Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tongue Twisters - February 2014

February 2014 Harper's cryptic answers Hola hola hola Dear Readers. Here's a cool fact: bed bugs. We have them. ARGH yes it's true. It happened. Chicago has the highest rate of infestation in the country for the third year running. Can only live as an urban young person so long before you no longer dodge that cannonball.

We found the first bug in the kitchen, dead, in a cup. And the second, also in the kitchen, alive, in the recycling. And the third, filled with Sweet V's blood, the other morning. UGH!
I will not be defeated, bed bugs
Today we bought one of those heating bed bug death chambers. Morale is currently high as we are flooded with the good feelings of a large purchase, and a return of the illusion of control, success against death, kai, ta, loipa. In part control over bed bugs, but mostly over death. Let's be real.

Ok. Puzzle time. Get it together. BUH no just one more thing, the sound of the terminator's spray this afternoon made us feel very bad inside. Bad for us, bad for the planet, bad for the bugs. Yah, bad for the bugs. We want them dead, and guess what? Also feel bad for them. “Not like this,” we thought.

Ok. For real this time. Puzzle this month was due “by Valentine's Day, and son, you better get right if you don't know when that is.” TONGUE TWISTERS was the theme, with the tangy saucy tantalizing clue in the instructs, “Solvers are invited to decide which of the other twelve unclued entries (all related) is the 28 Across.”


Wanted something homophonic or lingual or like 28A would be “how many pickled peppers DID Peter Piper pick?” and the unclueds would be p-quantities. Instead they were just like twelve rando flavors, available via inference alone:
  • 20A) JASMINE
  • 38A) NUTMEG
  • 7D) THYME
  • 21D) SAFFRON
  • 23D) PAPRIKA
Paprika anime
  • 25D) CHERVIL

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium), sometimes called garden chervil to distinguish it from similar plants also called chervil, or French parsley, is a delicate annual herb related to parsley. It is commonly used to season mild-flavoured dishes and is a constituent of the French herb mixture fines herbes.

Via Wikedpedia



  • 18A) Sadly leery about upsetting party with singer who gets high (7)
    (LEERY + (party = DO)) * anagram = YODELER
Was sure this was going to be SOPRANO but no! So much the better!
  • 19A) Spanish America's the house of ill repute (5)
    SpaniSH AMErica's = SHAME
Reasoning on “ill repute = shame” strikes us as wobbly but thesaurus dot cron supports it so if the Internet says so it's prolly true.

Reminded of The House of the Spirits set in Chile, and early in the book the patriarch of the family visits a whore with big dreams and gives her a very generous tip. And then SPOILER ALERT he meets her again later, and very narratively gratifyingly you find out she used that big tip to start a very successful feminist whorehouse.
  • 26A) Small lock, or how wimp gets to be pimp? (4)
    how wimp gets to be pimp = W is P = WISP
ARGghghhhhhhhhh this is some real DEVILY SHIT and the only reason we say that is because we didn't get this one. Sweet Vlad did. Knew it had to be WISP, knew it had to be WISP, couldn't get the logic on it, and it was Sweet V to the rescue, parsing that which we could not parse, picking up the pieces where our brain left off. Thank you, baby!
  • 36A) Jewish gathering has broken about four (5)
    (HAS + (four = IV)) * anagram = SHIVA
Mmm! Shout-out to all m'Jewish brothers and sisters!

1. a period of seven days' formal mourning for the dead, beginning immediately after the funeral.
“she went to her sister's funeral and sat shiva”

Source: The Goog

  • 11D) Latin caught in sack ran (4)
    (Latin - L) + (sack = BED) = BLED
Sack like “hit the sack.” Ran like “o no! I washed my discount flag and these colors ran!”
  • 10D) Radical introduction of euro has me retroactive convert to cash (6)
    (Radical = RED) + (introduction of euro = E) + (ME retroactive = EM) = REDEEM
“radical = red” eh? Reminds us of this shirt: T-shirt: Please kill a commie for my mommy


  • 14A) The first characters seen in fair hair are ... space cadets! (8)
    (The first characters = HEADS) + (seen in fair hair = AIR) = AIR HEADS
At least, that's how we think the logic goes. Summin like 'et.
Yah so per Wise Tyler, it's: “the first [letters] in the words 'fair' or 'hair,'” i.e. “characters before the string 'AIR'” i.e. AIR HEADS


