Sunday, September 10, 2017

Like Children - August 2017

answers to the August 2017 Harper's cryptic crossword puzzle | Like Children | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Hola, Dear Readers! We're late on this. We're going to try a drastically dieted down write up of just Theme and Tacky and that's it. There's a lot going on in our life. And we're going to see Stevie Nicks, the California witch, perform tonite. Naturally, that involves all-day prep. Six years ago we just wrote short little shorties. Then we got really into Reviewing Practicly Evry Clue, 2000-2500 word megaposts, which was fun and then is now not fun. And having fun is our main goal, along with being super hot and super cool (Turandot). a photo from an operatic production of Puccini's Turandot | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

The Theme!

Could not, for the lurf of us, parse these instructs. “condition for No. 16” ?? What dat mean? Condition for 16 of the answers?

Letters in the gray squares of the fill also get copied over to the outlier gray square in that same row. We only figured this out with the help of Sweet V, after the instructions were so opaque to us that we'd closed our hearts to them entirely so as to be able to Start Already. No letter count on the clues because of the psuper psecret variety pack trickery this time which was that silent Ps were omitted from the fill. And then you can read that [children should be] SEEN BUT NOT HEARD. Seen *and* not heard? Anyway.

We think there's a fun pee joke to be made, rather than a fun fantasy about quiet children hahaha, what a hilarious fantastical notion from the kind of personality who not only hates hearing children, hates seeing them as&nsbp;well.

Peaking of, Sweet V was our co-babysitter the other week for a visit from the nieces. “How was that?” people asked.

“They each have the maturity of a three year old. One of them is two,” we said.

But that's not fair to the big one. She's brilliant and and when her energy is directed constructively, she's a blast and super emotionally resilient. Like: she was taking a bath and we were making up songs together about unicorn poo poo farts, you know, just aunt and neice stuff, and the little one dumped a bottle of soapy water on the big one's head. But the big one was in a good mode, and instead of winding up retaliation or a tantrum she said with flat affect, ”don't do that,” and the little one said sorry, and it was great, we were so proud of both of them.

When they wouldn't fall asleep, we sang lullabyes about peepee and poopoo (the forbidden words!). They giggled and fell right to sleep. Here's what we drew about it in a letter to their great‑grandfather:
caca pipi sung as a lullabye

The Tacky

  • 18A) Sitting with a singular Cabinet member?
    singular (Cabinet member = [Jeff] SESSIONS) = SESSION
K we don't rank this tacky per se for invoking the buttface Attorney General. Here he is looking like an evil Keebler Elf about to announce the imminent threat from jackbooted militarized immigration authorities posed to a million law‑abiding tax‑paying young people:
a giddy Atty General Jeff Sessions before announcing the end of DACA | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
We ask you: is the singular of Chris a Chri? Is the singular of Thomas one Thoma? Can you celebrate a Christma?

You cannot. So what is this nonsense about a single Session? Gross. We say this, even as a person willfully and gleefully playing with grammatical number. But that's in this freewheeling writing style of this blog. We would never! do such a thing in a puzzle. We would never abandon rule of puzzle law like that.

If we are in error on this pun, Dear Readers, we 'xpect to hear from you on the Comments!

Comments are fuel for blogs.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Identity Crisis - July 2017

answers to the July 2017 Harper's cryptic crossword puzzle | Identity Crisis | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

The Theme!

Five unclued acrosses, with the hint that unclued 40A describes the other four. 40A turns out to be SELF‑DESCRIBED. Early on when we had just SE———— for 40A we hoped it might be something like SEX———. Like, SEX‑CRIMMINALS, with two Ms to fill the grid. Nay, though. And the others:
  • 34A) UNAMBIGUOUS    what??
Kinda sorta feels like this whole dang theme was built around MISPELLED hahahahha ahhAHHAhahah [chokes] [dies] but then, because it's the only rule breaker non‑word it seems incongruous. Forgivable though in a way that wuttttt UNAMBIGUOUS is just rip ranklingly irritating. Perhaps “unambiguous” implies black/white clear‑cut certainty to you.

thinks a moment ...

Ok yeah we guess so FINE yah UNAMBIGUOUS does imply certainty. Thank you for coming with us on this journey that proves it's possible to have evolving thoughtful impressions.

