Monday, January 14, 2013

Happy New Year - January 2013

January 2013 - Harpers Cryptic What's up, Dear Readers? Welcome to Lucky 2013. Welcome to a weird sweet noxious smell in our apartment.

We know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "sweet and noxious? First guess is that it's probably meth." But our best friend lived in a warehouse in San Francisco for a while, and confirmed that the smell is not the smell of meth, so cross that one off your list.

The smell comes and goes. It has no locus, no point of smellular focus. It's been worse since the heat came on. It's kindof ammonia-y. But sweet, too. Our sublet ends at the end of March, at which point we'll probably paint over the triceratops on our wall and move somewhere else. Hopefully to a less smelly unit within the building, but who knows, Dear Readers. We must listen to our nose. The nose knows.

This post goes live after January 11th, per request + suggestion from Dear Reader William. Our first, un-evolved reaction to Dear William's comment was, "o WOT-EVR, guy! You're not the boss!" and also, "Rex posts answers to the NYTimes puzz whenever the haaaaaaayle he wants, so why don't you back off!!!" And if our Dear Reader's comment had caught us in the last hot hey-days of our 20s we may have insisted on posting when we completed this puzzle and not a day later. Just to show you [show you all].

But as of last September our 20s are behind us. We're a mature woman now. Welcome to 30. And we realized, of course! The monthly contest (!). And the prize: one's name in tiny tiny print in the footer of the puzzle!
Winners! Are we such a jerk that we would sabotage everyone's good time with the cryptic, no. We are not such a jerk. Thank you, Dear William. Thank you for saving us from our ourself.

This month's theme! Lucky 13! Theme answers paired with "13," except for 13D which was "THIRTEEN" (appropriate).

And now it is time for you to ask us if we know that "triskaidekaphobia" means "fear of the number 13." Yes, we know that. Everyone knows that. "triskaidekaphobia" is the "Jewel lived in a van" of fears. Like how any reference to Jewel initiates the following conversational pageant:

"[something something] Jewel ... "
"Do you know Jewel lived in a van?"
"Yes, I know she lived in a van."
"Oh, ok."

"[something something] 13 ... "
"Do you know that 'triskaidekaphobia' means 'fear of the number 13'?"
"Yes, I know that."
"Oh, ok."

Also, and here's something weird about the theme: the instructions say "ten entries are unclued. One is self-defined; the other nine are related to it." But we count eleven unclued answers. We counted several times. Let's count them again using an ordered list in HTML (robots don't lie):
  1. 1A) [thirteen] COLONIES
    13 Colonies
    Holla atcha boy Sam Rockwell (holla!)
  2. 15A) [thirteen] GHOSTS
    13 Ghosts
  3. 20A) [thirteen] DAYS
  4. 13 Days
  5. 23A) [thirteen] PRINCIPLES
    It's a Maimonides thing.
  6. 37A) UNLUCKY NUMBER [thirteen]
  7. 40A) [thirteen] CLOCKS
    Aiii! One of our favorite books! Hell yah.
    13 Clocks
  8. 43A) [thirteen] MOONS
    We kinda thought this answer'd be a reference to the lunar Islamic calendar (13 moons to a year) but it's a low-budge Sam Rockwell film from 2002. Sam Rockwell Sam Rockwell. Sam Rockwell. No, we haven't seen Moon yet. You're going to have to sit us down and make us. Yes, we love Sam Rockwell. Yes, we agree we're probably going to love Moon. 13 Moons | Sam Rockwell Sam Rockwell
  9. 7D) CHANNEL [thirteen]
    Like a generic Channel 13? Is there a famous one?
    edit! Dear Reader Mister Christopher writes:
    Re: Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues -- Channel 13 may refer to NYC's Channel 13 (WNET): "THIRTEEN is the flagship public media entity of the NYC Tri-state area and the most-watched public TV channel in the nation."
    Of carse!!!! New York City chauvinism we might have suspected as much!
  10. 10D) [thirteen] PALMS
    Ok what the hayyyyck does this one refer to? This closed hotel named "13 Palms"?
    13 Palms
  11. 13D) THIRTEEN (mentioned previously)
  12. 30D) OCEAN'S [thirteen]
    Ocean's 13
    Our favorite Ocean's reference is the swapped gender fan fiction spec'ed out by Mindy Kaling in 2009:
    Mindy Kaling | swapped gender Ocean's 11
    tweet reads: Clive Owen as "Tess Ocean": "She doesn't make me laugh, but she doesn't make me cry, either."
So yeah. The official robot count is 11 unclued entries. And several of these "thirteen" references are movies of questionable popularity, or things we'd never heard of. Way to commit to a 13 theme, tho!!


