Wednesday, November 16, 2016

This is not a review of the November 2016 puzzle.

Sisters and Brothers. i'm going to write in the lower case first person.

In September i thought that guy might win. Then in October i thought he wouldn't. Now it's November, and i was wrong about being wrong. And it's weird. And i'm sad. And angry.

A good day for the KKK is a bad day for the United States.

A good day for the American Nazi Party is a bad day for the Republic.

It's gonna be bad days for a while.

To those saying, “aw give him a chance” … it's like we're all tied up in the passenger seat of a car and a drunk clown is shambling toward us slurring, “I'm your driver‑elect!!!” Like, i don't need the clown to crash the United States into a tree before i know he's a bad driver. Romney, i'd give a chance. McCain, a chance. Bobby Dole, a chance. Not just Bob Dole '96, i'm talking 93-year-old Bob Dole 2016. Bob Dole as he is to us now. A dying Bob Dole. i'd give him a chance. Rubio, a chance. Even Teddy Cruz, son of Señor Cruz. A chance.

Not this clown. Here he comes now, opening the car door, lips curled in a pout identical to (this is scientific fact) his butthole. “Would you believe, I've never driven a car before? But I've played a lot of 'Grand Theft Auto'!” Then he pukes onto the wheel well.

For my part, i'm reaching out to people i haven't talked to in a long time and making an effort to be more generous. Last night we heard our downstairs neighbor struggling with her door and invited her up for tea and snacks while she waited for the locksmith. The other day at my local coffeeshop, often crowded with loners at their laptops taking up two-person tables, i put up a little sign.

If you're looking for a seat, i'm happy to share :)

i'm displacing a LOT of anger onto my grandmother, who is ecstatic about the election. If she brings up politics at Christmas, i'm going to ask to record video of her expressing her views. Then i'll tell her that my children probably won't be old enough to remember her before she dies, but i'll make sure they know exactly who she was, and what she stood for.

The Romanians in my life are afraid. Romanians are not a people who scare easy. They see what the Americans in my life deny could ever happen here.

Dear Readers, the impossible is already happening. So my imagination is no longer tethered to precedent. Maybe the wall is built with free prison labor, a fucked up slavery. Maybe come 2020 a nuclear attack is secretly orchestrated on a Democratic West Coast city, simultaneously wiping out opposition voters and bringing the US into a state of emergency. That's a move straight out of the playbook. We're already witnessing evidence of conspiracy with a foreign nuclear power. We're already witnessing playbook moves.

i'm reading a book on persuasion by a pick up artist guru, following the advice of Sun Tzu. The chapter on cult leaders was eye opening. Paraphrasing key points:
  1. keep language simple and vague (any red hat slogans come to mind?)
  2. create an “us vs them” narrative
  3. attract large groups — you can hold a crowd in thrall with words that might leave an individual merely skeptical
  4. swaddle yourself in the appearance of wealth, conceal that your true income comes from your followers
This kind of cult political figure doesn't cede power willingly, or alive. Historically.

Anyway. i didn't finish the puzzle this month. i didn't finish the summer puzzles either. If you seek an apolitical comedic blog review of the Harper's cryptic crossword puzzle, look elsewhere. i wish you well, lovers and non‑lovers alike.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Foursomes - October 2016

October 2016 | Foursomes | Harper's puzzle solution

Hello Dear Readers! So what kept us busy and quiet all summer? We were on Jeopardy. Taped in July, aired September 30th. Took up a lot of mind space and time.
erica dreisbach on Jeopardy | 30 september 2016 We lost to a dude who went on to be the fifth winningest player ever. You can read more on our personal blog here.

Notorious Marcel said, “this was a remarkable example of Erica's Powers of Actualization. You were just like, ‘I'm gonna be on Jeopardy!’ And then a year later you were!” Which is cool to frame it that way: not as a loss, but as a victory for powers of Make Dreams Come True.

Next dream to make come true: write and sell a screenplay. Here are the loglines of current projects:
  • manic pixie dreamboy
  • superhero Brokeback Mountain
  • a veterinarian becomes a back alley doctor for humans
  • a cop is in prison for a crime he didn't commit, and that prison is … Guantanamo Bay

The Theme!

Good ol' Foursomes. Rotational symmetry and left‑to‑right orthography of the twelvers latticing the grid to yield a unique solution. We had massive trouble in the northeast at the end, in particular with clues 7A and 8D. Could not solve! Consulted thesauri, consulted Sweet V, consulted an anagram generator. Nuthin. Buh!

Our downfall lay in misinterpreting this clue:
  • Actor who falls short of depth, they say? (4)
    (depth = PIT) they say = PITT
And what Maltby Jr and cohort were going for was DEPP. So, like
  • (short of DEPTH = DEP) they say = DEPP
Yah ok. Anyway we went for PITT and got stuck in the pits at the end:
stuck at the end of the October 2016 Harper's cryptic crossword puzzle | PITT instead of DEPP

Sidenote, we were discouraged to read that the final straw in the Jolie‑Pitt marriage was an intense fight on the private plane between Brad and one of the kids, and that because the fight took place in the air that meant it came under federal jurisdiction so the FBI was investigating whether child abuse occurred. Which is a severe bummer.

Anyway ok so then we were left with
  • 7A) Measure import, leaving nothing out (4) = D ‑ ‑ P ?
which is impossible, and
  • 8D) Beautiful girl, who comes in periodically (4) = ‑ E ‑ I ?
which coulda still been the correct answer, PERI, but then that meant 7A would be D ‑ RP. DARP? DORP? No.

