Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Stereo Components - April 2016

April 2016 | Stereo Components | Harper's puzzle solution

Good morning, Dear Readers! It's springtime in Chicago, praise goddess.

The Theme!

Component clues are homophones for halves of the entered answer. Homophonic left and right, as opposed to mono. Not bad.
  • c) Just average (4)
    FAIR (double syn.)
  • e) Is obliged to go west, where there are no limits (4)
    gO WESt where there are no limits =  OWES
  • FAIR OWES => PHAROAHS (1 across)
Beyonce | King Tut National Geographic cover | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • k) Henry upset soldier getting a girl more stoned (6)
    (Henry = H) (upset (soldier = GI) = IG) getting (a girl = HER) = HIGHER
  • a) Place for 34 across that's unlit, having no opening (3)
    (unlit = DARK) having no opening = ARK
    34A is ARK
    HIGHER ARK => HIERARCH (8 across)
  • l) It's braided by Jews around the foyer—that's so nice! (7)
    (around = C) the (foyer = HALL) (that's so nice = AH) = CHALLAH
  • b) Distraction that's necessary to find a zero (4)
    finD A ZEro = DAZE
  • CHALLAH DAZE => HOLIDAYS (26 across)
Took a looooorng time to figure out where the C-AH came from but it's “around” as in like “circa.” K fine.
  • i) Funny book company gets some sound equipment (5)
    (company = CO) gets some (sound equipment = MIC) = COMIC
  • g) Father Nelson's circle that is catching some sleep? (5)
    (circle = O) (that is = I.E.) catching some (sleep = ZZ) = OZZIE
  • COMIC OZZIE => KAMIKAZE (27 across)
Ozzie + Harriet | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • j) Act let out in stock (6)
    ACT LET * anagram = CATTLE
  • h) Composer who sounds lean (5)
    sounds (lean = LIST) = LISZT
  • CATTLE LISZT => CATALYST (40 across)
  • d) View unfinished pine (4)
    (view = SIGHT) unfinished = SIGH
  • f) Gets rid of breakfast cereal, by the sound of it (5)
    (breakfast cereal = KIX) by the sound of it = KICKS
  • SIGH KICKS => PSYCHICS (41 across)
PINE => SIGH is a little erm dubious to us.

And that wazzat for the theme. Medium temperature. A Goldilocks theme.


  • 14A) A German in East European borders (4)
    IN (East European = EE) borders = EINE
Nice! Reminds us of our favorite clue to introduce newcomers to What Iz a Cryptic Clue Pls Explain. We cite the following:
  • Capital city in a former Eastern European country (4)
    in a (former Eastern European country = CZECHOSLOVAKIA) = OSLO
and then people usually look at us like we're big jerks and why would anyone want to do such a nasty jerk thing like solve a cryptic crossword puzzle. So maybe we should think of a more easily digested go-to cryptic example clue. A real Ritz™ cracker of a clue. Salty buttery simple carbohydrates, melts on the tongue. Dear Readers: do you, too, have trouble explaining this cryptic business?
  • 16A) Racy hex signs reinterpreted, as a rule, for bishops (7)
    RACY HEX reinterpreted = EXARCHY
Anagram with a fun narrative! V nice!
  • 18A) Primp—the odds are, it's a spot for gambling (3)
    PrImP the odds are = PIP
Dots on the cards. Which we think are maybe used in card counting? Card counting is on our list of things that would be cool to sit down and learn, like learning the Rubik's cube.
card pips | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 20A) What helps make pole a pole vault (4)
    poLE A Pole = LEAP
A daring word spanner!
  • 25A) Total confusion surrounding China's first famous author (6)
    TOTAL confusion surrounding (China's first = C) = ALCOTT
Woot! Appreciate “author” without gender qualification. Feminist Harper's Cryptic Clues. Little Women | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 28A) Contorted coitions with equal tension for both participants (8)
Enjoyed, even though COITIONS was very clear anagram fodder and whatda heck is ISOTONIC?
1. Of equal tension.