Anyway, the "net" (as we say in corporate office settings): this was not a great theme. It was fine. Only one blockbuster thirteener anagram (1D) so, obv, not our favorite puzzle. Boring stuff, including, we swear to Gorn, SNORE (16A). Sume puzzlese. And then a rull bad tacky.

There was also another error in the grid layout: a missing horizontal bar between TACET and SELF‑DESCRIBED in the lower left. What's goin on at Harper's puzzle HQ, buds?

Maltby sits in a giant bath of hot salt water. The tub side is lit by candles, the water glows with rare bioluminescent sea creatures. Suddenly a figure rises to the surface (how deep is this tub??), gasping for air, dark hair whipping water over the candles and on Maltby's face, still serene despite the choked noises of a half-drowned human. It is the Puzzle Minion.

"Did you find my contact lens?" asks Maltby. His voice is barely louder than a whisper. The Puzzle Minion doesn't even bother to shake his head no. Back down he goes.


  • 16A) Small type, fancy, dapper, one glued to a book (8)
    (Small type = EN) fancy (DAPPER) = ENDPAPER
Very nice! Automatic Highlight for book esoterica!
photo of endpaper | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 20A) A yoga exercise is one thing you don't want to get carried away by! (9)
    A yoga exercise = thing you don't want to get carried away by = STRETCHER
In the screenplay we're working on about our mother and grandmother (title: SMOTHER) the grandmother makes fun of the mother's yoga practice and calls it “stretching.”

“That's not exercise, dear. That's stretching.”

Fun to imagine Maltby in league with our grandma.
photo of my grandma and grandpa | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 26A) Retro depilatory of a certain age (4)
    Retro (depilatory = NEET) = TEEN
MmmmMMmmmmmm mwa GLORIOUS! Wonderful! Such excellent consonance. We were stuck for a while working NAIR, only vaguely heard of old school NEET, such lovely delivery in this clue!
  • 38A) Trifle with Conservative Party, lose the right (3)
    (Conservative Party = TORY) lose the (right = R) = TOY
A nice one for our sister blog!
  • 37A) Guards on watches turned off pretty much by nonsense (4)
    (turned (OFF pretty much = OF) = FO) by (nonsense = BS) = FOBS
  • 38A) Don't play your top card between times (5)
    (top card = ACE) between (times = T T) = TACET
Mmmmmmm v nice! Musical! The white space of notes you don't play!
  • 39A) Cutlets pounded in sink (7)
    CUTLETS pounded = SCUTTLE
verb   scut•tle

1 to cut a hole through the bottom, deck, or side of (a ship); specifically : to sink or attempt to sink by making holes through the bottom
Didn't know this definition of SCUTTLE before, just knew it as, like, “scuttle that decision.” And then that there was a vaguely beachy meaning as well.
  • 1D) Writing without lyrics, stylizer worked for promoters of The Book of Mormon, for example (13)
    (Writing without lyrics = PROSE) STYLIZER worked = PROSELYTIZERS
Wow. SUccchhhHHh glorious anagramer! Is it unfair to call Mormons specifically promoting the book “proselytizers”? Isn't that more or less the mission of missions? More‑mons?
  • 3D) Enologist's final pairings sadly going all over the place ... (9)
    (Enologist's final = T) PAIRINGS sadly = TRAIPSING
  • 5D) Rip Torn, initially from South Carolina, might receive this! (6)
    RIP (Torn initially = T) from (South Carolina = SC) = SCRIPT
Glorious consonance between Rip Torn the acteur and scripts! Lovely! Plenny of times we've critiqued the that must be read both as whole and as parts. But not this time. This time we like it. It's ok to like different things at different times. It's ok to contain multitudes and be inconsistent. That's just part of the human experience.
photo of Rip Torn | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 11D) Strike obliquely comes from having good arm (6)
    Strike obliquely = good arm = LANCE
Was sure this involved GLANCE in the sense of “strike obliquely” but maybe not? Maybe when you lance a boil you do it from the side?

