Monday, July 13, 2015

Sixes and Sevens - July 2015

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

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


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

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

To the Theme!

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


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

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

Source: more Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Ebaums World (!)

The Tacky

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

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


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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Theme and Variations - June 2015

June 2015 | Diametricode | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution

Earlier today on Twitter we read through the feed of an acquaintance upon whom we had (read: have) a bit of a crush, and who is also a self-identified social justice warrior. And despite said crush, her tweets mostly had us feeling exhausted and annoyed, thinking thinks like “PC Policing” and “shrill.”

Then we hopped over here to write Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues, a blog where *we* are the self-appointed PC Police. Then we LAUGHED at our own expense.

Laughing harder now: but if not for this blog, who will hold the puzzle accountable for references to rape and child murder? When the puzzle says that gay men can't be butch, who will step forward and say, “are you crazy??” When Ruth Bader Ginsburg's name is misspelled, who will say, “what!? That's so bad!!”

It is we! The shining sword in the dark night of the Internet!! Carefully curating our list of clues that equate a hymen with chastity!!

We may take heart, Dear Readers. This blog will likely self-destruct should we ever become truly shrill and unfun. We're literally only writing this blog to have fun.

To the Theme!

Another code! Not so despair-inducing as The Playfair Square tho. The hot 26 of the Roman alphabet arranged in pairs around the perimeter such that a line drawn to connect a pair crosses the puzzle's center dot, thus forming a swapperoo code*. Ten clues in italics with answers entered in using the swapperoo code.
* technical term

As is polite, the italics clues were generally “fine.” Not too hard, not too easy. PTSD from Playfair nonwithstanding, a fast straight-ahead solve.


  • 8A) In West African religion, be a sweet thing (6)
    (West African religion = JUJU) + BE = JUJUBE
Contrary to common belief, Vodun [aka Voodoo —ed] is not related to juju, despite the linguistic and spiritual similarities. Juju has acquired some karmic attributes in more recent times: good juju can stem from almost any good deed; bad juju can be spread just as easily.

Source: Wikipedia

Sweet V recently asserted that it's “joo-JOOB.” Emma says JOO-joob. Wikipedia says either pronunciation is fine for the candy but the fruit ends in b-like-in-cab. Learnings.
Elaine | Jujyfruit | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 14A) Holds up on nonsense, otherwise turns back (4)
    ((nonsense = BS) + (otherwise = OR)) * reverse = ROBS
“nonsense” = “BS” was a fun surprise. Entered in the puzzle AETF
  • 17A) Flowers one grows (6)
    (one = I) + (grows = RISES) = IRISES
So nice and natural! We love irises. Delicate flowers with rich colors that fall apart if you touch them. Our favorite! A friend who likes robust powerful flowers that “you can hit things with, like a baton” suggested that our flower preferences said something about who we are as lovers, and people. Then we both got quiet and changed the subject.
  • 20A) The Reb yields openers because of that (7)
    (THE REB + (yields openers = Y)) * anagram = THEREBY
    tHE REB Yields = THEREBY
No clear anagram indicator? Forgiven! Love this anagram! Wonderful!
Wups yah so per Wise Tyler, this is no anagram, it's a hidden clue/word spanner. We saw what we wanted to see (anagrams everywhar). Entered in code as BIOAOTG
  • 24A) One can take her cue from cheat (6)
    HER CUE * anagram = EUCHRE
Here's a nice blog post about cheating in Euchre. We automatically love any reference to Euchre because our Michigander aunts and uncles taught it to us, and it reminds us of a happier time when our maternal family got along. But we are hard-pressed to find citation for Euchre as synonymous with “cheat.”
  • 28A) Streak, running around Olympian, perhaps (6)
    STREAK * anagram = SKATER
Apolo Anton Ohno | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Apolo Anton Ohno is this month's Nerd Hot Guy

  • 29A) Latin into bongo playing is hardly square (6)
    ((Latin = L) + BONGO) * anagram = OBLONG
Nice! Reminded of drummer Pablo from Steppenwolf. Shout out to Notorious Marcel who read it recently! We got it for him as a gift and insisted he read it right away!