Source: The Free Dictionary

Ok, literally exactly “equal tension” V COOL.
  • 30A) Is The Apartment noir? Curiously, it's a decreasing factor! (8)
    (the apartment = FLAT) (NOIR curiously = IRON) = FLATIRON
OHhhhhhhh gorsh it's “decreasing” as in “de-creasing” as in “remove the wrinkles” oh crimey this one is excellent and diabolical! Mwa!
old flat iron | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 34A) To cheer for five good books (5)
    TO (cheer = RAH) = TORAH
Nice. Happy Purim to our Jewish brothers and sisters!
  • 37A) Doxies struggling with hair bleaches, etc. (6)
    DOXIES struggling = OXIDES
Re: the hair reference, was that a shout out to Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues?? Always love a reference to doxies.
doxies | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
See also: DOXIES in Harry Potter or DOXIES as in “prostitutes.”
  • 38A) Fulfills requirements for rawness (7)
    RAWNESS * anagram = ANSWERS
Nice anagrama!
  • 3D) Editor edited tonight also (11)
Glorious supra-nice anagrama!
  • 4D) Crustier weird guys who signed up (8)
Keep 'em coming! More anagrams!!
  • 7D) Terrific screenplay with an overwritten character (11)
    (Terrific = SUPER) (screenplay = SCRIPT) = SUPERSCRIPT
This was a NICE charades clue!
  • 8D) Appropriate greeting for President Kennedy (6)
    (greeting = HI) for (President Kennedy = JACK) = HIJACK
“Appropriate” slant rhyming with “instigate” as in a fancy word for “stealing” but like a genteel stealing committed by a rich person. We originally had SEANCE as our answer.
fhqwhgads | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
I asked my friend Joe / I asked my friend Jake / they said it was fhqwhgads
view on utube
  • 12D) Material for comic's opening: hints— listen to it (6)
    (comic's opening = C) (HINTS listen to it = HINTZ) = CHINTZ
Speaking of comics, we've been doing stand‑up comedy. It is by far the most challenging art form we have ever attempted. When the joke doesn't land it's like, “welllll catch up with you in the next life, scuse me while i pilot my starship directly into the sun …” But instead you have to stay strong and tell another joke. It requires such discipline. We hate it (we're falling in love with it).
  • 13D) With needle, takes drugs, inhaling half‑score in long lines (11)
    With (needle = HYPO) (takes drugs = USES) inhaling (half score = TEN) = HYPOTENUSES
One of our favorite Key & Peele sketches:

  • 22D) …who's having no opening article front and back—that's high praise (7)
    (WHO'S having no opening = HOS) ((article = AN) front and back = ANNA) = HOSANNA
Meet you all the way!

Rosanna by Toto | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 23D) Rigging a jury, an occurence leading to a year (7)
    Rigging A JURY AN = JANUARY
  • 24D) Endowments coming from old money (7)
    TALENTS (double syn.)
  • 31D) Nine in bed getting up—really unpleasant (5)
    (Nine = IX) in ((bed = COT) getting up = TOC) = TOXIC
The Toxic Avenger | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 35D) High‑calorie seconds in bridal dinner: icing, chocolate (4)
    seconds in bRidal dInner iCing cHocolate = RICH
Do it, bridesy! Have seconds on dessert! It's your day!
Bridesmaids | img courtesy © Universal Pictures | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


  • 19A) Chores that can produce some toning (6)
    CHORES that can produce = OCHRES
“toning” in the sense of color tone. Blmeah.
  • 21A) Field nurse's study (6)
    (Field = LEA) (nurse's = RN'S) = LEARNS
We just had this in October. Not quite exactly the same, but very very close and basically exactly the same actually:
  • October 2015
    3) Field nurses and cons
    (Field = LEA) + (nurses = RNS) = LEARNS
Carla in Scrubs | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 39A) Pediatric disorder in the offing, for daddy! (9)
“for daddy” whoa. What was for daddy? Murder was for daddy. Kinda intense, but then also kinda funny :)
Oedipus Rex | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 5D) Feller involved in forestry, according to a Times banner (2,4)
    A (Times = X) (banner = HEAD) = AXHEAD
Sure. We guess.
  • 6D) At heart, it's honest money (4)
    hONESt = ONES
  • 10D) Pitch from a debaucher (4)
“rake” meaning “slant”? Never hearda.
  • 11D) Asian spirits living in barracks (6) bARRACKs = ARRACK
We saw “Asian spirits” and tried to force ONI into it, cuz we've got onsen and natural hot springs onda brain. Then we tried working SAKE, cuz obv. Right? Gotta be SAKE. But, nah. Arrack invasion.
arrack | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

Here's something exciting: as soon as we finish this writeup, we're looking up plane tickets and hotels in Japan for Honeymoon 2016! Sweet V is taking us around the world from LA to Tokyo to Romania and back to Chicago for the month of August. Been dreaming of a trip to Japan for 20'ish years. Dreams come true!
  • 15D) Racing fans, silly, mad to get in with rising star …(9)
    SILLY mad to get in with (rising STAR = RATS) = RALLYISTS
A “rallyist”?
Korean rallyist | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 29D) Oiler disabled in a bay (5)
    OILER disabled = ORIEL
Never hearda “oriel” to mean “bay window.” Hrmph.
oriel | bay window | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 33D) Patsy given a ring in corny drama (4)
    (Patsy = SAP) given a (ring = O) = SOAP
Haha that's rather judgmental! Casting aspersions on our stories!

Our father's orthopedic surgery partner once told us a story about growing up on the mean streets of Providence, Rhode Island and how cops would call showing their badges “flashing their potsy.” Doesn't that sound like a lie? This partner is a good surgeon, but not a good truth teller. Upon Googly searching just now, “potsy” qua “badge” shows up in The Tenth Commandment by Lawrence Sanders:
flash your potsy | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
See for yourself on Googly books

… but perhaps not elsewhere? Inconclusive.

The Tacky

  • 1A) Initially Philadelphia police hid a reevaluation relating too much to children (11)
    (Initially Philadelphia = P) POLICE HID A reevaluation = PEDOPHILIAC
Ugh. Outside the news, the Harper's puzzle is by far the place where we most frequently encounter reference to pedophilia. Weird, right?
Dennis Hastert | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

Comments are fuel for more blogging.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Quo Vadis? - March 2016

March 2016 | Quo Vadis? | Harper's puzzle solution

Cool news at TackyHarpersCrypticClues headquarters: we've seen a surge in web traffic! But thus also a surge in spam comments. It's always flattering, the spam. The first sentence is usually, like, “WOW!! This blog is packed with great info!!!” and we blush with pleasure.

