Saturday, March 12, 2016

Quo Vadis? - March 2016

March 2016 | Quo Vadis? | Harper's puzzle solution

Cool news at TackyHarpersCrypticClues headquarters: we've seen a surge in web traffic! But thus also a surge in spam comments. It's always flattering, the spam. The first sentence is usually, like, “WOW!! This blog is packed with great info!!!” and we blush with pleasure.

The second sentence is, like, “Web sluxuriant krazee moriaty mosgrove acquittal Affiliate marketing.” Then a link to some dum spam site.

But popularity with robots is still popularity! You know that old show biz saying: “first the bots, then the masses.”

…  why, yes. We do consider this blog to be under the ægis of show biz.

In unrelated news: currently we are obsessed with Snapchat© face swaps™ of we and Sweet V. We were hung up at first believing these are alt‑lesbian versions of ourselves. But now we're hung up on imagining these are our grown up daughters, who are friends, and come to visit their old ma and pa sometimes.
erica + Vlad face swap | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
erica + Vlad face swap | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

The Theme!

A four‑quadrant construction with four fifteeners as lattices. We're told in the instructs that 1) is an across lattice so that the solution is unique. Ok.

Sweet V's solve of VIDEOCONFERENCE and early successes with quadrant C led to some speculative fill and good guesses. Final quadrants:


How does the title QUO VADIS relate to this Theme? We do not know, Dear Readers. Uncle Google says QUO VADIS means “where are you going?” in Latin and that it's also the titles of a buncha media including a 1951 film starring six‑time Oscar nominee Deborah Kerr. This is a surprising descrip on the 1924 film:
Watch the Apostles and other followers like Saul preach the gospel and spread the message of love and hope in this high quality entertaining animated feature for your kids and family.

Source: iMdB

Quo Vadis film | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
That wholesome animated feature is out of step with most Quo Vadi, which reference Peter feeling afraid in Italy and high‑tailin it outta Rome to escape the toxic murderous climate against Christians. But on the way out he encounters Christ. And Pete asks, “quo vadis?” And his Prince of Peace answers, “o, not much, I'm going back to Rome to be re‑crucified.” And Pete is like, “o. I'm a coward.” So then he goes back to Rome where soon afterward the Romans crucify him upside down.

The grid construction definitely looks kinda Roman architectural agora'y. So maybe that's the idea. Dear Readers are of course invited to speculate further in the comments!

The fifteeners:
  • 1) This one is our pick for Tacky Clue, see below
  • 2) She invoices sums, concealing monkey business (15)
Glorious anagrama! “concealing” as anagrind is a little funny but forgiven because anagram (anagram!!). Got hung up several rounds thinking it would be a female quant, like ACCOUNTRESS or similar.
Janet Yellen | US Federal Reserve Chair | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
US Fed Reserve Chair Janet Yellen

  • 3) Solving the problem when basketball player has this? l;(15)
    TROUBLE SHOOTING (double syn)
Sweet! Alla the B boys and B girls have trouble shooting the B ball sometimes.
  • 4) Communication, if CEO reconvened organization? (15)
Another wonderful anagram! Altho video conferencing introduces communications problems as it solves them. cf this tweet:
Alla the resta the clues were sevensies, so we'll omit the letter count.


  • 5) Here's the dish: knight is back to going both ways
    ((knight = SIR) is back = RIS) TO going both ways = RISOTTO
Loved this. Like: bisexual Lancelot! Caught between his love of Guin and his passíon for Arthur! Yes please! Twas also the first solve of the puzzle for us.
Lancelot love triangle | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6) Cannabis, you are it! It's found by the pound!
    (Cannabis = HASH) (you are it = TAG) = HASHTAG
Whoa! Weren't expecting this! Expected CANNABIS = POT, expected “found by the pound” = “lost dog” or similar. Did not expect a Modern Social Media™ reference!
old folks on the computer | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 9) Drag out gag that appears on street
    (gag = RETCH) appears on (street = ST) = STRETCH
Got rull hung up thinking this was an anagram of DRAG OUT (TUG ROAD?).
  • 11) Squabble's royal focal point: putting underwear on backward
    (royal = R) (focal point = HUB) (putting (underwear = BRA) backwards = ARB) = RHUBARB
Have probably learned then forgotten that RHUBARB can mean interpersonal conflict many times, the way that on at least a dozen occasions we've learnt then forgotten the name of Rick Allen, one‑armed drummer from Def Leppard. It's like being caught in a time loop. The only way to break free of the loop is a goofy mnemonic. In this case, we pretend that Rick Allen is the goofy British cousin of American film and TV star Tim Allen. And that does the trick. We have thus escaped the time loop.
Rick Allen | img courtesy Wikimedia
Image courtesy Wikimedia

But buh, any time BRA shows up it's a small unkind cut. A crappy underwire that poked through.
  • 13) Pitt abs developed by one immersed in worship
    PITT ABS * anagram = BAPTIST
Wonderful! PITT ABS was obvious anagram fodder, but that natural definition portion and double meaning of “immersed” is v nice!
  • 14) A tropical theme plays cleverly in Company
    PLAYS cleverly in (company = CO) = CALYPSO
Mmm nice! Thinking about Murphy Brown and how Murph haaaaaaated Barry Manilow's music. But then Barry Manilow appeared on the show and played piano for her, and she loved it.

