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.


  1. My memory is not that great on this topic, but I'm pretty sure you were talking about cryptics and other puzzles. Also something about binding and making people fast. Or computer algorithms, I can't remember...

    1. Was I the one to bring it up? Was I, like, trying to sneak in some cryptic time by the bar?

  2. Like to give a shout out to everybody who came to this three year old blog post this week because Harper's printed another hex shaped xword with the name Hex Signs

    1. Thanks for reading, brother! Haven't even /touched/ this month's puzzle but hope you're breezing through it :)

  3. Like to give a shout out to everybody who came to this three year old blog post this week because Harper's printed another hex shaped xword with the name Hex Signs

  4. Very interesting blog. Alot of blogs I see these days don't really provide anything that I'm interested in, but I'm most definately interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know. Hex To Decimal