Who is the best Lance? Correct! Lance Reddick! This month's Nerd Hot Guy:
photo of Lance Reddick | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 12D) Negative number of Italians make the French possessive (5)
    (Negative = NO) (number of Italians = TRE) = NOTRE
A little paint by nombres but some fun narrative! The Italians leave and those moody French get antsy! Also always fun to whip out our middle school/high school French study.
  • 17D) Rhyming fool on a talk series (9)
    (fool = ASS) ON A (talk series = TED) = ASSONATED
Assonance is ... not quite a rhyme. It's like a bastard cousin of rhyme, non? But this is an automatic Highlight for the subtle burn on TED, the home of talk.
  • 22D) Damsel in distress takes a big turn, producing a stony look! (7)
    DAMSEL in distress takes (a big turn = U) = MEDUSA
Very nice! “Stony look” indeed! Only qualm is that this isn't pritically uncommon. Maybe the instructions had a misprint and meant to indicate that 21D ELEGIAC was the uncommon word?
  • 23D) Promise is becoming switched to advance (7)
    PROMISE (IS becoming (switched TO = OT)) = PROMOTED
OhhhHhh this was very excellent. Very wonderful. Also implies a sortof “this deal gets worse and worse” narrative. What a fantastic clue!
still of Boba Fett and Lando Calrissian from The Empire Strikes Back | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 25D) Just a taste of this European bread gets you upset (7)
    (Just a taste of THIS = T) (European bread = ROUBLE) = TROUBLE
We like this but ... isn't it usually transliterated RUBLE?
  • 29D) Oral spray needed (6)
    Oral (spray = MIST) = MISSED
Oh YESSS! Tight and neat! Kept working variations of SPIT.

So at our local gym there's this one class instructor who goes by Sarge. The rumor is that he was in the military so perhaps he was once fit and firm. These days he is paunchy with a gut that looks full of water weight and ego. He teaches boot camp classes. We went to one, once, but left after fifteen minutes. We're not sure why we thought “boot camp” would be something different from an overweight man yelling at us to do pushups. But we did. We thought it would be something different.

The rumor is that he made a pregnant woman in his class cry.

Anyway so obviously we avoid Sarge. The other morning before Zumba class though the normal instructor wasn't there, and Sarge was just around, giving us the eye. Sarge came over to where we were working on the Harper's puzzle and explained that if the substitute instructor didn't show up that he, Sarge, would teach a class.

“But I won't be teaching Zumba,” he said, with like this anticipatory smile. ”I don't teach Zumba.” Flecks of his spittle misted onto our copy of the Harper's puzzle.

“You're Sarge. You teach boot camp,” we said. And he took that as his cue to leave us alone. Had he not, our next lines were: “your reputation precedes you. Is it true that you made a pregnant woman cry?”

Fearsome oral spray need not be a mist. Sometimes it can be words.
  • 31D) Nick in a picture frame left with mark (5)
    frame (left = L) with (mark = NOTE) = NOLTE
Very nice! Multi‑meaning “nick” and “mark” which are both proper names, too. Tip top, as Notorious Marcel would say.
  • 32D) Baby's store clothes: Gap, with big outlet (5)
    BABY'S Store clothes = ABYSS
Automatic Highlight for associating the GAP and especially Baby GAP with the abyss.
collage photo of Cthulhu in a Baby GAP | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues


  • 10A) Titular rube, rich, all detailed (8)
    Titular RUBe RICh ALl = RUBRICAL
Is “all but the last letter” the title of something? Is it? Is it really? Really is it?
  • 13A) Tackle boxes—excellent with a fish (4)
    boxes (excellent = D) with a (fish = GAR) = GEAR
GAR is the sound we make when we see this fish in the puzzle.
photo of a gar fish | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 16A) Sleep soundly, restless senor! (5)
    restless SENOR = SNORE
SNORE is the sound we make you know the rest of the joke we don't have to finish.
  • 30D) Independent country, in poems (3)
    (country = INDIA) in poems = IND
One poem, please. One poem with INDIA as IND. We're gonna look for one right now. Is it going to be Kipling? Did Kipling do it?

... searches on goog for 30 seconds ...

