Saturday, October 17, 2015

Vicious Circles - October 2015

October 2015 | Vicious Circles | Harper's puzzle solution

The Theme!

Bloody brilliant. This puzzle kicked our ass. Took about six weeks of diligent solving. Also took up most of our kitchen table during that time on 24" x 18" paper with Scrabbo™tiles. Below, a photo mid‑solve:
partial solution to the October 2015 Harper's puzzle using giant paper and Scrabble tiles | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
All clue answers six letters long. Each answer entered radially into the grid sharing letters with neighboring slices, and letters all a'jumbled within the radian.

After solving about 1/3 of the clues, and being fully stumped, we called upon the help of husband, the one and only Sweet V.
Sweet V | the sweet one | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
With his help, MULBERRY came into focus in the perimeter.

MULBERRY | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
MULBERRY triggered the rest of the nursery line shortly thereafter:
Our memory was “the monkey AND the weasel” which caused some consternation until we confirmed CHASED. Fie upon flawed memory!

Gloriously, amazingly, the third circle then came into focus:

NURSERY RHYME is also, toroidally, HYMEN. HYMEN, of course, not spotted in the puzzle since July 2011 - Sixes and Sevens (!)
HYMEN | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
As of course is necessary with a vicious ambitious theme of this sort, there are some clunker clues. Forgiven! All around the mulberry bush is forgiven! Well, somewhat. We sorta forgottabout this forgiveness when we actually set down the Lowlights (woops).


  • 1) An IRS recalcuation takes first of exemptions up
    (AN IRS * anagram) takes (first of EXEMPTIONS = E) = ARISEN
re: IRS  We're currently reading The Pale King, posthumous last work of David Foster Wallace (RIP). It's about the IRS. And death, of course. Death and taxes. The pale king. Altho, it seems The Pale King is also a real character. We're loving it. And it makes us actively sad that we didn't try to make a better world for DFW to stay. We probably wouldn't have succeeded if we'd tried, but we didn't even try. DFW's suicide also brings up displaced anger at the suicides of friends and family. Joanne. Mary. Cousin Laurie. Mr Hogan. Bill. It's difficult, still forbidden after all these years to be angry at them. So we put the anger on him, DFW. The anger really bubbles up when we hear other, living people say things like, “[DFW] wouldn't have wanted [x] published, or he wouldn't have wanted [y] portrayal in [z] movie.”
Jason Segel as DFW | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
“Yah well that guy left! He doesn't get to say anymore!” comes the angry response, bubblething up. Tho as our excellent friend Dr Jesse points out, DFW left under duress. It's true. Anger. Feelings. Death. Taxes. Ok next clue!
  • 2) They're needed when cruising,but keep 'em in your drawers!
    double synonym = LINERS
Carnival cruising. Grandma dresser drawers. Nice.
  • 5) Again: shows regarding dogs
    (regarding = RE) (dogs = CURS) = RECURS
Weakness of “Again: shows” for RECURS is forgiven for the cleanliness and brevity. V nice.
  • 7) In a hospital, a sewer backs up. You and I bothered? True!
    ((You and I = US) backs up = US) bothered TRUE = SUTURE
Fun narrative. Automatic points for poo‑poo pee‑pee jokes. In a technical sense, the suture is the stitch tho, non? And not the stitcher (sewer)?
  • 8) Turns off, covering English rebellion
    TURNS off covering (English = E) = UNREST
Another brief tight clue! Non‑sensicality forgiven!
  • 10) Attack that is, first of all, kind
    (this is = IE) first of all (KIND = SORT) = SORTIE
Kind cuts! The subtle knife! Excellent.
The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 11) A few characters found at anchor, despite big crowds
    ancHOR DESpite = HORDES
A daring spanner!
  • 12) After Pole is inducted, Vatican retrospective grinds down
    After (Pole = ROD) is inducted ((Vatican = SEE) retrospective = EES) = ERODES
The emphases on order in these indicators, like “after” and especially especially‑especially “just the opposite!” are annoying to us. Why not just make it all a giant anagram? Shout‑out to brother JP2 (RIP).
Pope John Paul II | born  Karol Józef Wojtyła | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 13) Money, or similar supporting exchange‑system initiations—they grow on trees
    (M Or Similar Supporting Exchange System) initiations = MOSSES
Wonderful. Especially appreciate the paradoxical hyper‑intelligence and non‑sensicality.
  • 15) Take part in weirdo's selfie, hanging out in church
    Take part in weirDOS SELfie = DOSSEL
Shout‑out to weirdos who take selfies :)  Church‑ese forgiven!
noun dos•sal
Popularity: Bottom 30% of words
: an ornamental cloth hung behind and above an altar

