Sunday, February 14, 2016

Kiddie Lit‑ter - February 2016

February 2016 | Kiddie Lit‑ter | Harper's puzzle solution

Hello, Dear Readers! Are you ready for puns obscene and filfy in their puntacularity? Are you ready for some audacious head canon from Richard E Maltby Jr? Then you are ready for February 2016.

The Theme!

Four clues given without number of letters, and four possible locations in the fill. A resultant theme‑relevant sentence running around the perimeter. The theme clues turned out to be: not classic cryptic clues per se but rather set‑ups for some outrageous punnery themed around children's books. At first glance of the puzzle title we thought, sortof as a joke, that the theme would point to Harry Potter. Then we saw clue c) which references Severus Snape, and o shit! For real there's some Harry Potter up in here!
  • a) Bear stage = POOHBERTY
  • b) Like a deer that goes either way? = BAMBIDEXTROUS
  • c) Severus Snape, speculatively? = POTTER FAMILIAS*
    * more on thissun inna sec
  • d) Wild elephant acts? = BABARISM
And the meaningful perimeter sentence:
  • Stastically speaking, six out of seven dwarves are not happy.
Except we had it wrong, Dear Readers, and entered “six of the seven”:
SIX OF THE SEVEN | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
All the crosses work, except 41A starting with EIACR_ which is just piffle. Twas there an error? Twould there be yet another apology in the upcoming answer key? Twould not. Twerror was twours this twime.
SIX OUT OF SEVEN | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Obv we didn't check against the dum anagram. Didn't even consider “out of” but it definitely reads more natural. “Nine out of ten doctors agree” blah blah. Definitely. Thus 41A becomes sensible and solveable, yea tho it be anachronism:
  • 41A) Old‑time hack providing back lot, perhaps (6)
    ((providing = IF) back = FI) (lot = ACRE) = FIACRE
Never hearda fiacre before, but it's this:
fiacre | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Image courtesy Brittannica

But so ok that's settled, so now going back to c) and ok so whoa, just, whoa. Whoa. Slow your roll, slow your heart rate. Whoa. Ok. So in order to solve this puzzle one must entertain Maltby's wild speculation that Severus Snape is Harry Potter's dad???

This claim is so far out there, we wouldn't even tag it a SPOILER. Maltby is a Snape Daddy Truther. Interestingly, in poking around Quora and Yahoo! Answers posts for more information (“information”) we came across this passage lifted from Harry Potter and the Half‑Blood Prince:
[Harry Potter,] you look very like your father.
Ok but then so next question, Prof Slughorn: when you say “father,” to whom exactly do you refer and WHAT DO YOU REALLY KNOW?????
Harry Potter and Snape hug | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Image courtesy Deviant Art user mathiaarkoniel

Do you feel that, Dear Readers? That was a shift in the Force as we, too, became a Snape Daddy Truther. Potter Familias. It makes so much sense! Not vis á vis the million jillion times when one of James's contemporaries tells Harry, “zomg you look exactly like him so cray.” But narratively. Like in a Campbell Masks of G0d archetypal human stories sense. Like if we were writing Harry Potter as a TV show, this would totally be our second season reveal, not long after a mid‑season reveal that James was a shitty bully in high school**.
** which is, of course, actual canon

We floated clue c) to our friends Clara, Dr Jesse, and Auntie Maim. All declared it “tacky.” Auntie also called it “wildly inappropriate.”

Puzzle‑wise, or unwise, we much dislike balancing a heavy load of uncrossed theme letters with “well but they form this anagram so that's how you can check.” Meh.


  • 12A) Bird track (4)
    Bird = track = RAIL
Hadna hearda this birda before, but forgiven for the neatness of a two‑word cryptic clue! Double syns of this nature are our new second favorite, directly after anagrams of course :)
rail (bird) | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 13A) Arthur, for one; Teddy, not quite (3)
    (Teddy = BEAR) not quite = BEA
Automatic true love for reference to Grandpa Bea Arthur, rest in peace.
Grandpa Bea Arthur | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Did you know she was in the Star Wars Holiday Special?? Bea Arthur | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 16A) With a zeal, I cut ingredients to make concrete (9)
    ZEAL I CUT * anagram = ACTUALIZE
So strong. Of course especially love potential anagrinds like CUT used instead to form the anagram. Mwa!
  • 18A) She left a chair for meatier diversion (7)
    MEATIER * anagram = EMERITA
Yas! Positive female presence in the puzzle! Twas a lotta that in this puzzle, actually. Perhaps the feminist yawp of Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues has been heard??
  • 27A) Clothing that has an adversarial position (4)
    adverSARIal = SARI
Seeni sari often in the puzzle, but thumbs up for inclusive “clothing” rather than ethnically coded “Indian clothing” or “Eastern clothing” &c. Clothing of the people. Human normative. We had the first S in the fill and wanted this to be SCON, somehow. Like “adversarial position” = CON.
  • 32A) Director who made Isadora right size in a new format (5)
    (right = R) SIZE in a new format = REISZ
Fun! Some Dear Readers may recall that we're in the pool of potential Jeopardy! contestants until April 2017. We study every day. Some names and topics seem to come up disproportionately frequently in American trivia. That means, “we've seen them more than twice in the last six months.” Offa top those topics include:
  • the author Sinclair Lewis
  • Don Quixote
  • Isadora Duncan
  • &c.
We try to maintain at least “first paragraph of Wikipedia” knowledge about each of these. Isadora was an early 20th century French dancer. She was a fashionable Communist and she wore big red scarves, but the scarves were what killed her when one wrapped around the axle of her car. And then Grandpa Gertrude Stein said, “affectations can be dangerous.” Fuck yes, Gertrude Stein :)  We love that bitch.

