Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sixes and Sevens (and Twelves) - December 2015

December 2015 | Sixes and Sevens (and Twelves) | Harper's puzzle solution

The Theme!

Seena thisa typa puzz before. Best practice is to solve the numbered clues then solve the twelvers and figure out how to lattice them in. But if you're working the numbereds and the twelves and they're just not coming, then you might do what we do, which is to solve a stack of the sixes and sevens and then just blindly enter them into the grid, making it work until it doesn't work. This is not the most obviously methodically logical approach, but sometimes it's important to boost morale in order to see progress. Alternatively, sometimes just seeing letters in the grid can unlock insights to previously opaque clues.


  • 11A) I feel pain in back and hips (4)
    I ((feel pain + AIL) back = LIA) = ILIA
Our friend Jen in high school had a zine called ILIA as a reference to “hip” as in “cool” but the logo was a voluptuous hyper‑feminine pair of hips. Nice. Speaking of, we should start a zine! This blog is like a zine, we recognize. But maaaaan, handing out those little paper stacks to friends. Xeroxing them in the library. So cool! Being a teen is so cool!

Below: Neolithic art from Cucuteni, Romania (they were super into hips):
Cucuteni fertility goddess
Image courtesy Wikimedia

  • 28A) Leaning over, it's said to end two letters earlier (4)
    (SAID end (i.e. “D”) two letters earlier (i.e. B) = SAIB) * over = BIAS
What a tricky trick! We liked this wordplay very much, though generally we're biased against repeated use of BIAS.
  • 29A) Manages without a male presence, but gets on (4)
    MANAGES without a (male presence = MAN) = AGES
Haha YES she does manage without a male presence! Current new favorite Tweetr account: @ManWhoHasItAll:
MEN! Accentuate parts of your body you like e.g. strong arms, to draw attention away from problem areas e.g. constant snivelling. | @ManWhoHasItAll 'I'm childless...and thats ok,'  Andy, age 36, on making peace with his circumstances. Thanks Andy for that. As long as you're sure.
  • 7D) A trick that goes in an unexpected direction? Cool! (5)
    A ((trick = FOOL) goes in an unexpected direction = LOOF) = ALOOF
Yas! We've long meditated on the difference, if any, between “aloof” and “cool.” Rebel without a Cause is instructive. James Dean is super emotional throughout. No doubt, also the epitome of cool. Thus we believe the real cool is to maintain kindness and perspective in all things. Chillness. Thoughtfulness. Perspective. Kindness.
  • 24D) It's back: German dynamo (5)
    (IT back = TI) + (German = GER) = TIGER
Thissun nice. Eye of the tigah!
  • 26D) Organization with space for working, like one upwardly mobile (4)
    (like one = AS AN) upwardly mobile = NASA
Shout out to my brothers and sisters at the NASA! Came across the following the other night about the space pen:
A common urban legend states that NASA spent a large amount of money to develop a pen that would write in space (the result purportedly being the Fisher Space Pen), while the Soviets just used pencils.[2][3] There is a grain of truth: NASA began to develop a space pen, but when development costs skyrocketed the project was abandoned and astronauts went back to using pencils, along with the Soviets.[2][3] However, the claim that NASA spent millions on the Space Pen is incorrect, as the Fisher pen was developed using private capital, not government funding. NASA - and the Soviets[3][4][5] - eventually began purchasing such pens.

NASA programs previously used pencils[6] (for example a 1965 order of mechanical pencils[7]) but because of the substantial dangers that broken pencil tips and graphite dust pose to electronics in zero gravity, the flammable nature of wood present in pencils,[7] and the inadequate quality documentation produced by non-permanent or smeared recordkeeping, a better solution was needed.