Our memory from when we read Steppenwolf in 2009 proved faulty, and Pablo is a saxophonist, not a drummer. Wups. So we now present you with a photo of Jerry Edmonton, one of the drummers from Steppenwolf:
Jerry Edmonton | drummer from Steppenwolf | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
“oblong” reminds us of Bob Loblaw's Law Blog:
Headline: Bob Loblaw Lobs Law Bomb! | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 37A) Swiss city old fart comes from (7)
    OLD FART * anagram = ALTDORF
Buh, content knowledge. But farts! Farts in the puzzle! “Sure but idiomatically not fart qua far”— we don't care! Fart fart fart! Haha! Entered upon encoding as RNBKEAS
Altdorf, Switzerland | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 38A) Country once linking Namibia, France (6)
    Namibia France = BIAFRA
Biafra, officially the Republic of Biafra, was a secessionist state in south-eastern Nigeria that existed from 30 May 1967 to 15 January 1970, taking its name from the Bight of Biafra (the Atlantic bay to its south).


After the federal and eastern governments failed to reconcile, on 26 May the Eastern region voted to secede from Nigeria. On 30 May, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Eastern Region's military governor, announced the Republic of Biafra, citing the Easterners killed in the post-coup violence. The large amount of oil in the region created conflict, as oil was a major component of the Nigerian economy. The Eastern region was very ill equipped for war, out-manned, and out-gunned by the military of the remainder of Nigeria.


Here's Jello Biafra looking lovely. Wikipedia tells us he indeed took his name from this same short-lived state.
Jello Biafra | Nobody knows I'm a lesbian | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 45A) Small pale-colored bird (4)
    (Small = S) + (pale-colored = WAN) = SWAN
VERY nice! Smooth natchrul languaged. Delight. Entered after encoding as FQRL
  • 46A) Caveat on Alaskan houses having no key (6)
    Caveat on Alaskan = ATONAL
Nice spanner!
  • 2D) Cracked back in crazy stunt (5)
    crazy stunt * reverse = NUTSY
You wanna get nutsy? Let's get nutsy!!! C'MONG!!!! #keaton
  • 5D) Was a revolver involved in tragedy (7)
    TRAGEDY * anagram = GYRATED
Excellent anagrama!
“[Michelle] is the best Hula-Hooper I know. Once she gets the rhythm going, she can drop to her knees!”
—President Barack Obama

Source: Pepple

Michelle Obama | hula hoop | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6D) Go down, up on horse—that's quite a turnover! (5)
    ((Go down = SINK) * (up on = reverse)) + (horse = H) = KNISH
Nice! Nostalgic now for when we lived in New York near a great deli.
noodle kugel | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 10D) Cash exchanged, boxing ring mess (5)
    (CASH * anagram) boxing (ring = O) = CHAOS
Originally had this marked as a Lowlight. Why did you mark it thus, Past Erica? Present Erica loves it! Got hung up on the reasoning looking for a “chaos / KOs” homophone.
  • 11D) Man playing in factory (5)
Peaches! They come in a can!
They were put there by a man
In a factory downtown!
Peaches | The Presidents of the United States of America | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 27D) “Running Amok Around Outskirts of Barrio”—big report! (6)
    (AMOK + (Outskirts of Barrio = BO)) * anagram = KABOOM
Much enjoy this usage of “report.” The report is: everything is on fire!!
  • 28D) Weird wicked fakery (6)
    FAKERY * anagram = FREAKY
Sweet V played this song for us early on in our love affair:

  • 31D) Wound, kill, die (6)
    (kill = OFF) + (die = END) = OFFEND
So nice and neat and tite!!
  • 33D) Spacy kid, with no passport, traveling—he comes with a lot of baggage (6)
    SPACY KID with no (passport = ID) * anagram = SKYCAP
This was the favorite of the entire puzz. Thought for a bit it might be a reference to childhood favorite game Commander Keen. Or perhaps Fantastic Max! Or perhaps Le Petit Prince, a work of art against which we harbor unnecessary disdain only because we perceive most young women who have Petit Prince prints in their homes as shallow. But really it was just that one woman, one time, in 2002. She ruined it for us! Well now it's 2015. Time to move on. Here's le Petit Prince. So pretty in print!
Le Petit Prince | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 34D) Ceremony providing big rock presentation (6)
    (Ceremony = MASS) + (providing = IF) = MASSIF
Big rock presentation. Erica and Vlad getting married | August 2015 | Vermont
  • 36D) You can't start Disney turning fugitive (6)
    ((You can't start = OU) + (Disney = WALT)) * anagram = OUTLAW
Very nice! Tried several ISNEY-based anagrams first.
Disney's The Littlest Outlaw | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