Had never heard of Reisz but it's always good to collect more intel on Isadora D.
Isadora Duncan | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 36A) Head of trainees gets A‑minus for “Oscillating Wave” (7)
    (Head of trainees = T) gets A MINUS for oscillating = TSUNAMI
Nice. Thought for a long time this would be term from high school physics, ending in, like, ‑IUS or ‑NUS. Like HERTZ or something. This paragraph is where we reveal how little we remember of high school physics.
  • 38A) Rework G.O.P. script—reach for representing all colors (14)
O FOCK YES!! O GLORY YES!! This was a sweet anagrama. The only longy of its kind this puzzle, but so sweet and worthy. This was also the big solve this month courtesy husband Sweet V. Also a fun narrative. Reach for it, Republican buddies! Big tent, buddies! All the colors. Flip the script. Try.
Donald Trump w/ black pastors | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 50A) Group of rocket scientists, left of a wind tunnel (5)
    (Group of rocket scientists = NASA) (left = L) = NASAL
HAHAHA this is a fun way to get “nose.” Incongruency of “wind tunnel” (noun) and “nasal” (adj) is forgiven! Dear Readers are invited to quibble with us on this point in the Comments. Per Wise Tyler below, the “of” makes the definition side adjectival. Wise Tyler knows nose!
  • 1D) A pop group, Ache (4)
    ACHE * anagram = EACH
Was hung up for a long time that this was “pop” as in “soda” (what's up to my brothers and sisters in the Middle West!!) and that there might exist something like HECA, sortof a sister soda to NEHI. Woops. Also, Ache is a great name for a pop group! Gratuitous pic of mother Poly Styrene:
Poly Styrne | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 5D) Leak produces audible gasps (4)
    audible (gasps = OOHS) = OOZE
This was just so nice. And gross. Our dark secret is sometimes we like things that are gross.
  • 6D) The enemy, song without end (4)
    (song = THEME) without end = THEM
Fresh reference to the notion of Other! Separation is inherently antagonistic. Yas.
  • 7D) Power found in the gem onyx (8)
A daring word‑spanner! Hiding in plain slight! And a reference to stones of power, cf every anime ever, most excellent :)
  • 8D) Rattles used in the style of royal address for women (6)
    (in the style = A LA) (royal = R) (address for women = MS) = ALARMS
Ahhhh!!!!! YES! Unqualified apolitical “women” qua “Ms” which is wonderful to see! Could this be the most feminist Harper's cryptic crossword puzzle yet?
Miss Giddy from Mad Max: Fury Road | Tacky Harper's Crypic Clues
  • 9D) Brownie mix, mostly—an ingredient in tart (5)
    (MIX mostly = IX) an ingredient in (tart = PIE) = PIXIE
Yass!! Shout out to Brother Kevin Pollak and Brother Rick Overton, brownies from Willow.
Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton | brownies from Willow | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 19D) Leave time for Christmas morning—pressure comes later (6)
    (time for Christmas = December = DEC) (morning = AM) (pressure = P) = DECAMPS
Raise yer hand if you were expecting NOEL to rear her head [raises hand]. V nice surprise instead.