Source: Merriam Webstah

  • 20) In a cocktail, yet are in a canteen, perhaps
    YET ARE * anagram = EATERY
Nice! “In a cocktail” is a fresh indicator. Shake it! Shake it up!
  • 22) Excellent article covering period of sexual activity put back in Constitution
    (Excellent = E) (article = AN) covering (period of sexual activity = RUT) put back in = NATURE
Wonderful! This clue was a late solve. Thought it was “constitution” = “walk” for a long time. Once we recalled RUT this one came together without much further amendment.
  • 23) Roller reacts badly
    REACTS * anagram = CASTER
Tight and excellent anagrama! This very morning we went over to Notorious Marcel and Colleen's house for waffles from Marcel's new primitive waffle iron. We brought along a suite of anagrams for TV shows from our Ken Jennings Trivia Almanac as, like, a fun thing for us to all do together. O, Dear Readers! O, could ye have seen the horror on the faces of our friends when we suggested anagrams as a fun group activity!
  • 24) Wheels back in the old country
    ((Wheels = CAR) back = RAC) in THE = THRACE
Wonderful! What's up to The Iliad, what's up to The Odyssey. What is up.
  • 26) The YSL designs for a dog?
    THE YSL * anagram = SHELTY
Obvious anagrind is obvious, but automatic love for the Shelty/Sheltie! Like a little Lassie!
Sheltie | image courtesy Wikimedia | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Image courtesy Wikmedia

  • 27) Sounds like a little key for a small hole
    Sounds like a (little key = ISLET) = EYELET
Glorious use of “key”!
  • 31) Head off someone following you while I'm speaking
    Head off (someone following you = STALKER) = TALKER
I'm speaking; I am the talker. STALKER => TALKER is also fun :)
Glenn Close | Fatal Attraction | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 32) Link up for recount
    RELATE (double syn)
Nice clean double syn. Still waiting on an INTEGRAL double syn as high school calculus integral, important integral. Don't sleep on high school calculus. One of the worst curses we can imagine on a person is that they be exposed to calculus and never notice use for it ever in their life.
  • 33) President writing in his first initial (Rutherford) for farmworkers
    (President = HAYES) writing in his (first initial (Rutherford) = R) = HAYERS
Mwa!! How it done brothers and sisters! How it done. Rutherford B Hayes of course being our nominee for Worst President Ever. And we lived through the W Bush era.
  • 34) Pop singer imbibes, like, drink after drink?
    (Pop singer = CHER) imbibes (like = AS) = CHASER
Yasssss which pop singer? Uh you mean the pop singer! “drink after drink” a fun way to get CHASER.
Cher as a fabulous Cleopatra | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 35) Pop composer takes hour to separate the wheat from the chaff
    (Pop composer = TESH) takes (hour = HR) = THRESH
Aw hayle yass automatic +1 ever‑forever at mention of ultimate Metal cum New Age hero John Tesh! Let's listen to Barcelona right now!

