Saturday, December 7, 2013

Hex Signs - December 2013

Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues | December 2013 Look alive it's another Harper's puzzle! Hannukah came early, and so did the end of the December 2013 cryptic contest.

Before we begin

As we dive deep into the holiday season, consider giving the gift of money to your favorite cryptic crossword blog. We'll just leave this heeeeeeeeeeere for you:

If money makes you uncomfortable, consider leaving a comment. If breaking your lurker code of silence makes you uncomfortable, consider telling a friend about this blog and how much you like it SO MUCH. And then your friend can be like “yah, crossword puzzles I know about those” and you can be like “ERMEHGERD no CRYPTIC crosswords VERY different omygourd omegrod you don't even know! Let me now launch into a twenty minute unbroken monologue to EXPLAIN.”

Any of those things would make us very very happy :)

To the puzzle!

Hex signs. There was another one'a these a couple years ago: BEEHIVE in May 2011. We never got around to a write-up, but one of the answers was the archaic ethnic slur BOHUNK:
bo•hunk /bō,həNGk/
noun informal offensive
1. an immigrant from central or southeastern Europe, esp. a laborer.

Source: The Goog

Is it fine to use a racial slur in the puzzle when most of the negative power of that slur has been lost to time? Is it wrong to sport a mohawk and never consider what it means with respect to the slaughter of the Mohawk people? Do you feel kinda bad right now? We feel kinda bad right now. Glad we brought it up!


Tons of fun had in this puzzle! Four unclued answers relate to each other, and, in some truly sweet visio-linguistic symmetry, the relationship is that each six-letter answer is entered hexagonally and the four unclueds are synonyms for “hex signs”:
  • 8) SPELLS
  • 11) CHARMS
  • 47) JINXES
  • 44) CURSES
We found traction early in the north and proceeded steadily counter-clockwise. Several correct guesses about fill placement were crucial to a lean mean two-day solve. We got real lucky, Dear Readers.


  • 1) A corny bit? Sounds rank!
    (rank = COLONEL) * homophone = KERNEL
“Colonel” was one of those words we encountered in our early literacy that really bugged the hyeck out of us. “But it's spelled 'coll-oh-nell' ... ”

Same with “Europe.” Both left us with the sneaking suspicion, “ ... there aren't actually any rules here ... why is everyone pretending that there are ... ?”
The Little Colonel | Shirley Temple | Lionel Barrymore
  • 3) Hour in the evening is for returning a little seafood!
    (Hour = HR) in (((evening = PM) + IS) * returning) = SHRIMP
Was hung up for hours so certain it was SCAMPI. Love it, though.

Oh yeah—you should know that several of the highlights this month are just ones that we got hung up on, and then felt disproportionately satisfied to solve. Our intuition was dead on in entering fill, but way off for solving.
  • 5) Taking off, entirely untidy. Untidy!
    UNTIDY * anagram = NUDITY
Lovely! Say it out loud. Guaranteed that you can't help yourself from delivering a histrionic hissing “Untidy!”
  • 12) Merchant tarred, feathered
    TARRED * anagram = TRADER
Ohhh! Loved this one! Took us a very long time to solve just because it's so sweetly nestled in the idiom.
  • 14) Everything Spanish the English geneticists feature
    (Everything = ALL) + (Spanish the = EL) + (English = E) = ALLELE
YuSSSssss! Opportunity for us to showcase our 7th grade memory of genetics. Insisted on trying to fit “TODO” and “TODOS” for several rounds, though.
  • 4) More like Frost—with an edge, that is—right?
    (edge = RIM) + (that is = IE) + (right = R) = RIMIER
MmmmmMMMmmmm so good it's bad but then good again, burning hot like fire and cold like ice, oh sweet heavenly Turandot this is DIABOLICAL. Took us forever to get, too. One of the last solves. Can't get over the “Bob Frost = rhymier” implication because mMMMmmmmm!!!!!
Jack Kennedy and Bob Frost
  • 20) Mad hatter's in danger
    HATTER * anagram = THREAT
So nice. So sweet and tight.
  • Speaker of English in back row
    OF + (English = E) + (ROW * reverse) = WOOFER
YESSSssss. Love when a common indicator IS NOT THE INDICATOR! You won't homofind the homophone this homotime. (whispers to self: make every time homo time)
  • 31) Can your city lawmakers employ some leaders in repeated patterns
    Can your city lawmakers employ some = CYCLES
Sweet Vlad got this one. We were hung up on synonyms for lawmakers (ALDERMEN? ROB FORD?)
Rob Ford
The Coward Robert Ford
  • 52) Docks airman flying around
    AIRMAN * anagram = MARINA
Another hangup! Thought it was ARMANI and kept trying to force “docks” as fashion-related. Very nice how the indicator syncs with the anagrind. Mwa!

Also, this:
Had a drink in a part of San Francisco called 'The Marina.' It single-handedly ruined my vision of San Francisco. -harikondabolu
  • 48) Entreat other elements to accept the Cross
    (OTHER + (Cross = X)) * anagram = EXHORT
Ooof! We were nearly burned by this one, and entered HECTOR. We were capital Confused by that capital Cross. Tricked! Didn't get this properly until the very end when checking our answers against that longo anagram in the instructs (POPE COMPOSED &c).


