorite emotion. A guest arrives dressed in green. "Envy!" she says, and lets him in.

A lady comes dressed in red. She says, "Anger!" and lets her in.

Two naked guys walk up to the front door. One guy is holding a bowl of pudding with his penis stuck in it, and the other guy has his penis in a hollowed-out pear.

"Wait a minute," she says to them. "This is supposed to be an emotion party!"

The first guy says, "Yeah, and I'm fucking dis-custard."

The second guy says, "And I'm deep in dis-pear."

Source: Ebaums World (!)

The Tacky

  • 4D) Ragtag, not courtlier, minstrel (12)
“Minstrel” like Al Jolson, shuck and jive, full on blackface minstrel shows.
Bamboozled | Spike Lee | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
If you haven't already you should see Spike Lee's 'Bamboozled' ASAP

From Wikipedia, emphasis added:
The show itself was divided into three major sections. During the first, the entire troupe danced onto stage singing a popular song.[83] Upon the instruction of the interlocutor, a sort of host, they sat in a semicircle. Various stock characters always took the same positions: the genteel interlocutor in the middle, flanked by Tambo and Bones, who served as the endmen or cornermen. The interlocutor acted as a master of ceremonies and as a dignified, if pompous, straight man while the endmen exchanged jokes and performed a variety of humorous songs.


Is it inherently tacky to invoke minstrel shows in the puzzle? What would Tyler the Creator say? Maybe that such invocation is not tacky enough. Maybe that to alight on this history without exploring or exploiting it is a missed opportunity. Maybe that Maltby or Zander of The Listener drop an intense reference then avert their eyes. Maybe that's what we say.

Everyone wants to be outraged. Isn't this blog itself a voice in the ear-bleeding song of Internet outrage culture? Art Spiegelman in a recent cartoon for the New Statesman expresses his annoyance at such culture. Notably, in that last panel depicting a perimeter of free speech that should be defended, the sanctimonious PC police are not included. Maybe they're assumed to be well inside the paddock of free speech [with the cows?]. But we got the sense, and maybe this is incorrect, that Art Spiegelman finds the average Holocaust denier less irritating that the average activist Tumblr user. If that's the case, well. Maybe the Holocaust denier is easy to dismiss. But the PC police ask Art Spiegelman to examine himself and his thinking, and who wants to do that? Self-examination? Who knows what one might find!

Ok so then we're with Art Spiegelman in that: an outraged defensive position often substitutes for real education, awareness, engagement. See also Social Justice Kittens by the genius Sean Tejaratchi:
'You are jeopardizing my well-being with your violent refusal to agree.' | Social Justice Kittens | Sean Tejaratchi | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Back to the point at hand. Is it racist to mention minstrel shows in the puzzle? We say no. Is it tacky? We say yes. Dear Readers are invited to draw their own conclusions.

A crow's call intended to say you love me (7)