This month's puzzle: nothing actually tacky. One clue: maybe a little judgey. Some clues: absolutely delightful. Well done this month!
The super special trick extra layer of intensity: an acrostic. I feel about acrostics the way that Indiana Jones feels about snakes: terrible. "Why'd it have to be snakes/an acrostic?"
Except that the major difference is that Indiana Jones defeats the snakes, and I had never ever once before defeated an acrostic ever once before in my life. Not ever. Not once. Not even close. I'd get 20% of the way in, 30% of the way in, then: total block, and with too little complete to glean any inference from the fill. Jesse urged, "but the part where you intuit the quotation and start solving things faster than you can write them is kind of euphoric!"
I did not have the courage then to admit: I had never felt such euphoria.
And thus this puzzle took nearly a solid month to finish, totally messing with my average solve time (between 3 hrs and 3 days). Hit a major roadblock even with half the clues answered. There were just no hand-holds from the fill. Too many long words, very little to infer aside from a lot of "ion" combos.
Got a good boost from the clear refreshing Bay Area air on a visit to San Francisco, and two answers from the brilliant Amelia, and then one magical BART ride home the whole puzzle morphed from a mess of yucky yolk and wet flour into a glorious dough that I baked in the oven of my brain, and which thus yielded the delicious bread of a solved puzzled. And I felt that acrostic euphoria, Jesse. I felt it.
All across answers change by one letter between rows. Two uses of EINSTEIN for anagrams, which I can't decide if I find brilliant or sloppy (read: I find it audacious and sloppy).
- AA. Queens consumers, perhaps, bet on bad rates (9)
(bet = ANTE) + RATES anagram = ANTEATERS.
- R. Einstein's confused—time to be gay! (8)
EINSTEINS anagram = NINETIES
- N. Peasant plowed with one foot (7)
PEASANT anagram = ANAPEST
- P. Waiters, as some say, are dogs (8)
And then as for that judgey clue: Actor cast in not quite polite plays finally abused things (9). Answer: ACTOR anagram + (not quite polite = NICE - e) + (plays finally = S) = NARCOTICS as synonym for "abused things."
Hrm. Narcotics are painkillers and sleep-inducers. I took Vicodin after they pulled out my wisdom teeth. Vicodin is an opiate. Am I a narcotics abuser?
And of course, the synonyms are not a one-to-one correspondence in cryptics. You can see it in the TERRIERS clue. Are "dogs" synonymous with "terriers"? No. Mr. Stupendous pointed out, wives are also sometimes abused, but were the clue to use WIVES as the synonym for "abused things," that would, indeed, be quite tacky. We'll leave it at judgey, Maltby.
In fact, I solved this clue early on as PROTOCALS = ACTOR anagram + POL from not quite polite + S. I misspelled it (it's "protocols") but it felt so good to assume the puzzle believed rules were made to be broken.