Monday, July 21, 2014

Sixes and Sevens (And Twelves) - July 2014

July 2014 | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution
We're back, Dear Readers! Back and better than ever! Travel to Europe with Sweet Vlad was incredible. Some photos on the Tweeter.

And THANK YOU to all those in the past month who responded to our Call and reached out, commented, emailed, passed along dollar support, kai, ta, loipa. We felt the love. Love is bond.

Din't e'en ha' ti' to check answers this month nor check our logic so this post is likely RIFE with errors and a reminder that this is a SAFE SPACE for correcting logic. Also: sincere question for the comments: how many people, would you estimate, participate in the monthly Harper's cryptic contest? Hard to know, right???????

The Theme

We've seen this bad boy before. Unclued six, seven, and twelve letter answers. A couple handfuls with clue numbers. Straightforward fun.


  • 9D) Mail boxes I put out (5)
    (Mail boxes = POST) + I = POSIT
Nice! Tight. Simple. This clue puts out.
  • 6g/5A) I'm right in front—entralled by quiet, soft, tiny thing
    (IM * rev = MI) + (quiet = SH) + (right = R) = SHRIMP
SHRIMP makes frequent puzzle appearances but this one charmed us for the narrative. The quiet soft tiny thing! It enthralls!
  • 24A) Reactionary, unmoved, shows a bit of kindness at heart? Unreal! (5)
    ((unmoved = DEAF) * rev.) = FAED) + (bit of kindness = K) = FAKED
  • 7D) Entering one by one, managed to become an extra in Argo (5)
    (one by one = I I) + (managed = RAN) = IRANI
Also nice. Very much enjoyed Argo for the Arkin-Goodman scenes, but it's a drag that we don't have any blockbuster superstar Iranians for the mostly unnamed Iranian roles. Hashtag institutional racism, hashtag shitty things. Hashtag frustration with culture.
  • 1A) Notice something that grips counsel (6)
    (Notice = AD) + (something that grips = VISE) = ADVISE
Sweet. Simple. Love.
  • 6a/31A) The least ordinary poems about death initially take a little time
    (poems = ODES) + (death = D) + (time = T) = ODDEST
Prolly coulda taken out “initially” for to make cleaner smoother, but still quite nice.
Emily Dickinson | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6h/17A) Gets into office, lets CEO endlessly become agitated
    (CEO * endlessly = CE) + LETS = ELECTS
Oh we wish! We wish politics were antagonistic to corporate business! Agitation!!
  • 6j/21D)Breaking rules, tenor gets fruit
    (RULES + (tenor = T)) * anagram = RESULT
Like “fruit of labors” or “fruit of loins.” Nice. Thought this would involve SAX or somehow become SYNTAX.
  • 7b/8D) A coward gets the most out of work
    (gets the most out of = MILKS) + (work = OP) = MILKSOP
OP like opus prolly. Nice clue, and love the word MILKSOP.
  • 7c/1D) Medusa's masks put on
    MEDUSAS * anagram = ASSUMED
Mmm! Very nice narrative flavor to this one! Mythological! Anagramical! Love.
  • 7g/10A) Disease you can get from the beach? Quite the opposite!
    DISEASE * anagram = SEASIDE
Worked hard to make “Disease you can get from the beach” the definition side. Our margin notes say “sunstroke” “rickets” (cuz the sun and Vitamin D, and rickets is a Vitamin D deficiency, so it's “quite the opposite” of a beach disease ... it's thin reasoning! We know!)

The twelves were spectacular, and much anagrammious:
  • 12a/23A) Screwing up as tenderfeet, use the bay to get rid of something
Like bay window. Mwa!
  • 12b/4D) Is one's mutual interaction coincidental?
  • 12d/16A) In perversion of altruism, get left imprisoned—it makes Man of steel lead copper, perhaps
    (ALTRUISM GET + (left = L)) * anagram = METALLURGIST
Full Metal Alchemist | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 12d/6D) After buildup, king takes care of overreaches
    (buildup = HYPE) + (king = REX) + (takes care = TENDS) = HYPEREXTENDS
Excellent! Wonderful. So nice when the component syllables break up in a fresh way relative to the answer.


  • 11A) I got in with buddy in the 'hood for life (4)
    I + (buddy in the 'hood = BRO) = BRIO
Didn't go for ELAN this time. Went for zippity-zip puzzle'ese synonym number two, BRIO. A'ight. BRO makes us thinka dis:
Backwards upside down visor | bro | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
“I am Broseidon, lord of the brocean.”
  • 2D) Provide man cave with a fork? Say you didn't do that (4)
    (man cave = DEN) + (fork = T) = DENT
Uh ... as in:
“Did yeh do dat?”

“I dent, mama! I dent do dat!”
Cuz ... No.

Per Brother Steve below, woops it's DENY. “fork” = Y. Yah. More sense makes.
  • 26D) Jumbos or squirts (4)
    JETS (double syn.)
Squirts. Gross. What is this, a misguided marketing campaign for the MS Zune (RIP)?? Zune - Squirt!!! | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6f/25A) Repeatedly, drops in first indications of rain easily show eventual excessive saturation
    rain easily show eventual excessive saturation = RESEES
  • 6i/14D) He prevents a pass. Can the Queen?
    (Can = SACK) + (the Queen = ER) = SACKER
ER or Er may refer to:

[...] Elizabeth Regina, the Latin form of Queen Elizabeth II

From Wikpdja

We always forget and think that “Regina” is her middle name but nah. It's for Lady Rex. Always gonna feel snooty about these -ER words. Restrict the -ER words to the Scrabble game, where they belong! Keep them out da puzzle!

sidenote: a couple years ago for our grandmother's birthday, our aunt wanted us to Photoshop grandma's face onto a banner-sized image of Queen Elizabeth II. Which was strange because 1) grandma is French-Canadian and 2) also not particularly interested in Queen Elizabeth. But our aunt was like, determined. Which then got sidetracked into explaining why a 200x200 jpg was not of adequate resolution to support a 6'x6' banner. And ultimately we avoided having to do it at all. But only narrowly.

This aunt also visits a psychic on a regular basis, and a couple years ago she texted me
ERICA, i visited my medium and he wants to know that there are people on the other side who are watching you

[2nd text]

they want you to know you WILL reach your goal! he named you SPECIFICALLY
which was pretty cool. And still is. Just to be able to jack into that kind of certainty in things working out, and love and support unseen but still there. What we're saying is: we love our aunt. We're still glad we didn't have to participate in this QE2 Photoshop project.
  • 6l/15D) People encouraging a heartbreaking novelist?
    EGGERS (double syn.)
Mmmf. More of this -ER word nastiness. Also, Dave Eggers: part of a discouraging new generation of painfully self-conscious detached writers. cf Sheila Heti. We're not a fan. We made it through about 100 pages of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and then threw it across the room. And then eight years later, an acquaintance said that our writing reminded him of Dave Eggers's and the acquaintance meant it as a compliment but we were like, “noooooooooooooooo!

If you agree that this blog is Egger-ific, please never say.

“What is the What” is supposed to be good though. So.
Dave Eggers Looking Silly

The Tacky!

Two this month, making up for the zero last month:
  • e/14A) Woman burned up about her husband's death? Tut! Sadly, look around (6)
    (TUT + (look around = SEE)) * anagram = SUTTEE
Ugh no! This is bad, you guys! This is bad. Not a cool* pun.
*“cool” used here is not, itself, meant to be a temperature-related pun, further escalation.

Suttee turned out ok for Daenerys. Not for a lot of ladies, tho. Violent murderous misogyny. Some real woman-hating bullshit.
Daenerys suttee | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 23D) After the princess got offed, did it to me, too! (5)
    ((princess = DI) removed from DID = DI) + (T) + TO = DITTO
Ai! Princess Di! Beloved! Too soon! It's been 18 years and guess what: in another 18 years it'll still be too soon. The heart still tender.

Also weird double DIs. Right? Super weird!
Princess Diana with her engagement ring | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Nice congruency with the earlier QE2 reference, tho.
Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Di | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

Sincere question for the comments:

About how many people do you think solve the Harper's cryptic every month, id est, how steep is the competition, how vast and deep our community? We're guessing it's somewhere between 10^3 and 10^4. Sound right to yeh?


  1. I have asked the same sincere question myself. I think 10^3-10^4 is high. Total Harper's circulation is 175K, and I would guess a response rate of 0.5-1% at most. So 10^2-10^3 in my view. The other question is does Maltby or his minions actually check the puzzle for correctness? I suspect there are a fair number of incorrect or even blank submissions, so if they are pulling puzzles until they get a correct one, that changes the odds a bit.

  2. There's DEFinitely at least one minion. Both me and puzzle-friend-and-October-2013-contest-winner Anand noted the SCRAWLacious handwriting on the letter notifying us of our wins. Didn't look like the scrawl of a 76-year-old man. Looked like the scrawl of a youth.

    And if such youth /IS/ under Maltby's employ, then prolly like basically The Only Task would be checking rando submissions against the answer key. /Way/ less tedious and miraculous than the work of the average physics TA during final exam season.

    I also suspect that an extraordinarily high percentage of submissions are correct. Like: the solving pool is already so intense and correct ("correct" meant here as a personality type). And the puzzle has a very "locked in" "KNOW that you're right" nature.

    Are you out there, Maltby's minion?? Come forth! Give us answers!!

  3. Hi Erica - love your comments, and I never read Eggers so no comparison there. I'm pretty sure 2D is DENY, not DENT - then the clue makes more sense.

    On the subject of the minion(s) checking submissions for the contest, I'm sure they only open envelopes until the first correct one is found - and it's probably usually the first one, so it shouldn't be a very time-consuming chore.

    If the number of people entering the contest exceeds 40, then it's not worth it to send in an entry. A year's subscription is only about $20, so your expected return ($20 x 1/n) is be less than the cost of a stamp. If you're inclined to get the 2-year subscription for $30, then it becomes a bad bet if n>30.

    1. Thanks Steve! Amended up top!

      As for cost of stamps vs. cost of just buying one's own drang subscription ... it ... literally never occurred to me that motivation for participating in the cryptic contest would be: potential monetary value of winning a subscription.

      What price glory, friend? What price FUN? I ask you.