Welcome to the New Year, Dear Readers! US election years are leap years. That's because US electoral politics make us want to leap off a cliff. Just kidding. Kindof.
For those interested, we posted our 2016 Resolutions [Fantasies]. Though, we still believe that the most important goal is “fuck goals.” Freedom up here [taps forehead].
To the Puzzle!There was an error in the grid structure, cf red marks above. Getting sloppy, boys.
In the leather‑bound study of an Upper East Side brownstone Maltby shakes awake, dangerously jostling the tumbler of scotch balanced between his thighs. There it is again: a knock at the door, young and proud.
“It's Zander, of The Listener!” He's early. How irritating. Xavier of The Whisper, and Maurice of Le Mot: they know not to wake him. Cornjulian of Das Aegis, and Patrick of Flemish Gavot: same. Because they understand patience. Command of thineself.
“Door's open!” shouts Maltby, and Zander struggles at the knob.
“I can't—it's locked!” says Zander, muffled behind the oak. Maltby chuckles. The scotch trembles.
“No, it's unlocked. Try again.” And Zander of The Listener struggles, and Maltby watches, and sips.
The Theme!It's “House of Cards,” as in a pun on “funny people.” The first unclued is the category (“FUNNY BUSINESS”) and the seven unclueds are names of jesters and stuff, generally archaic or Euro medieval or antiquated.
- 17A) HARLEQUIN
- 19A) JESTER
- 27A) ZANY
noun za•ny Popularity: Bottom 50% of words
: a subordinate clown or acrobat in old comedies who mimics ludicrously the tricks of the principal :
Source: Merry-am Webster
- 35A) MOTLEY FOOL
- 6D) STANDUP COMIC
- 14D) MERRY ANDREW
"a buffoon; a zany; a jack-pudding" [Johnson], originally "mountebank's assistant," 1670s, from merry + masc. proper name Andrew, but there is no certain identification with an individual.
- 28D) MUMMER
an actor in a traditional masked mime, especially of a type associated with Christmas and popular in England in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Source: The Goog
- 12A) She might make you a tuna melt! (4)
TUNA * anagram = AUNT
- 13A) Chewing gum, a base occupation for Americans (4)
GUM A * anagram = GUAM
- 23A) Sets aside skins? By the sound of it! (6)
(skins = DEFURS) * homophone = DEFERS
- 28A) Upper-class, but I'm back on the outside. Lanai is the closest thing to it (4)
(Upper-class = U) ((I'M = I AM) back = MAI) on the outside = MAUI
- 30A) Whip up a canapé that serves everyone (7)
A CANAPE * anagram = PANACEA
Anyway we bring this up because one of the harem girls is named “Panacea,” and Forum was the first time we eva-eva heard that word.
- 32A) Aid in digesting a negative review, certain to be corrected (10)
((negative review = PAN) + CERTAIN) * anagram = PANCREATIN
- 39A) Case study? It gives little weight to damage (7)
(little weight = GRAM) + (damage = MAR) = GRAMMAR
We have a much stronger appreciation now of English as a robust and comprehensible language. English: impossible to spell, but simple to speak and understand. For instance, if we said to you, “we loves you,” you'd notice the conjugation error, but you wouldn't be, like, confused. Whereas the equivalent error in Romanian would obliterate meaning. “Who loves whom? And when? I don't understand …”
On the other hand, Romanian: easy to spell. Each word spelled like how it sounds. Like Arabic. Funny to think about languages where a spelling contest would be moot. Languages where the letters don't play any tricky tricks!
- 41A) Be venial—thrashing leaves much to be desired! (8)
BE VENIAL * anagram = ENVIABLE
- 1D) Initially popularity of uprising turns out just dandy (3)
(Initially popularity = P) (OF uprising = FO) turns out = FOP
- 3D) Cologne I distributed—it's a matter of coins! (8)
COLOGNE I * anagram = NEOLOGIC
- 5D) Even contributors to our name, I extend, like early recordings (7)
o U r N a M e I e X t E n D = UNMIXED
- 7D) Office worker in Kerry's first plane (3‑3)
IN (Kerry's first = K) + (plane = JET) = INK‑JET
But enjoyed the Kerry reference. In summer 2014 we traveled to Germany and Romania with Sweet V. Up on the telly screen at Frankfurt airport there was news of Secretariat of State John Kerry's travel. And as the screen showed Kerry talking quietly off‑mic with a foreign political luminary, Vlad gave his own sotto voce narration:
“Did you see the pictures with the lacy ones?”
“Yes, I brought more if you want to see. I brought the whole set!”