Our parents' dog Hank is a chewer and destroyer of toys. For Christmas this year we bought Hank a plushy shark toy made from special multi‑ply fibers. The lady at the pet store swore that no dog could chew through it. Hank loved his shark and ripped it apart within ten minutes. We showed video footage of the carnage to the lady at the pet store. She was not satisfactorily bashful. She offered to give us a fresh replacement shark. “You don't get it. Nothing in this store is strong enough,” we thought and did not say.
Hank and shark | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
the shark lost | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 20A) Endorsement (obscure) seen at the front of book? (5)
    (obscure = BLUR) seen at the (front of book = B) = BLURB
So nice! So excellent for so many reasons! Ah just the tightness of book blurbs and book‑as‑in‑letter‑B. So good.
  • 22A) Works in tips from regulars under buddy system (4)
    tips from Regulars Under Buddy Sstem = RUBS
Wonderful! Thought it was DUOS for a while (buddies). Couldn't shake the image of Hall & Oates. You ever get that? The clue evokes an image that sticks?

personal story about working things in, rubbing
Our husband Vlad, aka Sweet V, aka The Sweet One, has many beautiful features (physical, spiritual, intellectual) and is super chill about them all (such chillness only compounding his beauty) … except for the softness of his feet. He is totally vain about how soft his feet are. Only good socks and the comfiest of shoes for the Sweet Feet! In contrast, our feet are quite dry and rough. The other night while sitting barefoot in the easy chair, we heard our heel FRIPPPP against the fabric. Yes, as if our feet were covered in rough Velcro. “That's it!” we said, and went in Internet search of a solution. This Marine's review of Dr Scholl's was charming, promising:
5.0 out of 5 stars • Afghanistan Tested, Me Approved, July 12, 2011

I have recommended this product to MANY Marines (males as well) and every single one of them felt the difference.

Source: Glamazon

  • 23D) Hunks involved in holdups? (5)
    STUDS (double syn.)
WOOT! Wut's up, sexualized male body? What, is up.

Dear Readers who follow us in real life may already be familiar with our blow‑by‑blow of Magic Mike 2 as understood from watching on a plane without headphones or subtitles. For those that read this blog for our writing style and sense of humor, rather than strictly for a post mortem of the Harper's puzzle, here is a clicky linky to said post:
the Mikes from Magic Mike XXL | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 35D) Abbreviated birthday basket for farm horse (6)
    (abbreviated (birthday = date of birth) = DOB) (basket = BIN) = DOBBIN
What's up to the fam, what's up to the farm. Hadn't heard of “dobbin” before, but we like!
My Dobbin | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 37D) Hello! I'm going after a fish! (3)
    (Hello! = HI) going after A = AHI
Oh this was nice! So sweet and silly! Use of over‑frequent puzzle fish AHI forgiven!
  • 40D) A neat organization is a healthy company! (5)
    A NEAT organization = AETNA
We interpret this as a dark joke about health insurance corporate giants as “healthy companies” … haha NOT!
  • 44D) Intuit conclusions drawn from Jung or Otto Frank (4)
    conclusions drawn from JunG oR OttO FranK = GROK
Love grok. Every puzzle should have grok. Even if Stranger in a Strange Land has what we interpret as generally oppressive gender and sexuality orthodoxy. There's of course this ultra‑discouraging line said by Jill:
“Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it's at least partly her own fault.”
Another good example, again pinned on Jilly‑Jill:
Jill... had explained homosexuality, after Mike had read about it and failed to grok—and had given him rules for avoiding passes; she knew that Mike, pretty as he was, would attract such. He had followed her advice and had made his face more masculine, instead of the androgynous beauty he had had. But Jill was not sure that Mike would refuse a pass, say, from Duke—fortunately Mike's male water brothers were decidedly masculine, just as his others were very female women. Jill suspected that Mike would grok a 'wrongness' in the poor in-betweeners anyhow—they would never be offered water.

Source: Goodreads

Maybe these views were meant to be only those of ol' backwards silly Jilly? But so the other characters don't get on her case about it when she says that shit. In our Stranger in a Strange Land fan fiction of course such shit does not fly.
Stranger in a Strange Land book cover | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 47D) A special killer (3)
    A (special = SP) = ASP
Nice and neat! Tight tight tight! And many thanks for the reference to ASP without mention of Yas Queen Cleo.
black Cleopatra | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


  • 17A) Spell “a millimeter” upon entering? What for? (6)
    A (millimeter = MM) entering (What for = WHY) = WHAMMY
A “whammy” is a spell? Like a witch's spell? Like as in a span of time, like, “I need to sit for a spell”? [looks it up] Ok so like a witch's spell, interesting:
noun wham•my
: something (such as a magical spell) that causes someone to have bad luck

Source: Merriam Webs

  • 24A) A lot of athletes swarm to the left (4)
    (swarm = TEEM) to the left = MEET
Like a swim meet? [harsh Cockney accent] “Staht swimmin, then! The lot o' you!!”
  • 25A) In broken line, train little Helen (6)
    broken LINE (train = EL) = NELLIE
Whoa, Nellie. Never heard of this diminutive for Helen but that's fine. Our beef is with “train” = “el” for the millionth. Even if it gives us cause to reference our all‑time ever forever favorite scene from The Fugitive
aka Play That Back I Wanna Hear the Sounds of an Elevated Train
aka Don't Ever Argue with the Big Dog; Big Dog's Always Right:

  • 26A) Ward off untoward word in the Bible (4)
    WARD off untoWARD = UNTO
Barf. Couching this in the feeblest of idiom doesn't disguise the overly simple charade. Ai yi yi [for an eye].
  • 30A) County leader replaced by second‑level liberality (6)
    COUNTY leader replaced by (second‑level = B) = BOUNTY
Bro, so like, COUNTY and BOUNTY even rhyme, bro. Bro. It's not even like BROTHER to FROTHER. How about COUNTY to MOUNTS, and make that crossing 22D RUBS instead change to RUMS. And then how about this clue:
  • County center in a lady's magazine about horses (6)
Just a reminder and FYI, literally any time Harper's is in need of help with clues, just send us an email attached to a PayPal donation :)
  • 34A) Bull breaks into lodge that's packed (7)
    (Bull = OX) breaks into (lodge = EMBED) = EMBOXED
Um, so “bull” ≠ “ox” starting with: “ox” can be male or female; “bull” is necessarily male.
bull vs ox | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
The differences continue:
1. The oxen are draft or pulling animals, usually used for cart transportation, or to pull plows.

2. While both are part of the bovine family, the oxen are a sub-genus of the male cattle, or bull.

3. Oxen are castrated, and breeding is more controlled and selective.

4. The typical ox is larger than the typical bull.

5. The ox and the bull have similar, yet unique, genetic DNA codes.

6. While they maintain religious and ethnic symbolism, they are often heralded separately.


More importantly, EMBOXED is justa dum word. Save it for the Scrabbo board, where bulls*it ‑ED words with a medial X belong.
  • 48A) Old Chinese bread—there's a story to be told here (4)
    (story = TALE) to be told here = TAEL
Chinese tael | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
We remember TAEL from an earlier puzzle (Honorable Mention - November 2014) which, ok, after a year that's fine to pull a refry. But TALE => TAEL is just very butt. At least give us a TAIL at least a homophone that, like, uses different letters. And if you weren't bored and dead by 48A, here's 49A for more of similar:
  • 49A) Where to put elements taken from soil? (4)
    SILO (pun)
“elements”? That's what the corn and the wheat and … ok. Unless we're mistaken, and we often are, this is one of the hermaphroditic ourobouri clues that consumes itself, both parts in one. Which is fine, but SOIL => SILO? These single letter translations make us SO IL(L).
silo | soil | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 2D) Astringent person who went to college (4)
    Astringent = person who went to college = ALUM
Simple double syn. Enjoy the phrase “astringent person” but otherwise this was meh. Not as meh as the next clue, tho! Beholt:
  • 3D) It's necessary to feel yet hard to grasp (4)
    fEEL Yet = EELY
Much as a chef might re‑use old fish as part of a stew, this read as an attempt to make the over‑frequent entry EEL seem new and fresh. With the right chef such attempt might be successful, but often it just stinks.
eel | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 31D) A number of layers—that could be plenty (3‑3)
    could be PLENTY = TEN‑PLY
What number? Oh, just “a” number. Buh! We're curious about what ten‑ply creation is imagined here? Cardboard? Toilet paper? A shark toy that even Hank could not take apart?
  • 39D) Two thirds of league breaks up—someone in Britain appears (4)
    (Two thirds of LEAGUE = LEAG) breaks up = GAEL
Uh. The sun set on the British Empire, thanks. Here's our favorite Gael, tho [this month's Nerd Hot Guy]:
Gael Garcia Bernal | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Gael Garcia Bernal with glasses | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 42D) Golfer Aoki is a nothing (4)
    IS A (nothing = O) = ISAO
Uh, whut? Isao Aoki, World Golf Hall of Famer with a generous name fulla vowels, is a “nothing”? Gross!
Isao Aoki | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

The Tacky

  • 29D) My friend in the hood gets colic, turning green (8)
    (My friend in the hood = BRO) gets COLIC turning = BROCCOLI
Um. How about “my urban friend” how about “my black friend” how about just say what you mean. Buh. “the hood.” Gross.

Altho of course enjoy BROCCOLI in the puzzle.
Samuel L Jackson | broccoli | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

Comments are fuel for more blogging.


  1. 50A's straight definition is "of a wind tunnel," and thus it matches.

    Also, 19D is just DECAMP.

    1. Word! Fixed up top. Thanks as always for your wise eyes.

  2. Harsh on Malts! I think the "BRO" piece is more easily obtained from "BROTHER", as in a monk who dresses in hooded robes. Malts is awfully fond of the religious cluing after all.

    1. This is a HOT alt theory! i don't buy it, but i do think it's hot. "Malts" as a nickname is also hot :)

      Thanks for Dear Reading, bro(ther)!