So then we brought in Sweet V to help us check our assumptions. Could it be that we had a busted orientation? And that the puzzle almost works from that busted orientation? Diabolical, right? But plausible, because we had done what we often do with these types of puzzles, which is solve a bunch of clues and then Just Start Writing in Answers and If Something Comes Up Busted Just Print Out a New Puzzle and Start Over. That's the official name of the method.

Anyway so those twelvers that lattice the grid can indeed work at a different orientation. But then that means two of the foursies end in C, which is a non‑starter.

rewriting 12 lattices in October 2016 Harper's Cryptic Crossword puzzle
Which brings us to here and now, when we were able to look up the answer to the puzzle. DEPP and PINT, not PITT. PERI. We assume that the Beautiful Peri in question is none other than the Gilp sheself:

beautiful Peri Gilpin | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Dear Readers are challenged to offer a more beautiful Peri in the Comments!


  • 1A) Sweet covering for dirty pictures (8)
Anagrama always beloved by this ma'amma!
Octavia Spencer | chocolate pie | The Help | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 10A) Part of a foot (in Chinese) (4)
    IN CHinese = INCH
Applause at the restraint in not referencing foot binding, many thanks from the Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues community.
  • 14A) Running hot and cold in the nethermost, a ticklish situation (12)
Never hearda THERMOSTATIC but this is a daring wordspanner indeed!
thermostatic radiator valve | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 15A) Dooms criminal to live here? (5)
    DOOMS criminal = SODOM
Thought it was MOODS for a long while. We live within our emotions, interpret all of the world through our feelings. Maybe too poetic for the Harper's. Instead, Biblical. Nice.
Sodom burns | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 19A) Property changes just before the end, as it should be (8)
    PROPERTY changes just before the end = PROPERLY
We liked this! Very nice, crisp, surprising.
  • 21A) Minarets constructed with fancy exteriors (8)
    MINARETS constructed = RAIMENTS
Really truly thought the word was RAINMENTS. Do people say it with the “N”? [practises saying “raiments” out loud] Ok we don't actually say the “N” but we think it. Like a flavor you can't taste, but you know it's there.
  • 22A) End up auditioning a role in Young Frankenstein (4)
    auditionING A = INGA
The role played by the glorious Teri Garr! “Would you like a roll in ze hay?”
Would you like a roll in ze hay? | Teri Garr as Inga in Young Frankenstein | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 25A) Multiple divisions make this come, or it dissipates (12)
    MAKE THIS COME or it dissipates = TRICHOTOMIES
On thin ice as a “word” but it's an anagram, so, we give it a pass.

  • 29A) The second George Bush leaves New York, it's a transformed island (6)
    ((The second George Bush = W) leaves NEW YORK = NE YORK) transformed = ORKNEY
Took a while to pull out ORKNEY on this one. Margin notes say YONKER?? and ROKNEY?? Orkney Island | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 30A) Ravel opera: I'm finding more than one outlet (7)
Oooh v nice! Much in love with the phenomenon of words that, by rights of their opposing prefices, should be antonyms, but are in fact synonyms or near synonyms. flammable/inflammable valuable/invaluable. Andddd ravel/unravel is another! It doesn't mean to knit it up or spool it up nice. Nope. You can destroy the sweater with ravelling OR unravelling. Pulling this string, as we walk away.
  • 31A) Buggy having a silent star's first name (4)
    (Buggy = NIT) having A = NITA
Now that we've survived 2014: Year of Bed Bugs, other typically noxsome arthropods have no bad power over us. Silverfish, centipedes, even lice and mosquitos which do actively seek to consume our blood and body, now it's like, “oh hey there buddy, you get along now you scoot!”

Automatic Highlight for babe Nita Naldi:
silent film star Nita Naldi | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 3D) As poor cart rich off, he's got your back! (12)
Were the anagram fodder and indicator obvious, yes. Yes they were. “A spoor cart rich” maybe the clunkiest turn of phrase in the puzzle in years. Uh WOOPS so, our bad, misunderstanding the kerning on the printed PDF vsn of the puzzle, many thanks to Dear Reader Jordan for pointing out!
kerning: A spoor cart rich off | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
And none'less a glorious anagrama, one of our first solves of the puzzle, so it's an automatic Highlight!

  • 6D) Teams stay alternatingly appealing (5)
    TeAmS sTaY alternatingly = TASTY
A tight and tasty clue indeed!
  • 7D) Awkwardly said “Welcome,” bringing in guys in a row (12)
    (awkwardly SAID = DISA) (Welcome = GREET) bringing in (GUYS = MEN) = DISAGREEMENT
Lovely! Enjoyed the play on “row.” It rowed our boat. Gently. [whispered] So gently.
fighting in a rowboat | courtesy Getty images | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 9D) Is carpet bombing customary behavior for the British? (8)
    IS CARPET bombing = PRACTISE
Intense! War and colonialism! And, is it customary behavior for the British? Post WWII, we mean? Also, our margin notes say TEACRISP.
  • 16D) Pet old Italian leader in private? Quite the opposite! (6)
    (old Italian leader = DOGE) in (private = GI)? Quite the opposite! = GI in DOGE = DOGGIE
We're starting to get the rhythm of these very tiresome [Ed Wynn voice] “Opposite!” clues. This one we liked automatically for invoking not just DOGGIE but DOGE!
doge! | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 15D) Agents called back about ostentatiously elegant show—it qeuires a splash! (8)
    ((Agents = REPS) called back = SPER) about (ostentatiously elegant show = RITZ) = SPRITZER
Was certain this would work out to SPLATTER until 22A just wouldn't flow as A‑‑A. Can anyone explain what is the deal with LaCroix? We knew it as a regional brand of Midwest sparkling water. But now it seems to be a national thing, a crappy hipster thing? Like how PBR is a thing? How did that … like, when did that … Was it in a movie? Or a song? We're getting old, Dear Readers.
hipster La Croix | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 17D) Big talker I owe for The Sound of Music (8)
    (Big talker = ORATOR) I (OWE for the sound = O) = ORATORIO
We thought “oratorio” must be a super specific opera talking thing WOOPS. Tis not! Tis so much more.
  • 23D) Three notes that sound disheartened! (5)
    sound (disheartened = CORED) = CHORD
Mwa! Delicious!