  • 12A) A pixy has terrible trouble making pants? (8)
    A PIXY HAS * anagram = ASPHYXIA
Love! Sexy.
  • 18A) Need an outrageous group like the Supreme Court? (6)
    (Need an) * anagram = ENNEAD
So "ennead" just means "group of nine." If you remember from yer Aeschylus or yer ancient Greek history, the Furies are sometimes called "the Ennead" because there're nine of 'em. Those of you who enjoy personality typologies (Western astrology, Meyers Briggs, etc) allow us to introduce you to the enneagram: a nine-point personality typology. It differs from others in a few significant ways. First, it describes personalities as tending toward the negative personality traits of another type when in stress, and toward the positive traits of another type when thriving. So that feeling you get sometimes of "whoa ... this isn't me ... "—the enneagram knows allabout that.

Second, and this particularly appeals to our Freudian sensibilities, it identifies a specific fear from early childhood that each person builds a personality around. Check it out, Dear Readers. It was an Enneagram 5 who inspired this blog to begin with.

  • 26D) Diana with a German accent goes topless (8)
    (German = HUN) + (accent = STRESS (topless)) = HUNTRESS
Mm! Adore! Especially appreciate the reference to the topless huntress. Why is it sometimes ok to get excited about the naked female form in the cryptic and sometimes not ok? We can't really explain, aside from the Diana-specific implication that should one objectify Diana, she's gonna turn you into a stag, and you'll be ripped apart by your own dogs. So, do what you think is right. She dares you.
Diana | Huntress
  • 39D) Butcher's offering two-time loser something really small (4)
    (Butcher's offering = MUTTON) + (two (time = T) * (loser = -)) = MUON
Muon! Mm! Science!


  • 13A) Sadly, inertia takes over an indefinite number in multiyear cycles
    (INERTIA + (indefinite number = N)) * anagram = TRIENNIA
Triennia? Every three years? Like the term of the President-Elect of the Wyoming Society of Respiratory Care? We have a weird bias against three-year cycles. Don't you? Has none of the rightness of two and four-year cycles. Surely this is a cultural thing. Anyway.
  • 14A) Chicken not eaten? What a drag!  (4)
    (Chicken = PULLET) - (eaten = ET) = PULL
"I et it, mama. I et the otmeal." Meh.

Suspected PULLET → PULL for several rounds, but couldn't parse how to pick out the ET. Then it came to us. Then we felt waves of meh all over. Also, every example sentence we could think of that uses the word "et" also uses the word "mama," or in some cases "papa." We suspect that this indicates something awful about ourself that we rarely care to examine. We move on.

  • 19A) I'm in ship covering low Desert Storm occurrences (7)
    (ship = S) (low = MOO)  IM = SIMOOMS
Means a particular kind of strong dry wind native to the Arabian peninsula and the Maghreb. We'd never heard of these. Have you heard of these?
  • 42A) Mounts Sinai, Cervino, Everest, initially, and southern surrounding (7)
    (and * surrounding) S C E + (southern = S) = ASCENDS
Too obvious. But let's look at this picture of Tenzing Norgay + Edmund Hillary, just down from Mt. E. Look how happy. Look what brothers. They made a promise to each other to never say who reached the peak first. We fucking love that. Hillary | Norgay
Try not to get a crush on these men. You will find: you cannot.

  • 2D) Almost fat Roman god (3)
    (fat = LARD) * almost = LAR
"Lar"? [intoned like a cow farting silently, but deadly-y] Boooooo ooooooo. Even our encyclopedia of record, Wikipedia, does not really believe in "Lar." Lares, thank you.
  • 5D) Slaves, but in a bad sense (5)
    SENSE * anagram = ESNES
Ew this is some gross puzzle-ese! Coming straight atcha from the Dark Ages with a very convenient constellation of letters to the English-language puzzle constructor.

  • 35D) Bubbly entrepreneur speaks of not speaking (4)
    MUMM (homophone)
Mumm | Napa
With that first letter capped off and isolated there in the puzzle, we thought the answer was "DUMM" instead of "MUMM" and that "Dumm" was probably a kind of champagne from some dumb French family. We don't know things about champagnes, except that some people like to get uptight about champagne-is-only-from-Champagne. We lacked this particular content knowledge, and therefore, did not like this clue.

