July was a juicy puzzle and much good clean fun, up until this month's humdinger tacky-attack. And no, I'm not talking about 17A's EBOOKS ("Modern Library edition of So Be OK (hyphenated)" = SO BE OK&nsbp;anagram).
Which, side note, that was really pushing it, Richard E. Maltby Jr! This isn't the New York Times crossword. You can't just ETAIL and ERATE your way through the grid. This is why we come to the cryptic. We come for real words, even obscure words (29A NEPHRIC, "Degenerate pincher of a kidney (7)" = PINCHER anagram). But these e- prefixes in a cryptic? Too soon, Maltby! Too soon. And thanks for indicating that it's a hyphenated word. Nobody cares!
This month's extra puzzling twist was that the six- and seven-letter answers were unnumbered. Straightforward. Knocked this out with steady progress at my usual casual three day pace.
Particular favorites included 16A's glorious DOPPELGANGER from "I can see myself here, having gone and grappled with intermarriage (12)" = GONE + GRAPPLED anagram (pulled that one down right away) (anagrams are my strongest suit) and 1D's INFIDEL from "I don't believe it's an infield foul!" = INFIELD anagram.
And then we come to the unpleasant matter of This Month's Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clue. This month it was what turned out to be 34A: "Chastity maintains these holy songs get placed around the start of Easter." Tried building off AVES a couple times before I remembered that there's a special word for what we sang in church. Special thanks to my mom for the assist on: HYMNS. Toss in an E for start of Easter and we're left with HYMENS as a synonym for "chastity maintains." Hrm.
I logged a lot of hours with Our Bodies Ourselves during adolescence. I also had The What's Happening to My Body Book for Girls. I also had and still have a female body. So I'm well-equipped to offer insight on this point. Carol Roye sums it up nicely:
As nurse practitioner it is not so easy to tell whether a girl is a virgin, because hymens are so varied. If there is not much of a hymen I have no way of knowing what happened to it. Was it a boyfriend or a bicycle? Or, perhaps, this girl did not have much tissue there to begin with.Wikipedia says it better:
Virginity testing [inspection of the hymen] is a very controversial practice, both because of its implications for tested girls and because it is not accurate. It is degrading and considered a violation of human rights by Amnesty International and is illegal in many countries.This clue resonates with bad "bloody sheet" notions of female purity and women as property. Stoning is still a legal sentence for women convicted of adultery in countries that enforce Islamic Sharia law. "Honor killing" is still a very real repercussion for women who, oh, say, get married without an intact hymen.
My rejoinder, matching tacky for tacky: "Jewish bodily impurity before head was cut off by thin film (8)"