The second sentence is, like, “Web sluxuriant krazee moriaty mosgrove acquittal Affiliate marketing.” Then a link to some dum spam site.

But popularity with robots is still popularity! You know that old show biz saying: “first the bots, then the masses.”

…  why, yes. We do consider this blog to be under the ægis of show biz.

In unrelated news: currently we are obsessed with Snapchat© face swaps™ of we and Sweet V. We were hung up at first believing these are alt‑lesbian versions of ourselves. But now we're hung up on imagining these are our grown up daughters, who are friends, and come to visit their old ma and pa sometimes.
erica + Vlad face swap | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
erica + Vlad face swap | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

The Theme!

A four‑quadrant construction with four fifteeners as lattices. We're told in the instructs that 1) is an across lattice so that the solution is unique. Ok.

Sweet V's solve of VIDEOCONFERENCE and early successes with quadrant C led to some speculative fill and good guesses. Final quadrants:


How does the title QUO VADIS relate to this Theme? We do not know, Dear Readers. Uncle Google says QUO VADIS means “where are you going?” in Latin and that it's also the titles of a buncha media including a 1951 film starring six‑time Oscar nominee Deborah Kerr. This is a surprising descrip on the 1924 film:
Watch the Apostles and other followers like Saul preach the gospel and spread the message of love and hope in this high quality entertaining animated feature for your kids and family.

Source: iMdB

Quo Vadis film | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
That wholesome animated feature is out of step with most Quo Vadi, which reference Peter feeling afraid in Italy and high‑tailin it outta Rome to escape the toxic murderous climate against Christians. But on the way out he encounters Christ. And Pete asks, “quo vadis?” And his Prince of Peace answers, “o, not much, I'm going back to Rome to be re‑crucified.” And Pete is like, “o. I'm a coward.” So then he goes back to Rome where soon afterward the Romans crucify him upside down.

The grid construction definitely looks kinda Roman architectural agora'y. So maybe that's the idea. Dear Readers are of course invited to speculate further in the comments!

The fifteeners:
  • 1) This one is our pick for Tacky Clue, see below
  • 2) She invoices sums, concealing monkey business (15)
Glorious anagrama! “concealing” as anagrind is a little funny but forgiven because anagram (anagram!!). Got hung up several rounds thinking it would be a female quant, like ACCOUNTRESS or similar.
Janet Yellen | US Federal Reserve Chair | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
US Fed Reserve Chair Janet Yellen

  • 3) Solving the problem when basketball player has this? l;(15)
    TROUBLE SHOOTING (double syn)
Sweet! Alla the B boys and B girls have trouble shooting the B ball sometimes.
  • 4) Communication, if CEO reconvened organization? (15)
Another wonderful anagram! Altho video conferencing introduces communications problems as it solves them. cf this tweet:
Alla the resta the clues were sevensies, so we'll omit the letter count.


  • 5) Here's the dish: knight is back to going both ways
    ((knight = SIR) is back = RIS) TO going both ways = RISOTTO
Loved this. Like: bisexual Lancelot! Caught between his love of Guin and his passíon for Arthur! Yes please! Twas also the first solve of the puzzle for us.
Lancelot love triangle | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6) Cannabis, you are it! It's found by the pound!
    (Cabbabis = HASH) (you are it = TAG) = HASHTAG
Whoa! Weren't expecting this! Expected CANNABIS = POT, expected “found by the pound” = “lost dog” or similar. Did not expect a Modern Social Media™ reference!
old folks on the computer | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 9) Drag out gag that appears on street
    (gag = RETCH) appears on (street = ST) = STRETCH
Got rull hung up thinking this was an anagram of DRAG OUT (TUG ROAD?).
  • 11) Squabble's royal focal point: putting underwear on backward
    (royal = R) (focal point = HUB) (putting (underwear = BRA) backwards = ARB) = RHUBARB
Have probably learned then forgotten that RHUBARB can mean interpersonal conflict many times, the way that on at least a dozen occasions we've learnt then forgotten the name of Rick Allen, one‑armed drummer from Def Leppard. It's like being caught in a time loop. The only way to break free of the loop is a goofy mnemonic. In this case, we pretend that Rick Allen is the goofy British cousin of American film and TV star Tim Allen. And that does the trick. We have thus escaped the time loop.
Rick Allen | img courtesy Wikimedia
Image courtesy Wikimedia

But buh, any time BRA shows up it's a small unkind cut. A crappy underwire that poked through.
  • 13) Pitt abs developed by one immersed in worship
    PITT ABS * anagram = BAPTIST
Wonderful! PITT ABS was obvious anagram fodder, but that natural definition portion and double meaning of “immersed” is v nice!
  • 14) A tropical theme plays cleverly in Company
    PLAYS cleverly in (company = CO) = CALYPSO
Mmm nice! Thinking about Murphy Brown and how Murph haaaaaaated Barry Manilow's music. But then Barry Manilow appeared on the show and played piano for her, and she loved it.

