Sunday, January 17, 2016

House of Cards - January 2016

January 2016 | House of Cards | Harper's puzzle solution

Welcome to the New Year, Dear Readers! US election years are leap years. That's because US electoral politics make us want to leap off a cliff. Just kidding. Kindof.

For those interested, we posted our 2016 Resolutions [Fantasies]. Though, we still believe that the most important goal is “fuck goals.” Freedom up here [taps forehead].

To the Puzzle!

There was an error in the grid structure, cf red marks above. Getting sloppy, boys.

In the leather‑bound study of an Upper East Side brownstone Maltby shakes awake, dangerously jostling the tumbler of scotch balanced between his thighs. There it is again: a knock at the door, young and proud.

“It's Zander, of The Listener!” He's early. How irritating. Xavier of The Whisper, and Maurice of Le Mot: they know not to wake him. Cornjulian of Das Aegis, and Patrick of Flemish Gavot: same. Because they understand patience. Command of thineself.

“Door's open!” shouts Maltby, and Zander struggles at the knob.

“I can't—it's locked!” says Zander, muffled behind the oak. Maltby chuckles. The scotch trembles.

“No, it's unlocked. Try again.” And Zander of The Listener struggles, and Maltby watches, and sips.

The Theme!

It's “House of Cards,” as in a pun on “funny people.” The first unclued is the category (“FUNNY BUSINESS”) and the seven unclueds are names of jesters and stuff, generally archaic or Euro medieval or antiquated.
Harley Quinn | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Image courtesy DeviantArt user Picolo‑kun
  • 19A) JESTER
  • 27A) ZANY
ZANY qua noun? K, fine.
noun za•ny    Popularity: Bottom 50% of words

: a subordinate clown or acrobat in old comedies who mimics ludicrously the tricks of the principal :

Source: Merry-am Webster

Shout out to National Republic Radio!
The Motley Fool | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
merry-andrew (n.)
"a buffoon; a zany; a jack-pudding" [Johnson], originally "mountebank's assistant," 1670s, from merry + masc. proper name Andrew, but there is no certain identification with an individual.

Source: Etymonline

  • 28D) MUMMER
We've only heard of “mummer” in the context of our mom's Loreena McKennitt CDs, phase. Our impression from the cover art was that a mummer is like one of the ghost kings in Return of the King. Cuz, look. Right?
The Mummers' Dance | Loreena McKennitt | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
an actor in a traditional masked mime, especially of a type associated with Christmas and popular in England in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
a pantomimist.

Source: The Goog


  • 12A) She might make you a tuna melt! (4)
    TUNA * anagram = AUNT
Delicious! Clean! Natural language! Mwa! Kicking off the puzzle with such a tight tasty snack!
  • 13A) Chewing gum, a base occupation for Americans (4)
    GUM A * anagram = GUAM
Shout out to Guam, shout out to our old friend Dr Ramos. Shout out to drawing attention to American occupation.
  • 23A) Sets aside skins? By the sound of it! (6)
    (skins = DEFURS) * homophone = DEFERS
We liked this one! Probably mainly because it invokes fur and thus invokes furries.
  • 28A) Upper-class, but I'm back on the outside. Lanai is the closest thing to it (4)
    (Upper-class = U) ((I'M = I AM) back = MAI) on the outside = MAUI
Fresh use of LANAI. What's up geography! Frowning at I'M =>I AM, tho. Dear Readers invited to supply alternate logic on this answer in th'commentz.
  • 30A) Whip up a canapé that serves everyone (7)
    A CANAPE * anagram = PANACEA
Mwa. Delicious anagrama. Dear Readers, did you know that our senior year we starred as Pseudolus in our high school's production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum? Believe. We had been hoping for the part of the whoremistress. Our being cast as the lead caused some stress with our high school sweetheart, who very fairly believed that he was the clear choice for Pseudolus. And that, Dear Readers, was the last time we dated someone with whom we were in direct competition.

Anyway we bring this up because one of the harem girls is named “Panacea,” and Forum was the first time we eva-eva heard that word.
  • 32A) Aid in digesting a negative review, certain to be corrected (10)
    ((negative review = PAN) + CERTAIN) * anagram = PANCREATIN
Initially thought this was PANCREATIC. Nice to have a big medical word in the puzz.
  • 39A) Case study? It gives little weight to damage (7)
    (little weight = GRAM) + (damage = MAR) = GRAMMAR
Delightful! Currently we are studying Romanian using Pimsleur's excellent conversation training. Having studied French, German, and Japanese, Pimsleur's method is by far the fastest method of spoken language study we've ever used. But, as we discover when we take our new skills out for a spin with our Romanian husband, the speed sacrifices depth of grammatical/syntactic understanding. Which, such understanding Sweet V assures us can only be learned by rote in a classroom setting over the course of years. Then he mentions “declensions” and our brain shuts off.

We have a much stronger appreciation now of English as a robust and comprehensible language. English: impossible to spell, but simple to speak and understand. For instance, if we said to you, “we loves you,” you'd notice the conjugation error, but you wouldn't be, like, confused. Whereas the equivalent error in Romanian would obliterate meaning. “Who loves whom? And when? I don't understand …”

On the other hand, Romanian: easy to spell. Each word spelled like how it sounds. Like Arabic. Funny to think about languages where a spelling contest would be moot. Languages where the letters don't play any tricky tricks!
  • 41A) Be venial—thrashing leaves much to be desired! (8)
    BE VENIAL * anagram = ENVIABLE
Was long caught up on this one thinking that the anagram ground up LEAVES. V nice :)
  • 1D) Initially popularity of uprising turns out just dandy (3)
    (Initially popularity = P) (OF uprising = FO) turns out = FOP
This was so nice. Another nice natural lingo clue.
  • 3D) Cologne I distributed—it's a matter of coins! (8)
    COLOGNE I * anagram = NEOLOGIC
“coins” as in coining words. Lovely! More anagrams! More anagrams! Really, we should invest in a Super Jumble book. Why are we digging through the trail mix of the cryptic, when what we really want is a bag of MnMs? Ah but see, the hunting and pecking for anagram treats is part of the fun :)
  • 5D) Even contributors to our name, I extend, like early recordings (7)
    o U r  N a M e  I  e X t E n D = UNMIXED
A daring letter modulus clue! Long for its kind!
  • 7D) Office worker in Kerry's first plane (3‑3)
    IN (Kerry's first = K) + (plane = JET) = INK‑JET
Does INK‑JET really need the hyphen? The big box mongers of inkjet cartridges (Bestest Buy, Staplers, &c) say “no.”

But enjoyed the Kerry reference. In summer 2014 we traveled to Germany and Romania with Sweet V. Up on the telly screen at Frankfurt airport there was news of Secretariat of State John Kerry's travel. And as the screen showed Kerry talking quietly off‑mic with a foreign political luminary, Vlad gave his own sotto voce narration:

“Did you see the pictures with the lacy ones?”
“Yes, I brought more if you want to see. I brought the whole set!”