  • 9) Risk a hearing, being blue
    RISQUÉ (homophone)
Too mucha gimme. Murrrrrrr.
  • 15) Puts down question covering more than one line
    (question = QU) + (more than one line = ELLS) = QUELLS
“line” like as in train line, like the elevated trains here in Chicago. Yah uh. No. It's “L” thank you, and if absolutely necessary then spelled out “el.” And so then plural would be “els” like the golfer. Maybe this is a reference to some other kinds of train lines in some other kinda city #chicagochauvinism

Also, we reference this scene from Tommy Lee Jones's Oscar-winning performance in The Fugitive about once a month:

Don't ever argue with the big dog; big dog is always right. Nice to see Joe Pantoliano playing a good guy.
  • 7) Phones back around one for the Bushes
    (Phones = CALLS) * back around + (one = I) = LILACS
Tired of the Bush/bush thing, is all. Was swell at first, but the swelling's gone down.

As a sidenote, we do not know how to parse George W. Bush's new (career? hobby?) as an acrylic painter. We could understand pictures of fruit, or mountains, or tall buildings. But instead the Bush works out there are so nakedly vulnerable.
George W. Bush bathtub
George W. Bush with doggies
  • 21) Fitting left queen one of those fighting
    (Fitting = DUE) + (left = L) + (queen = ER) = DUELER
Dueler is fun but murrrr, sick of queen = Elizabeth Regina = ER. So convenient is the lazy convenient queenly ER.
  • 26) Make a home on bench
    SETTLE (double syn)
“Settle” is a kind of bench? Yes. Never hearda. It is telling that every picture of it on Wiki'edia is in black and white: A settle bench
  • 32) Take someone's money, some of which is elevating
    whiCH IS ELevating = CHISEL
“CHISEL” means gouge someone of their money? Like, metaphorically? Not, like, literally? Buh.
  • 39) Throat lozenge finally taken in by one taken in ahead of time
    (lozenge finally = E) taken in by * ((one taken in = GULL) + (time = T)) = GULLET
Just these tortured convolutions. These frustrated squeaky little fart clues. All effort, no payoff.
  • 54) Set upon a path with an old song
    (path = WAY) + (old song = LAY) = WAYLAY
LAY is an old song? LAY is an old song. More anachronesia.
1. (Literature / Poetry) a ballad or short narrative poem, esp one intended to be sung
2. (Music, other) a song or melody
[from Old French lai, perhaps of Germanic origin]

Source: The Free Dictionary

  • 23) Extreme alarm caused by man who hires prostitues, as they say
    WHORER * homophone = HORROR
Tried working JOHN for several rounds.

Wouldn't the WHORER be the pimp or madam? Right? Cuz isn't the -ER suffix like -MONGER? Like “roofer,” or “baker”? Like: “I was feeling rather lonely, so I talked to my local whorer ... ” ?
Marlon Brando - The Horror
“The horror!”
Also, this: Area Girlfriend Still Hasn't Seen Apocalypse Now Woulda called 23) the tacky clue ofda month if not for:

The Tacky!

  • 6) Busted for swinging scythe
    SCYTHE * anagram = CHESTY
Once again, female anatomy. Shmuh. At least it's just “Busted” and not “Irresistably busted.” At least it's not like, “Something a guy from the '50s would say about chicks (rumpled hour lost as ecstasy)”
Chesty Morgan That's the thing with these tacky clues. They would have us all be cryptic apologists. Muttering, “it could be worse ... ”

Wherrrrrrre are the puzzle-worthy cocks? One cock. Per puzzle. That's all we ask.

Or how about some butts? The butt: the Great Equalizer. Everyone loves butts.


Special congrats!!! to October 2013 contest winner Anand Sarwate of Chicago, whom we met at the Darwin Deez show at Shuba's in April. We'll never remember how our introductory conversation turned to cryptics. Vlad might remember. Vlad would probably explain, “you immediately started talking about the cryptic, as usual. Except this time, somebody actually knew what you were talking about.”

Proud of you, Anand!


What's this? In the answer key for HEX SIGNS, there is a NOTE:
NOTE: The clue for 7 (LILACS) was not an accurate reversal. The clue should have read “Phone back around one Sunday for the Bushes.” Due apologies given.
For reference, the clue as printed was: Phones back around one for the Bushes. Yah. We interpreted “back around” as an anagram indicator because we don't get too hung up on anagram indicators, because, as Dear Readers of this blog know well, we lve anagrams. Love blinded us.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Foursomes - November 2013

Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues | November 2013
Hola hola hola, readers! Before we begin, it occurred to us recently that in all our years of writing this blog: there has not been even one single challenge to what we've deemed “tacky.” From Day One, we were girded and ready for accusations of “reading too much into things” or “o u femnizt what du know” ... but no! And while we hate to think silence implies consent (cf feminist) maybe in this case silence implies enthusiastic agreement?

Which is to say: this month's quote-unquote “tacky” clue is a stretch, Dear Readers! Tit's a stretch. Feel free to call it out. You'd be the first.

To the puzzle!

Theme title: foursomes. Sexy times. Four-way (radial) symmetry and clues grouped in unnumbered foursomes to keep it lively, but left-to-right text directionality in English meant placement wasn't ambiguous for too long, not like with News Clippings a la Septembre.

This was a fast solve. Return to form! Started in the evening, finished up in the morning. Barely any time to get help from Sweet V, who usually looks over our shoulder and lands at least one of the long answers. No, this time our solve was pretty much solo. Big Girl puzzle solving.