  • 15) I'm a fruit—get out of the office!
    IM (a fruit = PEACH) = IMPEACH
Argh! So torn on this clue! We love it for its cluing, but find the narrative tacky. More fantasies of queeny dictatorial types. Fantasies of oppressive queers. Of course as is always the case, we learn something new about the fantasizer.
Harvey Milk | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 16) Material that's sized for two male animals
    two male animals = BUCK RAM = BUCKRAM
Never hearda buckram, but love this! So fresh.
Buckram | courtesy Wikimedia | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Image courtesy Wikimedia

  • 17) Brought to victory, Roman four does coming back around
    (victory = V) (Roman four = IV) (does = DEER) coming back around = REVIVED
So nice! The obviousness of “Roman four” forgiven for rippitty sneak‑sneak of DOES qua DEER mwa! LOVE this!
  • 20) Diverse characters in a new edition
    DIVERSE * anagram = REVISED
Nice sweet anagrama!
  • 22) Harmful Burma‑Shave writing?
    Burma‑Shave writing = AD VERSE = ADVERSE
Mwa! Delectable and delightful! Wonderful! Reminded of the pilot episode of Quantum Leap. One of Sam's cues that he has legit traveled beyond the veil is seeing the Burma‑Shave ads on the highway. And oh! The idea itself for these ads! Using the fact of cars and driving to generate comedic timing in an otherwise static format. Glorious.
Burma Shave | Quantum Leap pilot (Genesis) | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 23) Strange Latvian game
    LATVIAN * anagram = VALIANT
Took a little research to believe that “valiant” = “game” but yuh, this is nice! And of course much enjoy the neatness of a three‑word clue. Here's a video of some Romanian kids playing “lapte gros.” Sortof a leap frog Red Rover thing. A structured outlet for physical aggression, which we generally approve of.

  • 25) Makes lower classes well‑spoken
    (classes = LESSONS) well‑spoken = LESSENS
Mwa! Whatta homophone! Yass!!
  • 26) One dangerously wild flower in the Mideast, they say
    (flower in the Mideast = TIGRIS) they say = TIGRESS
Ahhhh!!! YASS! Shoutout to the crable of cibilization, the mighty Tigris and Euphrates!! Shoutout to Billy Blake and the Tyger burning bryght. So sweet and delicious.
Tyger | William Blake | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 27) Contract to form brigade
Nice fresh use of “contract” as opposite of “dilate.” Delish.
  • 28) Find us tragically enthralled by housecleaner? Just the opposite!
    FinD US TRAGically = DUSTRAG
Glorious, daring wordspanner! “Find us” made us think of Findus the cat, beloved character from the picture books of our young cousin‑by‑marriage Ioana. Findus is a curious and mischievous black and white cat, always getting into trouble. Standard beloved childhood picture book stuff :) And super‑compelling character design:
Findus the cat | Sven Nordqvist | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


  • 7) Makes new catalogues for big hotels
    Makes new catalogues = RE‑SORTS = RESORTS
Thought this would be the proper noun of the puzzle, like RAMADAS or RESEDAS or similar. “Makes new” had us thinking of RENEWS or RE‑. Bland payoff.
  • 8) Mass movement gone crazy—there's rot in it!
    crazy ROT IN IT = INTROIT
Church words. Meh. No benediction here.
Pope Francis drops his latest mixtape in Bangui, Central African Republic | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Pope Francis drops his latest mixtape in Bangui, Central African Republic

  • 10) How Italians keep their cool and not riot when provoked
    NOT RIOT when provoked = TORTONI
Uh. What is a tortoni? Never hearda. Thinking now of Signor Eco and Foucault's Pendulum and plenny of Italian riots. This clue also smacks of respectability politics, which, buh. What's so great about being good and shutting up and taking it from the System? What's so great about the status quo.
  • 12) Exercises that are the same going up or down?
Because PULLUP reversed is PULLUP. Irritatingly, PULLUPS ≠ SPULLUP.
  • 18) Unbounded and friendless but not at the end of the week
    FRIENDLESS but not (at the end of the week = FRI) = ENDLESS
So many things. Let's start with FRIENDLESS => ENDLESS nyoooooh. No no‑no. No!! And Friday is not the end of the week. Saturday is the end of the week. Maybe Sunday. You could play a “work week.” You could play a “start of Shabbos.” You could win us over playing this as an Islam‑normative week. In which case this becomes a Highlight.
  • 19) Plays with dialogue—initially I would bring up Rosebud e.g.
    (DIALOGUE initially = D) (I WOULD = I'D) (bring up (ROSEBUD e.g. = SLED) = DLES) = DIDDLES
“Diddles” is a gross word. Mainstream lexica jibe with this “plays with” definition, but in practice, in the real world, on the streets, we've only heard DIDDLES in the context of sexual touch. And generally unwanted sexual touch. Gross.
Citizen Kane | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 21) Northern riots broken up, left where there's a passing of wind
    (Northern = N) RIOTS broken up (left = L) = NOSTRIL
Putting this in Lowlights onnnnly cuz we hadda “wind tunnel” = “nose” thing like just last month. Cmong. Also, this bit of dialogue between we and Sweet V:


I want this to just be FARTS.