  • 11A) Pop singer about to televise meeting leader (7)
    (Pop singer = CHER) about (to televise = AIR) = CHAIRER
“Chairer”? No. Beyond being impossible to say. Like “draw‑er” as in “someone who draws.” Second, how about a fresh pop star in the mix. Kesha. Riri. Sia. How about an old one. Sade. So classic! Everybody loves Sade.
Sade laughing | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 12A) Some Reds wearing Spanish flowers—yes, in Germany (6)
    wearing (Spanish flow‑wers = RIOS) (yes in Germany = JA) = RIOJAS
Seen this FLOWERS > RIVERS many many times, many many. Just once, FLOWERS > UTERUSES. Once. Please.
  • 18A) Fellow traveler, initially in pursuit of negative feedback (4)
    (traveler initially = T) in pursuit of ((negative = NEG) feedback = GEN) = GENT
Thought this was BOOT for a while (BOO + T). NEGATIVE > NEG too on the nose, yah? Funner ways to get to NEG. New England gangster. Or a reference to pickup artistry.
Mystery and Matador | pickup artists | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 24A) Plow maker does making noise (5)
    Plow maker = (does = DEER making noise) = DEERE
Seems like there's gotta be a smoother way to clue this, sound a little more like a native English speaker, non? Sidenote, our favorite thing to say in Romania this summer was, “stiu ca vorbesc cum vorbitora nativa, dar ințeleg nu mai puțin.” Which means, “I know that I speak like a native speaker, but I only understand a little.” Except that the construction for “native speaker” is not something that an actual native speaker of Romanian would ever say. So the statement is inherently a paradox, which we like, and it always made people laugh, which we love.
  • 5D) Southern meat dish, almost like a kebab (8)
    (Southern = S) (mean dish = HASH) (almost LIKE = LIK) = SHASHLIK
This is a super smooooooov clue, reads just like real talk from real humans! But yields … shashlik? Wutt? We don't shashlike it. The clue, not the food. The food looks good:
shashlik | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 13D) Novelist after part in Titanic, they say! (6)
    (part in Titanic = STERN) they say = STERNE
Gross. Tried forcing “Jack” and “Rose” several rounds. Then “[the unsinkable] Molly.” We'd hearrrrrrrd of Laurence Sterne and Tristram Shandy, and even earmarked desire to watch the 2006 film because Coogan. Gotta love the Coog! Naturally of course, this month's Nerd Hot Guy:
Steve Coogan | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 20D) Final musical sections that produce titters (7)
    produce TITTERS = STRETTI
Never hearda. So, obv we don't like it.
  • 26D) Frost's poetry, when read aloud (4)
    (poetry = RHYME) when read aloud = RIME
AhhhhhhHHHhhhhh. No. Poetry doesn't have to rhy— buh. We worked hard to make this come out as BOBS as in “Bob's” somehow.
  • 28D) Navy man known for a balanced performance? (4)
    Navy man = known for a balanced performance = SEAL
Tried to work this out as a proper name, like Admiral Byrd, or Philippe Petit. Anyway also there's one lady SEAL, at least, kinda sorta. GI Jane!
Demi Moore as GI Jane | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

The Tacky

  • 31A) Violated when rolling a joint (8)
    VIOLATED when rolling = DOVETAIL
Ai, hell no to this uncomfortable date rapey clue, this gross scene of being groped while high.

OH MANG speaking of which, WHOW what a surprise in the US political news! Not that the guy is awful, and not even that he was caught being awful on tape. But that this time, the shit sticked. It's stuck to him. The glamour wore off.

Obv we mean glamour:

glamour | lady with rhinestone encrusted sunglasses | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
 and also glamour:
Glamour originally was a term applied to a magical-occult spell that was cast on somebody to make them see something the spell-caster wished them to see, when in fact it was not what it seemed to be. In the late 19th century terminology, a non-magical item used to help create a more attractive appearance gradually became known as 'a glamour'.
Source: La Wikip

Ok anyway and so now we're wondering if maybe when the dust clears on 2017, he'll end up indicted. Maybe for fraud, maybe assault. Who knows. And she'll be in the big house with the power to pardon him. But she's not pardoning no she's just Laughing and Laughing! Lighting a whiskey‑soaked t‑shirt on fire, LOCK HER UP emblazoned on it, melting in the heat.

We dream :)

We've missed you. Come comment :)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Theme and Variations - September 2016

September 2016 | Theme and Variations | Harper's puzzle solution

First person time, just for the opening. What is up, Dear Readers! i've been, let's say, “busy.” i can tell you more next month. It's good, everything's good. i never forgot you. i love you. i'll be filling in the back catalogue of missing puzzle write ups soon (read: eventually).

The Theme!

Theme 'n' Varyations. Seena thissa one before. Major gripes for this puzzle. Let's start with a Big Gripe about how the theme played out:
  • 1A) HUEY
  • 4A) DEWEY
  • 7A) LOUIE
Sweet, cool, no probs, right? The Quack Pack. Nephew time.

