Saturday, September 19, 2015

Foursomes - September 2015

September 2015 | Foursomes | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution

Hello Lovers, Hello Dear Readers. We're a married woman now. Married unit. Buckle up!

Longtime Dear Readers know: we've been busy. Getting married.
erica and Vlad | photo by Aida Daneshvar
erica and Vlad | photo by Aida Daneshvar
More from the genius Aida Daneshvar

Marriage is going awesome, by the way. The pre‑marital counseling we did this summer has made a big difference. Better conflicts, more productive conflicts. Snags that would have turned into Big Things instead stay what they are, small snags, or fade to nothing at all. Lots of “you're right [full stop].”

Whoof. That one. Saying “you're right.” Took 33 years to learn that one.

Also, and we promise these Personal Highlights will stop soon and it'll be straightforward Puzzle Recap, unbridled Word Nerd, but it was our birthday the other day and we received a very nice present indeed from Colleen and Notorious Marcel's roommate Yorgos. He expressed disbelief that we had turned 33, and we said [improvising], just kidding, we're 29. Yorgos was relieved. “Because you don't look 33. You don't look 29!” Then Yorgos proceeded to be very stressed out as we explained, woops no, no no, actually we really are 33. He wasn't convinced until we gave the years of our birth, high school graduation, and college graduation. Yorgos paused. “Ok, that checks out.”

Like we said. Such a very nice present :)

The Theme!

Foursomes. Seena thisa one before. Four-way rotational symmetry, so you can't really enter anything until you get the cross‑bracing twelvers. We always end up making Daring Guesses and penciling in drafts long before the twelves are in place. We are not a patient woman.


  • 1A) Check for pesky critters (8)
    CRITTERS * anagram = RESTRICT
“Check” as in “checks and balances.” Mwa! Nice and tight, like a clean drum!
  • 15A) Curious bleating coming from concrete (8)
    BLEATING * anagram = TANGIBLE
Wonderfu! The strange sheep!!
Wallace and Grommit | A Close Shave | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 32A) Lose head of steers in woods (4)
    Lose head of (Steers = HELMS) = ELMS
Nice. Thinking now of cowpaths through the woods.
a cow in the woods | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 26D) Season when a hotel becomes hot? (4)
    hotel becomes hot = no “el” = NOEL
Loved the el out of this one! Stockholm syndrome, you guys. We know we've come out firmly against this type of goofy wordplay in the past. It's winning us over. This was awesome. Spent many summer minutes trying to force a French ÉTÉ in there. No need. No el.
Jor-el and Kalel at Noel | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Jor‑El and Kal‑el @ Noël
  • 31A) I got to lay off Tchaikovsky's father (4)
    I + (LAY off = LYA) = ILYA
Lovely! Guess IGOR at the outset, just cuzzin. Content knowledge annoys us often, like “do you know this random triv, broh? If not, yer outta luck!!!” but we love the part of puzzles that asks you to engage your vast ur-mind, the part that can infer, “well, it's gonna be a dude's name that sounds like it would have the last name Tchaikovsky, and it starts with 'I' so ... ” And then you solve it and you didn't have to have the prior content knowledge, also because the puzzle was well‑constructed and you're not left with ambiguous crosses, ahem.
  • 11A) Crafted leather form a Southern state (7)
    LEATHER * anagram = TARHEEL
Omi Cron, adored this one. Normally, as Dear Readers know, we blitz thru the anagrams, no stress. This anagram took us forever, one of our last solves, but delectable indeed. Fine and smooth, like crafted leather.
crafted leather | Casey Gunschel | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 12A) I regret getting a business degree, leaving a stain (6)
    I (regret = RUE ) getting a ((business degree = MBA) leaving a = MB) = IMBRUE
YASS. Originally had IMBAUD which isn't a word. Any digs at getting business degrees: we are in support.
Getty images MBA | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 13D) Second gone, twelve's pickings can be slim (6)
    (Second gone TWELVES = TELVES) * anagram = SVELTE
Lean and delightful!!

Aright here we go with two of the twelvers. Linch and pin to entering fill. These both count as highlights, the other two are in Tacky.
  • 14A) Has a wrong view of the Church of England—outside it's wildly impressive (12)
    ((Church of England = CE) + IMPRESSIVE) * anagram = MISPERCEIVES
  • 25A) Throw dirt on the embassy? It gives one pause (12)
    (Throw dirt = INTER) + (embassy = MISSION) = INTERMISSION
Fresh INTER. Fresh MISSION. Nice. The Sondheim reference is a little lost on us, yea tho we starred in a Sondheim play in high school (A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM). Another personal note (yes yes you love these) is that we're auditioning for our first Second City production tomorrow, which requires a headshot (thank you to Notorious Marcel) and acting resume. No don't get worked up, it's not that big a deal. Typically about half the people who audition get in. But still we were like, “uh acting resume ... is gonna be blank ...” but our friend was like, just put all your high school stuff on there, there're no years on an acting resume!! Timeless.
Follies | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6D) Trapped, needing time? Uprising does (5)
    (time = T) + (uprising (DOES = DEER) = REED) = TREED
Lovely! One of the last clues we got. Fresh use of DOES.
  • 28A) A mug shot for a position in South Pacific (4)
    A MUG * anagram = GUAM
Simple easy, but shout out to old friend Dr Alicia of Guam!!
  • 27D) Porgy and Bess's finale gets trophy (4)
    (Bess's finale = S) gets (trophy = CUP) = SCUP
Porgy is a fish! Didna kno! Also known as a scup! But love this mostly for the sideways reference to Perry Bible Fellowship:
Perry Bible Fellowship | Skub
  • Rustic Uber taxis (4)
    UBER * anagram = RUBE
Peasants! Always love. Nice Clean Short Clue! V nice :)
Only in Romania | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
The last set of eights were exquisite:
  • 5D) Caduceus designed to be assembled locally (8)
    CADUCEUS * anagram = CAUCUSED
Lovely anagram! Mwa mwa! Speaking of politics, this US Presidential season has a brutal cast of refried beans. Not looking forward to it. Staying in the present.
  • 19A) Goodwill gets work of muralist (8)
    MURALIST * anagram = ALTRUISM
Sweet V and we have a running joke about “pure altruism,” which means doing something nice for others and not getting anything out of it oneself. So, like, hugging someone while trying not to barf on them. Pretending to enjoy a friend's personally moving story while gritting your teeth and hating every second. That's pure altruism. Something to shoot for, as a person.
  • 17D) Sweet letters stir a misunderstanding somewhat (8)
    sTIR A MISUnderstanding = TIRAMISU
A daring spanner!!
  • 21A) It comes after one teardrop, sadly (8)
    TEARDROP * anagram = PREDATOR
Yet another gorgeous anagram that took us three weeks to wise to! Wedding brain, Dear Readers. Beware its impact on your puzzle mastery.
Predator | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


