Sunday, August 24, 2014

4 Across - August 2014

August 2014 | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution

This bad boy nearly did us in, Dear Readers! Been bragging about one- and two-sitting solves and then whammo! August 2014. Finished in time for our solution to arrive at the Harper's office by contest deadline date of August 8th. But only barely. Eep.

excuse: been busy working a fulltime corporate marketing gig which is UGH very lucrative and BLUH very very stupid. The gig is: coding spam for banks and credit cards and stuff. Sometimes Flash ads. The trash of the Internet. Not proud. Don't even want to assign some soothing narrative to it like, “this too shall pass”or “we all gotta make a living” or ”be grateful for a job in this economy.” Don't want to tell self something just to feel better. Prefer to leave it unreconciled.

The Theme

Blues unclued, each four letters across, yielded a WORD CHAIN (51A) that's also A FULL MEAL (4A). See cuz the chain goes:
  • SOUP
  • COUP
  • COMP
  • CAMP
  • CAMS
  • CATS
  • CUTS
  • NUTS
So get it, “soup” to “nuts” OK COOL. Had “AFU------” for a while in 4A and thought maybe it was “A FUN -----” like “A FUN THYME” or similar.

Theme was aight but not sure what its relationship to the puzzle title (“4 Across”) is. Four food groups, four courses ... four letters and can't come up with anything better?

Maltby calls out to the back stairs
“Minion! Minion! Come here lad! Help us name the puzzle!”

Minion looks up from an intimidating stack of mailed puzzle solutions
“How about '4 Across'.”

“Hmmm ... inTRIGuing! Yes, but why, my dear boy. Why??”

“Because I don't care,” whispers minion.


A lot to like this month :)
  • 15A) They reveal the full spectrum in reverse sexism. Sir, please! (6)
    sexisM SIR Please * reverse = PRISM
Dahh!! LOVELY!
Sir Isaac Newton and prism
  • 17A) River was mispronounced? (4)
    WAS * homophone = OISE
Not too unusual a puzzle usual, but took a long time to get this one. Kept forcing URAL. Nyet! Nyet Ural. Nyet this time.

Didn't realize this river is located in Belgium and France. Thought it oise somewhere else, haha ha ... ...

Listen, we can't turn this off people! [points to head].

Ice on the Oise River - Gustave Loiseau
Ice on the Oise River - Gustave Loiseau, 1914

  • 20A) Staggers, heading off swimmers (6)
    (Staggers = TOTTERS) - heading = OTTERS
Yah! Puzzle spidey sense was right on about this one: that a syn for “staggers” minus the first letter would yield an aquatic animal. But took some crosses to get TOTTERS to OTTERS.

Otters! Here you go: a video of napping otters holding hands. You are welcome!

  • 21A) That man tails black cars (7)
    (That man = HE) + (tails = ARSES) = HEARSES
Yussssss delightful! Arses!
Claire's hearse in Six Feet Under
Claire's hearse in 'Six Feet Under'

  • 27A) May emerald, e.g., be rings exchanged in troths? (10)
Mwa! Big beautiful anagram. Nice congruency with “rings exchanged” and “troths.”
  • 45A) Making a doctor walk back from a steroid manufacturer (7)
    A + (doctor = DR) + ((walk = LANE) * rev.) = ADRENAL
Nice psych-out with “manufacturer”! First instinct was like Eli Lilly or another pharmacorp. Nay nay. All the drugs you need right here [points to head].
The brain manufactures plenty of drugs
  • 49A) Sure, a pig has no gravity as a wild animal (5)
    (Sure = OK) + A + (PIG - (gravity = G) = PI) = OKAPI
Usual wild animal of puzzle fame OKAPI forgiven for this delightful narrative. Mmm!

related: this exchange with Amazon customer service a while back:
Turing test with Amazon customer service
  • 50A) Forbidding a woman like you to provide fashionable clothing (8)
    (a woman like you = SISTER) + (fashionable = IN) = SINISTER
A woman like you!! The woman like you is inside your family. The woman like you ... is you. Strong. Here's a swap-gender Mr Sinister (Ms Sinister!!)
Swap gender Mr Sinister | Ms Sinister | Miss Sinister
  • 10D) Emphatically said “Farewell,” joining Resistance with communist (7)
    (Farewell = AVE) + (Resistance = R) + (communist = RED) = AVERRED
Like it! Even though it stacks up neatly, and there's the giveaway capital-R “Resistance” and the usual “communist” = “red”. Somethin bout the fresh use of AVE. Felt real crisp, real nice.

  • 13D) Sounding sick, aid a cycling participant (6)
    SICK AID A * homophone = CICADA
YUS!! Can I get a wut wut for biology?? Had the terminal A from 26A) ETA, and was hung up for some time that it was a play on GIARDIA. Sometimes one's puzzle instincts stink.
  • 17D) Sex appeal leads to love, love on speed (5)
    (love, love = OO) + (speed = MPH) = OOMPH
DeLIGHTful! Favorite clue of the puzzle! Narratively striking! Love gone awry on a chemical flume.
Kanye and Kim | Motorcycle
Unsafe at any speed.

  • 18D) Whoopee! Latin lawyers fight. You might take one to a bed, when working out! (11)
    (Whoopee! = WHEE) + (Latin + L) + (lawyers = BAR) + (fight = ROW) = WHEELBARROW
Yah the cakewalkiness of this one is mitigated by the fun of the cluing! Take the Latin laywers to bed! To bed, for whoopee!
  • 23D) Really funny thing, church spirits—not very good (6)
    (Really funny thing = HOOT) + (church = CH) = HOOTCH
Nice. Hootch! Not very good. Never a good sign when that's whatcher drinking.
Prison Hooch | Pruno Creek Prison Wine | This S**t Will F**k You Up
  • 29D) They help addicts rebel as, after rehab, small number gets taken in (8)
    (REBEL AS + (small number = N)) * anagram = ENABLERS
Nice congruency with addicts and rehab.


  • 23A) Cat's word for piece of the pie (3)
    tHE Pie = HEP
Nope! Nope nope. “Cat” as in like a really cool cat man, this is a real happening joint, dig?
  • 26A) Letter with information about your flight (3)
    information about your flight = letter = ETA
In a shocking twist, ETA, which would normally just be a composite part of a bigger, better answer, this time, is the answer. Moo. Snooze times. Would prefer not to see one iota of eta for the rest of this era.
  • 38A) Ace tax forms, chance to win big (6)
    ACE TAX * anagram = EXACTA
A method of betting, as on a horserace, in which the bettor must correctly pick those finishing in the first and second places in precisely that sequence. Also called perfecta.

Source: The Free Dictionary

This wierdo held up most of our progress in the southeast until the frustrated, bitter end. “Exacta”? Never hearda? Exactly.
  • 43A) Dieter's suffering black out again? (2-4)
    DIETER * anagram = RE-EDIT
Re-edit and weep.

If you cut your hair, do you talk about re-growing your hair afterward? If you take off your clothes, do you say, “hold on, I gotta re-robe” later? What's the meaningful difference between editing and re-editing? Is it that an editing session might be any session 1 through n, but re-edit is session 2 through n?
  • 3D) Professional writer and outlaw (9)
    (Professional = PRO) + (writer = SCRIBE) = PROSCRIBE
This clue is where imagination has come to die.
Branded Outlaw by L Ron Hubbard | book cover
  • 7D) No end to what's inside comic, silliest man in France (9)
    (SILLIEST + (man in France = M)) * anagram = LIMITLESS
Limitless The “France” part was a real « quoi? » for us. As in like M. for monsieur but mmmmmmmmmm really necessary? Really? Mmmmno. Coulda gotten away with just “man” wethinks.

Q. Who is the silliest man in France?
A. Every man in France.

FYI that we are headed to France in September with our mommazon! She's been talking about visiting Provence for 20 years. This year we said, “Mommazon! Provence 2014. Let's do it.” So we're doing it! Very excited. Been sending her a daily jpeg from Pinchrest. This place! We'll be here!
Your Daily Provence
  • 8D) Primary character changes in crustacean's hood (7)
    (crustacean = LOBSTER) * primary character changes = MOBSTER
Appreciate that “hood” in this instance is not cultural code for “thug” aka “gangbanger” aka “young black man.” Pretty silly tho.

Do they say “gangbanger” where you live? Chicago is the only place we've lived where they say it. In every other city “gangbanger” means “someone who participated in a sexual gangbang.”

You know what else they say in Chicago? And also they put it on the official municipal roadsigns? SPEED HUMP.

  • 11D) Endures sole formats (5)
    LASTS (double syn.)
Annnnnnndummmmm ... we don't quite get it. SOLE as in LAST like “The Last Unicorn”? Ummmmmmaaaaaaaybe. Maybe.
The Last Unicorn
Ah so per Brother Eric yea but there is another meaning of last: these things. Shoe trees. We award this clue last place.

update: per Notorious Marcel, lasts are more like patterns for shoes than “shoe trees.” Annnnnd that makes more sense. COOL
Shoe last
  • 33D) A TV set taken back—help, it's heaven on earth 
    A + (TV set = RCA) + ((help = AID) * rev. = DIA) = ARCADIA
From Wokapeetya:
In European Renaissance arts, Arcadia was celebrated as an unspoiled, harmonious wilderness.

Source: right here (1st ¶)

Ok COOL but that TV = RCA equivalence is a leetle shaky here in 2014:
RCA stood for Radio Corporation of America, a company which later became RCA Corporation which was taken over by General Electric in 1986 and then split up.

Source: yuh here (1st ¶)

  • 48D) Good name for a ragout chef, say! (3)
    ragout = STEW, homophone for STU
The chef's last name is Pid.


The Tacky!

Once again, we rail at USA imperialism. The losing battle (lost battle) that we still fight.
  • 9D) Part of series One of America's Greats (4)
    sERIEs = ERIE
The Great Lakes! Love them! Buttttttttt (repeat after we):

“America” is a continental group, not a country.
The US is not America
Commit it to memory, correct other people obnoxiously. Say “US” instead of “America” when referring to the US. Feel goofy doing it and still do it.

Ok but then as for “American” noun as in ”we were the young Americans,” or “American” adjective as in “the existence of Fridgehenge makes me feel very very American, and proud to be so, as does every person who appears in The Blues Brothers, including the Canadian Dan Aykroyd (especially the Canadian Dan Aykroyd)”
The Blues Brothers
wellllllllll those use cases ring less imperialist to our ear. Use your judgment.

If even one Dear Reader is more thoughtful in his or her language as a result of this blog: that would be amazing. That would amaze us.

Ok and then basically the same thing for da'other:
  • 44D) America in, interminably, the back seat (4)
    (America = US) in (THE * interminably = TH) = TUSH
MmmmMMmm that's right even Yiddish slang for butt cannot save this clue from our ire! UGH it feels rancid and rong to even type out that equivalency (“America = US”). Argh! See above!!

Tell your puzzle friends about this puzzle blog. That or leave a comment. Your choice! The power is your's!!


  1. 11D is this kind of last:

    Can't help you on "your's".

    1. Whoa that is a deep dive on a disambiguation deep cut for "last." Many thank's!!

    2. Speaking of Maltby's minions, have you read this article about the eccentric millionaire who publishes Harper's?

      Sounds like 666 Broadway is some kind of cross between an episode of "The Prisoner" and a Bond villain headquarters.

    3. Favorite part: "foremost evangelist for the restoration of what he sees as journalism’s golden age — when words were printed on paper and sold in magazines or books."

      HAHA don't ever change, baby!!
      Hold on with a white-hot two-fisted grip!!!!

      I admire his integrity around ads, tho, regardless of whether his family's bankroll means he can afford it.

      True fact, Eric Lawrence: about a month ago I looked into salting this blog with some Google AdSense. But by most guesstimations, selling out would have amounted to mayen $5 - $10 per month. Which was just like not NEARLY enough to sell out for.

      If you're gonna to sell out: get your money's worth. #myphilosophy

  2. I wish Harper's would *publish* your splendid Illustrated Solutions.
    My friend is desperate for One-Upmanship help.
    You rock, dudette.

    1. Gracias, amigo :)

      One-Upmanship coming SOON. Buh. That one was hard. Your friend is not alone!!

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