Huey, Dewey, and Louie | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
A cool thing we'd never noticed before is that the names rhyme with different spellings after the first letter. We're more familiar with the opposite trait as a standalone puzzle: three words differ only in first letters but do not rhyme. Like STATURE, MATURE, and NATURE. Or COVEN, WOVEN, and PROVEN.

Ok let's looky how that first one varies, though:
Ok so pluralizing is weird because HUEY is singular. And that early weirdness is the fart that heralds the diarrhea ahead:
  • 39D) COBRA
No. Absolutely not. This is against the rules and spirit of THEME AND VARIATIONS. What was promised was three parent words that each vary into three children. Or as Brother JBLSmith notes below, a sibling that varies into three siblings who are all friends and hang out together as adults, very sweet, makes off‑screen parents so proud.

But HUEY varies into a parent word and two siblings. Unacceptable.

Sweet V initially defended this theme! To our horror! Dear Readers are welcome to invoke further horror in the Comments by similarly defending this perverse insanity. Longtime Readers are certainly familiar with one of our beloved pastimes, which is to get Super Worked Up about the Harper's puzzle only to be corrected later, taken gently by the hand and Made to See Reason. This is a Safe Space for corrections.

Th'others varied in pleasing and expected ways. For DEWEY:
Verr nice! COMMODORE maybe a little forced cuz who even is that guy?
George Dewey (December 26, 1837 – January 16, 1917) was Admiral of the Navy, the only person in U.S. history to have attained the rank. Admiral Dewey is best known for his victory at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish–American War.
Source: Wyky

Commodore Dewey | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
As a side note, thinking about Dewey and Truman now, we only recently put it together that FDR died in April 1945, and HST dropped the bombs in August. Like: that guy was only in the driver's seat for four months before he hit the button, twice.

And then rounding it out, Louie Lou‑ay as a type of currency:
  • 42A) SOLIDUS
  • 51A) DINAR
Sweet V's help was needed to make the initial connect from LOUIE to DINAR, and then parsing SOLIDUS at the end was a task. That was the final solve of the puzzle. But we got it. Currency is a fresh form for LOUIE.


  • 11A) Engineering need: an assembly that's a square … (6)
    engineering NEED AN = ENNEAD
Eternal love for the ennead and the Enneagram! Seven years ago we were solidly an Enneagram 3 (The Performer) but these days when we re‑test sometimes we're an Enneagram 2 (The Helper). The Enneagram and its cousin, the Meyers‑Briggs Personality Test, really fill the void after quitting astrology.

The Enneagram | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Of course, as is well documented here on Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues, “ennead” means “a group of nine” — often, specifically, the nine Furies of classical Greek mythology, But you knew that! Who are we to tell you that! [hearty chortles!]

Would have been happy if it ended with “square” instead of “a square” but piffle puffle, this write up is already taking too long!! Onward!
  • 12A) … if square nuts can be used to make very low tables! (8)
Alllllways love an anagram. V nice.
  • 13A) Brazil, twice downgraded initially, rebounds with fine leather (6)
    (BRAZIL twice downgraded initially = DRAZIL) rebounds = LIZARD
This was clever. CLEVER GURL
Clever Girl | Muldoon from Jurassic Park | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 15A) Small cute animal found in morning in pound (4)
    (morning = AM) in (pound = LB) = LAMB
Automatic highlight for bringing ☆cute!☆ into the puzzle!

cute lamb and ducky | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
One time in college, our freshman year neighbor was dating a very rich son of a very rich real estate developer. The rich son was in a frat, and as a frat prank he brought a lamb to my neighbor's dorm room. Surreal. We felt an unexpected moral violation: “this is not right.” Hard to put our finger on exactly why. No one was hurting the lamb, per se. Yet we felt a powerful sense of dread. Dunno why the richness of father and son is an important part of the story to us, tho it's definitely important. Dunno if he ever got in trouble. We are really taking much-too much-too long on this write up! We missed you, Dear Readers! Time to start sprinting, now. No more boring slipstream anecdotes!!
  • 18A) Gets by word of mouth what's spiraled out of control? (8)
    SPIRALED out of control = LIPREADS
Ooh dat “word of mouth” has us thinking homophone but nyope! It was an anagram (honeygram).