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, right, speaks to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
  • 9D) Sandwiches, sandwiches—gripping take‑out items? (12)
    (Sandwiches, sandwiches = SUBS) + (gripping = TRACTION) = SUBTRACTION
Fun! Always love a daring doubling of words in the clue. Are they both indicators? Or both definitions? Or is one an indicator and the other a definition? Are they identical twins or fraternal?
  • 11D) Fences—the goal of the 1 Across? (5)
    HAHAS (double synonym)
Was certain initially that it was SPARS but nay, “ha‑ha funny”? Or “ha‑ha fence”?
Ha‑ha fence
A ha-ha is a recessed landscape design element that creates a vertical barrier whilst preserving an uninterrupted view of the landscape beyond. The design includes a turfed incline which slopes downward to a sharply vertical face, typically a masonry retaining wall.

Source: Wikipedia, none other than

Personally we don't think “hahas” and “laughs” are the goals of comedy … we think it's more like: rappelling into the darkest depths of truth to draw up a little relief from the irritating and excruciating experiences of life itself, that we might tolerate such indignities but a little longer.

Also do you feel the restraint exercised in this clue at not going for “fences = epee”? We feel it.
  • 20D) Announces, in the vernacular, sleaze's starting to come back (3)
    SLEAZE'S (starting) to come back = starting SEZEALS = SEZ
Love this. It reminds us of how our mom communicates over electronic media (text, email), where brevity is necessary to make the communication form palatable, possible. Like: each byte of information is expensive in terms of emotional energy cost. So we get texts from her like, “Wher r u?”

We're observing how our parents interact with technology carefully. Right now we're a savvy computer programmer and web developer, but soon enough we'll age out of technological savvy. #dread
  • 21D) Aerobes floating around north may the be this (8)
    AEROBES floating around (north = N) = SEABORNE
Anagrama! Lova lova.
  • 22D) Caesarean section? (4)
    Caesarean = AREA
What to call it when the indicator is also the definition? Like: it works a double shift. Flexi‑cluework. We'll think more on this, get back to you. Normally we're philosophically opposed to such shenanigans. “One word, one cryptic function.” But embedding a fresh clue within American medical idiom!! So strong.
  • 34D) Castle, for example—gunfire never protects it (5)
    gunfIRE NEver = IRENE
As in Irene Castle, aka this cutie:
Irene Castle ball gown
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Irene Castle and her husband Vernon Castle (born Vernon Blyth) were the best known ballroom dancers of the early 20th C. Beginning about 1914 they operated several clubs and studios in the NYC area, toured the country dancing, and were able to charge as much as a thousand dollars an hour for lessons.

Source: iMDB

  • 38D) Sign a submarine captain has surfaced (4)
    (submarine captain = NEMO) has surfaced = OMEN
Nice reference to notre frére Verne. Here's a Did You Know: Captain Nemo is Indian!
In The Mysterious Island, Captain Nemo identifies himself as Prince Dakkar, son of the Hindu Raja of Bundelkund, and also a descendant of the Muslim Sultan Fateh Ali Tipu of the Kingdom of Mysore, famous for the Anglo-Mysore Wars.

Source: Wpedai

Ah ok: this is made clear in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Captain Nemo | The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen


  • 16A) A good bridge contract is unfortunately bleak when circumvented by West (8)
    (BLEAK * anagram) circumvented by (West = MAE) = MAKEABLE
Shout out to our favorite, Mae West. Did you know she was a playwright? Did you know she did jail time for a play she wrote? They charged her with obscenity. She wore silk underwear in prison. What a badass person.

But boo to bridge slang, and booooo to the word “makeable.” Ew. We deem this clue judgeable. We judge it.

Yah! “judgeable! With that medial “e”! Just like in makeable. So gross.
  • 24A) Edges in, moving back to front, in a kind of rush (5)
    EDGES moving back to front = SEDGE
Minor fresh use of “rush” but buh, EDGES to SEDGE? Buh.
  • 25A) Can doesn't open from heat (3)
    (Can = FIRE) doesn't open = IRE
CAN we AX why these same tired old syns for FIRE always show up?

Below: the glorious finale of Napoleon Dynamite to the exquisite beats of Jamiroquai's “Canned Heat.” So beautiful. So generous. Last night we watched the end of Carrie (1976). The end of Napoleon Dynamite is the exact opposite of the end of Carrie, but just as cathartic.

  • 29A) Sounds like con's kind of instrument (4)
    (con = READ) * homophone = REED
More of this “‘con’ means ‘learn’” stuff, if we're reading it correctly. Also seen in October 2015 - Vicious Circles. Meh.
  • 44A) Once more, run up to plant—once again, gets heard (5)
    (to plant once again = RESOW) gets heard = RESEW
Really. RESOW to RESEW. We wrote “barf” in our margin notes next to this clue.
  • 4D) Displaced American in gym article quit without finishing (6)
    (gym = Y) + (article = AN) + (QUIT without finishing) = YANQUI
Thought at first that the meaning of “displaced American” was Native/First Nations displaced by white genocide. But now that we've looked up yanqui, we're confused. If “Yanqui” is more like Latin American slang synonymous with “gringo,” then the definition “displaced American” reads a little weak for the usual same dead horse this blog beats and beats and beats: US ≠ America
America is not same as the United States | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 8D) Formerly known as “The Joint,” it loses its frontage (3)
    (The Joint = KNEE) loses its frontage = KNEE
Nay to née. Ne'er again, s'il vous plaît et merçi d'avance.
  • 10D) Soupy merchandizing? (5)
    SALES (double synonym)
Here is a photo of Soupy Sales and Frank Sinatra. Which one is Soupy, and which one is Frank? That is a stronger riddle than the one posed by this clue.
Soupy Sales and Frank Sinatra
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

  • 18D) You were announced as the pitcher (4)
    You were * homophone = EWER
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Ewer saying something?
Yes, we were saying, “ewe.”

Farmboy? Hand us that pitcher.
As you wish | Wesley | The Princess Bride
  • 31D) Sue wants a shirt created (5)
    (Sue = BEG) wants A (shirt = T) = BEGAT
Mehhhhh. “sue” => “beg” feels thin, brothers and sisters. The thesaurus supports it but wutevr. Spent a goodly time working an anagram of SHIRT first.
  • 26D) One looking down's not so far away, if you listen closely! (7)
    'S (not so far away = NEARER) * homophone = SNEERER
Gross. S'not good. This is another homophone that hurts our feelings.
“'s nearer” => “sneerer”  No‑hoooooo.

The Tacky

  • 42A) A very good French girl (dark sounding, finally), wearing cotton fabric, almost unused (6)
    (cotton fabric = JEAN) + (almost (unused = NEW) = NE) = JEANNE
Is this a reference to a song? Dear Readers are welcome to comment and correct.

This clue creeps us out. “almost unused” cotton fabric. Just say it. Panties. It's Jeanne's French panties. Her cotton panties are almost unused. Or it's Jeanne who's almost unused. Jk jk obv it's both. She's very good, that Jeanne. And she sounds [licks the lips] dark. Finally, right? Finally: a girl who sounds dark.