  • 2D) During move, ram platform to make the band too loud (7)
    mOVE RAM Platform = OVERAMP
Reminded of Ani Difranco's Living in Clip. Ani Difranco | Living in Clip We got rid of most of our physical CDs in 2009 in a Great Purge before leaving San Francisco and the Internet doesn't have record of the story we are about to relate (!), but in Living in Clip's liner notes there's an explanation of the eponymous phrase:
“clipping an amp”: “overloading an amplifier with a sonic signal that exceeds the machine's power capacity, resulting in a terrifying snapping sound and the illumination of a tiny red warning light on the face of the amp indicating that it is about to blow.”

“Man, the amps are, like, living in clip.*” - Ani's sound guy
(*paraphrasing — ed)
  • 1A) Jailbird rants and rages—not in these places, I hope!
    (Jailbird = CON) + (rants and rages = VENTS) = CONVENTS
Like as in, “I hope no convicts go to a convent and raise a stink; those nuns wouldn'a handle it”? Nuns are tough. They'd be fine. They'd offer the convict some tea, give the convict some toilets to clean and a bed to sleep in. Cool those rants right down. Only mildly related, we've appreciated imgur's general collective fandom for the new Pope. There'll be a cool jpeg of Pope Francis, maybe with some cool words he said recently written on top, like, “it's ok to be gay! What, me judge?” Pope Francis And then the title of the post and the first 50 comments will be, “as an atheist, I say the new Pope is dope.” The Hierarchy of 2013 Internet Love goes like:
  1. Pope Francis
  2. Neil deGrasse Tyson
and they keep toggling top spot. Speaking of which, obv, do we even need to say it, this month's Nerd Hot Guy:
 Neil deGrasse Tyson

  • 21A) Shy nuns, I fancy, like a nice day (8)
    SHY NUNS I * anagram = SUNSHINY
Thought this was SUNNYISH. Wups. Check it out, another nun clue! Nunsense. Nunsense
  • 33A) Granted, The Wire going in had one great shot (8)
    (wire = CORD) + going in (one great shot = ACED) = ACCORDED
Mention of The Wire, right there as the first clue in the puzz, caused us to lose our mind. Got this one only near to the very end of the solve. Golf reference is forgiven because The Wire. The Wire alignment chart
  • 9D) Incompetent has a try, then, starting to sag, butts out here (8)
    (HAS A TRY) * anagram + (starting to sag = S) = ASHTRAYS
Oh but(t) how we wanted it to be ASSHATRY. The butts are really out here tonight! Some real asshatry on display!
  • 23D) I'm found in an article describing the persona of a woman (5)
    IM + AN (article = A) = ANIMA
Herr Jung. Reminds us of a story: years ago, we went on a date via craigslist with a young man we'll refer to here as Unattractive Kenneth* (*name changed to protect the innocent). Our date was to walk around Golden Gate Park. Unattractive Kenneth said three deal-breaking things on this date. The first was that he felt indifferent about Barack Obama. Indifferent! This was November 2008, and we could not relate to indifference about Barack Obama. True love, seething frustration: these feelings we could relate to. Indifference? The second was that he found the Star Trek universe rich and robust, but the Star Wars universe thin and uninspired. Huwhutt? Why would you even ... who would even ... what? The last nail in the space coffin for ol' Unattractive Kenneth was when he said he really liked “uh-NEE-muh” and we asked what that was and he said, “you know, Japanese animation? Uh-NEE-muh? I'm really into it.” And we nearly yelled, “no you are NOT into it! This date is OVER!”

This story reflects more poorly on us than on Kenneth. We love telling it, though.

All the 12s were lovely:
  • 25A) One might make a case for the president after election (12)
    CABINETMAKER (double syn)
Barack Obama convenes!
  • 14A) Royalty you get from printer cable (two words) (12)
  • 7D) Substitute taking shot in soccer in two games at once (12)
    (Substitute = DOUBLE) + (shot in soccer = HEADER) = DOUBLE HEADER
  • Proud to find spelling of vous original (12)


  • 7A) The father of modern art?(4)
    DADA (double syn)
We just had a Dada clue in September. We're Da-done with Dada clues. Especially thin little gimmes like this one.
  • 13D) Small noisy joint? Hot dog! (6)
    (small = WEE) + (joint = KNEE) * homophone = WEENIE
Meh. Was sure this would be SPLIFF, somehow. Instead it's a little doggie weewee clue. Hot dog Oh, and while we're on it
  • 24A) Makes a sound on bended knees, perhaps? (5)
    KNEES * anagram = KEENS
which, first, it's another knee clue, and we are not exactly lapping them knee clues up. Second, those anagrams that are single-letter translations BOOOOOOO!!!! Jeremy's iron. Boo.
  • 15A) Carved gate in front of university city in South Korea (5)
    (GATE + (front of university = U)) * anagram = TAEGU
This is the uncommon proper alluded to in the puzz instructs. Meh. Here's Taegu, though. So pretty with the night and timelapse. Taegu
  • 16D) Young European in a line from Joseph to Ebenezer (6)
    josEPH + EBEnezer = EPHEBE
We had it in mind that EPHEBE and EPHEBIC related strictly to ancient Athenian homonormative behavior, like “Peloponnesian twink ca. 100 BC.” But no. Lo:
e • phebe [ih-feeb, ef-eeb]
a young man, especially an ephebus.