  • 27A) Hurricane debris showing more dirt (9)
Glorious anagrama. True love forever!
  • 30A) Onetime city Conservative, at heart reactionary (4)
    (Conservative = TORY) at heart reactionary = TROY
Excellent! Nice narrative, makes even old dusty indicators like “at heart” feel fresh and alive again!
  • 34A) Stuffed bear in basket, for returning (4)
    (basket = HOOP) for returning = POOH
Automatic highlight for Pooh bear. Love that Pooh bear!
Pooh Bear
Image courtesy DeviantArt user Tohad
  • 36A) One and only bit of fun I questioned (6)
    bit of fUN I QUEstioned = UNIQUE
A daring wordspanner! Nice to have that congruence with ONE at the top of the clue and UNIQUE as the solve. As a side note, want to see us freak out? Say “very unique” in our presence. Oooh!!! shudders
  • 39A) Limit badly sung pieces for children (3,4)
    (Limit = CAP) badly SUNG = CAP GUNS
Sincerely thought this was SIP CUPS for most of the puzzle. This past spring our friend Glorious D went to her son's elementary school talent show. She said that no fewer than EIGHT groups of little girls sang the entirety of Let It Go. We were recently initiated into the cult of Frozen by our four-year-old niece, which is the ideal way to experience Frozen. What can “let it go” mean to such tiny humans? Why does it resonate so deeply?
Elsa from Frozen | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 44A) Turn a siren up (6)
Yassssss TURN UP!! Much love.
  • 45A) Queen visits London battle location for speech training (7)
    (Queen = ER) visits (London battle = BLITZ) = BERLITZ
This has a nice narrative flow, very Keep Calm, very The King's Speech, very nice.
Queen Elizabeth II fires a machine gun while soldiers look on | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Speaking of ‘litz, if you seek language lessons, we personally had excellent success with Pimsleur's Romanian program. If you just want to jump in and start making small talk, don't care about the grammar, don't care about the syntax, alla dat can come later, then you might have as much fun and success with them as we did :)
  • 50A) Baby covers nose—awful smell starts outside, that is (7)
    (NOSE awful = ONES) (SMELL starts = S) outside (THAT IS = IE) = ONESIES
A little tortured but we like it because it's a pooping baby joke, and pooping babies are hilarious.
smiling pooping baby in a cute monkey costume | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 3D) Sneezy, Dopey drinks—many without any catalysts (7)
    SNEEZY dopey (MANY without ANY = M) = ENZYMES
Excellent! Thought this maybe used DWARVES, or an ‑EAD word that means “group of seven.” But that was an overreaction on our part.
  • 4D) Sinister lineage‑based women's group, front for the KKK (4)
    (lineage based women's group = DAR) (front for the KKK = K) = DARK
A DARK clue indeed! Some chocolate that Sweet V bought us in Vienna last month:
dark vegan chocolate | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 5D) Allow no migratory French‑speaking person in parts of Europe (7)
    ALLOW NO migratory = WALLOON
This clue reads a little timely, geopolitically. ‘Sup, Walloon. Comment ça va? It's the Walloons and then the Flemish that are the two Belgium trivia chestnuts. Thems, and also Antwerp. Speaking of Antwerps, shout out to our brothers and sisters who played Quest for Glory IV!
Quest for Glory IV | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6D) In Madrid it's very upsetting, but delicious (3)
    upsetting but (delicious = YUM) = MUY
EXCELLENTE! Imagining now the Spanish cuisine that disquiets the mind as it delights the palate. Like those French baby nightingales swallowed whole.

  • 9D) One of Donald Trump's words, not loud but angry (4)
    (One of Donald Trump's words = FIRED) not (loud = F) = IRED
Very very smooth, this clue. Even though it requires cultural fluency in DT.

We think that guy is going to win the election. There was a window where she was going to win, but in our view that window has closed. We've passed through the stages of grief, especially including denial, and now we're in acceptance.
shirt designed by Tyler the Creator
shirt designed by Tyler the Creator

But we remain open to a November surprise. This is a weird time to be alive. As Sweet V says, “we live in interesting times. I kinda wish we lived in more boring times.”

Last June, Daniel‑san's partner scoffed at us. “In what universe does the electoral map show him winning?” Mmmmmmmmmow about the electoral map from 2000. How bout the electoral map from 2004. She was unconvinced. But then, she was also a preteen at the start of the W Bush years. It's weird to feel nostalgic for the W Bush years. Weird times.

Ok next clue!
  • 14D) Unsuccessful line of clothes? (4)
    Unsuccessful = line of clothes = DUDS
    Unsuccessful line = clothes = DUDS
The disagreement between UNSUCCESSFUL and DUDS forgiven for the simplicity. This was also Sweet V's clutch solve of the puzzle. He took one look, said, “it's DUDS!” then gave us a smooch and said, “my work here is done!”

Per Wise Tyler below, split this into “unsuccessful line” and “clothes”? And the “of” just “disappears”? That's “ok” we “guess.”
  • 17D) Aimlessly wandering around a royal flower show (11)
    AIMLESSLY wandering around A (royal = R) = AMARYLLISES
Hat tip to Brother JBLSmith. Mmmmmmmmmm yes a beautiful delicious anagrama of this kind, yes so wonderful, yes our favorite!!
amaryllis cut by scissors | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 23D) Silver bullet mentioned in On the Beach (7)
    (silver = AG) (bullet = ROUND) = AGROUND
Elegant, smooth, tight. Lovely!
  • 31D) Olive branches to accept, but leaderless, survive (7)
    OLIVE branches to accept (BUT leaderless = UT) = OUTLIVE
  • 33D) Understands, not with help, where a labyrinth was ;(7)
    ((Understands = KNOWS) not (WITH = W) = KNOS) with (HELP = SOS) = KNOSSOS
Shout out to the Minoans, shout out to Crete! Shout out to seventh grade ancient history and mythology!
Minoans of Crete | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 37D) Element created containing oxygen (5)
    (CREATED = BORN) containing (OXYGEN = O) = BORON
Some of you might find periodic table of the elements clues boron', but not us!! More pls!!
  • 40D) Head off pursuer of musical theater (not the lead) (5)
    (pursuer of musical theater = JAVERT) not the lead= AVERT
Automatic Highlight for requiring cultural fluency in Le Mis. A little tricky cuz “head off” could also be an indicator.
stock image of Geoffrey Rush as Javert in Les Mis