  • 12A) Kind of wine, no year, send back—far out! (6)
    ((Kind of wine = RED) + NO + (year = Y)) * reverse = YONDER
More like YAWN-der haha. Ugh, so sick of “red = wine” equivalency!
  • 15A) A red X put in plastic jar (5)
    (X = 10 = IO) put in JAR = RIOJA
No, gross, bad, do not like. “X = IO” booooooo. And “red = wine” also, no, as we established just moments ago.
drinking red wine | Paul Giamatti | Thomas Haden Church | Sideways | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 19A) Saying: Of course, it's, like, mailed (6)
    (like = AS) + (mailed = SENT) = ASSENT
“like” and “as” in the simile sense. Buh, fake out with the homophone indicator. Got hung up thinking it was ASCENT, somehow. Forgot the word ASSENT exists.
  • 22A) Hundred hits into replayed video with vocals (6)
    ((Hundred = C) hits into VIDEO) * anagram = VOICED
  • 47A) Put vegetable back in can (3)
    back in (can = MAY) = YAM
yam | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

You've heard our thoughts on can/may equivalency before. So. “can” and “may” are not the same. But then also, and we insist that this is not a contradiction of previous, it is very annoying when someone says, “I dunno, can you?” and you're like OMG where is the bathroom you tedious alleycat!! Nobody cares about your unrelentingly precise command of English usage!!!

More wedding/Romanian romance talk (your favorite talk) on a gratuitous tangential note regarding can-may ability-action wish-will equivalencies: in Romanian, the way to ask someone to marry you is
vrei să fii soțul meu? / vrei să fii soția mea?
meaning "do you want to be my husband? / do you want to be my wife?" But in English, the stronger statement is
will you be my husband? / will you be my wife?
The implication to our ear is that in English, there's a potential gap between will and action.
“Do you want to marry me?”
“Sure I want to but [some bullshit could get in the way].”
In Romanian, if you want to get married then it's going to happen. Will and action are equivalent. So cool!

Certainly it's difficult (impossible?) to separate language and culture. For the purposes of this section we're pretending to believe in effects of language alone, independent of culture.
  • 48A) Ice cap melting—it produces heaving (6)
    ICE CAP * anagram = IPECAC
'Sup, ipecac. So oft ye be in our puzzle. Meh.
syrup ipecac | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 1D) Status follower holding art book (6)
    (Status follower = QUO) holding ART = QUARTO
Our dad has a book called Secrets of the Jeopardy! Champions. It's a rather handy primer on frequent Jeopardy! topics like Shakespeare, plant life, booze. The chapter on Shakespeare lists the “quartos” and “folios” in the Real Ultimate List of All Shakespeare Works. We remember reading that when we were little like, ”whatda hecka 'quarto' …” Surely we would learn in school.
Secrets of the Jeopardy! Champions | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
And then twenty years of life happened. And now we're here, with access to the world's information. Tell us Internet, oracle of all that was and has not happened yet: what be a quarto?
quarto (n.)
"book from paper folded to make four pages to the sheet," late 15c., from Medieval Latin in quarto "in the fourth (part of a sheet of paper)," from quarto, ablative singular of Latin quartus "fourth" (see quart).

Source: true love Etymonline

So Shakespeare wrote some stuff on folded papercraft! V cool.
  • 3D) Strand after disease is cured (7)
    DISEASE * anagram = SEASIDE
Didn't we have this usage of “strand” super recently? No? Where is our intern to compile a comprehensif database of all answers!!
  • 4D) reforming Texas university, first duty of a state? (3, 3)
    (TEXAS + (university = U)) * anagram = USE TAX
They forgot about TAU SEX.
  • 7D) Wander down, going out more tight (6)
    (Wander = MEANDER) (down = D) going out = MEANER
Can't say we're familiar with this use of “meaner.”