Origin: 1690–1700; < Latin ephebus < Greek éphebos, equivalent to ep- ep- + -hebos, derivative of hebe manhood

Prolly maybe we got confused because we first encountered the word while reading Proust. Oh, don't freak out, we didn't read much Proust. Just enough to read about “sweet beautiful ephebes” again and again and like, “ok, Marcy, put away the hankie. We've cracked your code.”

The Tacky!

Not really tacky just gross. But kinda fun gross, awakening our inner eight-year-old boy, like a gross bug, or Ren & Stimpy. And not even actually gross, mostly gross in our head. Anyway.
  • 27D) It's slathered on with love at the end of a month (4)
    (love = O) at the end of (month = MAY) = MAYO
Slathered mayo. Gross (cool). Mayo But we were certain, so extremely positively certain, with M--O already in the fill, that this was gonna be MONO, aka The Kissing Disease, aka Slathering with Love. And then it turned out to be MAYO so then it was like mayonnaise kisses slathered on and so gross you guys.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Alphabetical Inserts - October 2013

October 2013 Harpers Cryptic answers | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues Welcome back, Dear Readers. Welcome to fall. New school year, new Jewish year. Decay and rebirth. Right now in real time an excavator claws away at the busted up old lot, catty corner from this coffeeshop. The excavator reminds us: change is possible. If you are like us, and your feeling of rightness and possibility in the world is contingent on such things as dubious, arcane, and esoteric as your command of the Harper's cryptic, and you just don't see how that's gonna change, take heed the lesson of the excavator. We wish you could see what this excavator is doing right now. It's playing with the wood and other shite in the lot like a housecat plays with a mouse. Change.

To the puzzle!

What have we here, why it's Alphabetical Inserts. A favorite variety! And, because we love you, and because what is this blog for if not to give loving, exhaustive commentary on the sometimes-tacky Harper's cryptic, herewith is the entire list of inserts IN ALPHA ORDER do you feel the love? Do you feel it??! You do.

Highlit letters are inserts.

(A) 12A) Public relations law—editor saw it coming (10)
(Public relations = PR) + (law = EDICT) + (editor = ED) = PREDICATED

(B) 54A) Draw out of state meal (10)
Stablemate reminds us of “helpmeet” as a definition for “wife.” Helpmeet!

(C) 10D) Dumb-ass and idiot plus! (9)
Reminds us of this incredible scene, starring Kurtwood Smith. Check out his IMDB page. He works all the time!

(D) 47A) Ramble on like a Republican strategist (5)
Ramble = DROVE (double syn.)
Nice. Rove as in Karl. And, of course, this clue is fodder for our sister blog,

(E) 11A) Mother finds bananas upsetting (4)
bananas = MAD * anagram = EDAM
Amended per Dear Reader Jordan: (bananas = MAD) * reverse = DAM
DAM like as in sheep mama.

(F) Roe, perhaps, comes with honey, as they say (5)
Roe = honey * homonym = DEFER

(G) 43A) Something in a vein or the right end of ventricle (4)
OR + (right end of ventricle = E) = OGRE
Cute spoofing us there with the cardioid references.

(H) 34A) Almost cried when shown back bench (4)
(cried = WEPT) * almost * reverse = PHEW

(I) 41D) What has United States of America? Furniture! (5)
stateS OF America = SOFIA
(amended rationale also per J-dan)

(J) 53A) Suffered, cutting the head off fish (4)
(fish = SHAD) - head = HADJ
A theme like this one, always gonna be, “where the J? Where the Z? Where the big money Scrabbo tiles at?” Cuz those will be the gimmes or disappointments. This was one of the dissatisfying theme answers, with the J tucked away in the cul de sac. Why not tuck away ALL the unusual letters and have yourself an alphabetical insert party with whatever clues you want Maltby just do that. Also, shad is the bad puzzle fish. Bad, but not the worst. That's you, COHO.

(K) There's one r in chemistry degree, and other mistakes (6)
ONE + R + (chemistry degree = BS) = BONKERS

(L) Lady in England yields to census (9)
We originally thought this involved some torturous reasoning of “yields => ESS” but and so woops. Nice neat anagrama. Bama.

(M) 1A) Sound are you? I state “bankruptcy” (10)
((sound = homophone) * are you = R U) + I + (state = NATION) = RUMINATION

(N) 16D) Be really bad—inhale (5)
SNUCK (double syn)

(O) 26D) ... staff of gold is elevated (4)
(of gold = d'or = DOR) * reverse = ROOD
Rude. Haha.

(P) 38A) The Return of Jack Fink (4)
(Jack = sailor = TAR) * reverse = RAPT
More sailor slang. Always with the sailor slang.

(Q) 13A) First person going last: a sticky thing for game inventor (6)
(a sticky thing = ATAR*) + I = QATARI
*Um. We're pretty sure you meant ATTAR, Maltby, because ATTAR is a sticky glue, and ATAR is the Zorastrian concept of holy fire, which is possibly metaphorically sticky (“Oy there mate! See you're burnin' up in 'oly fire! Quite a sticky wicket now i'n't it?”).

A + (sticky thing = TAR) + I = QATARI
Thanks to Dear Reader Eric for spotting my flawed logic above. Knee-jerk ATTAR reaction. Happens.