  • 16A) Feels left out, getting compensation (4)
    FEELS (left = L) out = FEES
Meh. Fee's simple.
  • 22A) Spectacular dress with a train and a yoked front (5)
    A (train = RR) and A (YOKED front = Y) = ARRAY
This sounds like a very terrible wedding outfit, some chattel marriage stuff. And TRAIN > RR is muy painful. And SPECTACULAR DRESS > ARRAY is also painful. Pain for everyone.
BDSM bridal dress
  • 24A) Adore Nymph Errant? Quite the reverse! (5)
    ADORE errant = OREAD
This is that same durn confusorg thing of Quite the reverse! that no one understands and no one likes. And it's also OREAD in the same puzzle as ENNEAD which is gross.
  • 32A) President's core value increased a hundredfold in camera (5)
    (President = NIXON) core value increased a hundredfold in = NIKON
So NIXON's core value increased a hundredfold from X = 10 to K = 1000. Barbaric to jump around from Roman numerals to the metric system.
Nixon at the podium | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 43A) Wall decoration with little volume, nothing on either side (5)
    (little VOLUME = VOL) (nothing = O) on either side = OVOLO
Very truly sincerely thought this must be a reference to the uterine wall.
Ovolo (or ovulo) in architecture, is a convex molding known also as the echinus, which in classical architecture was invariably carved with the egg-and-dart ornament. The molding is called a quarter-round by woodworkers. This is not to be conflated with the "echinus" of the Doric capital, as this was of a more varied form and of much larger dimensions than the ovolo, which was only a subordinate molding.
Souce: Weeklypedia
We love the tone of the above paragraph. “not to be conflated.” Don't worry, buds. We won't conflate them. Rest easy.
  • 49A) A second occupation takes Chartreuse off the map (5)
    CHARTREUSE off the (map = CHART) = REUSE
Reuse ... like Richard E Maltby Jr and The Listener did with so many of these fill words ohhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!
laughing at a cocktail party while drinking chartreuse | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Not to mention CHARTREUSE > REUSE is very butt.
  • 8D) Propose—to gangland killer? (5)
    gangland killer = OFFER (syn.)
Buh. Enough with OFF, enough with ICE. Enough.
  • 10D) Ladies' ending? (3)
    ladieS ending = ESS
Huuuuuu‑whot even is this. Sincerely thought the answer was ASS. We do not understand this clue. Maybe if “Ladies' ending” were an idiom? Then we could forgive purely spelling out the last letter. Like,
  • Knots Landing (3)
the cast of Knots Landing | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
But maybe we're wrong about the reasoning in this very thin, very gruelish pun? Dear Readers are invited to explain in the Comments. Per Brother JBLSmith, this is likely a reference to the gendered ‑ess suffix. You know, like, stewardess or marquess or comediess, that type'a thing, those super cool words that imply female involvement is non‑normative.
  • 19D) Leader of queue—with 10D, an afterthought (3)
    Leader of QUEUE = PEE
And with 10D) ESS to yield PEE ESS as in PS. Not sure how we'd phonetically spell out “Q” but QUEUE seems overwrought. And the definition for this three‑letter nothingness requires … solving another boring three‑letter flimsy fluffer clue. Buh.
  • 20D) Music producer in this state raised the scale, right? (11)
    ((in this state = NYS) raised = SYN) THE (scale = SIZED) = SYNTHESIZED
Ohhhhhhh so much to dislike here! New York normativity, for one. New York abbreved NYS for two???? WAHTTT??? What is that. That is a no‑go zone. Even if, as Wise Tyler points out, it is common for to disambiguate from NYC … ok that checks out!
1970s synthesizer prog rock wizard | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 28D) Private parts from giants—they're from the colonies (4)
    (PRIVATE = GI) parts from GIANTS = ANTS
We like invoking a giant's genitals haha awesome, but the net is ANTS which is an automatic Lowlight.
  • 38D) Film actress endlessly hounded for debts (5)
    endlessly (hounded for debts = DUNNED) = DUNNE
Love dat Irene Dunne!
Irene Dunne | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues But we remember DUN from April 2015 and turns out 17 months is too soon for a refry. Thought we were DUN with that.
  • 41D) Served tea noisily, having tiny openings (5)
    (Served tea = POURED) noisily = PORED
This was nice and the overuse of TEA would be forgiven except that TEA is overused in this very puzzle as well which is, in a word, gross:
  • 47D) Ate unpalatable meal (3)
    ATE unpalatable = TEA
This clue is so sweet and twee! And Bri'ish! Would be fine, like we say, but for TEA in 41D.
Ian McKellen drinking tea | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Grandma Ian McKellen

  • 44D) Gone by a corner, in a board game (3)
    A (board game = GO) = AGO
What's “a corner” doin' there? Filler? Gross.
  • 46D) In France, for him it sounds like a royal (3)
    sounds like (a royal = LOUIS) = LUI
This one is “ok” on its own, but in the context of we've a'ready got LOUIE as the unclued 7A this is very butt.
King Louie from The Jungle Book (2016) | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

The Tacky

  • 35A) Former Mideast leader beheaded—time for rejoicing (8)
    (Former = EX) ((Mideast leader = SULTAN) beheaded = ULTAN) (time = T) = EXULTANT
This is awful. This is like a shitty Charlie Hebdo cartoon in cryptic crossword form.

We've missed you. Come comment :)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Four-Play - May 2016

May 2016 | Four-Play | Harper's puzzle solution

What is up, Dear Readers? Hope all is well in your hearths. We're doing well! Nearly finished with these shoes that we started working on last summer. A whole year! Art takes time!
cool shoes | erica dreisbach | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

The Theme!

Four unclued entries that turn out to be HENRIK IBSEN in 1A and three of his plays:
… which is three plays, not four per the theme name. Fo(u)r what it's worth.

Henrik Ibsen. Norwegian, right?

… looks it up …

Yah, Norwegian. It's him and it's Hall of the Mountain King composer who are the major Norway guys that come up on Jeopardy! over and over. Grieg. Ibsen and Grieg.

Here's Henrik looking very writerly and Norwegian:
Henrik Ibsen | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
In looking up Henrik Ibsen for this post, we found many Ibsen quotes laid out Instagram photo‑quote style that didn't strike us as particularly, uh, great. Like thissa one:
The majority is always wrong; the minority is rarely right. - Henrik Ibsen (supposedly) | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
“The majority is always wrong; the minority is rarely right.” - Henrik Ibsen (supposedly)

But maybe that's just us? And maybe these supposed quotes are all apocryphal. Maybe A Doll's House is a focking gripping masterwork.