3. penurious, stingy, or miserly:
a person who is mean about money.
Synonyms: niggardly, close, tight, parsimonious, illiberal, ungenerous, selfish.


  • 20D) Head soup maker (4 )
    Head = soup maker = BEAN
Convinced ourself for most of the puzzle that this was OPUS somehow. Wups.
Mr Holland's Opus | Richard Dreyfuss | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 25D) Deceive the man with healthy heart (4)
    (the man = HE) with (healthy = OK) heart = HOKE
“Hoke”? “healthy = OK”? Buh!
  • 35D) Queen, in heels, perversely gives Hebrew money to Hebrews (6)
    ((Queen = Q) + HEELS) * anagram = SHEQEL
The instructs called this one out as “surprising” but we're not sure why because this was like the second clue we got. Transliterations. This didn't stand out as surprisingly qrazy in its variation. Natürlich much enjoyed “queen in heels” :)

The Tacky

  • 34A) Canadian native makes American win in a fight, million times over (6)
    ((American = US) + (win in a fight = KO) + (million = M) + (times = X)) * anagram = MUSKOX
  • 21D) Toupee showing up on American wise guys (5)
    (Toupee = RUG) showing up on (American = US) = GURUS
US is not America | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Illustration by Rob Donnelly from an annoying article on Slate defending US/America equivalency and sounding about as compelling as Tim O'Reilly saying no, no no, no, Lyft is a great company to work for and at least it's not as bad as other places to work, and Lyft drivers should be grateful for their great job which they all love, why, what did you hear?

Just keep beating dat drum: US ≠ America.

Some alternate ways to get US:
US (disambiguation) from Wikipedia
US from urban dictionary

Cuz that's the problem here, right? Getting the US as a convenient string? There are so many ways. Imagination need not fail us. Not in the puzzle of all places!

Mom mixed up "cent" and "sent," love (7)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Theme and Variations - May 2015

May 2015 | Theme and Variations | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution

The Theme

Dear Readers may recall our joy at HELENA BONHAM CARTER in May 2012's Theme and Variations. This time around, it's another hottie: RUTH BADER GINSBURG.
Notorious RBG
More Ruth Bader Ginsburg at

Errrrr …wait a sexond … the puzzle spells it GINSBERG. Unless GINSBURG crosses 34A for VIOLONCULLISTS?

This is bad.

EDIT SUGGESTED BY SWEET V if there are any Puzzle Minions or Answer Key Writers out there listening, some possible ways to spin it:
  1. keeping the E
    “You thought we meant Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the jurist? No no, we meant Ruth Bader Ginsberg, cousin of Allen Ginsberg!”
  2. asserting the U
    “BURG, or ‘town,’ refers to how the land is the enemy of the sea, and the people of towns were enemies of the people of the Titanic. You've never heard of the VIOLONCULLO? Really! I guess culture hasn't made it out there to … where did you say you were from? Ah.”

Taking the puzzle at face value, the theme:
  • 17A) RUTH varies into ECCLESIASTES (10D) and ISAIAH (27D), other books of the Bible.
  • 18A) BADER varies into anagrams*: BARED (31A) and DEBAR (32A)
    * the wisdom of the third anagram!
  • 21D) GINS“BERG” varies into GINS => COTTON MACHINES (1A) and BERG => TITANIC NEMESIS, the latter being like ... erm. Ahrm. Aside from the super tacky typo-mistake, wha? Like the Titanic did wrathful battle with its lifelong enemy, the berg?
Titanic: Nemesis | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues Before getting the theme, thought 21D) was GILLIGAN for a quite a bit. Young Bob Denver as Gilligan | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


