Sunday, April 20, 2014

Twofers - April 2014

April 2014 | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution
You guys, we did the thing we always swear we're not gonna do but then every month we do it, which is: solve the puzzle in one big gulp, and think of all kinds of cool jokes along the way, all the funny stuff we're gonna put in the write-up, and then forget about the puzzle until a month later when it's like “OH SNAP Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues time!!!!!”

To be fair: bed bugs. You'll be delighted to know: we hired a beagle (Shaggy) to come in and officially declare our apartment bed bug free. AHhhhhhh YES that was a glorious feel!!
No more bed bugs! | Shaggy the dog
Ok. To the puzzle!

The Theme

Twofers. Kinda a lot like News Clippings from September 2013. Each clue indeedth two clues, joint wi' nary an indication of whereth the twain weret cleft. Mirrored fill. We happened to enter our answers opposite to how they are in the Harper's answer key, which, looking now at the “cryptic” directions
for consistency in the solution, the answers that are two-word phrases are listed in left-and-right order
we cannot parse if that means that YES there is an absolute answer key or NO it's arbitrary, it's fine (like life, which is arbitrary, and fine).

Unclued entries at 1, 14, 21, and 28 across are related. The relation turns out to be: big fat anagrams found by inference. Glorious elevensies. Mmm!!!! Our favorite flavor. Anagrams for us are like the “good parts” of a salad. The croutons, the marinated tofu. You know. The good parts. Dear Readers who are like, “there are no good parts of salads; all salad parts are bad,” well, we're getting a little old for that kind of thinking, aren't we? Not old as like a maturity thing, old as like a body breakdown thing.

Those theme anagrams are:
As we type, Sweet Vlad adds, “be sure to mention who helped you with the puzzle. Because, you know, I heard you had some help.”

“I usually credit you,” we said. “ ... wait ... you don't read Tacky Harper's!”

“No, I don't! But I still want credit!” He paused. “Actually, no, I don't care either way.”

“That's even worse!” we said.

We are now reminded of our anniversary, right around Thanksgiving, and we'd both spent the day with the Dreisbach family, but now it was just before bed at the hotel, and we(I) turned to Sweet Vlad, pupils in little heart shapes, and said, “sweetie, it's been such a wonderful year with you, and I love you so much.”

“Yeah,” said Vlad. “By the way? Your brother Tom is definitely the funniest Dreisbach.”

“ ... why would you say that to me?” we said. Then we immediately texted Tommy to tell him. Underneath the blow to our ego (and there was definitely such blow) was joy to have a partner who digs our brother so. Both brothers. Because Chris is definitely the coolest. Vlad will say like, “you've never heard of [something something obscure band]? I bet Chris has heard of them.” COOL THX. Tommy is the funniest, and Chris is the coolest, and poor Sweet V is stuck with the oldest. Olllllllllllld sister.

As we look over at Vlad now, we notice the piercing in his left ear. Who put that piercing there? We did. In the dining room about a year ago. Because Vlad noticed our reaction when he wore a fake earring around the house (it had been a party favor the week before). He said, “baby, you like this fake one so much, let's do it for real!” We were like, ok, we go to a piercing place? V was like, “that's just a rip-off. We can do better. Sterile needles are $5 on Amazon. And for an earring I still have my old nipple ring.” And then, in a supreme act of love and trust, Vlad let us pierce his ear.

So. It's not all harsh unfiltered truths around here :)


  • 9A) Letters from alumni (“Hi, luminaries!”) mean nothing to an old Italian-American flower child's leader wearing gold in rings (7)
    alumNI HI LUMinaries = mean nothing = NIHILUM
    (child's leader = C) + (gold = OR) + IN + (rings = O O) = old Italian-American flower = ORINOCO
Putting this in Highlights because of NIHILUM.
Nihilists | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
But mostly felt “sigh” about this one. Flow-er like a river flows, as always, as ever-forever. Sweet wordplay that we've seen a million times. French word for gold, not Spanish. Ok fine ok wutevr.

Why is the Orinoco Italian-American? Any Dear Readers able to parse that? Colonialism something something? Per Wise Tyler below, “Old Italian” = Latin. Languages never die, they just find nerdy places to creep.
  • 10A) Wise guy Herb Salinger's girl oddly eliminated? News to me (4)
    Wise = Herb = SAGE
    (nEwS) + ME = ESME
A nice double syn, a nice reference to the usual Salinger girl of puzzle and literary fame. Sometimes the puzzle usual suspects are also wonderful and make us happy to see. Like Dr Dre! Make every day Dre Day.
Make every day Dre day | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 12A) Stay the night, maneuvering torso with mouth open, making love (5)
    TORSO * anagram = Stay the night = ROOST
    love = mouth open = AGAPE
Racy. It's a common misconception amongst no one that we're against racy clues in the puzzle. Nay nay. References to fun, consensual sex are most welcome! Kinda like how Game of Thrones is supposed to be so sexual, but fun consensual sex is extraordinarily rare in that show. Like saying WWF has a lot of dancing. ”Really? You'd call that 'dancing'? So often it's just painful to watch.”

Also, YES an agape reference! Mmm!
agape (n.)

c.1600, from Greek agape "brotherly love, charity," from agapan "greet with affection, love," of unknown origin. Agape was used by early Christians for their "love feast" held in connection with the Lord's Supper. In modern use, often in simpler sense of "Christian love" (1856, frequently opposed to eros as "carnal or sensual love").

Source: etymonline

One word for “love” is not enough! More words! More words for love!