Source: Wikipdya

We've long repeated the punchline, “the Soviets just used a pencil haha stupid Americans!!” Woops. Ugh! Nothing more irritating than recognizing one's own shallow smugness! And a reminder to check citations.
Space pen | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6a) Knock back in one dire display
    back in (onE DIRE Display) = DERIDE
A daring word‑spanner!
  • 6d) Homeopathy drastically limits problems that won't go away
    HomeopatHY DRAStically = HYDRAS
Fun! Appreciate the support for non‑Western medicine. Brief rant: Western medicine. Sometimes amazing. Sometimes ugh, right? They have their tests, they run their tests, but if what you have doesn't show up on the tests, then they shrug and tell you that you must not have a problem. It's very frustrating.
  • 6e) In front of a gym, Georgia airport for Hollywood stars
    (Georgia = GA) (airport for Hollywood = LAX) in front of (a gym = Y) = GALAXY
Space! Science! Altho points off for “gym” = “Y” which is starting to chafe us, right in the Village People.
  • 6f) Tevya's good fortune tossed in ash can
    ASH CAN * anagram = NACHAS
Foreshadowed in September by Dear Reader EL?? Tevya | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6k) Wages war with no instigation, a sly catastrophe for the environment
    ((WAR with no instigation = AR) A SLY) * anagram = SALARY
Mwa! Delicious narrative! Delightful anagrama!
  • 6l) Sticks guys in harness together on left side, initially
    (harness together = YOKE) + (left side initially = LS) = YOKELS
Guys from the sticks! Re'appearance of frequent puzzlese “yokel/s” forgiven for the fun narrative. We recently watched Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL for the first time. The original was directed by Soderbergh, which we did not know before watching. Interesting to thus view Magic Mike as a companion to Sex, Lies & Videotape. Similar emphases on heterosexual male responsibility to serve female pleasure. Similar dissonant anhedonia in the heart of sultry pleasure country.
  • 7a) Revolutionary tsarist writers, painters, and composers
    TSARIST * anagram = ARTISTS
“Revolutionary tsarist” an impossibility, non? At least in how we understand the Russian Revolution, which is “not very well.” Delightful narrative! Artists of the Revolution!

Here's Daniel Radcliffe Dmitri Shostakovich, who risked imprisonment in the gulag for writing violent and brooding music instead of bright patriotic symphonies:
Dmitri Shostakovich (not Daniel Radcliffe)
Image courtesy Wikimedia

  • 7b) I screen for working in earnest
    I SCREEN * anagram = SINCERE
There we go! A sincerely nicer anagram!
  • 7c) Wheels gone, I'm totally seedy!
    (Wheels = CAR) + (gone = AWAY) = CARAWAY
Reminds us of Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby. Some trivia that came up in our Jeopardy! study recently: that Zelda Fitzgerald was from Montgomery, Alabama, which is where she and F Scott met. We assumed they were both from like West Egg, Long Island.
  • 7g) Ah, piano pieces that reveal dumbness?
    AH PIANO * anagram = APHONIA
Lovely! Thinking now of Beethoven. Dear Readers, another admission in this blog's cavalcade of admissions: sometimes clickbait bades us click, and we click, and we read the list of, like, Celebrities You'll Never Believe Hate Melon. And so one time we clicked a clickbait list of Celebrities You'll Never Believe Were Black. The list relied pretty heavily on gross notions of “one drop of black blood blah blah blah” but we were genuinely interested in and surprised by: Betty Boop's vocal style was inspired by Helen Kane who stole it from Baby Esther aka Esther Jones:
Baby Esther | inspiration for Betty Boop | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Image courtesy Wikimedya

Anyway also claimed in this clickbait list of historical figures we'd never‑believe‑were‑black was Beethoven, the piano grandmaster who was deaf but not dumb.

The Wikipedia talk page on the subject cites quotes from Beethoven's contemporaries about his dark complexion and possibly Moorish phenotype, altho such citations come from the perhaps dubious “J.A. Roger's work 100 AMAZING FACTS ABOUT THE NEGRO WITH COMPLETE PROOF, written in 1957,” which reads to us as a first order clickbait title, yea a generation before clickbait existed.