(R) 24D) For the record, if church is displaced by royal arrival, ... (9)
(church = CH) + ARRIVAL - (displaced royal = R) = ARCHRIVAL
Way to slip out the R, then slip it back in.

(S) 46D) Mate on the street turns up for the Queen's Ball (4)
(Mate on the street = BRO) * reverse = SORB
Haha like Kevin Sorbo (we wish).
Kevin Sorbo
What the crud is a “sorb”?
Definition of SORB: to take up and hold by either adsorption or absorption

(from Merriam W)


(T) This is the tacky one, so, see below.

(U) 21A) Cardinal delivered a Bible passage for auditors ... (4)
read * homophone = RUED “auditors” like ... auditory? For real?

(V) Flip part of shoe, not with the center taken out (9)
(part of shoe = INSOLE) + (NOT - center = NT) = INSOLVENT
Ooh this was a nice one. Hooray!

(W) 52A) Odd characters not necessary to witness electees (4)
wItNeSs = WINS
OoooOOoOoooh this is a sweet one. The alphabetically inserted letter is congruent to the clue oh so very sweet. So satisfying, Maltby.

But on the other hand, also annoying as fack, because the W is stuck in the puzzle's cul de sac, with sooooo many possibilities for insert. GINS. FINS. MINS. PINS. TINS. What a drag to have to infer it only at the very end of the solve.

(X) 19A) Denied becoming sure (7)
DENIED * anagram = INDEXED

(Y) 46D) I'm not quite objective: Indians live there (4)
(objective = GOAL) * not quite = GOYA
Thanks again to Dear Reader Eric L for the alley-oop on this one. We owe you, brother.

(Z) Church events—we got a bill for them here, so they say (6)
(we got a bill for them = RIGHTS) * homophone = RITZES
There's that Z! Ritz Carlton This clue is proper upon insert. Ritz Hotels. Ritz© crackers. So is Goya. So is Edam. So is Sofia the city, Sofia the woman, and Sofia the Hagia. So is Qatari. What the crud, Maltby? The puzzle instructions say
Clue answers include eight proper nous, two of which remain proper nouns when the extra letter is inserted. One clue answer becomes a proper noun with the insert.
Getting sloppy with these instructs.

( ... research ... )

Ok so “RITZES” is an acceptable Scrabbo word. This isn't saying much, because Scrabbo is loose and easy with what it'll accept as a word. Take ZA for instance. ZA. An acceptable Scrabbo word. Meaning PIZZA. What you feel right now is the feeling of Scrabbo like pants that drape around your legs like flags. Loose!

But that same looseness that the squares resent makes the game a better game. So if Scrabbo accepts RITZES as a non-proper, so shall we. But we're still counting four propers after insert. [we turn our head and growl to the East, where Maltby sips a double malt and thinks about golf. He coughs on the scotch as his mitichondria sense a disturbance in the Force]

And, of what remains (GEEZE is there anything left?)


  • 15A) Mid-size elements included in fat monitor, e.g. (6)
    (Mid-size = IZ) + (fat = LARD) = LIZARD
  • 4D) Get up with one in the rear? (5)
    (rear = ARSE) + (one = I) = ARISE
  • For example, delay, deny or decry a big of poetry (4)
DELAY DENY and DECRY each being examples of the metrical foot IAMB. In our notes on this puzzle next to this clue we wrote, “you motherfucker!!!!” This clue is devilishly good. Wonderful.


  • 31A) One seabird, or a number of them, migrating west (4)
    (number of seabirds = AUKS) * reverse = SKUA
  • 36A) Bad element that helps make zircon a zircon (4)
    zircoN A ZIrcon = NAZI
Goooooooood grief! No other medial Zs you could work in there, Maltby? No MAZE or JAZZ or HAZY? We know this isn't what “Orwellian double-speak” means but “Bad element” as synonym for NAZI comes across as severe Orwellian double-speak. Or like smirking understatement.
  • 45A) Yogurt drink, almost enough for a dog (5)
    (dog = LASSIE) * almost enough = LASSI
It's a stretch. Minimal payoff.
  • 9D) Producer of musical works, considerably over-directed (5)
    oVERDIrected = VERDI
“considerably” is the indicator on a word-spanner? Mmmmm ...
  • Big Bird once? Sounds like just what an orphan wants! (3)
    (what an orphan wants = MORE * Oliver Twist's cockney = big bird once = MOA
Ha ha what if the answer were “love” and “dignity” what if the answer were “social and financial support” what if the answer were that, guys. Moa

The Tacky!

(T) 5D) What's brewing in stripteases? (4)
stripTEAses = TEAT

When the answer was just TEA this was a charming clue, but with the variety addition of T to TEAT, next to striptease, we're calling it tacky. This clue says to us all, “hey, look at that stripper's tits!”

“Well but so, BONER is in the puzzle. So,” and yeah. Sure. We'd maybe kindof buy that logic if it were a clue like
  • Embarrassing thing to have in music class: inner trombone rash (5)
because in that case YES. We would be INTO it. That would be congruent with TEAT as used here.

Once again, we remind Richard E. Maltby Jr. and the puzzling community at large that were we called upon to write ribald Harper's clues that reference male anatomy as frequently as this puzzle references female anatomy, we would step forth with the greatest flourish, the most tireless and courageous spirit, the cleverest clues.

Say the word, Dick.

Hey there, lurker. Lookin' so fine. You're not gonna just walk away without a word, are you? Leave a comment, beautiful.