Yes. Altho that would be Southern riots.

  • 24) In Italy, everything from three on is late!
    In Italy everything from three on = OVER DUE = OVERDUE
Boo. Boo to Itanglish. Thought it was the Italian word for “everything” which we figured was TUTTI, so then we were agonizing over manipulating TUTTI. Anyway. Dumb.

The Tacky

  • 1) Frank: a gay soccer team won't hire him! (15)
    STRAIGHT FORWARD (double syn.)
Robbie Rogers and his body | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Tell it to ya boi Robbie Rogers

Um ok so um wut? Let's be real, the criteria a gay soccer team is likely to set for Hetero Frank qua new forward are:
  1. does he want to play on our gay soccer team?
  2. is he any good? (optional)
and maaayyyyyyyyybe there'd be, “he knows, right, that we're a gay soccer team? Just so it's super clear.”

But certainly
  1. get outta here breeder cuz it's gays only, Frank!!!!!!!
would, like, not come up. This is a weird lil fantasy about Queer Orthodoxy, which definitely exists in perverse and unnatural environments like San Francisco. But not even everywhere in San Francisco, just specific communities and gayborhoods.

Most gay clubs in our experience are like the Palm Springs Gay Men's Chorus:
Non‑Discrimination Statement
The Palm Springs Gay Men's Chorus does not discriminate in it's[sic] employment practices on the basis of: race/ethnicity, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender, gender self‑identification, age, disability, veteran status, religion, or political beliefs.

Source: they's About page

You don't hafta be gay or a man. There just aren't enough gay hobbyists to get uptight about identity.

This is really a fantasy that a gay soccer team would be as shitty and discriminatory as non‑gay soccer teams are. Which, semantically they would be more inclusive but in live real world practice, not so much.

Don't worry, we'll fix it:
  • Blunt, neat, and fresh (15)
“neat” as in “one scotch: neat” or “one scotch: STRAIGHT.”

“fresh” as in “Marvin! Don't get fresh! [slap]” or “Marvin! How FORWARD of you!”

Comments are fuel for more blogging.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Kiddie Lit‑ter - February 2016

February 2016 | Kiddie Lit‑ter | Harper's puzzle solution

Hello, Dear Readers! Are you ready for puns obscene and filfy in their puntacularity? Are you ready for some audacious head canon from Richard E Maltby Jr? Then you are ready for February 2016.

The Theme!

Four clues given without number of letters, and four possible locations in the fill. A resultant theme‑relevant sentence running around the perimeter. The theme clues turned out to be: not classic cryptic clues per se but rather set‑ups for some outrageous punnery themed around children's books. At first glance of the puzzle title we thought, sortof as a joke, that the theme would point to Harry Potter. Then we saw clue c) which references Severus Snape, and o shit! For real there's some Harry Potter up in here!
  • a) Bear stage = POOHBERTY
  • b) Like a deer that goes either way? = BAMBIDEXTROUS
  • c) Severus Snape, speculatively? = POTTER FAMILIAS*
    * more on thissun inna sec
  • d) Wild elephant acts? = BABARISM
And the meaningful perimeter sentence:
  • Stastically speaking, six out of seven dwarves are not happy.
Except we had it wrong, Dear Readers, and entered “six of the seven”:
SIX OF THE SEVEN | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
All the crosses work, except 41A starting with EIACR_ which is just piffle. Twas there an error? Twould there be yet another apology in the upcoming answer key? Twould not. Twerror was twours this twime.
SIX OUT OF SEVEN | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Obv we didn't check against the dum anagram. Didn't even consider “out of” but it definitely reads more natural. “Nine out of ten doctors agree” blah blah. Definitely. Thus 41A becomes sensible and solveable, yea tho it be anachronism:
  • 41A) Old‑time hack providing back lot, perhaps (6)
    ((providing = IF) back = FI) (lot = ACRE) = FIACRE
Never hearda fiacre before, but it's this:
fiacre | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Image courtesy Brittannica

But so ok that's settled, so now going back to c) and ok so whoa, just, whoa. Whoa. Slow your roll, slow your heart rate. Whoa. Ok. So in order to solve this puzzle one must entertain Maltby's wild speculation that Severus Snape is Harry Potter's dad???

This claim is so far out there, we wouldn't even tag it a SPOILER. Maltby is a Snape Daddy Truther. Interestingly, in poking around Quora and Yahoo! Answers posts for more information (“information”) we came across this passage lifted from Harry Potter and the Half‑Blood Prince:
[Harry Potter,] you look very like your father.
Ok but then so next question, Prof Slughorn: when you say “father,” to whom exactly do you refer and WHAT DO YOU REALLY KNOW?????
Harry Potter and Snape hug | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Image courtesy Deviant Art user mathiaarkoniel

Do you feel that, Dear Readers? That was a shift in the Force as we, too, became a Snape Daddy Truther. Potter Familias. It makes so much sense! Not vis á vis the million jillion times when one of James's contemporaries tells Harry, “zomg you look exactly like him so cray.” But narratively. Like in a Campbell Masks of G0d archetypal human stories sense. Like if we were writing Harry Potter as a TV show, this would totally be our second season reveal, not long after a mid‑season reveal that James was a shitty bully in high school**.
** which is, of course, actual canon

We floated clue c) to our friends Clara, Dr Jesse, and Auntie Maim. All declared it “tacky.” Auntie also called it “wildly inappropriate.”

