Thursday, September 18, 2014

One-Upmanship - September 2014

September 2014 | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution

We're back, Dear Readers! We quit that corporate job a couple weeks earlier than planned. The stress of working there manifested physically. Had to get out.

We think of ourself as a robust and resilient individual. Not as a fragile, delicate flower. And we've done corporate before: four months in 2009, three months in 2010. We hated it then as we hated it this time. The 2009 and 2010 managers were bad, just as our 2014 manager was (is) (she was, and still is). The 2009 and 2010 workplace morale was low, just as the 2014 morale was low.

But 2009 and 2010 didn't manifest with the same level of physical stress. We were drinking a lot in 2009 and 2010. Perhaps alcohol was a necessary anesthetic. Hard to look at: maybe we just can't handle working corporate anymore. Which, we don't want to work corporate, but it's still kindof a drag to feel one's options are limited. Like when someone you don't like says, “I don't want to date you.” Awww! Why not??

For the best. Reap the benefits, Dear Readers!!


The Theme!

Just, like, a bajillion clues this month. All in service of the alphabetical theme: twenty-six clues entered with one letter shifted “up” in the alphabet. On the plane from Frankfurt to Chicago in July, Sweet V and we just happened to do the February 2009 puzzle (“Upgrades”) with a very very similar variety. The Feb 2009 instructs were similarly cagey about just what kind of “upgrade” was required, but Sept 2014 gave it away with “Z reverts to A.”

Feb 2009's upgraded entries did not always necessarily result in a new word, but Sept 2014's did. Er, at least, bore that conceit. And in service of such an ambitious theme, the bajillions of clues.

Also: what the heck was this note in the answer key? Puzzle editing by Dan Asimov? Whodat? Puzzle editing by Dan Asimov | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