- 9D) Sandwiches, sandwiches—gripping take‑out items? (12)
(Sandwiches, sandwiches = SUBS) + (gripping = TRACTION) = SUBTRACTION
- 11D) Fences—the goal of the 1 Across? (5)
HAHAS (double synonym)
A ha-ha is a recessed landscape design element that creates a vertical barrier whilst preserving an uninterrupted view of the landscape beyond. The design includes a turfed incline which slopes downward to a sharply vertical face, typically a masonry retaining wall.
Source: Wikipedia, none other than
Personally we don't think “hahas” and “laughs” are the goals of comedy … we think it's more like: rappelling into the darkest depths of truth to draw up a little relief from the irritating and excruciating experiences of life itself, that we might tolerate such indignities but a little longer.
Also do you feel the restraint exercised in this clue at not going for “fences = epee”? We feel it.
- 20D) Announces, in the vernacular, sleaze's starting to come back (3)
SLEAZE'S (starting) to come back = starting SEZEALS = SEZ
We're observing how our parents interact with technology carefully. Right now we're a savvy computer programmer and web developer, but soon enough we'll age out of technological savvy. #dread
- 21D) Aerobes floating around north may the be this (8)
AEROBES floating around (north = N) = SEABORNE
- 22D) Caesarean section? (4)
Caesarean = AREA
What to call it when the indicator is also the definition? Like: it works a double shift. Flexi‑cluework. We'll think more on this, get back to you. Normally we're philosophically opposed to such shenanigans. “One word, one cryptic function.” But embedding a fresh clue within American medical idiom!! So strong.
- 34D) Castle, for example—gunfire never protects it (5)
gunfIRE NEver = IRENE
Irene Castle and her husband Vernon Castle (born Vernon Blyth) were the best known ballroom dancers of the early 20th C. Beginning about 1914 they operated several clubs and studios in the NYC area, toured the country dancing, and were able to charge as much as a thousand dollars an hour for lessons.
- 38D) Sign a submarine captain has surfaced (4)
(submarine captain = NEMO) has surfaced = OMEN
In The Mysterious Island, Captain Nemo identifies himself as Prince Dakkar, son of the Hindu Raja of Bundelkund, and also a descendant of the Muslim Sultan Fateh Ali Tipu of the Kingdom of Mysore, famous for the Anglo-Mysore Wars.Ah ok: this is made clear in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
- 16A) A good bridge contract is unfortunately bleak when circumvented by West (8)
(BLEAK * anagram) circumvented by (West = MAE) = MAKEABLE
But boo to bridge slang, and booooo to the word “makeable.” Ew. We deem this clue judgeable. We judge it.
Yah! “judgeable! With that medial “e”! Just like in makeable. So gross.
- 24A) Edges in, moving back to front, in a kind of rush (5)
EDGES moving back to front = SEDGE
- 25A) Can doesn't open from heat (3)
(Can = FIRE) doesn't open = IRE
Below: the glorious finale of Napoleon Dynamite to the exquisite beats of Jamiroquai's “Canned Heat.” So beautiful. So generous. Last night we watched the end of Carrie (1976). The end of Napoleon Dynamite is the exact opposite of the end of Carrie, but just as cathartic.
- 29A) Sounds like con's kind of instrument (4)
(con = READ) * homophone = REED
- 44A) Once more, run up to plant—once again, gets heard (5)
(to plant once again = RESOW) gets heard = RESEW
- 4D) Displaced American in gym article quit without finishing (6)
(gym = Y) + (article = AN) + (QUIT without finishing) = YANQUI
- 8D) Formerly known as “The Joint,” it loses its frontage (3)
(The Joint = KNEE) loses its frontage = KNEE
- 10D) Soupy merchandizing? (5)
SALES (double synonym)
- 18D) You were announced as the pitcher (4)
You were * homophone = EWER
Ewer saying something?
Yes, we were saying, “ewe.”
Farmboy? Hand us that pitcher.
- 31D) Sue wants a shirt created (5)
(Sue = BEG) wants A (shirt = T) = BEGAT
- 26D) One looking down's not so far away, if you listen closely! (7)
'S (not so far away = NEARER) * homophone = SNEERER
“'s nearer” => “sneerer” No‑hoooooo.
- 42A) A very good French girl (dark sounding, finally), wearing cotton fabric, almost unused (6)
(cotton fabric = JEAN) + (almost (unused = NEW) = NE) = JEANNE
This clue creeps us out. “almost unused” cotton fabric. Just say it. Panties. It's Jeanne's French panties. Her cotton panties are almost unused. Or it's Jeanne who's almost unused. Jk jk obv it's both. She's very good, that Jeanne. And she sounds [licks the lips] dark. Finally, right? Finally: a girl who sounds dark.
Yeah screw this creepy clue.