Dear Readers new to this blog can know: "Lowlights" = "we didn't like it!" Yet another case in point of blanket statements about the universal nearly always a mask for the individual-personal. cf "Dads are like that" = "my dad is like that"

At last, we come to this month's tacky clue:

  • 11A) Old, like a tart? So they say! (5)
    (like a tart = WHOREY) * homophone = HOARY
"hoary" like "hoarfrost" like in Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

"whorey." Word? No. Not a word. "Should I wear this dress?" "It's kinda ... whorey ... " "Perfect!"

Also, Maltby, why you gotta bring in a word that casts a negative light on an active and variegated sex life? We say this, even though one of our favorite words is "slutty." Just the other month we were in the Bahamas hanging out with a fat black cat who was a total slut for affection. "C'mere, you fat slut," we said, and considered that eavesdroppers might think we were fat shaming, or slut shaming.

But no. We were fat loving. We were slut loving.

This clue reminds us of something we probably heard in a movie once: "in France, no whore is too old or too ugly." Which, like this clue, comes off as vaguely misogynist and sex-negative. Let's talk about the physical characteristics of the people seeking French prostitutes. What do you believe you are owed, French prostitute-seeking people of the world?
Gene Wilder
This image of GW was the fourth hit for us on a Googly image search of "french prostitute."
Dear 11A), we pronounce thee tacky and crude—moreso in the wordplay than in the reference, even.

Did you like? Did you laugh? Did you vehemently disagree? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Season's Greetings - December 2012

Harpers December 2012
Hola, Dear Readers!

If you're wondering where we were we were well we were busy. cf our web series BLOGJOB which you should all be following on the email list, tweeter, and faceface. cf being busy with some paid work. cf a solo trip to the Bahamas for a much needed and long-planned respite after a rocky 2012.

But for those Dear Readers so hot for the high-quality content of this blog, nothing will expedite your claim faster than:

Is a blog information? Is information free? Is freedom free? Is a blog free? We ask you. Ira Glass assks you to pay for freely available content. So does Jimmy "sad blue eyes" Wales. Do you know something Jimmy Wales doesn't? [no]
Jimmy Wales | Fremen
Jim Wales, offering you the water of life.

Note that the Donate button is particularly directed at sassbacking Dear Readers. Lurkers in the vast appreciative silent majority of Dear Readers, please, continue to enjoy our free content, pony up iff you're into it.

This month's cryptic theme was holiday-specific, and because we live in a Gentile-normative Western world, that holiday was Christmas. Bah lovebug, everybody. And esPESHal bah to everyone who insists it's a secular holiday. It's the Christ mass. There is no secularity in any part of the word. Boom.

Ok so we don't like Christmas, but we LOVE this video from Drew of Married to the Sea, which, oddly, grants us full unbarred permission to not like Christmas.


That said! We enjoyed the puzzle's theme! 23A (unclued) eventually read (by inference) "THE FIRST NOEL" or (homophone times) "THE FIRST NO L." Other theme answers in the red squares were entered without their initial Ls. And, Harper's style, the no-L versions were also words unto their own.

