Monday, December 15, 2014

Nothing for Christmas - December 2014

December 2014 | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution

Cute. Empty calories.

The Theme!

The ten unclued entries have haha “nothing” in common because they're synonyms for “nonsense.” Why not synonyms for “nothing” to better fit the title? Cuz titles don't matter, fools!!! Titles are ... nonsense.

Anway: cutie cute theme. Inferred POPPYCOCK (35A) and latched onto this theme early. Altho some of the synonyms for “nonsense” were prutttttty weird.
  • 43A) EYEWASH (wut?)
  • 47A) TOMMYROT (Tommyknockers!!)
Tommyknockers | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 1D) HUMBUG (altho we put down HUBBUB)
Hubbub | Waiting for Guffman | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 11D) SCHMEGEGGE (we didn't get this one)
More on SCHMEGEGGE under “The Tacky.”


  • 15A) B-b-b-b-bugs (4)
    BEES (the letters and the insects)
A goofy loverful fun one! Sweet like honey!
  • 18A) Nucleoli, etc. circulating around, top to bottom line, like some debts (13)
    (NUCLEOLI ETC + (bottom line * top = BL)) * anagram = UNCOLLECTIBLE
Big bombossa anagramma! You know we love!
  • 22A) I could make binge begin either way, that's life (5)
    BINGE or BEGIN * anagram = BEING
YESssss! The wisdom of the Third Anagram! So sweet. Also reminded of an all-time favorite classic SNL sketch: “George F Will's Sports Machine” with Dana Carvey as George F Will:
George F. Will: Very well. Let us engage the sports machine. Gentlemen, as always, the questions will focus exclusively on baseball, the only game that transcends the boundary between fury and repose. All right, hands on buzzers. The precarious balance between infield and outfield suggests a perfect symmetry. For $50, identify the effect of that symmetry.

[ the contestants stare cluelessly, as the buzzer sounds ]

George F. Will: Sorry. The answer is: "The exhilarating tension between being and becoming." Being and becoming.


Dana Carvey | George F Will's Sports Machine | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 32A) What's wrong with getting a new leader? That's the point (5)
    WRONG * getting a new leader = PRONG
YuhhhhhHHHhhh normally, like if the “P” isn't suggested somewhere, this would be a farty bum clue to us but the language! So natural and so smooth!

Our lovely Romanian Sweet V has been politically engaged by his home country recently during the Romanian presidential runoff elections. At the time of writing this paragraph (Nov 16th) there's a 5 km line in Munich to vote for Romanians residing outside Romania. Think about that kind of line for a second. 5 km. 3 mi (ish). In Chicago, that's like you can vote in Daley Plaza and the end of the line is in Lincoln Park. In San Francisco, that's like you can vote at the Ferry Building and the end of the line is in the Castro. In New York, that's like you can vote at the Empire State Building and the end of the line is at the Manhattan Bridge. In St Johnsbury, Vermont*, that's like you can vote at the Athaeneum and the end of the line is at the Green Mountain Mall.
* shout out to ABEvF!!

Not minimizing what happens in USA to keep voters from voting. Democracy is fucky lots of places. Specific to the Romanian character, though:
On Sunday, some Romanians waved toothbrushes to protest long waits at polling stations abroad and thousands protested in Munich, according to Mediafax news.

Source: WLOX

Toothbrushes! They brought toothbrushes to wave at the cameras!!
  • 45A) Revolution counters macho street gangs (11)
Ahhhhh glorious! Annnnnnnnnagrams! Annnnnnnnagrams! Nice story. Double entendre on “counters.” Just beautiful. Just glorious.

In case of revolution break glass | Guy Fawks masks | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Speaking of Guy Fawks masks and V for Vendetta: Hugo Weaving is this month's Nerd Hot Guy.
Hugo Weaving | Lipstick | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Hugo Weaving in a blue shirt | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 46A) Forward or behind in the outskirts of Sydney (5)
    (behind = ASS) in (outskirts of Sydney = SY) = SASSY
Ohhhhhh so wonderful. Oh so lovely :)
Sassy street fashion in Sydney | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 2D) Look up study of the past (5)
    ((Look = LO) * up = OL) + (study = DEN) = OLDEN
Nice and neat. Trippingly off the tongue.
  • 7D) Liquor secreted in barracks (6)
    secreted in bARRACKs = ARRACK
Never hearda ARRACK but this was a nice double-use of “secreted” and also it reminds us of Arrakis. So, automatic highlight.
Arrakis concept art by Mark Molnar | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clue
Arrakis concept art by Mark Molnar. Source

  • 9D) Hero, he goes around a soldier in pursuit of love (6)
    HE goes around (A + (soldier = GI) in pursuit of (love = O)) = HOAGIE
Oh!! Such daring natural language, and lovely payoff.
Jared from Subway | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 16D) Physical condition that is largely misunderstood (7)
    LARGELY * anagram = ALLERGY
Allergies | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 20D) A porgy, sir, swims in bands in the water (9)
    A PORGY SIR * anagram = SPIROGYRA
Definitely uncommon! I like.
Spirogyra | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Was convinced tho, and still not entirely unconvinced, that there's a synonym for dolphin or porpoise that uses a good percentage of those letters. Some old-timey old-fashionedy word, like that might be all over Moby Dick. Any Dear Readers know what we're talkin bout? Not grampus, altho grampus is an AMAZN word!
  • 24D) High-fliers, expert in French and appearing in nightwear (8)
    (expert = PRO) + ((French and = ET) appearing in (nightwear = PJS)) = PROPJETS
Lovely! High-fliers maybe a little awkward, little tiny? But lovely payoff. French nightwear! OUI
French silk PJs | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 30D) Pippin, opening canceled in its limited programs (7)
    (Pippin = APPLE) + (opening canceled in ITS = TS) = APPLETS
SO solid! So NATURAL!!
Pippin with pippin | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 38D) Outcome of democracy: being blue (4)
    outcome of democRACY = RACY
Mmmmm v nice! And if one takes it to mean that democracy yields more liberal “blue state” thinking, then fodder for our sister blog Bleeding Heart Liberal Harper's Cryptic Clues??
  • 40D) Good actor? Bad actor, I'd say (4)
    (Bad actor = HAM) * homophone = HAMM
As in Jon. Look at this photo and then try to even. You will find: you cannot. You can't even.
Jon Hamm | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 37D) It used to be contracted as belonging to an old airline? (4)
    It used to be contracted = belonging to (an old airline = TWA) = TWAS
We like this one even though it rides sooooo close to the line of TWAT. Sooooooooo close. Taunts us. Wants us to say it. We shan't. Nice try, Maltby!!