  • 14A) One acting badly, not real swinger (7)
    (One acting badly = HAM) + (not real = MOCK) = HAMMOCK
Ham haha, no surprise here. But we so enjoy the narrative! “Not a real swinger. One of those pretend polyarmorous types.” Watching identity politics play out, especially around fringey love communities, is, like, one of our favorite bloodsports.
  • 15A) Discern changes in reverse (7)
    DISCERN * anagram = RESCIND
Nice anagram, nice natchrul language.
  • 29A) Auto-piano, out of the box, perfect (7)
    Auto-piano = UTOPIAN
Nice spanner. Er, “hidden word.” That's the grown-up term for thems. Raise a glass to Sir Thomas More who invented “utopia” as an achievable human state of chill respectful feminists, but who himself could not be chill when it came to Henry VIII's decision-making. He took a stand against (among other things) Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn, and Henry had him beheaded. Then four years later Henry beheaded Anne, too. So.
Sir Thomas More | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 21A) Religious shows with wild orgies left in (7)
    ORGIES + (left = L) * anagram = GLORIES
We were a combatant at Write Club last month in Chicago arguing for GLORY in a bout of GUTS vs. GLORY. Twas glorious! We always bring it, Dear Readers, but for this event we Brought It. You can listen for yourself, here >
  • Sounds like a lot of hay to get out of a can! (4)
    (lot of hay = BALE) * homophone = BAIL
Reminded of Jackie Brown. Life of a bail bondsman. Different life than ours.
Jackie Brown | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 34A) Designing icon still loves bowers (14)
Wutttttt fantastic anagrama! Beautiful! And credit this one to Sweet V, who divined the correct interpretation of “bowers” and knew the correct spelling of VIOLONCELLIST. We thought it was VIOLACELLIST or VIOLINCELLIST. Wups.

vaguely related reminded of when a friend of ours lived in a co-op with the name “Bower” in it. Occasionally she'd tell us tales of Intense Sunday Night Meetings on Agenda Topics Such As: is it ok for the house to buy chocolate chips when certain housemates snack on them at will, rather than use them for baked goods? Shouldn't those selfish housemates subsidize the cost of their own chocolate habits? Much like the Iranian nuclear deal, talks about this matter took place over several weeks, with much stress and emotion. We mentally tagged these tales in a theoretic compendium: Under the Bower: Horror Stories from the House of Horrors.
  • 35A) Relating to Fox Family Movie: An Intervening (6)
    (Movie = CINE) AN intervening = CANINE
Was certain the answer would involve VULPINE and was thus psyched to prove to the world that we know the word VULPINE. Sweet V saw the truth. As for the reasoning … we would like to see a Vine of Richard E Maltby Jr using CINE in a sentence, plox and thx in advance.
Fox | Vulpine | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
    36A) Releases British head-sets? Time out! (6)
    (British head = LOO) + ((SETS (Time = T) out) = SES) = LOOSES
Sweet V to the rescue again on this one. That European sensibility.
  • 38A) Flipper finds great many changes on strait (7)
    ((great = G) + MANY + (strait = ST)) * anagram = GYMNAST
A little wrought, yes. But mwa, we loved! Check out these early 20th century Russian gymnasts. Not flipping. Just being flipping awesome.
Russian gymnasts | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 3D) Misprint the “c” in “computer nerd” (4)
    THE C * anagram = TECH
Bill Gates Character Sheet
Courtesy The Onion

Esther Nairn | Technopagan is the term | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
I wanna be Esther Nairn for Halloween/every een

  • 5D) Maiden voyages all around a holy city (6)
    MAIDEN * anagram = MEDINA
Medina, Saudi Arabia | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
The word “maiden” had us on alert for something about [female] virginity. But twas ok. V nice.
  • 6D) A word from a miser upset a sea captain (4)
    A + ((word from a miser = BAH) upset = HAB) = AHAB
Ebeneezer Scrooge is the miser in particular. Not Midas. Spose Mighty Midey's word would be, “o no! My wish backfired! O frail desire! O weak man, who did not value love more than gold!”