Yeah screw this creepy clue.

Tell us how you really feel. Leave a comment.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sixes and Sevens (and Twelves) - December 2015

December 2015 | Sixes and Sevens (and Twelves) | Harper's puzzle solution

The Theme!

Seena thisa typa puzz before. Best practice is to solve the numbered clues then solve the twelvers and figure out how to lattice them in. But if you're working the numbereds and the twelves and they're just not coming, then you might do what we do, which is to solve a stack of the sixes and sevens and then just blindly enter them into the grid, making it work until it doesn't work. This is not the most obviously methodically logical approach, but sometimes it's important to boost morale in order to see progress. Alternatively, sometimes just seeing letters in the grid can unlock insights to previously opaque clues.


  • 11A) I feel pain in back and hips (4)
    I ((feel pain + AIL) back = LIA) = ILIA
Our friend Jen in high school had a zine called ILIA as a reference to “hip” as in “cool” but the logo was a voluptuous hyper‑feminine pair of hips. Nice. Speaking of, we should start a zine! This blog is like a zine, we recognize. But maaaaan, handing out those little paper stacks to friends. Xeroxing them in the library. So cool! Being a teen is so cool!

Below: Neolithic art from Cucuteni, Romania (they were super into hips):
Cucuteni fertility goddess
Image courtesy Wikimedia

  • 28A) Leaning over, it's said to end two letters earlier (4)
    (SAID end (i.e. “D”) two letters earlier (i.e. B) = SAIB) * over = BIAS
What a tricky trick! We liked this wordplay very much, though generally we're biased against repeated use of BIAS.
  • 29A) Manages without a male presence, but gets on (4)
    MANAGES without a (male presence = MAN) = AGES
Haha YES she does manage without a male presence! Current new favorite Tweetr account: @ManWhoHasItAll:
MEN! Accentuate parts of your body you like e.g. strong arms, to draw attention away from problem areas e.g. constant snivelling. | @ManWhoHasItAll 'I'm childless...and thats ok,'  Andy, age 36, on making peace with his circumstances. Thanks Andy for that. As long as you're sure.
  • 7D) A trick that goes in an unexpected direction? Cool! (5)
    A ((trick = FOOL) goes in an unexpected direction = LOOF) = ALOOF
Yas! We've long meditated on the difference, if any, between “aloof” and “cool.” Rebel without a Cause is instructive. James Dean is super emotional throughout. No doubt, also the epitome of cool. Thus we believe the real cool is to maintain kindness and perspective in all things. Chillness. Thoughtfulness. Perspective. Kindness.
  • 24D) It's back: German dynamo (5)
    (IT back = TI) + (German = GER) = TIGER
Thissun nice. Eye of the tigah!
  • 26D) Organization with space for working, like one upwardly mobile (4)
    (like one = AS AN) upwardly mobile = NASA
Shout out to my brothers and sisters at the NASA! Came across the following the other night about the space pen:
A common urban legend states that NASA spent a large amount of money to develop a pen that would write in space (the result purportedly being the Fisher Space Pen), while the Soviets just used pencils.[2][3] There is a grain of truth: NASA began to develop a space pen, but when development costs skyrocketed the project was abandoned and astronauts went back to using pencils, along with the Soviets.[2][3] However, the claim that NASA spent millions on the Space Pen is incorrect, as the Fisher pen was developed using private capital, not government funding. NASA - and the Soviets[3][4][5] - eventually began purchasing such pens.

NASA programs previously used pencils[6] (for example a 1965 order of mechanical pencils[7]) but because of the substantial dangers that broken pencil tips and graphite dust pose to electronics in zero gravity, the flammable nature of wood present in pencils,[7] and the inadequate quality documentation produced by non-permanent or smeared recordkeeping, a better solution was needed.

Source: Wikipdya

We've long repeated the punchline, “the Soviets just used a pencil haha stupid Americans!!” Woops. Ugh! Nothing more irritating than recognizing one's own shallow smugness! And a reminder to check citations.
Space pen | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6a) Knock back in one dire display
    back in (onE DIRE Display) = DERIDE
A daring word‑spanner!
  • 6d) Homeopathy drastically limits problems that won't go away
    HomeopatHY DRAStically = HYDRAS
Fun! Appreciate the support for non‑Western medicine. Brief rant: Western medicine. Sometimes amazing. Sometimes ugh, right? They have their tests, they run their tests, but if what you have doesn't show up on the tests, then they shrug and tell you that you must not have a problem. It's very frustrating.
  • 6e) In front of a gym, Georgia airport for Hollywood stars
    (Georgia = GA) (airport for Hollywood = LAX) in front of (a gym = Y) = GALAXY
Space! Science! Altho points off for “gym” = “Y” which is starting to chafe us, right in the Village People.
  • 6f) Tevya's good fortune tossed in ash can
    ASH CAN * anagram = NACHAS
Foreshadowed in September by Dear Reader EL?? Tevya | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6k) Wages war with no instigation, a sly catastrophe for the environment
    ((WAR with no instigation = AR) A SLY) * anagram = SALARY
Mwa! Delicious narrative! Delightful anagrama!
  • 6l) Sticks guys in harness together on left side, initially
    (harness together = YOKE) + (left side initially = LS) = YOKELS
Guys from the sticks! Re'appearance of frequent puzzlese “yokel/s” forgiven for the fun narrative. We recently watched Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL for the first time. The original was directed by Soderbergh, which we did not know before watching. Interesting to thus view Magic Mike as a companion to Sex, Lies & Videotape. Similar emphases on heterosexual male responsibility to serve female pleasure. Similar dissonant anhedonia in the heart of sultry pleasure country.
  • 7a) Revolutionary tsarist writers, painters, and composers
    TSARIST * anagram = ARTISTS
“Revolutionary tsarist” an impossibility, non? At least in how we understand the Russian Revolution, which is “not very well.” Delightful narrative! Artists of the Revolution!

Here's Daniel Radcliffe Dmitri Shostakovich, who risked imprisonment in the gulag for writing violent and brooding music instead of bright patriotic symphonies:
Dmitri Shostakovich (not Daniel Radcliffe)
Image courtesy Wikimedia

  • 7b) I screen for working in earnest
    I SCREEN * anagram = SINCERE
There we go! A sincerely nicer anagram!
  • 7c) Wheels gone, I'm totally seedy!
    (Wheels = CAR) + (gone = AWAY) = CARAWAY
Reminds us of Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby. Some trivia that came up in our Jeopardy! study recently: that Zelda Fitzgerald was from Montgomery, Alabama, which is where she and F Scott met. We assumed they were both from like West Egg, Long Island.
  • 7g) Ah, piano pieces that reveal dumbness?
    AH PIANO * anagram = APHONIA
Lovely! Thinking now of Beethoven. Dear Readers, another admission in this blog's cavalcade of admissions: sometimes clickbait bades us click, and we click, and we read the list of, like, Celebrities You'll Never Believe Hate Melon. And so one time we clicked a clickbait list of Celebrities You'll Never Believe Were Black. The list relied pretty heavily on gross notions of “one drop of black blood blah blah blah” but we were genuinely interested in and surprised by: Betty Boop's vocal style was inspired by Helen Kane who stole it from Baby Esther aka Esther Jones:
Baby Esther | inspiration for Betty Boop | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Image courtesy Wikimedya

Anyway also claimed in this clickbait list of historical figures we'd never‑believe‑were‑black was Beethoven, the piano grandmaster who was deaf but not dumb.