SoooOOOOoooo good! So METAL!~!!!!
  • 37) Smart nameless Prohibition agent taken in by prohibitionist
    (nameless (Prohibition agent = NESS) = ESS) taken in by (prohibitionist = DRY) = DRESSY
Lovely. What's up to my dry brothers and sisters!
  • 38) Cardinal sure changes tone more than once
    (Cardinal = RED) (sure = YES) = REDYES
Excellent narrative on the clue! The Cardinal is not to be trusted …
  • 39) They work in salons with doctors, drinking liquors
    (doctors = DRS) drinking (liquors = RYE) = DRYERS
Not sure on the number agreement between “liquors” and “rye” but super Jazz Age narrative on the clue, and appreciate the restraint in not re‑using DRY the same way just two after 37.
  • 40) Tyson, losing on taking over fumble from Bradshaw and Gilliam
    (TYSON losing ON = TYS) taking over (fumble = ERR) = TERRYS
Pluralizing a proper first name forgiven for invoking Uncle Terry Gilliam. Here's a shot from the Twelve Monkeys DVD special content, when Terry draws his frustration with the studio and the publicity process. Like, up until this point he's been “Terry Gilliam, cowboy‑behatted director” but then he picks up a pen and MONTY PYTHON just falls out of it, effortlessly, and suddenly it's “OH SHIT this is Terry Gilliam, genius g0d amongst men!!”
  • 41) Provide interference, making a basket
    HAMPER (double syn.)
We just know typed “double syn.” for about the hundredth time in this puzzle blog and considered, “but … isn't every synonym a set of two? Hence inherently ‘double’?” Not going to stop doing it now. But if you've ever noticed, and been annoyed, well: we've noticed too. Just now, we noticed. Moving on.
  • 42) Term for a current morning gym ritual, initially, that requires extra energy
    (morning = AM) (gym = PE) (ritual initially = R) that requires extra (energy = E) = AMPERE
A Crossfit opened up near our apartment last year. Is it Cross‑Fit? Medial capital CrossFit? Anyway. One of those. It's called Orange Theory and when it opened they had a dude in like an orange spandex gimp suit dancing and advertising a free first month with loud music blasting. So we were not excited about the addition to the neighborhood. But then our old friend Heidlberg took a sublet nearby and joined this Crossfit Orange Theory and said she loved it. So maybe Crossfit is not as obnoxious as its reputation and marketing, we're&nsbp;saying.
  • 45) Make a vacation ring again?
    ring again = REPEAL
“vacation” like as in “vacate” like as in “a legal judgment is no longer valid.” Dastardly. Maltby, you sick genius.


  • 3) Field nurses and cons
    (Field = LEA) + (nurses = RNS) = LEARNS
Uhhh …
con [kon] - verb (used with object), conned, conning. 1. to learn; study; peruse or examine carefully. 2. to commit to memory. Origin - before 1000; Middle English cunnen, Old English cunnan variant of can1in sense 'become acquainted with, learn to know' | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
How is that the second usage? How did we not know this is? Who con say.
  • 6) Place with roughs—sounds rough
    sounds (rough = COARSE) = COURSE
“roughs” like as in golf course. Automatic points off for golf.
  • 9) Fish from fishing boats
    DORIES (double syn.)
Meh all over this. Even with the shout‑ to Auntie Ellen, voice of Dory the dory in Fine Ding Nemo. Do you happen to know dory qua fish? Do you happen to know dory qua boat? Are you a fisherman? If not, then there's not much fun to be had in this clue for vous.

And then a stringa clunkas right inna row, severely irritating us in the southeast sector of the radial grid:
  • 16) Acted as an employer, put raises in letters
    BOSSED (double syn)
We've only ever hearda embossed. Meh.
  • 17) Hot drink—look, it's the one made fun of
    (Hot drink = TEA) (look = SEE) = TEASEE
One of our talking points used to be how beginning a spoken paragraph with “Look” or “Listen” was an invitation for the other person to turn off his/her brain.

The instructs specify “not in any [dictionary] but should be.” Buh. ‑EE words in the same class as ‑ER. Wretched.
  • 18) Person eating a lot can't start holiday
    (Person eating a lot = FEASTER) can't start = EASTER
No no no no no no. No. EATER and FASTER also nearby, conceptually and orthographically. We took one look at this clue and we'd had our fill.