In conclusion: Beethoven was a dark lord of clavicord who was so strong in the Force that he didn't need hearing to write or conduct music. Was he black? Moor evidence requested.
  • 7j) It's a lie: money with no sign of excellence anywhere produces a splitting headache!
    A (LIE MONEY with no sign of excellent = LI MONY) = ALIMONY
Nice symmetry between clue and answer :)

If you ain't no punk
holla want want pre‑nupt
We Want Pre‑Nupt!
Pre-Nupt | Kanye West | Golddigger | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Aynd nyow we arrive at the twelvers. Much nicer!
  • 12a) This blows my cool: strict person living high on the hog!
So wonderful! Related: we're newly obsessed with Eastbound and Down, one of the greatest television shows we've ever seen.
Eastbound and Down | Season 2 | Fuck Yes Kenny Powers | motorcycle | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 12b) Rare accident that can get you canned?
Glorious! “canned” to mean imprisoned, not fired, thank Cron at last!
  • 12c) A twerp thrashing around, covered up, protected when swimming
    (A TWERP * anagram) + (covered up = ROOFED) = WATERPROOFED
  • 12d) Develop loquacity (including, separately, nine Latin elements), as any mad romantic would
    LOQUACITY (nine Latin = IX) (elements = E) * anagram = QUIXOTICALLY
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Here's hoping one day Mr Gilliam gets to finish “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”!


  • 2D) Music box? First stock sale died (4)
    (First stock sale = IPO) + (died = D) = IPOD
Buh. First tried working OX and/or OXEN in, which irritatingly yielded nothing. Then figured out that it was a reference to the stock exchange/start‑ups, further irritating us.

The answer key's logic specifies IPOD, but the answer grid shows IPOP. Brothers! Are you in need of some assistance from your sister‑wife at Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues? Our schedule is very free.
December 2015 Harper's incorrect answer key | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 9D) Day he got shot, mowed down (5)
    DAY HE * anagram = HAYED
What a nasty, violent little clue.
  • 23D) Nomad, resettled entity (5)
    NOMAD * anagram = MONAD
Marking this a Lowlight only cuz it's too boner of an anagram. NOMAD => MONAD
  • 6b) Critic's reassessment of a lemon?
    CRITIC * anagram = CITRIC
Meh. CRITIC => CITRIC does not much to excite. Thankfully tweren't LEMON => MELON
lemon / melon
  • 6c) Relied on rearranging songs
    RELIED * anagram = LIEDER
Another of these sad anagrams. Und vas izza lieder? Like ze hosen?
noun, plural lieder [lee-der; German lee-duh r]
1. a typically 19th-century German art song characterized by the setting of a poetic text in either strophic or through-composed style and the treatment of the piano and voice in equal artistic partnership

Source: Dictionary

  • 7f) Where some Washingtonians land employment, finally, is ultimately boring
    (Where some Washingtonians land = DULLES) + (employment finally = T) = DULLEST
Yes, DULLEST. Like this clue.
  • 7i) Teacher fired, i.e., for nonconforming
    FIRED IE * anagram = EDIFIER
Putting this in Lowlights for use of a filler ‑er word, altho this clue is quite nice otherwise. Thinking now of frustrating lists of banned books. Argh. As if certain ideas are like toxic chemicals or radiation. As if authority must thus limit public exposure to certain ideas. As if humans cannot be trusted their own minds. Boo.

The Tacky

  • 6i) Goners: possibly Gina from porn!
    GONERS * anagram = GERSON
Was this meant to be a reference to Gina Gershon? And thus did this clue mean to classify Showgirls, and possibly also Bound, as pornography? Cuz neither are porn proper, tho both are certainly sexually‑charged adult films.
Gina Gershon as Cristal Connors in Showgirls | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Or, as Dear Reader Jeremy wondered, is Gena Gerson a reference to a barely‑known but apparently actual porn star, Gina Gerson?

If this clue was in error, such error was unremarked upon in the answer key. Unlike May 2015's heinous Ruth Bader Ginsburg misspelling which at least got a mention and whispered apology in 8‑point font.

Why are we even being quizzed on our fluency with porn stars. Why is that even.

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