The Wikipedia talk page on the subject cites quotes from Beethoven's contemporaries about his dark complexion and possibly Moorish phenotype, altho such citations come from the perhaps dubious “J.A. Roger's work 100 AMAZING FACTS ABOUT THE NEGRO WITH COMPLETE PROOF, written in 1957,” which reads to us as a first order clickbait title, yea a generation before clickbait existed.

In conclusion: Beethoven was a dark lord of clavicord who was so strong in the Force that he didn't need hearing to write or conduct music. Was he black? Moor evidence requested.
  • 7j) It's a lie: money with no sign of excellence anywhere produces a splitting headache!
    A (LIE MONEY with no sign of excellent = LI MONY) = ALIMONY
Nice symmetry between clue and answer :)

If you ain't no punk
holla want want pre‑nupt
We Want Pre‑Nupt!
Pre-Nupt | Kanye West | Golddigger | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Aynd nyow we arrive at the twelvers. Much nicer!
  • 12a) This blows my cool: strict person living high on the hog!
So wonderful! Related: we're newly obsessed with Eastbound and Down, one of the greatest television shows we've ever seen.
Eastbound and Down | Season 2 | Fuck Yes Kenny Powers | motorcycle | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 12b) Rare accident that can get you canned?
Glorious! “canned” to mean imprisoned, not fired, thank Cron at last!
  • 12c) A twerp thrashing around, covered up, protected when swimming
    (A TWERP * anagram) + (covered up = ROOFED) = WATERPROOFED
  • 12d) Develop loquacity (including, separately, nine Latin elements), as any mad romantic would
    LOQUACITY (nine Latin = IX) (elements = E) * anagram = QUIXOTICALLY
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Here's hoping one day Mr Gilliam gets to finish “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”!


  • 2D) Music box? First stock sale died (4)
    (First stock sale = IPO) + (died = D) = IPOD
Buh. First tried working OX and/or OXEN in, which irritatingly yielded nothing. Then figured out that it was a reference to the stock exchange/start‑ups, further irritating us.

The answer key's logic specifies IPOD, but the answer grid shows IPOP. Brothers! Are you in need of some assistance from your sister‑wife at Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues? Our schedule is very free.
December 2015 Harper's incorrect answer key | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 9D) Day he got shot, mowed down (5)
    DAY HE * anagram = HAYED
What a nasty, violent little clue.
  • 23D) Nomad, resettled entity (5)
    NOMAD * anagram = MONAD
Marking this a Lowlight only cuz it's too boner of an anagram. NOMAD => MONAD
  • 6b) Critic's reassessment of a lemon?
    CRITIC * anagram = CITRIC
Meh. CRITIC => CITRIC does not much to excite. Thankfully tweren't LEMON => MELON
lemon / melon
  • 6c) Relied on rearranging songs
    RELIED * anagram = LIEDER
Another of these sad anagrams. Und vas izza lieder? Like ze hosen?
noun, plural lieder [lee-der; German lee-duh r]
1. a typically 19th-century German art song characterized by the setting of a poetic text in either strophic or through-composed style and the treatment of the piano and voice in equal artistic partnership

Source: Dictionary

  • 7f) Where some Washingtonians land employment, finally, is ultimately boring
    (Where some Washingtonians land = DULLES) + (employment finally = T) = DULLEST
Yes, DULLEST. Like this clue.
  • 7i) Teacher fired, i.e., for nonconforming
    FIRED IE * anagram = EDIFIER
Putting this in Lowlights for use of a filler ‑er word, altho this clue is quite nice otherwise. Thinking now of frustrating lists of banned books. Argh. As if certain ideas are like toxic chemicals or radiation. As if authority must thus limit public exposure to certain ideas. As if humans cannot be trusted their own minds. Boo.

The Tacky

  • 6i) Goners: possibly Gina from porn!
    GONERS * anagram = GERSON
Was this meant to be a reference to Gina Gershon? And thus did this clue mean to classify Showgirls, and possibly also Bound, as pornography? Cuz neither are porn proper, tho both are certainly sexually‑charged adult films.
Gina Gershon as Cristal Connors in Showgirls | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Or, as Dear Reader Jeremy wondered, is Gena Gerson a reference to a barely‑known but apparently actual porn star, Gina Gerson?

If this clue was in error, such error was unremarked upon in the answer key. Unlike May 2015's heinous Ruth Bader Ginsburg misspelling which at least got a mention and whispered apology in 8‑point font.

Why are we even being quizzed on our fluency with porn stars. Why is that even.

All the coolest boys and girls leave comments :)

Friday, November 27, 2015

2015 Winter Break

Hello Dear Friends, Readers, Lovers,

We're on an extended unexpected break through the end of the year. October's Mulberry bush‑wheel nearly broke us, much as Dragon broke the wheel of time. Behold, the art and craft that dominated the kitchen table for about six weeks. Shades of Playfair Square.

Harpers' October 2015 puzzle solution progress | this got nasty, lovers | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Much as a marathon runner might put away her shoes for the season after the big race, we're taking a breather after that long workout.

And live performance has kicked up a major notch in our real life day-to-day. Which is good! It's what we've been working toward and dreaming of for years in Chicago. But it's taking up a lot of time.

This blog is the most successful art/comedy that we make by most metrics (size of audience, income generation). We are very thankful for our Dear Readers. This is a weird little world, and those who enjoy it have a lifetime pass to the kingdom of our heart.

We'll return in 2016 with back‑dated ret‑con late 2015 posts.

Keep commenting as you please! Commenters know we give warm, thoughtful replies.

In the meantime, if you read this blog out of an abiding interest in us, the erica dreisbach entity, you can stay up to date on our politics, poetry, performance, tweets (if you like those treats) at:

Monday, November 16, 2015

Crazy Quilt - November 2015

November 2015 | Crazy Quilt | Harper's puzzle solution

The Theme!

What's up, crazy quilt. Not our fave theme. Much frustration and torment, and for what? A sweet honeycomb like Hex Signs? Retro fun like Tetris? A satisfying art piece like Vicious Circles? Nay. Just a giant interlochen mess.

Dunno about you Dear Readers, but mid‑solve, with a gridful of unsalvageably incorrect guesses, we had to do a compleat reboot and start fresh. Trés aggravating.