Puzzle‑wise, or unwise, we much dislike balancing a heavy load of uncrossed theme letters with “well but they form this anagram so that's how you can check.” Meh.


  • 12A) Bird track (4)
    Bird = track = RAIL
Hadna hearda this birda before, but forgiven for the neatness of a two‑word cryptic clue! Double syns of this nature are our new second favorite, directly after anagrams of course :)
rail (bird) | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 13A) Arthur, for one; Teddy, not quite (3)
    (Teddy = BEAR) not quite = BEA
Automatic true love for reference to Grandpa Bea Arthur, rest in peace.
Grandpa Bea Arthur | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Did you know she was in the Star Wars Holiday Special?? Bea Arthur | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 16A) With a zeal, I cut ingredients to make concrete (9)
    ZEAL I CUT * anagram = ACTUALIZE
So strong. Of course especially love potential anagrinds like CUT used instead to form the anagram. Mwa!
  • 18A) She left a chair for meatier diversion (7)
    MEATIER * anagram = EMERITA
Yas! Positive female presence in the puzzle! Twas a lotta that in this puzzle, actually. Perhaps the feminist yawp of Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues has been heard??
  • 27A) Clothing that has an adversarial position (4)
    adverSARIal = SARI
Seeni sari often in the puzzle, but thumbs up for inclusive “clothing” rather than ethnically coded “Indian clothing” or “Eastern clothing” &c. Clothing of the people. Human normative. We had the first S in the fill and wanted this to be SCON, somehow. Like “adversarial position” = CON.
  • 32A) Director who made Isadora right size in a new format (5)
    (right = R) SIZE in a new format = REISZ
Fun! Some Dear Readers may recall that we're in the pool of potential Jeopardy! contestants until April 2017. We study every day. Some names and topics seem to come up disproportionately frequently in American trivia. That means, “we've seen them more than twice in the last six months.” Offa top those topics include:
  • the author Sinclair Lewis
  • Don Quixote
  • Isadora Duncan
  • &c.
We try to maintain at least “first paragraph of Wikipedia” knowledge about each of these. Isadora was an early 20th century French dancer. She was a fashionable Communist and she wore big red scarves, but the scarves were what killed her when one wrapped around the axle of her car. And then Grandpa Gertrude Stein said, “affectations can be dangerous.” Fuck yes, Gertrude Stein :)  We love that bitch.

Had never heard of Reisz but it's always good to collect more intel on Isadora D.
Isadora Duncan | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 36A) Head of trainees gets A‑minus for “Oscillating Wave” (7)
    (Head of trainees = T) gets A MINUS for oscillating = TSUNAMI
Nice. Thought for a long time this would be term from high school physics, ending in, like, ‑IUS or ‑NUS. Like HERTZ or something. This paragraph is where we reveal how little we remember of high school physics.
  • 38A) Rework G.O.P. script—reach for representing all colors (14)
O FOCK YES!! O GLORY YES!! This was a sweet anagrama. The only longy of its kind this puzzle, but so sweet and worthy. This was also the big solve this month courtesy husband Sweet V. Also a fun narrative. Reach for it, Republican buddies! Big tent, buddies! All the colors. Flip the script. Try.
Donald Trump w/ black pastors | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 50A) Group of rocket scientists, left of a wind tunnel (5)
    (Group of rocket scientists = NASA) (left = L) = NASAL
HAHAHA this is a fun way to get “nose.” Incongruency of “wind tunnel” (noun) and “nasal” (adj) is forgiven! Dear Readers are invited to quibble with us on this point in the Comments. Per Wise Tyler below, the “of” makes the definition side adjectival. Wise Tyler knows nose!
  • 1D) A pop group, Ache (4)
    ACHE * anagram = EACH
Was hung up for a long time that this was “pop” as in “soda” (what's up to my brothers and sisters in the Middle West!!) and that there might exist something like HECA, sortof a sister soda to NEHI. Woops. Also, Ache is a great name for a pop group! Gratuitous pic of mother Poly Styrene:
Poly Styrne | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 5D) Leak produces audible gasps (4)
    audible (gasps = OOHS) = OOZE
This was just so nice. And gross. Our dark secret is sometimes we like things that are gross.
  • 6D) The enemy, song without end (4)
    (song = THEME) without end = THEM
Fresh reference to the notion of Other! Separation is inherently antagonistic. Yas.
  • 7D) Power found in the gem onyx (8)
A daring word‑spanner! Hiding in plain slight! And a reference to stones of power, cf every anime ever, most excellent :)
  • 8D) Rattles used in the style of royal address for women (6)
    (in the style = A LA) (royal = R) (address for women = MS) = ALARMS
Ahhhh!!!!! YES! Unqualified apolitical “women” qua “Ms” which is wonderful to see! Could this be the most feminist Harper's cryptic crossword puzzle yet?
Miss Giddy from Mad Max: Fury Road | Tacky Harper's Crypic Clues
  • 9D) Brownie mix, mostly—an ingredient in tart (5)
    (MIX mostly = IX) an ingredient in (tart = PIE) = PIXIE
Yass!! Shout out to Brother Kevin Pollak and Brother Rick Overton, brownies from Willow.
Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton | brownies from Willow | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 19D) Leave time for Christmas morning—pressure comes later (6)
    (time for Christmas = December = DEC) (morning = AM) (pressure = P) = DECAMPS
Raise yer hand if you were expecting NOEL to rear her head [raises hand]. V nice surprise instead.

