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 ├ža 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 :)