For the record, this blog is our masterwork!! This, and also the shoes.


  • 12A) Underworld gal making adjustment to teach English (6)
    adjustment to TEACH (English = E) = HECATE
Shout out to the crone hell‑queen Hecate!
Hecate | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 15A) Time being what it is: name long ago (5)
    (name = N) (long ago = ONCE) = NONCE
  • 16A) I'm in the habit, or I'm in with half, please (6)
    I'M in (with = W) (half PLEASE = PLE) = WIMPLE
Yass! The wimple is of course our favorite medieval and religious adult‑contempo garb.
Whoopi Goldberg | Sister Act | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 20A) Camper taken in by male elements in the company of superheroes (6)
    (Camper = RV) taken in by MALE elements = MARVEL
Surprised to see Marvel in the Harper's! Shout out to pop culture. Shout out to this retro style promo for Xavier's School for the Gifted (below). Shout out to James McAvoy. Shout out to watching the new X-Men movie to whisper James McAvoy's name during his scenes.

  • 21A) One who deserves to be left out! (4)
    (left = L) OUT = LOUT
One of the ourobouri clues that eats itself, and the definition portion is the entirety of the clue. Which, we're getting used to this style, and even beginning to like it. Love the natural language of the clue. Mwa! One who deserves to be left out! The lout! S'what we're talkink about!
  • 22A) Misdirections behind some stock (3,6)
    (behind = BUM) (stock = STEERS) = BUM STEERS
This is the type of charades clue we usually *sigh* at. But(t) putting it in Highlights for reason of butts. Say what? Cattle butt!
cow butt | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 26A) That man needs a place, like for showing great range (9)
    (That man = HIM) A (place = LAY) (like = AS) = HIMALAYAS
“place” as in “please place your pencil down.” Speaking of the ‘layas, our friend Evan hiked to Everest basecamp last November. When asked about training he might have done to prepare, he said, “not much really.” Then he paused, and said, “I'm fit.” But it was more like, “Fhit.” Like: capitalized, and with an exhale in the middle. Then he talked about how he used to be a personal trainer and thus his self‑assessment as Fhit made more sense.
  • 28A) It's not quite hip to sing like a bird (3)
    It's not quite (hip = COOL) = COO
Goodfeathers | pigeons from Animaniacs | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 32A) Half of dance requires a final character: a little Bono (4)
    Half of (dance = CHACHA) requires a (final character = Z) = CHAZ
Shout out to cousin Chaz Bono!
Chaz Bono | Dancing with the Stars | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 33A) Ruffian in retrospect is mostly innocent (4)
    (Ruffian in retrospect = NAIFFUR) is mostly = NAIF
Very nachrul!
  • 35A) Toy bird (4)
    KITE (double syn)
Mwa! Delight! So sweet and concise. Fun activity: say “toy boat” five times fast. The first one rolls out no probs, but by the second or third it's like “toy boyte.”
  • 36A) On we spoke—oh, it's so boring! (5)
    (On we) * homophone = ENNUI
Yass! Love the narrative on this clue! All that blah blah talk! So boring! Related: how is it that a person can be super interesting, but their Snapchats are devastatingly boring? Some of our funniest friends send us Snaps of videos of watching TV, or videos of being stuck in traffic.
  • 1D) Scoundrel with a revolver—don't get me started! (4)
    (revolver = WHEEL) don't get me started = HEEL
No surprise HEEL showing up (cf CUR and CAD) but the narrative is super fun and REVOLVER = WHEEL felt fresh.

“Don't even get me started. Don't even get me started.” — Jeannie Darcy
Jeannie Darcy | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6D) Mind if I left some chaff (4)
    (Mind = BRAIN) if I left = BRAN
Yah! BRIAN => BRAN is fun :)
Bran | Game of Thrones | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 8D) English FCC fees never obscure high spirits (13)
    (English = E) FCC FEES NEVER obscure = EFFERVESENCE
Anagrama (mostly). You know we loves! Hey when's the last time you listened to a hit song by the band Evanescence? Did you know that up until five minutes ago we thought Evanescence was a ‘90s all‑male rock band? Woops it turns out Evanescence is a lady. And Evanescence is her name? Or maybe it's the band name. Like how Grimes is a band and Claire Boucher is the entire band line‑up. We're not gonna look it up or anything so if you really want us to know more about Evanescence you can leave a comment but tbh we're hoping to forget everything we thought we knew about Evanescence rull soon.
Evanescence | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 9D) “Born to Die” Republican leaves more wanting (7)
    (born = NEE) to DIE (Republican = R) = NEEDIER
Nice! Another submission for our sister blog Bleeding Heart Liberal Harper's Cryptic Clues. This is wha’ we're talkin’ ‘bout w/r/t charades. Some catalytic conversion. A whole differently-flavored from the parts.
  • 14D) Seen as typical Beat poet, I'm writing one last letter at the end (10)
    (Beat POET IM = EPITOM) writing (one = I) (last letter = ZED) = EPITOMIZED
Oh yah. This was noice!
  • 34D) Napkin put up or down, doesn't matter (3)
    BIB (pun or whatever)
Brother Dan Asimov's key says this is “two meanings.” We get bib as “napkin.” But bib as a “put up or down”? Is it just that BIB is palindromic?
Hannibal Buress on napkins | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
“I don't put a napkin on my lap when I eat. You know why? Cuz I believe in myself.”