  • 1A) We entered, or ran outside, became more than buds (8)
    WE + OR + (ran = FLED) + FLOWERED
    F becomes G
Nice narrative on this one. Once outside, we became more than mere “buds.”
  • 7A) E.g., apples in a pie I left in—throw up, perhaps (7)
    (throw up = FLING) + I + (left = L) = FILLING
    L becomes M
BARF this one took a long time! Had every cross in place, with FILLING and FILMING the only possibilities, and still (still!) could not backwards-solve against this clue. Pie filling! Of carse!!
  • 14A) A quiet remains after an explosion (3)
    A + (quiet = SH) = ASH
Nice and easy. Smooth and still.
  • 17A) Heartless character, popular, married, appearing in Sun (3, 3)
    (married = M) + IN + (Sun = TAN) = TIN MAN
Very nice! Narratively intriguing. “popular” perhaps unnecessary.
  • 25A) Revolving gun, halfway done (4)
    (gun = REVOLVER) * halfway = OVER
Just love the rhyme on this one! Don't get many rhymes in the cryptic.
  • 33A) Leaves supporter to follow a star (5)
    STALK (double syn)
    L becomes K
Convinced ourself this was RASTA! Anagram of A STAR and “Leaves supporter” as in marajuana. Wups! Martha Stewart | 'Of course I know how to roll a joint'
  • 30A) Boy goes around that place hot and bothered (8)
    ((Boy = LAD) + (that place = THERE)) * anagram = LATHERED
Hot and bothered! All afroth! Nice.
  • 41A) Funny Girl is whimsical? (3)
    Funny Girl = whimsical = FEY (as in Tina))
Btw this month's Nerd Hot Guy, none other: Tina Fey | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 56A) Snake-bite? That's sporting! (7)
    (Snake = BOA) + (bite = STING) = BOASTING
    B becomes C
Lots of neat little tight ones this month! Offsets the baddies doing the dirty business of making the theme work.
  • 58A) Doctor pushes 'em—I'm for things that sound better (10)
Scrumptious! Big beautiful anagram, topical health care reference. Love.
  • 1D) Lacquering done to blur something flowery and loud (14)
Bombastic lovely 14-er anagram. Love.
  • 3D) Gets friendly with guns (5)
    (with = W) + (guns = ARMS) = WARMS
    M becomes N
OHHhhhhhh so strong! Simple. Elegant. Very nice.
  • 4D) English: certainly visionaries! (4)
    (English = E) + (certainly = YES) = EYES
Clean lean and mean! How we like.
  • 8D) The Strip is therefore taking in a million (7)
    IS + (therefore = THUS) + (million = M) = ISTHMUS
Solid. Worked “Vegas” for several rounds before getting right with this one.
  • 31D) She's off, but first: Does the man have drugs? (8)
    (SHE + (Does the man have = HAS HE)) * anagram = HASHEESH
  • 32D) Prayers for a timeless article of clothing (4)
    A + (article of clothing = VEST) * timeless = AVES
    V becomes W
The vest!! Timeless!! Brooks Bros vest image chosen by Notorious Marcel. Mens vests (timeless) | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 35D) Emulate Bloomberg? Like soft-boiled eggs? (5)
    Emulate Bloomberg = RUN NY = RUNNY
    R becomes S
Ah! So nice again! Political commentary? Why “Bloomberg” and not “de Blasio”? Which mayor all the more like a soft-boiled egg??? Bill de Blasio | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • Love Jay-Z's final covering of “Endless Love” (4)
    (Jay-Z's final = Z) + (Love = EROS) * endless = ZERO
    Z becomes A
Here's the prefix referenced in the instructs. AERO (AERO-). Please now let's please imagine Jay-Z and Beyonce covering Endless Love, amazing right?
  • 44D) Jay Leno's leadership is piercing, its casts aside (5)
    (Jay Leno's leadership = JL) + ITS = JILTS
    J becomes K
Subtle dig on Jay Leno?? Team Coco, btw. Even though he seemed like a jerk sometimes in Conan O'Brien Can't Stop.
  • 49D) Sartre's already writing of French-German agreement (4)
    (of French = DE) + (German agreement = JA) = DEJA
Requires some contintental linguistic prowess. The narrative simplicity is so good. Narrative narrative. Love a tight clue telling a little story. Right? Don't you??
  • 52D) On the fifth of March, I'm The Man (3)
    (fifth of March = H) + IM = HIM
Nice and lean. Capitalizing “The” bugs and tugs just a lil' but letting it go. She's the Man | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


  • 13A) Bar one moves to the right in lady's lingerie (9)
    (lady's lingerie = BRASSIERE) * one moves to the right = BRASSERIE
The “one” in this case being the “I” skipping two places over. Lowlight by virtue of bringing up the ever-forever cryptic crossword gotta-have-it garment, the always-mentioned unmentionable: the BRA. In this case, a BRA variant. Meh! Meh we say!

Just once! Can we get a JOCK, a BRIEFS, or a BANANA HAMMOCK?
Borat and his banana hammock | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
And BRASSERIE? Wut? Ok fine.
  • 19A) One going both ways? A side of India often seen (4)
    NAAN (pun* (*wut? — ed))
Uh no. It is not enough to say, “think India, think palindrome, annnnnnnd you're done!!” Why is this new “pun” category of Harper's clue a) acceptable and b) always so dum? (cf last month, STU).
  • 21A) Capital needed to start a mental hospital (4)
    (mental hospital = SANATORIUM) * start = SANA
Pasting in a screenshot from W'pedia because Arabic characters are proving tricky to re'create:
Sana'a | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues Seems the more accepted transliteration has the second “a” but ok fine.
  • 24A) Bird mentioned in Uncle Remus (3)
Request: no moa emu in the puzzle. Thank you and you're welcome in advance.
  • 53A) Sounds like an illness went away quickly (4)
    (illness = FLU) * homophone = FLEW
Nice clue. But boo on using both FLEW and FLED (1A) in the same puzz.
  • 45D) Brother circles the heart of Texas, a big county there (5)
    (Brother = BR) + (heart of Texas = EXA) = BEXAR
“Brother” = “ “BR”? Uh, that's not what Googo says: Brother abbreviation according to Google | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Actually thought the equivalency was “Brother” = “bear” This guy: Brother Bear from Disney | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 47D) Moves the camera up for a shot (4)
    (Moves the camera = PANS) * rev. = SNAP
    N becomes O
Putting this in Lowlights just cuz it took us forEVer. The cast of 'Soap' | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 55D) Band of Japanese heading off in the desert (3)
    (desert = GOBI) - heading = OBI
Japanese OBI. Another usual suspect. Too much to ask for OBI-WAN? Too much. Ok. Obi Wan | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