Here's Patrick Stewart as Ahab (hubba hubba)
(every Patrick Stew moment is a hubba hubba moment)
Patrick Stewart as Capt Ahab | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 8D) Failing to make me proficient? Quite the opposite! (12)
Have pun in there. We've been puzzle pun haters for a long time, because of recursion/time loops /paradoxes. But really it's like when Old Spock meets Young Spock in Jimmy John Abrams's Star Trek and they're like, “paradox wha? Hahaha it's fine it's fine it's fine.” We didn't like a tonna stuff in that movie, but we loved that part. RIP LN
Spock meets Spock | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 11D) Being around philosophical leader, kisses off philosophical doubt (7)
    ((philosophical leader = P) + KISSES) * anagram = SKEPSIS
Skekses | The Dark Crystal | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 13D) Bound to get in, in op-ed possibly (8)
    IN IN OP-ED * anagram = PINIONED
We read 50 Shades of Grey recently. Dear Readers may remember. It keeps coming up. Perhaps Richard E Maltby Jr read it recently as well?
  • 19D) It includes a Gable movie initially, in a different order (6)
    ((movie initially = M) + ORDER) * anagram = DORMER
Got caught up thinking GWTW for Gone with the Wind was involved. Nay nay!

And now it's time to look at pictures of Natalie Dormer. Natalie Dormer is this month's Nerd Hot Guy. All yall gender essentialists, you sit right down! You sit! down!
Natalie Dormer | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Natalie Dormer | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Natalie Dormer | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
That's right.
  • 25D) One less trained lands in the water (5)
    ((One = I) + LESS) * anagram = ISLES
Such nice smooth language here. Mwa!
  • 29D) Reckoning it's a big year (5)
    (big = TALL) + (year = Y) = TALLY
Actually feel mixed on this one. Love it for the natural language, and much appreciate not going for the easy AEON EON or LEAP possibilities. Dislike equating BIG with TALL. Murr.


  • 12A) Tearjerker thats a little tart (6)
    (little = WEE) + (tart = PIE) = WEEPIE
No. “weepie”? No.
Terms of Endearment | Steel Magnolias | Little Women | three 'weepies' | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 16A) Singular protection during a university season (7)
    A + (university = U) + (season = SPICE) = AUSPICE
“auspice” singular? Like a single pant, or a single scissor? No.
  • 22A) Bribe for backing horse? Very smart (4)
    ((Bribe = SOP) backing = POS) + (horse = H) = POSH
Never hearda this use of SOP.
  • 30A) Acclaim, etc., swirling around Hollywood location (5)
    (ETC + (Hollywood location = LA)) * anagram = ECLAT
Sure. Meh. The ETC is a gimme for “hi howarya I am Ann Agram, woman of No Mystery, haha.”
  • 37A) Really bad situation can make you pettish (3,4)
    PETTISH * anagram = THE PITS
In our margin notes: HEP TITS and PET SHIT. The pits. Much like this clue hahaha. Have we mentioned that we've been doing standup comedy? No, you could already tell?
  • 1D) Court's P.R. representation makes a crook … (8)
    COURTS PR * anagram = CORRUPTS
Abbrev'd P.R. gets the Anagrammy Sense tingling. For a sec thought it was like a shephard's crook but then the internal letter jumble machine took over, and CORRUPTS appeared. M'sigh.
  • 7D) What leads in some ships evens out in homes (3)
    even [letter] s out in HOMES = HMS
child's pinafore | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 9D) Iron works producing a kind of film (4)
    IRON * anagram = NOIR
Noir is a kind of film, huh. Fine. Grump.
  • 24D) Protector of Bushes, inbred, idiotic, and finally incompetent (4, 3)
    (INBRED + (finally incompetent = T)) * anagram = BIRD NET
Fodder for our sister blog,

The Tacky

  • 2D) … rebuild store after trial—one man's source of power (12)
    STORE (rebuild = anagram) after ((trial = TEST) ONE) = TESTOSTERONE
General Ripper | played by Sterling Hayden | PRECIOUS BODILY FLUIDS | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Is testosterone source for … all a man's power? Testosterone, hormone of aggression, linked to antisocial behavior and alcoholism? Hrm.

Women have some testosterone too. Small amounts, but some. Is this the reason, in Maltby's view, for our thus understandably lesser power?
  • 23D) Defect gets you a lot of money—cheer up (7)
    ((lot of money = PILE) + (cheer = RAH)) * reverse = HARELIP
The term harelip is usually perceived as insulting because it compares the deformity in humans to the normal cleft lip of a hare. The accepted term for this medical condition is cleft lip.


And, an Announcement

Switching to the first person. Wuts up, everyone! On April 28th, I asked Sweet V to marry me. And he said yes! Full details here:
erica and Sweet V

Comment, sweet chickens.