  • 10A) Keyboard key used in telex transmission that can be sent (8)
    (Keyboard key = TAB) used in TELEX = TEXTABLE
You knew we were going to go after this one. Please, Dear Reader. Please whisper in our cute little ear the sentence that contextualizes this word.

Y didn't you text me back?
My response isnt textable

We brought this up to Notorious Marcel who said, “you could use ‘textable’ to describe a person. Like, ‘she's totally textable.’”

“You mean like ‘fuckable’? Can you name one other example? Like what, ‘phonable’? ‘She's totally phonable.’ …  ‘talkable’ … ”

“Honestly, ‘fuckable’ is the only one,” said Notorious Marcel, gratifyingly conceding.
texting | dating | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 13A) Got sick, having been served a meal at the counter? (6)
    (served a mean = FED) at the (counter = BAR) = BARFED
Barfed. That's what we did when we read this clue. Not from the bar food.
  • 17A) Article removed from imperial menace (7)
    (Article = A) removed from IMPERIAL = IMPERIL
… … whoah, sorry. Fell asleep furra sek there. This clue imperils our ability to stay awake.
  • 19A) Where some Frenchmen locate tailored inseam (6)
    tailored INSEAM = LA MIEN
Uh ok fine we guess (le meh). Here's Alexandre Dumas looking dope and fashionable to make up for this clue:
Alexandre Dumas | courtesy Wikimedia
Image courtesy Wikimedia

  • 23A) Giving positions around piano dishonors arrangement (10)
    (piano = P) DISHONORS arrangement = DONORSHIPS
Love the anagram; hate the resultant word. “Donorships”? Even the most lexiconically esoteric development directors we've known, and we've known several, did not use “donorships.” They'd probably say “donor history” or “donor relationship.”
  • 29A) Partially enunciate hooks in the body (4)
    Partially enUNCIate = UNCI
uncus | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
uncus : noun, plural  1. any hook-shaped or curved part of a body process, especially the hippocampal gyrus in the temporal lobe of the brain.

Reminds us of Uncas from Last of the Mohicans. If memory serves, Uncas isn't the last Mohican, he's the son of the last Mohican. The second-to-last Mohican. And Daniel Day-Lewis is not the last Mohican. He's just a white guy. This isn't very fun trivia. But it's true.

Anyway but so UNCI definitely doesn't remind us of anything having to do with human anatomy.
  • 30A) What is a flowering of youth? That ____! (3)
We don't even know what the crud this is sposed to be. Some kind of pun? Like eliding to “thatszit”? Buh. Dear Readers are invited to explain in the Comments.
  • 34A) Moore and Craig, e.g., in ties (5)
    BONDS (double syn.)
Cuz Roger Moore and Daniel Craig have both played James Bond. Sure.

Witness: this amazing chart of James Bonds from the genius Sean Tejaratchi:
Liartown | James Bond
  • 37A) Oddly I schemed for a cold drink (4)
    Oddly I sChEmEd = ICEE
This one is bad! Icee hot? Icee not!
'They buy me all these icees' | My Humps | Fergie | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 2D) Run out of a church to call your old girlfriend? (13)
    call your old girlfriends = EXCOMMUNICATE
Your old girlfriend called to say how uninspiring this charades clue is. “I know,” you told her. “It's good to hear your voice, though.”

“Ok we're not doing this again,” she said. Like, on a dime the whole energy of the call changed. Just like, wham!

And you played defensively dumb, like, “what? I didn't even mean, what? Can't I just be nice?” But you weren't just being nice. She knew it, your boner knew it. The NSA agent reviewing the call metadata knew it. We all knew it. So put down the phone, go back to church, and pew down.

The Graduate | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 3D) Hit over the head by a kid's toy? That's foolish (13)
    (Hit over the head = BRAINED) by a (kid's toy = RATTLE) = RATTLEBRAINED
Mang when the charade is just, like, DOG + HOUSE = DOGHOUSE. Like, there's no juice in the combo. No alchemy. Like if you got a recipe book and there was a recipe in there like CHEESE + CRACKERS = CHEESE ‘N’ CRACKERS
  • 4D) One live cross horny North African (4)
    I (live = BE) (cross = X) = IBEX
Wassup, ibex. “I bex you thought the last of me!” Naw, ibex. We always expect to see you. Shout out to your sisters OKAPI and ELAND.
ibex | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 7D) Re-crosses out origin of bad spelling (9)
That's a little judgmental. We witches aren't all bad witches. Speaking of bad magic, the resemblance between Bavmorda and former Pope Benedict XVI in these photos is strong. Coincidence?
Benedict XVI vs Bavmorda | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 18D) Two Irishmen make the sound of soft footsteps (3-3)
    Two Irishmen = PAT PAT
Um. No.
  • 24D) Humiliation in college almost has pizzazz (6)
    (almost HAS = HA) (pizzazz = ZING) = HAZING
Ulmost called this the Tacky. Humiliation. Ugh. Altho we appreciate being real about the nature of hazing, uglossed with “boys wull be boys!” denial, such denial like polyurethane just filling in all your pores and you die beneath it when your skin can't breathe.
  • 25D) Something exciting can also be downer (6)
    can also be DOWNER = WONDER
Yah so DOWNER => WONDER is pretty uninspi. Guh.
  • 27D) Lanai decorated for a swinger's need, possibly (5)
    LANAI decorated = LIANA
Feh. More uninspi single letter translations. The I takes a little walk to the left. Just as loose and casual as that. And about as exciting.

In our margin notes we wrote ANAL I.

The Tacky

  • 5D) Milk's an odd choice for white lovers (7)
This just felt weird. “white lovers”? Uh. Yah. Weird.
Lady giving a sieg heil at a Trump rally | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

Comments are fuel for more blogging.