Friday, September 13, 2013

News Clippings - September 2013

Harper's cryptic answers | September 2013 | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues Triumphant return, everyone! We hope you all had lovely summers. Welcome back to

For la Septembre, the theme: symmetrical halves to the grid, except for the two 1As. The puzzle title was “News Clippings” and each clue was a double-threat that read like a headline, preceded by an appropriate(ish) newspaper section which—most incredible puzzle instruction in Harper's ever—was included “just for fun.”

Just for fun!

So had our thinking caps been properly strapped on we would have keyed in on the theme of Ye Old Media Papre of Yestreyeer and potentially nailed the 1As early, as opposed to dead last:
    creator of prohibition = BANNER
    (the man = HE) + (vitamin = A) + (died = D) + (perjury = LIE) + (name = N) = HEADLINE
Do you get it? “BANNER HEADLINE” in the puzz right where the banner headline is on a newspaper: Dewey Defeats Truman By the way, that clueing for HEADLINE is just, like, excruciating.

This puzzle was hard. Since we were such a dodo about 1A and thus couldn't enter any fill until the triumphant end, we brought out the big guns to keep track of which answers jibed together.

Big guns, you ask? That's right. We brought out the Scrabble board and the markers. Scrabble to defeat the September 2013 Harper's cryptic And, luckily, most of our first answers were in what turned out to be the left half of the puzzle, and we were able to make some wild conjectures that led to accurate inferences that put this one to bed in two days. Not one of the glorious single-sittings of summer 2012, tis true. But still flowing nice and steady, like a river, or a morphine drip.


    GREETED * anagram = DETERGE
    (energy = E) + (exhaust pipes = VENTING) * decentralized = EVENING
An especially nice flow between halves (“clean energy”).
    ((first-class = A1 = AI) * rev = I A) + (AND IN * anagram) = INDIANA
    ME BLURT * anagram = TUMBREL
From etymonline:
tumbrel (n.) mid-15c., “two-wheeled cart,” ... Notoriously used to take victims to the guillotine during the Reign of Terror.
Dark! “Death Cart: the cart that drives you to your death!” Tumbrel
    polyvinYL DWELling * rev = LEWDLY
    (man in Dada = RAY) + (great = G) + (TV series = ER) = GRAYER
Mmm that wordspanner reversal in the first half! YES. Blast from the past on that TV reference but we forgive, we forgive.

Also just now, in real time, our lovely boyfriend Sweet V whilst reading over our shoulder asked, “Ray? How is that Dada?” V is from Romania, the same nationality as key inventors of Dada. He speculates that Dada was a Romanian joke about art, right to art's face. Having had close contact with a Romanian for nearly a year we speculate same.

But V'd never heard of Man Ray. Man Ray! His photos were no joke! Man Ray is an automatic Highlight! Man Ray Glass Tears While we're on the topic of TV series—great TV series —check out Noah Wyle still hitting his marks on that first ER monologue. YES! Love!

Noah Wyle! You are this month's Nerd Hot Guy! Young Noah Wyle
Young and clean cut (cheetah print!)
Older Noah Wyle
Older and tastefully grizzled

    I PLACE (Willis' ex = DEMI) * anagram = EPIDEMICAL
    double synonym = BACKDATING
“Back dating” as in “those two? Are they back dating again?” Mmmmmmmmok we'll allow it!

Speaking of Willis's ex, here's Demi Moore and the Kootch deboarding, and oh-so-gently received by TMZ. TMZ, that most generous of media. And also if right now you're like, “uh your blog has a typo, it should be Willis',” dude, no. Possessive singulars ending in s take the apostrophe and s. Get out dat Strunk & White. Open 'er up. What does it say. You're welcome. We know. Yes, everyone does it “Bruce Willis'.” Yes, we know it looks funny the other way. Sometimes the truth is hard.

This clue also reminds us of Jackie Harvey's Gossip column in The Onion. “Item!
    ((strike = S) + LEVERAGED) * anagram = EVERGLADES
    (INTERNAL * anagram) + HD = HINTERLAND
Two glorious anagrams! Hinterland! Very nice. Always enjoy when an indicator is in fact anagrind material. Fresh take!
    (nightgown's starting = N) + (fashionable = IN) + YET = NINETY
    (go right = GEE) + (almost nothing = ZER) = GEEZER
“Ninety” like driving fast, in miles per hour, on an American highway mmmmmmmmmmmmmmok we'll allow it. “GEE” like in how you get your team of oxen to go left. We learned that from Reading Rainbow probably 25 or 30 years ago in the episode where LeVar Burton goes to an Amish farm.

GEE and HAW. Never know what's gonna resonate, what's gonna stick with you and be of use.


    A LOW * anagram = AWOL
    (public relations = PR) + I'M = PRIM
Just didn't like. Maybe it was the reference to public relations? Also, we were sooooo certain that the first half would play on VET and thus we built a neurological dead end and brought our sleeping bag and just camped out for a couple days.

When your intuition has you on the right track then sometimes that can work and you say, “mmmm! I'm like Columbo up in here, sniffing it out! Your book smarts will never defeat my qi!” but when it doesn't you're just like, “argh! Why did I let myself be guided by feeling?
    A + (Latin = L) + (president = IKE) = ALIKE
O mang, took forever thinking up synonyms for “Germanic” and only getting “Teutonic” which is way more than five letters, and didn't break up into neat components as a synonym for “wild.” But then, like the girl next door, the answer we were looking for was right there in front of us. (whispered: right there, the whole time)
    WARY * anagram = AWRY
    ((OF * not finishing = O) + RAN) * anagram = ARNO
Every time with that flow-er = river. Every time. Just one time, let's see flow-er mean “menstruater.” Fresh take!