Our parents' dog Hank is a chewer and destroyer of toys. For Christmas this year we bought Hank a plushy shark toy made from special multi‑ply fibers. The lady at the pet store swore that no dog could chew through it. Hank loved his shark and ripped it apart within ten minutes. We showed video footage of the carnage to the lady at the pet store. She was not satisfactorily bashful. She offered to give us a fresh replacement shark. “You don't get it. Nothing in this store is strong enough,” we thought and did not say.
Hank and shark | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
the shark lost | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 20A) Endorsement (obscure) seen at the front of book? (5)
    (obscure = BLUR) seen at the (front of book = B) = BLURB
So nice! So excellent for so many reasons! Ah just the tightness of book blurbs and book‑as‑in‑letter‑B. So good.
  • 22A) Works in tips from regulars under buddy system (4)
    tips from Regulars Under Buddy Sstem = RUBS
Wonderful! Thought it was DUOS for a while (buddies). Couldn't shake the image of Hall & Oates. You ever get that? The clue evokes an image that sticks?

personal story about working things in, rubbing
Our husband Vlad, aka Sweet V, aka The Sweet One, has many beautiful features (physical, spiritual, intellectual) and is super chill about them all (such chillness only compounding his beauty) … except for the softness of his feet. He is totally vain about how soft his feet are. Only good socks and the comfiest of shoes for the Sweet Feet! In contrast, our feet are quite dry and rough. The other night while sitting barefoot in the easy chair, we heard our heel FRIPPPP against the fabric. Yes, as if our feet were covered in rough Velcro. “That's it!” we said, and went in Internet search of a solution. This Marine's review of Dr Scholl's was charming, promising:
5.0 out of 5 stars • Afghanistan Tested, Me Approved, July 12, 2011

I have recommended this product to MANY Marines (males as well) and every single one of them felt the difference.

Source: Glamazon

  • 23D) Hunks involved in holdups? (5)
    STUDS (double syn.)
WOOT! Wut's up, sexualized male body? What, is up.

Dear Readers who follow us in real life may already be familiar with our blow‑by‑blow of Magic Mike 2 as understood from watching on a plane without headphones or subtitles. For those that read this blog for our writing style and sense of humor, rather than strictly for a post mortem of the Harper's puzzle, here is a clicky linky to said post:
the Mikes from Magic Mike XXL | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 35D) Abbreviated birthday basket for farm horse (6)
    (abbreviated (birthday = date of birth) = DOB) (basket = BIN) = DOBBIN
What's up to the fam, what's up to the farm. Hadn't heard of “dobbin” before, but we like!
My Dobbin | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 37D) Hello! I'm going after a fish! (3)
    (Hello! = HI) going after A = AHI
Oh this was nice! So sweet and silly! Use of over‑frequent puzzle fish AHI forgiven!
  • 40D) A neat organization is a healthy company! (5)
    A NEAT organization = AETNA
We interpret this as a dark joke about health insurance corporate giants as “healthy companies” … haha NOT!
  • 44D) Intuit conclusions drawn from Jung or Otto Frank (4)
    conclusions drawn from JunG oR OttO FranK = GROK
Love grok. Every puzzle should have grok. Even if Stranger in a Strange Land has what we interpret as generally oppressive gender and sexuality orthodoxy. There's of course this ultra‑discouraging line said by Jill:
“Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it's at least partly her own fault.”
Another good example, again pinned on Jilly‑Jill:
Jill... had explained homosexuality, after Mike had read about it and failed to grok—and had given him rules for avoiding passes; she knew that Mike, pretty as he was, would attract such. He had followed her advice and had made his face more masculine, instead of the androgynous beauty he had had. But Jill was not sure that Mike would refuse a pass, say, from Duke—fortunately Mike's male water brothers were decidedly masculine, just as his others were very female women. Jill suspected that Mike would grok a 'wrongness' in the poor in-betweeners anyhow—they would never be offered water.