  • 1A) Reveling in gin, hauls pine away (8)
    GIN HAULS * anagram = L/ANGUISH
  • 7A) One form for sugar plums, cooked (5)
    PLUMS * anagram = L/UMPS
  • 13A) Educated in the French attire, decked out (8)
    (the French = LE) + ATTIRE) * anagram = L/ITERATE
  • 14A) Shul, oddly and upsettingly, not quite red, more green (6)
    (SHUL * anagram) + (not quite red = RE) = LUSHER
Nice shout-out (shul-tout) to Judaica.
  • 16A) Wassail from east to west—what a tool! (5)
    (Wassail = REVEL) * rev = L/EVER
  • 17A) Celebrating, turn back no one between one and fifty having pizzazz (9)
    (((one = I) + (no one = NO I) + (fifty = L)) * rev = LIONI) + (pizzazz = ZING) = L/IONIZING
  • 28A) A place of Christmas shopping returns—it can take some of the burden off you (5)
    ((A = A) + (place of Christmas shopping returns = MALL)) * rev = L/LAMA
    We liked to think of not just llamas proper but also the lamas of the Buddhist priesthood relieving us of spiritual burdens.
  • 31A) Boy leads Rudolph, e.g., eliminiating one excellent way to get to the roof! (6)
    (Boy = LAD) + (Rudolph, e.g. = DEER) + (eliminating one = -E) = L/ADDER
Rudolph poses an unsettling xenophobia allegory ... difference only accepted and celebrated if it profits the status quo. Otherwise, stand aside, freak. Anyway.
  • 38A) Part of a chain letters start in opening of Kringleland (4)
    (letters start = L) + IN + (opening of Kringleland = K) = L/INK
  • 39A) A true ale passed around? I'm honored! (8)
    A TRUE ALE * anagram = L/AUREATE
    "aureate" is a word? Spose so. Means like "gilted." Also, have you ever wanted it to be "all that gilters is not gold"? No? Just us?
  • 42A) Not counting the sixth of December, mixing together and giving, for a while (7)
    (mixing together = BLENDING) - (sixth of December = B) = L/ENDING
    Thought "mixing" was an anagram indicator din'tcha! T'wa'n't.
  • 43A) Leader curious about name—that's what Wise Men are! (7)
    LEADER * anagram + (name = N) = L/EARNED
Our wise men. Semper Sebastian Shaw!
Great and cool (grool), except for AUREATE which isn't to our taste but OK FINE WOT EVR. Plenty of references to booze, naturally. Booze of course being the Official Drink of Christmas. This was the first sober Christmas for the staff since 2007. How'd it go? The first few days home the urge to drink alcohol was strong. But then the stress let up, and then the urge dissolved, the way it always does.

To the puzzle!

  • 11A) Decorate tree, plot way to get people moved in a postmodern way? (8)
    (tree plot) * anagram = TELEPORT
    Delicious. Although is "teleportation" truly a "postmodern" mode of transport? "postmodern," Dear Readers will recall from October means whatever the fuck you want it to mean. Here, read what Wickedpedia has to say about it, make sense of it for yourself.
  • 20A) They report in secret: swans are a-swimming (11)
    (SECRET SWANS) * (a-swimming = anagram) = NEWSCASTERS
    Somehow implicates The Media in a way we rully rully like. The Media: cravenly, secretive [manipulative]. Our brother is part of the media. He is not implicated. 'sup, Tomahawk!
  • 26A) Producer of loud, uh, sighs is finding time in court (7)
    (Producer of loud = homophone) * (uh sighs is) = ASSIZES
    Love the homophone stretching across words. Mm! Why's "producer" in there is it just to make the verb agree with "is"? It is, isn't it. Uh! sighs us.
  • 27A) Around the start of Xmas, drink something in rotation (4)
    ((start of Xmas = X) + (drink = ALE)) * anagram = AXLE
    Liked to think it might be AXEL. You know. An axel. Like the skaters do. Like triple axel, quadruple axel. Also, here's a poem we wrote a while back about Surya Bonaly and her effectively-disqualifying "fuck you!" backflip at the 1998 Winter Olympics.
  • 12D) Levantine Magi initially facing east— it's over the moon (3)
    (Levantine = L) + (east = E) + (Magi = M) = LEM
    Mmm!!! We raise our fist, we cry out "science!"
Apollo LEM
The Apollo LEM
  • 22D) One of the Chosen finds the Spanish, etc., moving into view (8)
    ((the Spanish = EL) + ETC + (view = SEE)) * anagram = SELECTEE
Presumed SELECTED for a long time which messed with EARNED in the southeast corner thar, but we got it settled 'ventually. Very much appreciated the nod to the Spanish Inquisition, and the plight of Jesus's people, the Jewish people. See also this.
  • 29D) Menorah, height cut without me, shaped as Italian flower (4)
    (MENORAH - (height = H) - (ME) = NORA) * anagram = ARNO
So, without even really groping this clue you know the answer is going to be an Italian word for "flower." Ain't gon' be no synonym for "menorah." So we ask ourselves, do we know any Italian flowers? And the answer is no. This will be an inference answer. We locked in A–N–, leaving the combinatoric possibilities of AONR (unacceptable) and ARNO. Thank you, cross-clues. The Arno is a Tuscan river through Florence. Flow-er.
The Arrrrrrrno
Let's start with the lowlights that annoyed us most mightily which are two in the northwest:
  • 10A) Card, initially 50 percent reduced, spells out help in basting the Christmas roast! (4)
    The answer is LARD.
A different time.
Outta the box we presumed "help in basting the Christmas roast"  the synonym. So whatta we got here? Is it something obscene like if you erased the top half of the "C" in "CARD" you get kinda like "LARD" with a short-stemmed "L"? Is that it? That is the grossest thing we have ever heard in our lives. But wait no, it's that C = 100 and L = 50 so C "50 percent reduced" = L oh well FINE THEN GROSSNESS AVERTED. Let's check out the awful noxious cross clue:
  • 3D) English floating island with turnover comes with bird (5)
    ((English = E) + (floating island = BERG)) * anagram = GREBE
This a grebe. Tru wise.
Just gross. Tauntingly, the instructions specify "All other clues and entries are normal." The grebe is not a normal well-known bird. Check your pants, Richard E. They're on fire.
Yule Log
  • 40A) Fireplace, one stocking, years on end (3)
    ONE * anagram = EON
... hrm, whoa, sorry! You woke us up there! We'd fallen asleep at seeing EON in a puzzle. Maybe you Dear Readers have some clue but we had no clue why the words "fireplace" and "stocking" are in this clue. We were not clued in on that. Is "fireplace" the anagram indicator? Like "throw it in the fireplace it gets all burned up and chemically altered, and in its new form, it is unrecognizable yet still its component parts"? Ok fine ok so then what's "stocking"? Is "stocking" part of the synonym half? "stocking years on end" = EON? ... ...