Also, any Dear Readers out there know how to parse “van” here? There is such thing as Van Arno but we doubt that is the reference. Van Arno
    (D + D + S + I + NETS) * anagram = DISTENDS
    MENTION + (ring = O) * anagram = NOONTIME
More tortured clueing on that first half. Booo!
    OF + (old = O) + (Republican = R) = ROOF
    ON * reverse * cases + (regarding = RE) = NERO
Of course the famous musician is Nero. #ofcourse Nero fiddling while Rome burns. note! Wikipedia tells us that Nero probably wasn't fiddling during the Great Fire. So the next time someone brings it up like at a party or in a Huffington Post comment or something you can say, “ACTually ... !” Then everyone will say, “thank you for letting us know.”
    RULER * anagram = LURER
    (ON + (cart = DRAY)) * homophone = ANDRE
From W'k'p'd'a:
John André was a British Army officer hanged as a spy by the Continental Army during the American War of Independence.
Never hearda. But, there you have him. John Andre, via Wikipedia

The Tacky!

Let's call out what we always call out, and what we always call out is male normativity.
    (directions = N E W S) + ME + (name = N) = NEWSMEN
    TASTIER * anagram = ARTISTE
Meh. All the Press is All Man? Tell that to Cokie Roberts. To Maura Liason. To Connie Chung. We could go on. To Mi-chele Norris. To Audie Cornish. To what's her face, the mean blonde one. Tip of the tongue. Anne something.

(Googles ... )

Ann Coulter! She was the first hit for “mean blonde republican,” by the way. Not a comment on her politics, just on how she conducts her public persona(e). Ann Coulter And w/r/t tackiness qua sloppiness, is the noun “artiste” really symmetric to the possessive modifier “star's”? Mmmmmmmmmmno. It is not.


Did you, Dear Readers, check the specs on some BULLSHEET in the puzzle footer this month? change in policy | Harper's cryptic contest | September 2013
Beginning with this month's puzzle, the sender of the first correct solution opened at random, rather than the senders of the first three, will receive a one-year subscription blah blah
O RLY. Don't get cheap on me, Dodgson. Is Ye Olde Meedia exactly raking it in these days and no, certainly not. Do we begrudge them cutting corners with respect to the puzzling fanbase why YES we most certainly DO.

Anyway. Here's our winning puzzle from April, hanging proudly in the kitchen: Framed winning puzzle, April 2013

If you feel something, say something. Leave a comment.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sixes and Sevens - May 2013

Dear Readers, we're going to kinda phone it in this month. We are hard at work on our show, BLOGJOB. If you have not watched, you should watch. Currently, and this makes us very proud, our show is the top hit for a search of "blogjob." Take that! At least, that's true from this IP address. You know that Googly changes results based on IP address? It helps them maximize profits, prolly. So cool! What a cool company.

So this post will be barely edited (read: long and rambleh) while a couple scenes of footage from our show, BLOGJOB, render in Premiere for the next 45 mins. Don't tell us about how you hate editing in Premiere. Guess what? We've heard your rant. Guess what? It's what we're doin. It's just what's hannin. Believe.

Blogjob | Giving blogjobs is a terrible way to make a living
Too much scaffolding in this post already! Alla this blah-blah would normally be cut! This time, it's not! But! Dear Readers! An important and majestic something has occurred! And that is that: the miracle has arrived! Yes, it's finally ha'en'd! Lo! A missive!
Foolishly we thought this might be fanmail from one Richard E. Maltby. But it was even better: the hand-scrawled letter confirming that we were a winner of the April 2013 cryptic contest.

And here we thought we were the only one out there still writing business mail by hand. That's how we request to be removed from junk mail lists when the junk mail arrives. The upshot is that we rarely receive mail of any kind, let alone good mail. If you're itching to send us mail, you can do it care of: BLOGJOB, Box 409012, Chicago, IL 60660.

To the puzzle!

May 2013 Harpers cryptic crossword solution
Nothing really to say about it, puzzle-wise. Very regular. Familiar theme. Solid, steady. A white rice kind of puzzle.


  • 11A) Architectural feature due me? That's what it says! (4)
    (DUE * homophone = DO) + ME = DOME
Yeah ugh. No. If we're playing the homophone game we're playing the homophone game. No fun to switch it up to the orthography game. At least not for a thin nothing little word like "do." The answer should be "DOOMY." Doomy + gloomy. Hagia Sofia
  • g) Topics for redesigning a study for a scientist (6)
    TOPICS * anagram = OPTICS
A single-translation anagram. Boo. Least favorite. Unrelated to the puzzle, and not Maltby's fault, but it drives us mad! that it's in vogue for political commentators to say "the optics" when they mean "the [public] image." Excruciating. Yet another crime committed by our field of undergraduate study, political science. ([Russian accent] "Is not real science!") Matt Drudge
Matt D would agree.
  • e) Check on trade requiring, therefore, holding a degree from Wharton (7)
    (therefore = ERGO) + (degree from Wharton = MBA) = EMBARGO
Too easy. Meh.