Shout‑out to a favorite film: Feast!
Feast (2005) the film | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 19) One making rent in panic, they say
    (panic = TERROR) they say = TEARER
O no no no. This ain't Scrabbo™, where ‑ER words are meant to grow and flourish freely, yea tho they mayn't e'er pass one's lips.

This ends the bad string of three in a row. Bah and fie!
  • 25) It probes how messy home gets rented
    (messy home = STY) gets (rented = LET) = STYLET
Yay to “rented” = “LET” but boo to STYLET.
  • 28) Let me off by a club, in a proper manner
    LET ME off by a (club = Y) = MEETLY
Automatic boo for “club” = “Y” like as in “YMCA” like as in “young man, there's a place you can go.” Love to the Village People, love to the YMCA. Boo to “club” = “Y” equivalency. And uh, “meetly.” Wut is?
1. suitably; fittingly; properly; in a seemly manner.

Source: The

  • 29) Goldbrick's role is rewritten to include it
    ROLE is rewritten to include IT = LOITER
What is a “gold brick” [sic]  in this context … (searches) … ok sure k fine.
verb gold•brick
transitive verb : swindle
intransitive verb : to shirk duty or responsibility

Source: Merriam Web

  • 30) There's small interest in a cotton machine? Quite the opposite!
    smalL INTERest = LINTER
Raise ya hand if you read “cotton machine” and automatically thought, “gin, it's gin, write down gin” ? And more of this “Quite the opposite!” narishkeit. Cut the “in” points to the preceding phrase “small interest” rather than forward to “cotton machine”? These persnickety vector indicators always seem unnecessary and cumbersome.
  • 43) One chickening out partly—how impersonal!
    partly hoW IMPERsonal = WIMPER
Wimp, yes. Wimpy, yes. Shout out to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. This is how the clue ends, this is how the clue ends, not with a word but with a WIMPER?
  • 48) Salesman—one working cycles, according to reports
    (one working cycles = PEDELLAR) * homophone = PEDLAR
Putting this in lowlights for “one working cycles.” Altho the phrasing reminds us of amazing and excellent Rage Against the Machine Hit, Killing in the Name Of:

Some of those who work forces
are the same that burn crosses

Zach de la Rocha! You are this month's Nerd Hot Guy!
Zach de la Rocha @ Coachella 2007
Image courtesy Wikimedia

The Tacky

Throwing this one in here just for knee‑jerk male normativity reasons. We don't find it particularly tacky or anything, except for, of course, the male normativity. But it's not a stand‑out knockdown bright line tacky clue in the style of classic Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues, the ones that reference child rape or rely on racist slang, &c.
  • 44) Empire builder, someone ahead of his time!
    EMPIRE * anagram = PREMIE
Why not ahead of “his or her time.” Why not a new word “hisher,” rhymes with “fisher.” Why not.

Our friend Jessi‑Pie was pregnant with twins for most of last year. Back in 2005 when we worked at the sandwich shop together, we often spoke of our mutual fascination with midwifery and vaginal childbirth. In 2015 as a finally‑pregnant woman, Jessi‑Pie's doctor said that she should prepare herself for a C‑section. He said that even in Scandanavian countries where the vast majority of children are born via midwife, they'll still do C‑secions for birth multiples, on the reg, because of the risks.

Jessi‑Pie was discouraged. She and we had literally been in an ongoing dialogue about our excitement at bringing life into the world via our respective vaginas for over ten years. But we told her to remember that Cæsareans are the birth method for kings and queens. “Kings and queens, Jessi‑Pie!” we said. That cheered her up in a big way. We haven't seen Jessi‑Pie in person since 2005, but we still know how to cheer that bitch up :)

Well but then so the twins arrived a little early! a little premie! two little premies in fact! And in part because they were small, and in part because they arrived surprise and unexpected, they arrived via vagina. So it all worked out!

Kings and queens, still!

Your comments make this whole enterprise feel more worthwhile.


  1. "(M Or Similar Supporting Exchange System) initiations = MONEYS"

    Double-check this one. You've got your mind on the money. And/or the reverse.