The Tacky!

  • 53D) Me, Friday? Since you brought it up, I'm a lesbian! (3)
    (ME + (Friday = F)) * rev. = FEM
No. As if negotiating one's gender performance is necessarily gay. There is a butch-femme spectrum to every Kinsey number. You want to tell us that Bill Clinton isn't a bottom femme? Or that Barack Obama isn't a top femme (femme of the highest order)? That Michelle Obama isn't a bottom butch, or Hillary Clinton a top butch? All four of them presenting as unambiguously heterosexual.

Can't get with the Harper's puzzle's insistence that gender and sexuality are orthodox like dat. Cannot. Barack Obama with bangs | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

Questions? Comments? Desire to correct our flawed logic? Each and every one is a love letter to us, baby  XOXO


  1. erica, erica -- cannot stand that robust & resilient you were bamboozeled into fragile flower/glower(?) by some No-Doubt Sad-ist manager & corporate Ick/low morale, driving people to more-ale probably. Don't they grok that FUN is a lubricant, making the little gray cells whirr and sizzle delightedly in gazelleesque leaping fashion?

    May I recommend that to mend, you spend some delicious & delightenment time just a-floating in the Ever-Present Magnetic Sea, in which we all per se dwell, like a baby otter lying on her back in a great ocean cove at Point Lobos CA -- she held tenderly between the great SkySea and the Great WaterSea sloshing with all the secrets of birds & stars, kelps & fishes a-slosh as she dreams the astonishing (striking with thunder & wonder) dream we so casually dub reality. I call this beloved state the hypno-agog-ic state and treasure it. It heals and wields raw joy.
    //Have given my friend a nudge with yr solutions -- telling him which of the clues he's gotten change a letter and which do not. Haven't told him which letter. Just saw at 1P pdt that you posted -- so haven't had a chance to even really begin the EricaTackyHarpersTreasureHunt yet. Obviously muy yum -- my only palindrome. Wanted to rush you a baby otter asap, a doting antidote to the corpoRATS. jollycheers, wendy 09.20.14

  2. Some canapes from my friend Roger Woods. Back when Emily & Henry (Cox & Rathvon) used to edit the dear old Dell mags, Roger did some cryptics for them. So here're a few to tickle your fancy. The first letter of the answers will spell SPARS -- in order, or not . . .

    1)Something that turns horsefeathers to gold (5)

    2)Not crazy about change: one pessimistic by nature (9)

    3)To some believers, God is everything that's good (5)

    4)Before long, daytime sleep will be back in style (7)

    5)Magician's skill produces bats, then a goldfish (7-2-4)

    Will put in answers when you've had a chance to play if you want.

    ps. Roger said he thinks the naan trick is an=one, both ways giving an Indian side(dish) often seen, or somesuch.

  3. Lovely smart blog. I had no idea Mr M was such a curmudgeon!

    1. Thank you, brother :)

      All I know of Maltby's personality is sheer intuition, and previous experience subordinate to a Big Man of Big Ideas. He may be sweet and lovely. Perhaps one day he'll contact Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues and say so for himself!!!! #dreams

      October 2014 coming soon!