  • 12A) Peter Fonda played this title-role part for minuscule effect (4)
    miniscule effect = ULEE
Whoa, Ulee! Didn't expect to see you'lee here, in a puzzle of all places jk jk. Jk. We always expect Ulee in the puzzle. Ulee in the puzzle is like when someone complains about their shitty landlord. A landlord? Being shitty? Well I never!

Miniscule effect indeed.
Ulee's Gold | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
“This honey is like GOLD!!”

  • 30A) Not loud, more than just a broadcaster (5)
    (more than just = FAIRER) * (not (loud = F)) = AIRER
Loud like in musical notation loud.

Frequently we have been an AIRER of grievances against -ER'isms in the puzzle. They make a Scrabbo game more interesting. They make a puzzle so much less so.

The two-letter word list also makes Scrabble much more interesting. All you vocal two-letter-word list haters (there are many of you, and you are very vocal): eat a cookie and go take a nap. Call us when you're ready to play Big Girl Scrabble, with the big girls. We have the TWL list** pretty well committed to memory, but usually play with the list printed out and open on the table, no penalty for any player to consult it. Which is fair, right? Very fair. How's that cookie?
** yah, fuck SOWPODS! Fuck ZO! TWL 4evr baby!!
  • 34A) Great: get back sheep before they're shorn (4)
    ((Great = G) + GET)* back = TEGG
Grumble grumble. The plural implication with “they're” messed us up. You ever do that in the cryptic? “Decide” you know the answer and don't think too hard about the reasoning behind it? And this Scrabble dictionary says TEGS is a word. Anyway.
Sweet V with sheep | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Sweet V with Cousin Vasile's sheep

  • 41A) Lead-free clothing gets hearing (3)
    (clothing = WEAR) * lead-free = EAR
Meh. Eh. Frequent indicator (“hearing”) instead the definition portion but blahhhh. Guh.
Lead-free clothing | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 44A) Consumer appliance with the front removed (5)
    (appliance = HEATER) * front removed = EATER
Nice to split a phrase like “consumer appliance” but otherwise, not particularly fun. HEATER and EATER even rhyme, yo. It's fine when they rhyme. But we all have a better time when it's a little more creative, a little more lat'ral. You feel?
  • 3D) Distributor of beer (Coors) decentalized things old-timers played on (6)
    BEER + (Coors decentralized = CS) = REBECS
What's a rebe—ok fine. Learning.
Rebec | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6D) Tees off for hot times at the Fontainebleau (4)
    TEES * off = ETES
Callin this out cuz ETES is toujours in the puzzles and can we get a PRINTEMPS can we get a HIVER? S'il vous plaît? Can we get a Spanish month that's not ENERO? This is the United States: everybody knows at least a little Spanish. Not joking. Can we get a MAYO can we get an ABRIL. Can we get a JULIO.
  • Acid that helps make you rich (4)
    yoU RICh = URIC
Uric acid is a component of urine. This is the part where we pretend to you, Dear Readers, that we are not a gross person. Eww. Pee that helps make you rich. Pee barons. Gross (haha).

The Tacky!

Why tacky? No, not [just] because it's a word synonymous with penis.
schmegegge definition | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


Dear Readers, if you knew 11D that is wonderful. Excellent and glorious for you. We were at a loss (our goy is showing). Confident in all our crosses, including faulty TEGS. Leaving us with some frustrating letter guessing games. Scumegense? Scamegeese?

Unclued theme word with letters unchecked? Boo. Not a very nice holiday present. Nuh tat tall. Usually this space is reserved for culturally tacky clues, but this time it's just a tacky cryptic clue qua cryptic clue. By which we mean: “we didn't like it, because we couldn't solve it.” Ego.

We're gearing up early for New Year's Resolutions, Dear Readers. 2015 is the Year of Freedom. Especially including freedom from ego. In preparation, we're queueing up some all-purpose responses for the next time we feel defensive-vulnerable-insecure.

Favorite right now: “eh ... probably!”

“Your blog is not very funny.”
“eh ... probably!”

Jk jk, everyone thinks this blog is funny!!

[eyes to the left]
[eyes to the right]

Commenting feels good and makes you more attractive [to us]!!


  1. Erica, I've been submitting correct solutions to Harper's for many years. Every time I renew my subscription I only do it for one year because I just know that I will be the next monthly winner. Now that they've reduced the number of winners from 3 to 1, I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever see that prize.

    I believe that you have actually accomplished this feat, and wonder if you could share any tips on a winning strategy. I'm getting pretty fast at solving these - schmegegge, no problem. I've been called worse.

    1. Hola, friend!

      Winning the monthly contest is a function of probability as far as I know. If there's some additional magic to it, buh, it's beyond me.

      Dear Reader Eric L and I engaged in some speculation as to how many correct mailed solutions there are every month--you may want to weigh in: