Saturday, May 9, 2015

Theme and Variations - May 2015

May 2015 | Theme and Variations | Harper's Cryptic puzzle solution

The Theme

Dear Readers may recall our joy at HELENA BONHAM CARTER in May 2012's Theme and Variations. This time around, it's another hottie: RUTH BADER GINSBURG.
Notorious RBG
More Ruth Bader Ginsburg at

Errrrr …wait a sexond … the puzzle spells it GINSBERG. Unless GINSBURG crosses 34A for VIOLONCULLISTS?

This is bad.

EDIT SUGGESTED BY SWEET V if there are any Puzzle Minions or Answer Key Writers out there listening, some possible ways to spin it:
  1. keeping the E
    “You thought we meant Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the jurist? No no, we meant Ruth Bader Ginsberg, cousin of Allen Ginsberg!”
  2. asserting the U
    “BURG, or ‘town,’ refers to how the land is the enemy of the sea, and the people of towns were enemies of the people of the Titanic. You've never heard of the VIOLONCULLO? Really! I guess culture hasn't made it out there to … where did you say you were from? Ah.”

Taking the puzzle at face value, the theme:
  • 17A) RUTH varies into ECCLESIASTES (10D) and ISAIAH (27D), other books of the Bible.
  • 18A) BADER varies into anagrams*: BARED (31A) and DEBAR (32A)
    * the wisdom of the third anagram!
  • 21D) GINS“BERG” varies into GINS => COTTON MACHINES (1A) and BERG => TITANIC NEMESIS, the latter being like ... erm. Ahrm. Aside from the super tacky typo-mistake, wha? Like the Titanic did wrathful battle with its lifelong enemy, the berg?
Titanic: Nemesis | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues Before getting the theme, thought 21D) was GILLIGAN for a quite a bit. Young Bob Denver as Gilligan | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


  • 14A) One acting badly, not real swinger (7)
    (One acting badly = HAM) + (not real = MOCK) = HAMMOCK
Ham haha, no surprise here. But we so enjoy the narrative! “Not a real swinger. One of those pretend polyarmorous types.” Watching identity politics play out, especially around fringey love communities, is, like, one of our favorite bloodsports.
  • 15A) Discern changes in reverse (7)
    DISCERN * anagram = RESCIND
Nice anagram, nice natchrul language.
  • 29A) Auto-piano, out of the box, perfect (7)
    Auto-piano = UTOPIAN
Nice spanner. Er, “hidden word.” That's the grown-up term for thems. Raise a glass to Sir Thomas More who invented “utopia” as an achievable human state of chill respectful feminists, but who himself could not be chill when it came to Henry VIII's decision-making. He took a stand against (among other things) Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn, and Henry had him beheaded. Then four years later Henry beheaded Anne, too. So.
Sir Thomas More | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 21A) Religious shows with wild orgies left in (7)
    ORGIES + (left = L) * anagram = GLORIES
We were a combatant at Write Club last month in Chicago arguing for GLORY in a bout of GUTS vs. GLORY. Twas glorious! We always bring it, Dear Readers, but for this event we Brought It. You can listen for yourself, here >
  • Sounds like a lot of hay to get out of a can! (4)
    (lot of hay = BALE) * homophone = BAIL
Reminded of Jackie Brown. Life of a bail bondsman. Different life than ours.
Jackie Brown | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 34A) Designing icon still loves bowers (14)
Wutttttt fantastic anagrama! Beautiful! And credit this one to Sweet V, who divined the correct interpretation of “bowers” and knew the correct spelling of VIOLONCELLIST. We thought it was VIOLACELLIST or VIOLINCELLIST. Wups.

vaguely related reminded of when a friend of ours lived in a co-op with the name “Bower” in it. Occasionally she'd tell us tales of Intense Sunday Night Meetings on Agenda Topics Such As: is it ok for the house to buy chocolate chips when certain housemates snack on them at will, rather than use them for baked goods? Shouldn't those selfish housemates subsidize the cost of their own chocolate habits? Much like the Iranian nuclear deal, talks about this matter took place over several weeks, with much stress and emotion. We mentally tagged these tales in a theoretic compendium: Under the Bower: Horror Stories from the House of Horrors.
  • 35A) Relating to Fox Family Movie: An Intervening (6)
    (Movie = CINE) AN intervening = CANINE
Was certain the answer would involve VULPINE and was thus psyched to prove to the world that we know the word VULPINE. Sweet V saw the truth. As for the reasoning … we would like to see a Vine of Richard E Maltby Jr using CINE in a sentence, plox and thx in advance.
Fox | Vulpine | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
    36A) Releases British head-sets? Time out! (6)
    (British head = LOO) + ((SETS (Time = T) out) = SES) = LOOSES
Sweet V to the rescue again on this one. That European sensibility.
  • 38A) Flipper finds great many changes on strait (7)
    ((great = G) + MANY + (strait = ST)) * anagram = GYMNAST
A little wrought, yes. But mwa, we loved! Check out these early 20th century Russian gymnasts. Not flipping. Just being flipping awesome.
Russian gymnasts | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 3D) Misprint the “c” in “computer nerd” (4)
    THE C * anagram = TECH
Bill Gates Character Sheet
Courtesy The Onion

Esther Nairn | Technopagan is the term | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
I wanna be Esther Nairn for Halloween/every een

  • 5D) Maiden voyages all around a holy city (6)
    MAIDEN * anagram = MEDINA
Medina, Saudi Arabia | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
The word “maiden” had us on alert for something about [female] virginity. But twas ok. V nice.
  • 6D) A word from a miser upset a sea captain (4)
    A + ((word from a miser = BAH) upset = HAB) = AHAB
Ebeneezer Scrooge is the miser in particular. Not Midas. Spose Mighty Midey's word would be, “o no! My wish backfired! O frail desire! O weak man, who did not value love more than gold!”

Here's Patrick Stewart as Ahab (hubba hubba)
(every Patrick Stew moment is a hubba hubba moment)
Patrick Stewart as Capt Ahab | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 8D) Failing to make me proficient? Quite the opposite! (12)
Have pun in there. We've been puzzle pun haters for a long time, because of recursion/time loops /paradoxes. But really it's like when Old Spock meets Young Spock in Jimmy John Abrams's Star Trek and they're like, “paradox wha? Hahaha it's fine it's fine it's fine.” We didn't like a tonna stuff in that movie, but we loved that part. RIP LN
Spock meets Spock | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 11D) Being around philosophical leader, kisses off philosophical doubt (7)
    ((philosophical leader = P) + KISSES) * anagram = SKEPSIS
Skekses | The Dark Crystal | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 13D) Bound to get in, in op-ed possibly (8)
    IN IN OP-ED * anagram = PINIONED
We read 50 Shades of Grey recently. Dear Readers may remember. It keeps coming up. Perhaps Richard E Maltby Jr read it recently as well?
  • 19D) It includes a Gable movie initially, in a different order (6)
    ((movie initially = M) + ORDER) * anagram = DORMER
Got caught up thinking GWTW for Gone with the Wind was involved. Nay nay!

And now it's time to look at pictures of Natalie Dormer. Natalie Dormer is this month's Nerd Hot Guy. All yall gender essentialists, you sit right down! You sit! down!
Natalie Dormer | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Natalie Dormer | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Natalie Dormer | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
That's right.
  • 25D) One less trained lands in the water (5)
    ((One = I) + LESS) * anagram = ISLES
Such nice smooth language here. Mwa!
  • 29D) Reckoning it's a big year (5)
    (big = TALL) + (year = Y) = TALLY
Actually feel mixed on this one. Love it for the natural language, and much appreciate not going for the easy AEON EON or LEAP possibilities. Dislike equating BIG with TALL. Murr.


  • 12A) Tearjerker thats a little tart (6)
    (little = WEE) + (tart = PIE) = WEEPIE
No. “weepie”? No.
Terms of Endearment | Steel Magnolias | Little Women | three 'weepies' | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 16A) Singular protection during a university season (7)
    A + (university = U) + (season = SPICE) = AUSPICE
“auspice” singular? Like a single pant, or a single scissor? No.
  • 22A) Bribe for backing horse? Very smart (4)
    ((Bribe = SOP) backing = POS) + (horse = H) = POSH
Never hearda this use of SOP.
  • 30A) Acclaim, etc., swirling around Hollywood location (5)
    (ETC + (Hollywood location = LA)) * anagram = ECLAT
Sure. Meh. The ETC is a gimme for “hi howarya I am Ann Agram, woman of No Mystery, haha.”
  • 37A) Really bad situation can make you pettish (3,4)
    PETTISH * anagram = THE PITS
In our margin notes: HEP TITS and PET SHIT. The pits. Much like this clue hahaha. Have we mentioned that we've been doing standup comedy? No, you could already tell?
  • 1D) Court's P.R. representation makes a crook … (8)
    COURTS PR * anagram = CORRUPTS
Abbrev'd P.R. gets the Anagrammy Sense tingling. For a sec thought it was like a shephard's crook but then the internal letter jumble machine took over, and CORRUPTS appeared. M'sigh.
  • 7D) What leads in some ships evens out in homes (3)
    even [letter] s out in HOMES = HMS
child's pinafore | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 9D) Iron works producing a kind of film (4)
    IRON * anagram = NOIR
Noir is a kind of film, huh. Fine. Grump.
  • 24D) Protector of Bushes, inbred, idiotic, and finally incompetent (4, 3)
    (INBRED + (finally incompetent = T)) * anagram = BIRD NET
Fodder for our sister blog,

The Tacky

  • 2D) … rebuild store after trial—one man's source of power (12)
    STORE (rebuild = anagram) after ((trial = TEST) ONE) = TESTOSTERONE
General Ripper | played by Sterling Hayden | PRECIOUS BODILY FLUIDS | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Is testosterone source for … all a man's power? Testosterone, hormone of aggression, linked to antisocial behavior and alcoholism? Hrm.

Women have some testosterone too. Small amounts, but some. Is this the reason, in Maltby's view, for our thus understandably lesser power?
  • 23D) Defect gets you a lot of money—cheer up (7)
    ((lot of money = PILE) + (cheer = RAH)) * reverse = HARELIP
The term harelip is usually perceived as insulting because it compares the deformity in humans to the normal cleft lip of a hare. The accepted term for this medical condition is cleft lip.


And, an Announcement

Switching to the first person. Wuts up, everyone! On April 28th, I asked Sweet V to marry me. And he said yes! Full details here:
erica and Sweet V

Comment, sweet chickens.