... hurr o sorry! We fell asleep again. Happens.

EDIT! per savvy Dear Reader Tyler yah "stocking" is an indicator for a word spanner whatever we still don't like this clue. EON. Boo. The only eon we want is Aeon Flux (1991).
Aeon Flux!
Bonus points if you can explain what that show is about, because it's clearly not about what it's about, id est it's not about a sexy Monacan (sp) operative in a future dystopia. Also, a fun thing to think about is how houseguests at Aeon Flux's house would be like, "whoa, what is that? A leather bridle? Like for a horse?" and she'd be like, "uh, those are my clothes. I wear those." And the houseguest would be like, "ok, and is that a short length of titanium chain attached to a complicated lock?" and she'd be like, "no, those are my underpants. I wear them under my clothes."
  • 30D) Gave more voice to leaders in merrymaking in Kwanzaa every December (5)
    leaders * (merrymaking in Kwanzaa every December) = MIKED
additional side-rant on Christmas is that we know in our heart we must accept it, because no other tradition presents serious contention. Hanukkah tries, but as you go deeper into the tradition you learn just how minor it is as a Jewish holiday. Kwanzaa? To quote Kamau Bell, “there are actually more black Seinfeld fans than there are black Kwanzaa fans. I only know like a handful of people who do it, and two of them are white lesbians with black kids.” So what does that leave? Solstice? Eid? None mounting a formidable challenge as a cultural alternative. We're stuck with lights and nativities. For now.
Kamau Bell
  • 34D) Express a belief, but don't include O Tannenbaum, e.g. (4)
    (Express a belief = OPINE) - O = PINE
    Is Maltby making fun of us for Christmas, is that our gift? This clue was not quite as simple as the one that follows:
  • 35D) Delivered a carol, hit snag (4)
    which, if you need us to spell out for you, if you RULLY RULLY DO, our Christmas gift to you is for us to shake our head, and invite you to figure it out for yourself. The gift of integrity lasts a lifetime. #dads Also, you can scroll up to the jpeg of the puzzle above.
  • 36D) You'll listen to this for Christmas (4)
    You'll * homophone = YULE
    Dunno about you Yanks but we [Yanks] pronounce "yule" like "yool" and "you'll" like "yull." So. Anyway, another total gimme. Gross.
The closest to tacky proper this month

The distinction goes to:
  • 7D) Bra information? Don't get me started. Presents get bigger (6)
    (Bra information = CUPSIZE) - (Don't get me started) = UPSIZE
A booby joke. Ok fine. O, such stress of big boobies to buy presents for (should you be so un/lucky).
We say this, even though two and a half years ago we were extremely excited about, and produced some concept art and design for, an iPhone game called "Big Bouncing Boobies." The "game" would be a randomized animation of blue-footed boobies bouncing on a trampoline. Game mechanics were discussed, but never a point of serious inquiry.
Big Bouncing Boobies
Where are the smirking ribald jokes about upsizing condoms and codpieces, Maltby? That's all we ask. Equal opportunity anatomy humor. As we've offered before, we eagerly offer again now: we will write you these clues, Maltby. [looks at camera, mouths] Call us.
Bush | Codpiece
Codpiece: Accomplished