Ok didn't find one. Dear Readers, you are welcome to bring an India Ind poem to our attention.
  • 4D)... promotes pairs with no entrée (4)
    PAIRS with no entrée = AIRS
This one is meant to have synergy with 3D about the enologist's pairings, ugh, fine, but it's so limp and bland it doesn't seem worth it. Also, why does “entrée” get its diacritic, but not “señor” in 18A?
illustration of a Victorian dinner | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 6D) Baby deer becoming rattled? (8)
    BABY DEER becoming = YABBERED
We were certain there'd be FAWN, then we crossed one of the Bs so we were certain there'd be a BAMBI. Instead it's this nonsense, this yabbered abbered doo doo.
  • 8D) Blessing on completing ticket sales (4)
    ON completing (ticket sales = box office = BO) = BOON
BO is more like ... what this clue smells like OHhhhHhhhh! Here, we'll fix it:
  • Diddley squat is a topsy-turvy godsend (4)
    (Diddley = BO) ((squat = NO) is a topsy-turvy = ON) = BOON
That one's not that great, since “squat” = “no” comes via “diddly‑squat” which is already part of the clue. Ok we'll try again:
  • No mixed up backwards doctor in the birthing room is good (4)
    NO mixed up (backwards (doctor in the birthing room = OB) = BO) = BOON
Better. Any time Harper's puzzle central wants us on staff, give a ring. You have our number.
  • 9D) Change name in secret (7)
    (name = N) in SECRET = CENTERS
    (name = N) in (secret = COVERT) = CONVERT
Centers? As in, loose change, as in coins, as in cents? What kind of cents does that make?

OOPS and many THANKS to Dear Reader Mo below who spotted our error. Sometimes we play ourselves.

DJ Khaled in a shoestore, caption: "Congratulations, you played yourself" | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 21D) Sad member one jailed in English cooler (7)
    (member = LEG) (one = I) jailed in (English = E) (cooler = AC) = ELEGIAC
We were stone cold certain that “English cooler” would yield GAOL. Nyet. Leg qua member is fine. It's fine. All this heat tho in service of antiseptic cough syrup ELEGIAC. Blah.
  • 24D) It's unusual to be holding nothing but upraised dumbbell (4)
    (It's unusual to be = ODD) holding (nothing = O) but upraised = DODO
cover of Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 28D) Fix this country's difficulty in Britain (6)
    (Fix = RIG) (this country's = OURS) = RIGOURS
Anything smacking of nationalism these days is irritating to us. So. Automatic Lowlight.
  • 33D) Greek character fit awkwardly in a uniform? Just the opposite! (5)
    (Greek character = MU) FIT awkwardly = MUFTI
Boo for puzzlese mufti, boo for this “Just the opposite” bummer indicator nonsense.

The Tacky

photo of a protest against eugenics | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Yall knew i' twould be this one.
  • 2D) Improving the kids brings up movies and heading off chills and fever (7)
    brings up ( (movies = CINE) and (heading off (chills and fever = AGUE) = GUE) = EUGENIC
Cool. If there weren't enough Nazis in the news, now there's Nazi logic in the puzzle. Cool cool cool. Eugenics. For “improving” the kids.

Sure sure blah blah ancient history blah blah. But it always comes down to: who is fit, and who is not. And who determines fitness, and who is ready with the sterile knives, and who goes to the clinic for an employer-mandated checkup and leaves without her uterus. This same shit. Over and over.

Really really truly thought this clue would be about goats (kids). When you breed animals, it's not eugenics, it's “husbandry.”

We do enjoy that frankness in the word “husbandry” tho! “This is what husbands are for.”

Comments are fuel for blogs.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Split Personalities - May 2017

answers to the May 2017 Harper's cryptic crossword puzzle | Split Personalities | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

The Theme!

Ummmm ok so seven unclued entries populated with answers to fourteen unnumbered clues. And then the two unnumbered answers once concatenated magically formed a glorious new word.

Lotsof anagrams this month so obv we enjoyted it much.


  • 6A) Old airline in New York—good, regional-sounding (6)
    (old airline = TWA) in (New York = NY) (good = G) = TWANGY
  • 13A) Hide in that place, lacking energy to go on (7)
    (Hide = FUR) in ((that place = THERE) lacking (energy = E) = THER) = FURTHER
  • 17A) Yogi into contortions pursues a deviant behavior (10)
    (Yogi = BERRA) INTO contortions pursues A = ABERRATIONS
Mwa! Lovely! Auto erotic yogis and kama sutra. Glorious!
black and white photo of a young New York Yankee Yogi Berra | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