Source: Goodreads

Maybe these views were meant to be only those of ol' backwards silly Jilly? But so the other characters don't get on her case about it when she says that shit. In our Stranger in a Strange Land fan fiction of course such shit does not fly.
Stranger in a Strange Land book cover | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 47D) A special killer (3)
    A (special = SP) = ASP
Nice and neat! Tight tight tight! And many thanks for the reference to ASP without mention of Yas Queen Cleo.
black Cleopatra | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


  • 17A) Spell “a millimeter” upon entering? What for? (6)
    A (millimeter = MM) entering (What for = WHY) = WHAMMY
A “whammy” is a spell? Like a witch's spell? Like as in a span of time, like, “I need to sit for a spell”? [looks it up] Ok so like a witch's spell, interesting:
noun wham•my
: something (such as a magical spell) that causes someone to have bad luck

Source: Merriam Webs

  • 24A) A lot of athletes swarm to the left (4)
    (swarm = TEEM) to the left = MEET
Like a swim meet? [harsh Cockney accent] “Staht swimmin, then! The lot o' you!!”
  • 25A) In broken line, train little Helen (6)
    broken LINE (train = EL) = NELLIE
Whoa, Nellie. Never heard of this diminutive for Helen but that's fine. Our beef is with “train” = “el” for the millionth. Even if it gives us cause to reference our all‑time ever forever favorite scene from The Fugitive
aka Play That Back I Wanna Hear the Sounds of an Elevated Train
aka Don't Ever Argue with the Big Dog; Big Dog's Always Right:

  • 26A) Ward off untoward word in the Bible (4)
    WARD off untoWARD = UNTO
Barf. Couching this in the feeblest of idiom doesn't disguise the overly simple charade. Ai yi yi [for an eye].
  • 30A) County leader replaced by second‑level liberality (6)
    COUNTY leader replaced by (second‑level = B) = BOUNTY
Bro, so like, COUNTY and BOUNTY even rhyme, bro. Bro. It's not even like BROTHER to FROTHER. How about COUNTY to MOUNTS, and make that crossing 22D RUBS instead change to RUMS. And then how about this clue:
  • County center in a lady's magazine about horses (6)
Just a reminder and FYI, literally any time Harper's is in need of help with clues, just send us an email attached to a PayPal donation :)
  • 34A) Bull breaks into lodge that's packed (7)
    (Bull = OX) breaks into (lodge = EMBED) = EMBOXED
Um, so “bull” ≠ “ox” starting with: “ox” can be male or female; “bull” is necessarily male.
bull vs ox | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
The differences continue:
1. The oxen are draft or pulling animals, usually used for cart transportation, or to pull plows.

2. While both are part of the bovine family, the oxen are a sub-genus of the male cattle, or bull.

3. Oxen are castrated, and breeding is more controlled and selective.

4. The typical ox is larger than the typical bull.

5. The ox and the bull have similar, yet unique, genetic DNA codes.

6. While they maintain religious and ethnic symbolism, they are often heralded separately.


More importantly, EMBOXED is justa dum word. Save it for the Scrabbo board, where bulls*it ‑ED words with a medial X belong.
  • 48A) Old Chinese bread—there's a story to be told here (4)
    (story = TALE) to be told here = TAEL
Chinese tael | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
We remember TAEL from an earlier puzzle (Honorable Mention - November 2014) which, ok, after a year that's fine to pull a refry. But TALE => TAEL is just very butt. At least give us a TAIL at least a homophone that, like, uses different letters. And if you weren't bored and dead by 48A, here's 49A for more of similar:
  • 49A) Where to put elements taken from soil? (4)
    SILO (pun)
“elements”? That's what the corn and the wheat and … ok. Unless we're mistaken, and we often are, this is one of the hermaphroditic ourobouri clues that consumes itself, both parts in one. Which is fine, but SOIL => SILO? These single letter translations make us SO IL(L).
silo | soil | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 2D) Astringent person who went to college (4)
    Astringent = person who went to college = ALUM
Simple double syn. Enjoy the phrase “astringent person” but otherwise this was meh. Not as meh as the next clue, tho! Beholt:
  • 3D) It's necessary to feel yet hard to grasp (4)
    fEEL Yet = EELY
Much as a chef might re‑use old fish as part of a stew, this read as an attempt to make the over‑frequent entry EEL seem new and fresh. With the right chef such attempt might be successful, but often it just stinks.
eel | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 31D) A number of layers—that could be plenty (3‑3)
    could be PLENTY = TEN‑PLY
What number? Oh, just “a” number. Buh! We're curious about what ten‑ply creation is imagined here? Cardboard? Toilet paper? A shark toy that even Hank could not take apart?
  • 39D) Two thirds of league breaks up—someone in Britain appears (4)
    (Two thirds of LEAGUE = LEAG) breaks up = GAEL
Uh. The sun set on the British Empire, thanks. Here's our favorite Gael, tho [this month's Nerd Hot Guy]:
Gael Garcia Bernal | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Gael Garcia Bernal with glasses | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 42D) Golfer Aoki is a nothing (4)
    IS A (nothing = O) = ISAO
Uh, whut? Isao Aoki, World Golf Hall of Famer with a generous name fulla vowels, is a “nothing”? Gross!
Isao Aoki | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

The Tacky

  • 29D) My friend in the hood gets colic, turning green (8)
    (My friend in the hood = BRO) gets COLIC turning = BROCCOLI
Um. How about “my urban friend” how about “my black friend” how about just say what you mean. Buh. “the hood.” Gross.

Altho of course enjoy BROCCOLI in the puzzle.
Samuel L Jackson | broccoli | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

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