  • 9D) Turned up as a trap—it's a setup (9)
    UP AS A TRAP * anagram = APPARATUS
Lovely anagrama!
  • 14A) Practice seeing about CNN layouts in action (11)
Mwa! Giant anagrama! Lova lova!
  • 15A) Terrify, old‑style, at a distance, taking ecstasy (5)
    (at a distance = AFAR) taking (ecstasy = E) = AFEAR
Love this. Even if “afear” is ohso close to “m'lady.” Absolutely in love with “old‑style” to mean “anachronistic.” Fantastic!
  • 16A) Well‑grounded company man (6)
    (company = CO) (man = GENT) = COGENT
Thought for a sec that “company man” = “cog” which, yes, a thousand times yes! It's a little different from that
(or is it).
  • 19A) Josephine, e.g.—temptress having no time for us at all? (7)
    TEMPTRESS having no time = EMPRESS
Nice! These clues where you shake out a letter to be left with a new word are like the trick when you whip the tablecloth off and the table remains perfectly set. Mm! Satisfying!
  • 22A) A hanging could be silent—listen (6)
    SILENT * anagram = LISTEN * anagram = TINSEL
Yas! The wisdom of the third anagram! Always love these.
  • 30A) From other lines, some characters show warmth and caring (12)
Glorious anagrama! Per Wise Tyler, woops, nottanagram. A daring spanner! Tho the qualities of “motherliness” are kindof like the qualities of “avuncular.” Depends on the mother, depends on the uncle. Like “big brother.”
  • 31A) Resort reaches limits in the flood (5)
    (Resort = SPA) reaches (limits in THE = TE) = SPATE
Classic. Nice narrative, freshness in the indicators. One thing Chicago is missing: a spa and bathhouse like the Imperial Day Spa on Geary in San Francisco. Dear Readers, we have legit considered visiting SF again just to spend another day there soaking and steaming.
  • 32A) Train tied up in late morning (6)
    (Train = EL) (tied up = EVEN) = ELEVEN
Yes! Our favorite scene in The Fugitive is when Tommy Lee Jones's team is listening to Dr Kimble's call, and Johnny Lee Davenport [correctly] identifies the sound of the elevated train. Watching as a kid, we didn't think of The Fugitive as a particularly Chicago movie, but as an adult it's constant Chicago specificity:f from the St Patrick's Day parade, to the El, to the Polish neighborhood where Dr Kimble lays low (Pullman).

“Don't ever argue with the big dog. Big dog's always right.”
  • 33A) Frontless undergarments? Plant kisses here! (4)
    Frontless (undergarments = SLIPS) = LIPS
Hello hello hell‑oooooh! What's up, oral sex. What is up. Nice to see an “undergarments” that's not BRA, btw.
  • 1D) Tony's girl given almost stylish band (8)
    (Tony's girl = MARIA) given almost (stylish = CHIC) = MARIACHI
Thisiz aight.
  • 2D) A field sport, private, has, without starting, serious defenses (9)
    A (field sport = POLO) (private = GI) (HAS without starting = AS) = APOLOGIAS
Did you know polo comes from the East? As does chess. The cultural claim on both yet another spoil of imperialism. Nearly stuck this in lowlights for all the commas in the clue. That's an excessive number of commas, non? Here's our rewrite:
  • Justification for a Greek god (not Latin) near vaginas without truck (9)
softly, sing‑song: “Nailed it.”
  • 5D) Dolly gets run down after getting let off outside (7)
    RUN (down = D) getting LET off outside = TRUNDLE
Nice! Harooooooo Dolly!
  • 6D) Form of herpes, something that's going around (6)
    HERPES * anagram = SPHERE
MMmm! Wonderful! Now this is what we're talking about! Like a regular sentence you might read in a magazine, no obvious puzzle words, no low‑hanging anagrind or indicators. Smooth and clean, like the sphere in the movie Sphere.
smooth and clean | the sphere, in the movie 'Sphere' | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
The most implausible part of the movie Sphere was that Sharon Stone married Dustin Hoffman. No but like for real not kidding.
Cast of 'Sphere' | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Image courtesy Warner Bros. c/o IMDb

  • 7D) Mud rafts, surprisingly stable (4,4)
    MUD RAFTS * anagram = STUD FARM
Surprise! It's the grotesque field of animal husbandry! Eep. Stud farms. But another lovely clean clue. Excellent.
  • 8D) Causes smells, as the saying goes (6)
    (smells = REEKS) * homophone = WREAKS
Such a nice run of clues here in the downs! Speaking of Reeks, can we talk about Game of Thrones for a second? Let's talk. We are hardcore true believers in that TV show. We lack the receptor for enjoying the books. It's not personal, it's just a genetic thing. The same way we lack the Gilmore Girls receptor. Anyway tho, we've just about hettit with all this killing people off without advancing the main storyline of Just What the Fock Is Happening in Westeros.

They've just about burnt through our goodwill as a viewer. And we're a Neon Genesis Evangelion fan. Not just fan: evangelist. So what we're saying is, our tolerance for mystery: is high. Our patience with killing off important cool characters while the lamest weakest assholes continue to live: is great. But Game of Thrones is pushing us to our limit.
Young Starks
Maybe that's the point of the show. To teach indifference to that which you once loved. To nurture nihilism (goth enlightenment).
  • 12) Outlaws in favor of writers? (10)
    (in favor of = PRO) (writers = SCRIBES) = PROSCRIBES
  • 14D) Put in uniform tuition, connected to university medicine (8)
    (tuition = COST) connected to (university = U) (medicine = MED) = COSTUMED
Yass! A uniform is a costume!
  • 23D) Perfection, to some, is catch‑up (3)
    (catch = NET) up = TEN
Excellent! Tight, brief, natural language.
  • 25D) Loose change, in pun (5)
    change IN PUN = UNPIN
We're in a Rage Phase against super simple anagrams, but this one! Delightful! The fake‑out indicator with “pun” as anagrind. The brevity. The use of “loose” as “loose the dogs of war.” Excellent.
  • 29A) A Christmas Carol is a book with no heart (4)
    (book = NOVEL) with no heart = NOEL
Kinda sicka Noël in the puzzle but the language here! So natural. Trippingly off the tongue. Have you seen the trailer for the new Coën brothers movie? We bring it up because, click and you'll see. We are excite:


  • 10A) Republican one flips over: white Anglo‑Saxon Protestant! What a cutup! (6)
    (Republican = R) (one = I) ((white Anglo‑Saxon Protestant = WASP) flips over = PSAW) = RIPSAW
Whoa. Yowza. Spelling out every single part of White Anglo‑Saxon Protestant. Yikes.

For those Dear Readers who are also Max Funsters, besides Notorious Marcel, one of our favorite parts of Jordan and Jesse Go! is when Jesse unpacks common acronyms. Electronic Bay. Information Phone. But the best, the best, the best best best of these is Extreme Box, for XBox.
young Jordan Morris and Jesse Thorn | Jordan, Jesse, Go!
  • 11A) Footloose or shod, showing an island as the Greeks write it (6)
    OR SHOD * anagram = RODHOS
Six words for you: what, the fuck, is this, shit. RODHOS? This clue is an Olympic discus thrown directly into the Mediterranean.