Here, let's look at a still from Airheads: Airheads
PS, Brendan Fraser? February Nerd Hot Guy. Callin' it. Happy Valentine's day.
Brendan Fraser | Nerd Hot Guy
  • 16A) To some extent, is eventide between 6 and 8? (5)
    iS EVENtide = SEVEN
Uh. Too mucha gimme. WISH wish wish it were some reference to “the number six is afraid of.” That would REDEEM this dum clue.
  • 39A) Shoe store's known tie with criminal organization (8)
    KNOWN TIE * anagram = NIKETOWN
Ewwwwwww brands EW! One day we will live in a world where all Niketowns are razed, replaced with Funkytowns. One day.
  • 31A) After Florida upset, Crimson's defeater of Vikings (6)
    (After = A) + (Florida upset = LF) + (Crimon = RED) = ALFRED
NICE! Behold, the brave visage of Alfred the Great! Alfred the Great, defeater of Vikings
Ugh tho. Any reference to capital-C Crimson and the Cult of Harvard annoys us. Because people who went to Harvard annoy us. Mostly the B-school kids. If you went to the Harvard Business School, well. It's time you knew what we think of you.
  • 12D) Union charges in announcing list of things to accomplish (4)
    (list of things to accomplish = DOES) * homophone = DUES
But just as easily coulda been DOES. And a list of things to accomplish is more properly TO DOS. DOES also, uh, isn't it DO'S? Yah, we hate the apostrophe misused, cuz it's not indicating a possessive w/r/t a person named “Do”, cf CD's, which always burns us out (“Does the CD own something?!??!? NO!!!!!!!!”). You could just suck it up and hope context makes it clear with Dos and Don'ts or do it is DOs & DON'Ts, but that's a little shouty. Never write about your lists, is the solution.

Which reminds us of a game we co-invented with our friend Matt called The Dating Dos game. You're welcome to play along! The game is: there are no Dating Don'ts. You play by describing some behavior that's clearly beyond the pale of inappropriate for a date. Like peeing your pants ... ON PURPOSE. And then the game is to explain, no matter how thin or backwards the logic, how that behavior is really ok. More backwards = more points.

So peeing your pants is ok because it shows you're not afraid of your body, you're comfortable in your body. Actually, most Dating Dos can be justified by how they demo your courage. Extra points for describing Dating Dos you've Dating Done. Super extra bonus points if you play Dating Dos while committing a Dating Do.
  • 34D) Went off in amphibian (4)
    WENT * anagram = NEWT
Nothing newt to see, here. Wish it were “Ambibian went off (4)” next to a gif of a classic Kermit flail. Here: Kermit flail

The Tacky!

  • 33A) Fancy woman starts going with unnamed man (4)
    (WOMAN start = W) + (unnamed man = HIM) = WHIM
Calling this one out as kinda slut-shamey, if you want to read it as slut-shamey. But then, you could just as easily call it slut-promoting. Like the other day, Sweet Vlad's German roommate Barbara asked, “what do you call in English a woman who dates many men?”

“Uh ... smart? Having fun?” we said.

We love (love!) that it's in political vogue right now to call out slut-shaming as a bad thing! It is bad to shame sluts! We love (LOVE!) that “slut-shaming” is a phrase in the public consciousness.

Our own thinking on sluts was very much shaped by our friend Chris in San Francisco, who said, “I think sluts are sexy. I think it's sexy when someone wants to have sex with you.” Well said, brother.
Slut pride | slut march | slut parade!

Leave a comment it makes us feel soooooooo good inside!


  1. I think the wordplay part of 14A is meant to refer to the letters F and H; in those two words, they are "heads" for the word "air."

    This is a stupid clue.

    1. Ohhhhhhhhh yaaaaaaaaaaaaah you're right. Amended up top!

  2. I just found your blog and I love it! I'm a newbie to cryptics and have no one -no one - to talk about them with. You promote Brendan Fraser, put gifs of Kermit up and understand slut shaming is bad...I'm so glad you exist!