  • 33A) Spanish leaders—each gets official after I empty the sink (4,4)
    (Spanish leaders = SP) each gets (official = UMP) = SUMP PUMP
Meh. Poopadoop. Over‑frequent use of ump removes any oomph.
  • 9D) Special terms for the writer: “Wills Covering Death” (9)
    (writer Wills = GARRY) covering (Death = LOSS) = GLOSSARY
Garry Wills? Will someone explain whodat? Also, do you think people say it “Garry” like “starry” to annoy him? “Why waste the 'r'?” they say. So annoying. So antagonistic. Aight who is Garry?
Garry Wills (born May 22, 1934)[2] is a prolific Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, journalist, and historian, specializing in American history, politics, and religion, especially the history of the Catholic Church.
Source: Wikip

  • 7A) Viet follower follower against government leader (4)
    (against = CON) + (government leader = G) = CONG
When I say Viet, you say Cong! Viet! Cong! Viet! Cong!

Too mucha gimme gimme.
  • 28D) Something between springs that adds energy to sleep (4)
    adds (energy = E) to (sleep = NAP) = NEAP
It's always neap. Can't we get something original to tide us over?
  • Newt (not Gingrich) enters for fear that I'm least conservative (7)
    (Newt = EFT) enters (for fear = LEST) = LEFTEST
Thought we eft that word in the dust, because it's used so often. Buh.
Newt Gingrich wink | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 10A) Contributor to blessed existence (4)
    blESSEd = ESSE
which we suppose means “existence”?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • 2D) Spottings produced by palsies (7)
    PALSIES * anagram = LAPISES
Like lapis lazuli? Meh.
  • 29A) Find some wool itching—that's nutty! (6)
    wooL ITCHIng = LITCHI
Dint we just have LITCHI in the puzzle? Buh.
The Lich | Adventure Time | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 23D) Heir to the throne leaves church in a French town (5)
    (church = CH) + (French town = ARLES) =  CHARLES
Meh, British royalty normativity. Meh, Anglo normativity. Meh meh.

The Tacky

  • 7D) Big post with a hundred locks and staffs up on it (12)
    (hundred = C) + (locks = HAIR) + (staffs = MAN) + (up on it = HIP) = CHAIRMANSHIP
  • Humors people taking time to be seen in paintings (12)
    (people = MEN) taking (time = T) seen in (paintings = TEMPERAS) = TEMPERAMENTS
People = men. Male normativity. Booooooooooooo.
men's rights | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Up in Vermont for our wedding, we read The Martian, which was a fun light read. But toward the end the [white, male] lead character is like, “wow, a whole planet was rooting for me, put their resources together to try to save me, people are awesome!” Like: he's grateful. But he's not surprised.

And wouldn't it have been interesting to explore the experience of someone who maybe feels the world doesn't value his or her life. People of color. Queers. Women. People with disabilities. People who are told every day that they're defective, not as valuable. What would happen if that person were alone on Mars? What would that person feel when Earth rallied to save him or her?

Come on and comment, lovers!


  1. 2D) Spottings produced by palsies (7)
    PALSIES * anagram = LAPISES

    ESPIALS = Spottings

  2. Mazel tov! Glad you didn't marry a shmegegge.
    Hope you have much nachas.(like Tevya).:)

    1. Thank you!!

      And also thank you for leading me to look up the meaning of nachas. I had previously only heard it / used it in the phrase "goyishe nachas": the kind of pleasure that only non-Jews could enjoy. So I took "nachas" as meaning "nonsense" rather than pleasure or pride.


  3. Wondering if you have any idea what's going on with GERSON in the December puzzle. As far as I can tell, Gina Gerson is indeed a porn actress, though not of any note. Is Maltby just sharing his preferences with a national audience? The mind reels.

    1. What's up, brother! And welcome to Tacky Harper's Nation!

      For reasons of integrity, I won't be posting on the December puzzle until December 12th, after the monthly contest ends. But as we both know, each and every month the puzzle is a space for our favorite lovable crypto-pervert to let loose. So in answer to your question, yes, definitely.

    2. Thank you for your patience, brother, at last i have published the December 2015 write-up and

      ... my suspicion is that this clue might be a reference to Gina Gershon, and a mistaken reference at that because

      1. misspelling, obv, and
      2. G Gershon is known for /sexy/ films, and yes certainly 'Showgirls' was rated NC-17, but neither 'Showgirls' nor 'Bound' are porn.

      If it's /not/ a wrong reference to Gershon, then the next simplest explanation is that it's really truly a barely-known barely-legal Gina Gerson reference. Which is also weird.