Pop quiz: name the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World! We've memorized them at least once a year every year for the last 20 years. We forget some or all almost immediately. Let's try now!! Has the cycle been broken?? Can we at last remember??? Wonder no longer!
  1. The Colossus of Rhodes, in Greece
  2. The Lighthouse of Alexandria, in Egypt
  3. The Great Pyramid, also Egypt
  4. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, in Iraq*
    *if they even existed … Our memory is that the existence of the Gardens is in dispute.
  5. The statue of Zeus, in (Greece?)
  6. The statue of Artemis of Ephesus with all the boobs on it, don't remember where
  7. something in Turkey
How'd we do! (looks it up on Wikipedia)

We missed the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, built by the Persians, indeed in Turkey. Artemis is a temple, not a statue, and her thing is in Turkey, not Greece. Overall not bad!

Here is the many‑breasted Artemis of Ephesus. Those might not be breasts. They might be eggs. Or bull testicles. You can look at this statue and see whatever you want to see here, and learn something about yourself.
Artemis of Ephesus | the many-breasted | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • Badly built pound, with ridiculously underlit exterior (3‑6)
    (pound = L) with ridiculously UNDERLIT exterior = ILL‑TURNED
Sure. “pound” as in pound sterling, pound currency. Bri'ish quid. £  Why commonly abbreved to L? Why the L not?
  • 17A) Happening under pressure, strike leads to unexpected hiatus (7)
    (strike = S) leads to (anagram * HIATUS) = SHAITSU
What a dum anagram. SHIATUS => SHIATSU
  • Unnatural mania for where babies come from (5)
    MANIA * anagram = AMNIA
Like “the amniotic sac.” Aight. Assumed a Jungian “anima” for a while. Our margin notes show a frowny face, altho truly, we're not sure how we feel. We enjoy the clue narrative, of course. Sex maniacs.
  • 28A) Rude, oafish, smallish type comes first—or last (6)
    (RUDE * anagram) + (smallish type = EN) comes first = ENDURE
Yah uh “smallish type” = “EN” reads a bit thin. Like as in the slightly long hyphen for use in telephone numbers? Meh.
  • 34A) Historic French lover couldn't have been seedier—or could she! (7)
    SEEDIER * anagram = DESIREE
Meh. Why not equal puzzle cluing devoted to slutty men. Who even is this French historical DESIREE who is she even? The only French lady lovers we know are Héloïse and Joséphine …
Bernardine Eugénie Désirée Clary (8 November 1777 – 17 December 1860), was Queen of Sweden and Norway as the consort of King Charles XIV John, a former French General and founder of the House of Bernadotte, and one-time fiancée of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Source: Wikipeed

  • 4D) Burr and others, a Reagan in like surroundings (6)
    A (Reagan = RON) in (like = AS) surroundings = AARONS
We have two brothers: Tommy and Chris. Here is a joke that makes Chris chuckle, but Tommy literally can't roll his eyes hard enough:

“I was expecting Chris, but I only see one Chri here.”

“I was expecting Thomas, so why do I only see one Thoma?”

That joke is not very good; that joke is way better than AARONS. What's up tho to my brothers and sisters lovin BROADWAY SMASH HIT HAMMMMMMILTONNNNN!!
  • 18D) Something's underfoot—but only in leading (6)
    (but only = SOLE) IN leading = INSOLE
Meh. Do you feel the restraint in not pulling “in” = “cool” equivalency?
  • 20D) Traveling U.S. mile for oat meal? (6)
    US MILE * anagram = MUESLI
Puzzle cereal of champions.
  • 21D) The old‑fashioned S.A.T.'s—funny, you get a rise out of them (6)
    (THE old‑fashioned = YE) SATS * anagram = YEASTS
Meh. Old‑fashioned and musty … like this clue!!
  • 26D) People with reservations losing million in minutes (4)
    MINUTES losing ((million = M) IN) = UTES
Starting now and every month going forward, every time the puzzle ute‑ilizes UTES, Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues will make a small donation to the American Indian Education Fund. Such is the unearned benefit the puzzle reaps from the names of those who could use a decent scholarship.

The Tacky

Aw jyah, bro‑dogs! The offender this month is none other than Richard E Maltby Jr's all‑time special magic favoritest clue**:
**as indicated in the footer of this very puzzle
  • 1A) The definitive manifestation of the human comedy is a crime (12)
    (The definitive manifestation of the human = MANS) + (comedy = LAUGHTER) = MANSLAUGHTER
This was one of the last clues we solved, as well. One of the guesses in our margin notes: MURDER MASTER

Couple things. First thing. Where's that S in MANS comin from. Don't answer that. We weren't asking a question. We were pointing out how we know good and gorrang well that the S isn't coming from anywhere.

Second thing. Boo to male normativity. Fact: we all started out female in utero. Then some of us were virilized. Thus, the protean manifestation of the human is woman—an argument supported by scientific fact. In the distance, you can hear the sound of our woman's laughter.

“Uh, but ‘man’ = ‘human’ has been accepted usage for thousands of years, so whatever,” you might say to us. You might follow it up with, “also I hate change, and also I feel terror at even minor discomfort, so rather than alter any anachronistic or logically void but familiar behaviors, I will instead deny any problem associated with such behaviors, and deny the premise underlying such problem, and attack those who would invite me to do otherwise.”

And to that, we say, “wutever.” To that, we say, “adapt or die.”

On a personal note, we've taken to summing up our relationship with alcohol thus:
“It was ‘quit drinking or die.’ For a long time, i chose ‘die.’ Reluctantly, i chose ‘quit drinking.’”

Sobriety is going well. Thank you for asking 

Leave a comment. Unlike Spinoza's god, we always comment back.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Vicious Circles - October 2015

October 2015 | Vicious Circles | Harper's puzzle solution

The Theme!

Bloody brilliant. This puzzle kicked our ass. Took about six weeks of diligent solving. Also took up most of our kitchen table during that time on 24" x 18" paper with Scrabbo™tiles. Below, a photo mid‑solve:
partial solution to the October 2015 Harper's puzzle using giant paper and Scrabble tiles | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
All clue answers six letters long. Each answer entered radially into the grid sharing letters with neighboring slices, and letters all a'jumbled within the radian.

After solving about 1/3 of the clues, and being fully stumped, we called upon the help of husband, the one and only Sweet V.
Sweet V | the sweet one | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
With his help, MULBERRY came into focus in the perimeter.

MULBERRY | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
MULBERRY triggered the rest of the nursery line shortly thereafter:
Our memory was “the monkey AND the weasel” which caused some consternation until we confirmed CHASED. Fie upon flawed memory!

Gloriously, amazingly, the third circle then came into focus:

NURSERY RHYME is also, toroidally, HYMEN. HYMEN, of course, not spotted in the puzzle since July 2011 - Sixes and Sevens (!)
HYMEN | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
As of course is necessary with a vicious ambitious theme of this sort, there are some clunker clues. Forgiven! All around the mulberry bush is forgiven! Well, somewhat. We sorta forgottabout this forgiveness when we actually set down the Lowlights (woops).


  • 1) An IRS recalcuation takes first of exemptions up
    (AN IRS * anagram) takes (first of EXEMPTIONS = E) = ARISEN
re: IRS  We're currently reading The Pale King, posthumous last work of David Foster Wallace (RIP). It's about the IRS. And death, of course. Death and taxes. The pale king. Altho, it seems The Pale King is also a real character. We're loving it. And it makes us actively sad that we didn't try to make a better world for DFW to stay. We probably wouldn't have succeeded if we'd tried, but we didn't even try. DFW's suicide also brings up displaced anger at the suicides of friends and family. Joanne. Mary. Cousin Laurie. Mr Hogan. Bill. It's difficult, still forbidden after all these years to be angry at them. So we put the anger on him, DFW. The anger really bubbles up when we hear other, living people say things like, “[DFW] wouldn't have wanted [x] published, or he wouldn't have wanted [y] portrayal in [z] movie.”
Jason Segel as DFW | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
“Yah well that guy left! He doesn't get to say anymore!” comes the angry response, bubblething up. Tho as our excellent friend Dr Jesse points out, DFW left under duress. It's true. Anger. Feelings. Death. Taxes. Ok next clue!
  • 2) They're needed when cruising,but keep 'em in your drawers!
    double synonym = LINERS
Carnival cruising. Grandma dresser drawers. Nice.
  • 5) Again: shows regarding dogs
    (regarding = RE) (dogs = CURS) = RECURS
Weakness of “Again: shows” for RECURS is forgiven for the cleanliness and brevity. V nice.
  • 7) In a hospital, a sewer backs up. You and I bothered? True!
    ((You and I = US) backs up = US) bothered TRUE = SUTURE
Fun narrative. Automatic points for poo‑poo pee‑pee jokes. In a technical sense, the suture is the stitch tho, non? And not the stitcher (sewer)?
  • 8) Turns off, covering English rebellion
    TURNS off covering (English = E) = UNREST
Another brief tight clue! Non‑sensicality forgiven!
  • 10) Attack that is, first of all, kind
    (this is = IE) first of all (KIND = SORT) = SORTIE
Kind cuts! The subtle knife! Excellent.
The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 11) A few characters found at anchor, despite big crowds
    ancHOR DESpite = HORDES
A daring spanner!
  • 12) After Pole is inducted, Vatican retrospective grinds down
    After (Pole = ROD) is inducted ((Vatican = SEE) retrospective = EES) = ERODES
The emphases on order in these indicators, like “after” and especially especially‑especially “just the opposite!” are annoying to us. Why not just make it all a giant anagram? Shout‑out to brother JP2 (RIP).
Pope John Paul II | born  Karol Józef Wojtyła | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 13) Money, or similar supporting exchange‑system initiations—they grow on trees
    (M Or Similar Supporting Exchange System) initiations = MOSSES
Wonderful. Especially appreciate the paradoxical hyper‑intelligence and non‑sensicality.
  • 15) Take part in weirdo's selfie, hanging out in church
    Take part in weirDOS SELfie = DOSSEL
Shout‑out to weirdos who take selfies :)  Church‑ese forgiven!
noun dos•sal
Popularity: Bottom 30% of words
: an ornamental cloth hung behind and above an altar

Source: Merriam Webstah

  • 20) In a cocktail, yet are in a canteen, perhaps
    YET ARE * anagram = EATERY
Nice! “In a cocktail” is a fresh indicator. Shake it! Shake it up!
  • 22) Excellent article covering period of sexual activity put back in Constitution
    (Excellent = E) (article = AN) covering (period of sexual activity = RUT) put back in = NATURE
Wonderful! This clue was a late solve. Thought it was “constitution” = “walk” for a long time. Once we recalled RUT this one came together without much further amendment.
  • 23) Roller reacts badly
    REACTS * anagram = CASTER
Tight and excellent anagrama! This very morning we went over to Notorious Marcel and Colleen's house for waffles from Marcel's new primitive waffle iron. We brought along a suite of anagrams for TV shows from our Ken Jennings Trivia Almanac as, like, a fun thing for us to all do together. O, Dear Readers! O, could ye have seen the horror on the faces of our friends when we suggested anagrams as a fun group activity!
  • 24) Wheels back in the old country
    ((Wheels = CAR) back = RAC) in THE = THRACE
Wonderful! What's up to The Iliad, what's up to The Odyssey. What is up.
  • 26) The YSL designs for a dog?
    THE YSL * anagram = SHELTY
Obvious anagrind is obvious, but automatic love for the Shelty/Sheltie! Like a little Lassie!
Sheltie | image courtesy Wikimedia | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Image courtesy Wikmedia

  • 27) Sounds like a little key for a small hole
    Sounds like a (little key = ISLET) = EYELET
Glorious use of “key”!
  • 31) Head off someone following you while I'm speaking
    Head off (someone following you = STALKER) = TALKER
I'm speaking; I am the talker. STALKER => TALKER is also fun :)
Glenn Close | Fatal Attraction | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 32) Link up for recount
    RELATE (double syn)
Nice clean double syn. Still waiting on an INTEGRAL double syn as high school calculus integral, important integral. Don't sleep on high school calculus. One of the worst curses we can imagine on a person is that they be exposed to calculus and never notice use for it ever in their life.
  • 33) President writing in his first initial (Rutherford) for farmworkers
    (President = HAYES) writing in his (first initial (Rutherford) = R) = HAYERS
Mwa!! How it done brothers and sisters! How it done. Rutherford B Hayes of course being our nominee for Worst President Ever. And we lived through the W Bush era.
  • 34) Pop singer imbibes, like, drink after drink?
    (Pop singer = CHER) imbibes (like = AS) = CHASER
Yasssss which pop singer? Uh you mean the pop singer! “drink after drink” a fun way to get CHASER.
Cher as a fabulous Cleopatra | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 35) Pop composer takes hour to separate the wheat from the chaff
    (Pop composer = TESH) takes (hour = HR) = THRESH
Aw hayle yass automatic +1 ever‑forever at mention of ultimate Metal cum New Age hero John Tesh! Let's listen to Barcelona right now!

