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
- Stastically speaking, six out of seven dwarves are not happy.
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.
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
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:
Ok but then so next question, Prof Slughorn: when you say “father,” to whom exactly do you refer and WHAT DO YOU REALLY KNOW?????
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
- 13A) Arthur, for one; Teddy, not quite (3)
(Teddy = BEAR) not quite = BEA
Did you know she was in the Star Wars Holiday Special??
- 16A) With a zeal, I cut ingredients to make concrete (9)
ZEAL I CUT * anagram = ACTUALIZE
- 18A) She left a chair for meatier diversion (7)
MEATIER * anagram = EMERITA
- 27A) Clothing that has an adversarial position (4)
adverSARIal = SARI
- 32A) Director who made Isadora right size in a new format (5)
(right = R) SIZE in a new format = REISZ
- the author Sinclair Lewis
- Don Quixote
- Isadora Duncan
Had never heard of Reisz but it's always good to collect more intel on Isadora D.
- 36A) Head of trainees gets A‑minus for “Oscillating Wave” (7)
(Head of trainees = T) gets A MINUS for oscillating = TSUNAMI
- 38A) Rework G.O.P. script—reach for representing all colors (14)
Rework GOP SCRIPT REACH = SPECTROGRAPHIC
- 50A) Group of rocket scientists, left of a wind tunnel (5)
(Group of rocket scientists = NASA) (left = L) = NASAL
- 1D) A pop group, Ache (4)
ACHE * anagram = EACH
- 5D) Leak produces audible gasps (4)
audible (gasps = OOHS) = OOZE
- 6D) The enemy, song without end (4)
(song = THEME) without end = THEM
- 7D) Power found in the gem onyx (8)
tHE GEM ONYx = HEGEMONY
- 8D) Rattles used in the style of royal address for women (6)
(in the style = A LA) (royal = R) (address for women = MS) = ALARMS
- 9D) Brownie mix, mostly—an ingredient in tart (5)
(MIX mostly = IX) an ingredient in (tart = PIE) = PIXIE
- 19D) Leave time for Christmas morning—pressure comes later (6)
(time for Christmas = December = DEC) (morning = AM) (pressure = P) = DECAMPS
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.
- 20A) Endorsement (obscure) seen at the front of book? (5)
(obscure = BLUR) seen at the (front of book = B) = BLURB
- 22A) Works in tips from regulars under buddy system (4)
tips from Regulars Under Buddy Sstem = RUBS
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.
- 23D) Hunks involved in holdups? (5)
STUDS (double syn.)
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:
- 35D) Abbreviated birthday basket for farm horse (6)
(abbreviated (birthday = date of birth) = DOB) (basket = BIN) = DOBBIN
- 37D) Hello! I'm going after a fish! (3)
(Hello! = HI) going after A = AHI
- 40D) A neat organization is a healthy company! (5)
A NEAT organization = AETNA
- 44D) Intuit conclusions drawn from Jung or Otto Frank (4)
conclusions drawn from JunG oR OttO FranK = GROK
“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.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.
- 47D) A special killer (3)
A (special = SP) = ASP
- 17A) Spell “a millimeter” upon entering? What for? (6)
A (millimeter = MM) entering (What for = WHY) = WHAMMY
: 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
- 25A) In broken line, train little Helen (6)
broken LINE (train = EL) = NELLIE
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
- 30A) County leader replaced by second‑level liberality (6)
COUNTY leader replaced by (second‑level = B) = BOUNTY
- County center in a lady's magazine about horses (6)
- 34A) Bull breaks into lodge that's packed (7)
(Bull = OX) breaks into (lodge = EMBED) = EMBOXED
The differences continue:
1. The oxen are draft or pulling animals, usually used for cart transportation, or to pull plows.More importantly, EMBOXED is justa dum word. Save it for the Scrabbo board, where bulls*it ‑ED words with a medial X belong.
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.
- 48A) Old Chinese bread—there's a story to be told here (4)
(story = TALE) to be told here = TAEL
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)
- 2D) Astringent person who went to college (4)
Astringent = person who went to college = ALUM
- 3D) It's necessary to feel yet hard to grasp (4)
fEEL Yet = EELY
- 31D) A number of layers—that could be plenty (3‑3)
could be PLENTY = TEN‑PLY
- 39D) Two thirds of league breaks up—someone in Britain appears (4)
(Two thirds of LEAGUE = LEAG) breaks up = GAEL
- 42D) Golfer Aoki is a nothing (4)
IS A (nothing = O) = ISAO
- 29D) My friend in the hood gets colic, turning green (8)
(My friend in the hood = BRO) gets COLIC turning = BROCCOLI
Altho of course enjoy BROCCOLI in the puzzle.