  • 15) I'm a fruit—get out of the office!
    IM (a fruit = PEACH) = IMPEACH
Argh! So torn on this clue! We love it for its cluing, but find the narrative tacky. More fantasies of queeny dictatorial types. Fantasies of oppressive queers. Of course as is always the case, we learn something new about the fantasizer.
Harvey Milk | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 16) Material that's sized for two male animals
    two male animals = BUCK RAM = BUCKRAM
Never hearda buckram, but love this! So fresh.
Buckram | courtesy Wikimedia | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Image courtesy Wikimedia

  • 17) Brought to victory, Roman four does coming back around
    (victory = V) (Roman four = IV) (does = DEER) coming back around = REVIVED
So nice! The obviousness of “Roman four” forgiven for rippitty sneak‑sneak of DOES qua DEER mwa! LOVE this!
  • 20) Diverse characters in a new edition
    DIVERSE * anagram = REVISED
Nice sweet anagrama!
  • 22) Harmful Burma‑Shave writing?
    Burma‑Shave writing = AD VERSE = ADVERSE
Mwa! Delectable and delightful! Wonderful! Reminded of the pilot episode of Quantum Leap. One of Sam's cues that he has legit traveled beyond the veil is seeing the Burma‑Shave ads on the highway. And oh! The idea itself for these ads! Using the fact of cars and driving to generate comedic timing in an otherwise static format. Glorious.
Burma Shave | Quantum Leap pilot (Genesis) | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 23) Strange Latvian game
    LATVIAN * anagram = VALIANT
Took a little research to believe that “valiant” = “game” but yuh, this is nice! And of course much enjoy the neatness of a three‑word clue. Here's a video of some Romanian kids playing “lapte gros.” Sortof a leap frog Red Rover thing. A structured outlet for physical aggression, which we generally approve of.

  • 25) Makes lower classes well‑spoken
    (classes = LESSONS) well‑spoken = LESSENS
Mwa! Whatta homophone! Yass!!
  • 26) One dangerously wild flower in the Mideast, they say
    (flower in the Mideast = TIGRIS) they say = TIGRESS
Ahhhh!!! YASS! Shoutout to the crable of cibilization, the mighty Tigris and Euphrates!! Shoutout to Billy Blake and the Tyger burning bryght. So sweet and delicious.
Tyger | William Blake | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 27) Contract to form brigade
Nice fresh use of “contract” as opposite of “dilate.” Delish.
  • 28) Find us tragically enthralled by housecleaner? Just the opposite!
    FinD US TRAGically = DUSTRAG
Glorious, daring wordspanner! “Find us” made us think of Findus the cat, beloved character from the picture books of our young cousin‑by‑marriage Ioana. Findus is a curious and mischievous black and white cat, always getting into trouble. Standard beloved childhood picture book stuff :) And super‑compelling character design:
Findus the cat | Sven Nordqvist | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


  • 7) Makes new catalogues for big hotels
    Makes new catalogues = RE‑SORTS = RESORTS
Thought this would be the proper noun of the puzzle, like RAMADAS or RESEDAS or similar. “Makes new” had us thinking of RENEWS or RE‑. Bland payoff.
  • 8) Mass movement gone crazy—there's rot in it!
    crazy ROT IN IT = INTROIT
Church words. Meh. No benediction here.
Pope Francis drops his latest mixtape in Bangui, Central African Republic | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Pope Francis drops his latest mixtape in Bangui, Central African Republic

  • 10) How Italians keep their cool and not riot when provoked
    NOT RIOT when provoked = TORTONI
Uh. What is a tortoni? Never hearda. Thinking now of Signor Eco and Foucault's Pendulum and plenny of Italian riots. This clue also smacks of respectability politics, which, buh. What's so great about being good and shutting up and taking it from the System? What's so great about the status quo.
  • 12) Exercises that are the same going up or down?
Because PULLUP reversed is PULLUP. Irritatingly, PULLUPS ≠ SPULLUP.
  • 18) Unbounded and friendless but not at the end of the week
    FRIENDLESS but not (at the end of the week = FRI) = ENDLESS
So many things. Let's start with FRIENDLESS => ENDLESS nyoooooh. No no‑no. No!! And Friday is not the end of the week. Saturday is the end of the week. Maybe Sunday. You could play a “work week.” You could play a “start of Shabbos.” You could win us over playing this as an Islam‑normative week. In which case this becomes a Highlight.
  • 19) Plays with dialogue—initially I would bring up Rosebud e.g.
    (DIALOGUE initially = D) (I WOULD = I'D) (bring up (ROSEBUD e.g. = SLED) = DLES) = DIDDLES
“Diddles” is a gross word. Mainstream lexica jibe with this “plays with” definition, but in practice, in the real world, on the streets, we've only heard DIDDLES in the context of sexual touch. And generally unwanted sexual touch. Gross.
Citizen Kane | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 21) Northern riots broken up, left where there's a passing of wind
    (Northern = N) RIOTS broken up (left = L) = NOSTRIL
Putting this in Lowlights onnnnly cuz we hadda “wind tunnel” = “nose” thing like just last month. Cmong. Also, this bit of dialogue between we and Sweet V:


I want this to just be FARTS.


Yes. Altho that would be Southern riots.

  • 24) In Italy, everything from three on is late!
    In Italy everything from three on = OVER DUE = OVERDUE
Boo. Boo to Itanglish. Thought it was the Italian word for “everything” which we figured was TUTTI, so then we were agonizing over manipulating TUTTI. Anyway. Dumb.

The Tacky

  • 1) Frank: a gay soccer team won't hire him! (15)
    STRAIGHT FORWARD (double syn.)
Robbie Rogers and his body | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Tell it to ya boi Robbie Rogers

Um ok so um wut? Let's be real, the criteria a gay soccer team is likely to set for Hetero Frank qua new forward are:
  1. does he want to play on our gay soccer team?
  2. is he any good? (optional)
and maaayyyyyyyyybe there'd be, “he knows, right, that we're a gay soccer team? Just so it's super clear.”

But certainly
  1. get outta here breeder cuz it's gays only, Frank!!!!!!!
would, like, not come up. This is a weird lil fantasy about Queer Orthodoxy, which definitely exists in perverse and unnatural environments like San Francisco. But not even everywhere in San Francisco, just specific communities and gayborhoods.

Most gay clubs in our experience are like the Palm Springs Gay Men's Chorus:
Non‑Discrimination Statement
The Palm Springs Gay Men's Chorus does not discriminate in it's[sic] employment practices on the basis of: race/ethnicity, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender, gender self‑identification, age, disability, veteran status, religion, or political beliefs.

Source: they's About page

You don't hafta be gay or a man. There just aren't enough gay hobbyists to get uptight about identity.

This is really a fantasy that a gay soccer team would be as shitty and discriminatory as non‑gay soccer teams are. Which, semantically they would be more inclusive but in live real world practice, not so much.

Don't worry, we'll fix it:
  • Blunt, neat, and fresh (15)
“neat” as in “one scotch: neat” or “one scotch: STRAIGHT.”

“fresh” as in “Marvin! Don't get fresh! [slap]” or “Marvin! How FORWARD of you!”

Comments are fuel for more blogging.


  1. "sled" backwards is "dels" (not "dles"), which would make the answer "diddels," which is not a word.

    1. Hajime mashite Konno-san!

      Yah, saw that weirdness with DLES != SLED rev. but forgot about it in the writeup

      The answer key makes it seem like this was a glitch on Harper's part. Officially it's:
      19. d(ialogue)-I'd-dles(rev.)

      ... but maybe that "e.g." in the clue is meant to grant some anagram leeway here?

      Thanks for reading, double thanks for commenting :)

  2. I was thrilled to see that you are still writing this blog! Especially love the write-up of Frank and the soccer club, although I suspect Maltby is in on the absurdity of his tackiest clues. Your dissection of this one elevates it to a masterpiece though. Can't wait to see what you do with April's puzzle!!!

    1. Still at it! Thanks for reading and appreciating, William! You're super nice!

      I've made a deal with the devil this week (short term day job) so April's writeup might not be done til the weekend. This site's RSS feed and/or subscribe-by-email features will get you the latest post without delay or mystery tho.

  3. 5: what makes risotto the apt dish other than Richard E. M. Jr. making it so?

    28: what does "Just the opposite!" do?

    1-28: thanks

    1. >> 5: what makes risotto the apt dish other than Richard E.
      >> M. Jr. making it so?
      Nothing. It coulda been LASAGNA or CASSEROLE or something. This is the part of puzzle solving that's about cultivating telepathy with your editor.

      >> 28: what does "Just the opposite!" do?
      Ummmmmmmmmm not sure! Sometimes it's, like,

      "[XX] in [Y]? Just the opposite!"

      and the answer would be


      in other words: "[Y] in [XX]."

      Ok but so to the question at hand, what does it mean in

      28) Find us tragically enthralled by housecleaner? Just the opposite!

      and i think it *might* mean "the instrument of cleaning" as opposed to the "housecleaner" as "one who wields the instrument of cleaning." Hammer versus carpenter. Song versus singer. S'all i got, friend. Thanks for reading! Bigger thanks for commenting!