SoooOOOOoooo good! So METAL!~!!!!
  • 37) Smart nameless Prohibition agent taken in by prohibitionist
    (nameless (Prohibition agent = NESS) = ESS) taken in by (prohibitionist = DRY) = DRESSY
Lovely. What's up to my dry brothers and sisters!
  • 38) Cardinal sure changes tone more than once
    (Cardinal = RED) (sure = YES) = REDYES
Excellent narrative on the clue! The Cardinal is not to be trusted …
  • 39) They work in salons with doctors, drinking liquors
    (doctors = DRS) drinking (liquors = RYE) = DRYERS
Not sure on the number agreement between “liquors” and “rye” but super Jazz Age narrative on the clue, and appreciate the restraint in not re‑using DRY the same way just two after 37.
  • 40) Tyson, losing on taking over fumble from Bradshaw and Gilliam
    (TYSON losing ON = TYS) taking over (fumble = ERR) = TERRYS
Pluralizing a proper first name forgiven for invoking Uncle Terry Gilliam. Here's a shot from the Twelve Monkeys DVD special content, when Terry draws his frustration with the studio and the publicity process. Like, up until this point he's been “Terry Gilliam, cowboy‑behatted director” but then he picks up a pen and MONTY PYTHON just falls out of it, effortlessly, and suddenly it's “OH SHIT this is Terry Gilliam, genius g0d amongst men!!”
  • 41) Provide interference, making a basket
    HAMPER (double syn.)
We just know typed “double syn.” for about the hundredth time in this puzzle blog and considered, “but … isn't every synonym a set of two? Hence inherently ‘double’?” Not going to stop doing it now. But if you've ever noticed, and been annoyed, well: we've noticed too. Just now, we noticed. Moving on.
  • 42) Term for a current morning gym ritual, initially, that requires extra energy
    (morning = AM) (gym = PE) (ritual initially = R) that requires extra (energy = E) = AMPERE
A Crossfit opened up near our apartment last year. Is it Cross‑Fit? Medial capital CrossFit? Anyway. One of those. It's called Orange Theory and when it opened they had a dude in like an orange spandex gimp suit dancing and advertising a free first month with loud music blasting. So we were not excited about the addition to the neighborhood. But then our old friend Heidlberg took a sublet nearby and joined this Crossfit Orange Theory and said she loved it. So maybe Crossfit is not as obnoxious as its reputation and marketing, we're&nsbp;saying.
  • 45) Make a vacation ring again?
    ring again = REPEAL
“vacation” like as in “vacate” like as in “a legal judgment is no longer valid.” Dastardly. Maltby, you sick genius.


  • 3) Field nurses and cons
    (Field = LEA) + (nurses = RNS) = LEARNS
Uhhh …
con [kon] - verb (used with object), conned, conning. 1. to learn; study; peruse or examine carefully. 2. to commit to memory. Origin - before 1000; Middle English cunnen, Old English cunnan variant of can1in sense 'become acquainted with, learn to know' | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
How is that the second usage? How did we not know this is? Who con say.
  • 6) Place with roughs—sounds rough
    sounds (rough = COARSE) = COURSE
“roughs” like as in golf course. Automatic points off for golf.
  • 9) Fish from fishing boats
    DORIES (double syn.)
Meh all over this. Even with the shout‑ to Auntie Ellen, voice of Dory the dory in Fine Ding Nemo. Do you happen to know dory qua fish? Do you happen to know dory qua boat? Are you a fisherman? If not, then there's not much fun to be had in this clue for vous.

And then a stringa clunkas right inna row, severely irritating us in the southeast sector of the radial grid:
  • 16) Acted as an employer, put raises in letters
    BOSSED (double syn)
We've only ever hearda embossed. Meh.
  • 17) Hot drink—look, it's the one made fun of
    (Hot drink = TEA) (look = SEE) = TEASEE
One of our talking points used to be how beginning a spoken paragraph with “Look” or “Listen” was an invitation for the other person to turn off his/her brain.

The instructs specify “not in any [dictionary] but should be.” Buh. ‑EE words in the same class as ‑ER. Wretched.
  • 18) Person eating a lot can't start holiday
    (Person eating a lot = FEASTER) can't start = EASTER
No no no no no no. No. EATER and FASTER also nearby, conceptually and orthographically. We took one look at this clue and we'd had our fill.

Shout‑out to a favorite film: Feast!
Feast (2005) the film | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 19) One making rent in panic, they say
    (panic = TERROR) they say = TEARER
O no no no. This ain't Scrabbo™, where ‑ER words are meant to grow and flourish freely, yea tho they mayn't e'er pass one's lips.

This ends the bad string of three in a row. Bah and fie!
  • 25) It probes how messy home gets rented
    (messy home = STY) gets (rented = LET) = STYLET
Yay to “rented” = “LET” but boo to STYLET.
  • 28) Let me off by a club, in a proper manner
    LET ME off by a (club = Y) = MEETLY
Automatic boo for “club” = “Y” like as in “YMCA” like as in “young man, there's a place you can go.” Love to the Village People, love to the YMCA. Boo to “club” = “Y” equivalency. And uh, “meetly.” Wut is?
1. suitably; fittingly; properly; in a seemly manner.

Source: The

  • 29) Goldbrick's role is rewritten to include it
    ROLE is rewritten to include IT = LOITER
What is a “gold brick” [sic]  in this context … (searches) … ok sure k fine.
verb gold•brick
transitive verb : swindle
intransitive verb : to shirk duty or responsibility

Source: Merriam Web

  • 30) There's small interest in a cotton machine? Quite the opposite!
    smalL INTERest = LINTER
Raise ya hand if you read “cotton machine” and automatically thought, “gin, it's gin, write down gin” ? And more of this “Quite the opposite!” narishkeit. Cut the “in” points to the preceding phrase “small interest” rather than forward to “cotton machine”? These persnickety vector indicators always seem unnecessary and cumbersome.
  • 43) One chickening out partly—how impersonal!
    partly hoW IMPERsonal = WIMPER
Wimp, yes. Wimpy, yes. Shout out to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. This is how the clue ends, this is how the clue ends, not with a word but with a WIMPER?
  • 48) Salesman—one working cycles, according to reports
    (one working cycles = PEDELLAR) * homophone = PEDLAR
Putting this in lowlights for “one working cycles.” Altho the phrasing reminds us of amazing and excellent Rage Against the Machine Hit, Killing in the Name Of:

Some of those who work forces
are the same that burn crosses

Zach de la Rocha! You are this month's Nerd Hot Guy!
Zach de la Rocha @ Coachella 2007
Image courtesy Wikimedia

The Tacky

Throwing this one in here just for knee‑jerk male normativity reasons. We don't find it particularly tacky or anything, except for, of course, the male normativity. But it's not a stand‑out knockdown bright line tacky clue in the style of classic Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues, the ones that reference child rape or rely on racist slang, &c.
  • 44) Empire builder, someone ahead of his time!
    EMPIRE * anagram = PREMIE
Why not ahead of “his or her time.” Why not a new word “hisher,” rhymes with “fisher.” Why not.

Our friend Jessi‑Pie was pregnant with twins for most of last year. Back in 2005 when we worked at the sandwich shop together, we often spoke of our mutual fascination with midwifery and vaginal childbirth. In 2015 as a finally‑pregnant woman, Jessi‑Pie's doctor said that she should prepare herself for a C‑section. He said that even in Scandanavian countries where the vast majority of children are born via midwife, they'll still do C‑secions for birth multiples, on the reg, because of the risks.

Jessi‑Pie was discouraged. She and we had literally been in an ongoing dialogue about our excitement at bringing life into the world via our respective vaginas for over ten years. But we told her to remember that Cæsareans are the birth method for kings and queens. “Kings and queens, Jessi‑Pie!” we said. That cheered her up in a big way. We haven't seen Jessi‑Pie in person since 2005, but we still know how to cheer that bitch up :)

Well but then so the twins arrived a little early! a little premie! two little premies in fact! And in part because they were small, and in part because they arrived surprise and unexpected, they arrived via vagina. So it all worked out!

Kings and queens, still!

Your comments make this whole enterprise feel more worthwhile.

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. 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. People with disabilities. 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?

Come on and comment, lovers!