About 20 minutes left on rendering! Don't stop now, team!
  • h) Pastoral letter from Benedict, upper-class pain in the gut (7)
    (letter from Benedict = B) + (upper-class = U) + (pain in the gut = COLIC)
Just ... so paint-by-numbers.


Both of the big twelves were very nice here:
  • 16A) Darlings heard by orators in hats (12)
    ((Darlings = DEARS) * homophone = DEERS) + (orators = TALKERS) = DEERSTALKERS
Like the Sherlock Holmes hat. Kept thinking there was some more severe homophony on and about. Nay nay. Do you watch the new Sherlock Holmes? People love it. We've never seen it, but we know that there's a guy named Cumberbatch in it, and he's really hot. We've also never seen Dr. Who. Kate Beaton did a good job of summing up what we think Dr. Who is like. We gave it a watch the other night. There was a 10-minute sequence about how Dr. Who is a picky eater. Is his fussiness related to being a Time Lord®? We weren't too interested either way. We've given up on Dr. Who for now, just as we've given up on Battlestar Galactica. It started out so good! Season 2 was exquisite! But now we're in Season 4 and a) nothing is happening and b) everyone is just stressed out and yelling all the time, and not particularly intelligent or creative. No one's even having sex. They just yell and sweat a lot. We thought space was cold! Why's everyone sweating all the time? Battlestar Galactica is a sweaty place
  • 24A) Peculiar quality sailor held in place—this shows restraint (12)
    (quality = TRAIT) + (sailor = JACK) + (held in place = SET) = STRAITJACKET
The other nice twelve. "sailor = jack" we'd never seen before. Got STRAITJACKET by inference, had to look up syns for "sailor."
  • 31A) Animal from pound running after one (4)
    (pound = L) + (running = ON) + (one = I) = LION
"Running" as in like "is your fridge on? Well you better go catch it!"
  • 4D) Look! The gentleman's upset an animal (5)
    (Look = LO) + (gentleman's = SIR) * (upset = anagram) = LORIS
LORIS! Holla atcher O'Reilly texts! Glorious :) OReilly Loris Here is a video of slow loris getting a tickle. If this video does not give you feelings then you have no feelings. Click the video. Feel things.
  • 10A) Headgear with the front cut off for the city (5)
    (Headgear = TURBAN) - first letter = URBAN
This was the first clue we got. Splendid! As a sidenote, we love seeing Muslims in hijab, turbans, kurta, etc. Be free, brothers and sisters. Honor your Creator how you see fit! It's not our job to thought police. That's Laura Roslyn's job. We have probably spent much-too-much time imagining ourselves as one of the good-hearted Cylon, and how we might be able to get through to President Laur. But there's just no way. Her prejudices, cheekbones run too high. Forget it. The Ros
  • f) Spooky and kinda not like a container! (7)
    UNCANNY (double syn)
Ooooooh so normally we're not into these fake-o words but uncanny! Uncanny valley! Uncanny X-Men! Not like a can! YES! Canny X-Men

The Tacky!

Two kinda tacky. One is is mildly lewd. The other sexist-y. Nothing truly untoward. Nothing about rape. That's saying something. Isn't it bad that that's saying something? It's bad! Here they are:
  • f) Habit-forming item endlessly allowed to be put on wuss (6)
    (wuss = WIMP) + (allowed = LET) - last letter = WIMPLE
Ah yes, the noble wimple! One time Nikki came with us to a reading in San Francisco. We had recently learned the word "wimple." At the reading, a twice-published author read from her second book of softcore medieval lesbian erotica.

... It's possible that we've already told this story before in this blog? No time to check! Onward!

This softcore lesbian authoress read from her book and hooooooow hard is it to make sexy fair maidens sexy? Not hard, right? But this passage was boring and bad. It made us mad, and sad. As we recall, the only things that happened in the passage were a quickened pulse and a dropped bowl of hærbs.

As Nikki said afterward, "there was nothing medieval about that book. It was just San Francisco, with wimples."

"Nikki, we have to write and publish two books, just to bring the world back to zero!" we said. wimple Ok, the bouncing icon in our Dock has informed us that we're done rendering that BLOGJOB footage. Gotta wrap this up.

Dunno about you, but growing up it was very clear to us that "wuss" was a bare euphemism for "pussy." Like "frack" for "fuck." Lewd. Thanks, Maltby.

Here's the other tacky.
  • One might be fond in bed with a crazy person, rising around one after gym (7)
    (crazy person = AUNT) + (one = I) + (gym = PE) = PETUNIA
Aunts are synonymous with crazy? We now direct your attention to our several crazy uncles. And crazy aunts. We were blessed with both. We are very excited that next month our Romanian boyfriend will get to meet a sampler course of them at a family reunion. Then and only then might he truly understand us. This is our heritage. Our crazy uncle heritage.

This clue seems to come from the deep dark heart of "crazy spinster aunts" and Miss Havisham and her-only-fulfillment-was-through-her-siblings'-children. From the dark place of "failed woman."

EDIT! Per Dear Reader Tyler's obso, "a crazy person" = A NUT. Because there's an indicator for a reversal. Which we ignored. Because we felt like it. So, nevermind! Nevermind! This clue escapes our outrage. Paul

Anything to share? Agree to disagree? Disagree to agree? Orwellian double-speak? Discourse through blog comments? Leave one below!