  • 13A) Bust free to entertain a Hungarian named Nagy I'm regarding (4)
    IM + (regarding = RE) = a Hungarian named Nagy = IMRE
    (free = RID) + A = Bust = RAID
Imre Nagy! Another frequent puzzle reference. Surprised that “bust free” didn't somehow translate to BRA-LESS (low-hanging fruit).

Imre Nagy | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 20A) City that can make one testier or (great improvement) take one's breath away (7)
    TESTIER * anagram = City = TRIESTE
    OR GREAT * anagram = GARROTE
Two anagrams, so, no surprise, we loved it. Nice clueing on “take one's breath away.”
  • 26A) Tool for logging in pay—Eve manipulated returning U.S. soldier to follow St. Mark (6)
    PAY EVE * anagram = Tool for logging = PEAVEY
    ((U.S. = American = AM) + (soldier = GI)) * returning = IGMA) to follow ST = mark = STIGMA
Very much enjoy the sense of “mark.” Peavey for logging? Never hearda. Here's the Peavey we usually thinka:
Eddie Van Halen | Peavey | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

  • 4D) Even contributors to girlie shows (French) land in water bed, using some narcotics (3)
    (even contributors to girlie = gIrLiE) = French land in water = ILE
    using some * narCOTics = bed = COT
Reminded of course of Thirty Rock's TGS, aka The Girly Show.
TGS | The Girly Show
  • 22D) Goose someone? Never! Partially tie up space? That's upsetting (4)
    someoNE NEver = goose = NENE
    (space = ROOM) * upsetting = Partially tie up = MOOR
Nene goose


  • 18A) Improve Google? Hearing, after arrival, shows something unpaid (6; 4,2)
    (hearing = EAR) after (arrival = ARR) = something unpaid = ARREAR
Ew! As much as we use “Google” to mean “look up” ew! Out of the puzzle! Get out! We want our puzzles to walk a fine Goldilocksing line! Not too old, not too new. Jusssssst right.

ARREAR also, pretty dum, pretty boring.
  • 27A) Womenswear made of sternest stuff (about $500) occasions incessant alteration (4,5; 9);
    (STERNEST + (500 = D)) * anagram = Womenswear = TENT DRESS
    INCESSANT * anagram = occasions = INSTANCES
“Womenswear” and s'like, ok, definitely gonna be BRA, right? Nah. Instead it's TENT DRESS. Which we assume is some kinda body-shaming muu-muu, right?

looks up TENT DRESS ...

Ok so, a TENT DRESS is actually pretty cute. Not for the body-shamed per se. Still not fond of “$500 = D.” Although “occasions incessant alteration” is very nice. Pure.
  • 2D) My tea, given a different accent, sounds strong, dry, and ferrous? (6)
    MY TEA * homophone with new scansion = strong = MIGHTY
    dry and ferrous = IRONIC (double syn.)
The first? Mighty easy. The second? Buh! Ptui! No more of this connection between irony and the element iron! No more! It used to be fun. Now it's tired. Like flow-er. Out out!
  • 6D) Bring Army rifle in past friend, drive to where the Vatican is, coming back around, not all the way (5)
    (Army rifle = M1 = MI) + (past = AGO) = friend = AMIGO
    (((where the Vatican is = ROME) * coming back around = EMOR) * not all the way = MOR) + TO = drive = MOTOR
Ugh. Such convoluted. Wow painful. Here's a MOTOR POPE to cleanse the palate:
Popemobile | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 17D) Ballerinas appear on this pinto, dancing with energy in mufti—a trick of doctors (6)
    (PINTO + (energy = E)) * anagram = Ballerinas appear on this = POINTE
    muftI A TRIC = of doctors = IATRIC
The first, POINTE, a super gimme for anyone with vague acquaintanceship with ballet. The second? Buh. Barely acceptable. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to pass a suffix off as a word.
Black Swan | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 19D) Italian family being locked in irons, I make money again, or nearer, from it (6)
    IRONS I * anagram = Italian family = ORSINI
    NEARER * anagram = make money again = REEARN
Two grossies. Orsini who? What is this, a Eugene Maleska puzzle? Y'all gotta learn to walk the line, Maltby! Not too old, not too new!

And REEARN? Ugh. Any of the words that are meant to be native English words but that The New Yorker would print with an umlaut are gross. With the exception of cooperation. The N Yorker prints it “coöperation.” Tru story. Because they think us mouthbreathers are gonna be like, “cooperation? Like, a corporation in a chicken coop I DONT GETIT??????”

The Tacky!

  • 25A) Dangerous group of Chinese grasping arm zip in, howitzer out (4)
    Dangerous group of Chinese = grasping arm = TONG (double syn.)
    howitZER Out = zip = ZERO
Um. So, referring to Chinese people in the plural as “Chinese” rings, if not racist to our ear, definitely tacky. Dehumanizing. As bad as “Chinamen” no, not as bad. Much better? No. Not much better.
Talking about preferred nomenclature
Second, had never hearda TONG before. From W'pedya:
These organizations are described as secret societies or sworn brotherhoods and are often tied to criminal activity.


Today these associations provide essential services for Chinatown communities such as immigrant counseling, Chinese schools, and English classes for adults, among countless others.
If it had been “yakuza” or “triad”, ok, yah, that fits better as “dangerous.” Tongs
Image courtesy TV Tropes's Triads and Tongs page

Commmmmments, pls! Especially re: how Orinoco is Italian.


  1. "Italian" is part of the NIHILUM clue. An "old Italian" would be someone from ancient Rome, i.e. a Latin speaker.