PS that this month's Nerd Cutie is none other than grand slam punster hisself, the bear poet, Lawrence Peter Berra.
  • 20A) Head of gendarmes upholds this, like, pizza slice (4)
    liKE PIzza = KEPI
Much enjoy the vernacular of this one (“like,”) altho KEPI is a little odd.
  • 25A) Disturbing nude beach appearance (4)
    Disturbing NUDE = DUNE
Excellent! Tight and sweet! Glorious firm-buttocked narrative on that clue!
promotional image for the documentary Jodorowsky's Dune (2014) | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
If you want to change the world: you must try!
  • 28A) Something necessary to mask unknown person who's despicable (5)
    maSK UNKnown = SKUNK
Our margin notes speculate “eyeholes?”
  • 33A) Kind of skirt around a small bear (4)
    (Kind of shirt = HOOP) around = POOH
Automatic love for Mister Christopher. Is Pooh small though? Is he?
  • 38A) Bridge put out (5)
AHhHHHhhHhhhhh we love this so nice and succulent and lovely!! Had CAUSE in our margin notes, as in like CAUSEWAY. But CROSS is so much better mwa mwa!
  • 1D) Contests models entered after work (7)
    (models = POSES) entered after (work = OP) = OPPOSES
OP as in like OPERATION as in like SPECIAL OPS. Wondered for a sec if it was OP like as in OP ART.
  • 3D) Threatens flowers, being lead-free (5)
    (flowers = BLOOMS) being lead-free = LOOMS
Mmmmmm lovely! “lead” like as in “first letter” and not as in Pb atomic number 82. Ooooh we were so sure this clue was gonna zig with “flowers” = ”rivers” like every gazillion times all the time but not this time! Nopity nope. Sometimes a cigar is a penis and a flower is a vulva and sometimes a cigar is a cigar and a flower is a river but this time a flower is a flower. Excellent.
a very vulvic flower painting by Georgia O'Keeffe | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 4D) Some memory of dates with a musician? (4)
    Some memory = dates with a musician = GIGS
GIGS like as in gigabytes, as in touring this summer and playing lots of GIGS. We were rock solid certain this was GIFS and that FIGS are the “memory” of dates. That would make sense if a date were a dried fig. We swear to you, we are a brilliant woman.
  • 5D) Fostered sad take, perhaps, pines away (8)
Wonderful anagrama! Tight and precise anti-neckbeard narrative! Lovely!
  • 9D ...sets off impossible egos (4)
    impossible EGOS = GOES
Simple easy peasy nice one, nice and tight.
  • 11D) Boatbuilder turns on a hand and disappears (4)
    (turns ON = NO) A Hand = NOAH
Double the Biblical trouble this month. Who is the boatbuilder? Ah, could be but one. It's Big N, or maybe like Thor Heyerdahl. Dats it.
  • 14D) Raised in Britain, I laugh first, seeing poetry (5)
    (Raised in (Britain = UK) = KU) I (laugh = HA) first = HAIKU
We asked a poet friend whether he was doing National Poetry Month 30 for 30, which is one of those stunt things where poets get prompts and write a poem every day in April. It's like a juice cleanse, for poets. Anyway he said he doesn't do that type of thing, but he does write every day. Then he hesitated. Then he said, “well, I write a haiku every day. Does that count?”

We said, “yes! Whitney Jacobs in fourth grade was very clear: a haiku is a type of poem! So yes! That counts!”

We did the stunt thing. If you're interested in our poems, they're here.


  • 1A) Grateful for boiled egg, not, for example, scrambled (7)
    BOILED (EGG not (for example = EG) = G ) scrambled = OBLIGED
We're obliged to say we did not like this one. Buh.

Hey PS, name a very dum movie. We'll start: The Runaway Bride
image of Julia Roberts's character cooking eggs so that she can learn Who She Is | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Julia Roberts's character cooks eggs a dozen ways so that she can finally learn Who She Is and Stop Runnin

  • 16A) Nothing Moses affected leads us to get through (6)
    (Nothing = O) MOSES affected = OSMOSES
Love the anagrama but please to use OSMOSES in a sentence please prove to us it's a real word you&nsp;use.
  • 27A) Tech'll read out a word when there's handwriting on the wall (5)
    TECH'LL read out = TEKEL
The “when” in the clue had us spazzin to fit DANIEL into the grid because that's the Biblical book when there's writing on on the wall.
Daniel reads the words MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN and interprets them for the king: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed and found wanting; and PERES, the kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

Source: Whippitya

ilustration of the prophet Daniel reading the word MENE written on the wall | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
sidenote just re-reading this section now, didn't parse before that MENE appears twice. The first instance is the number the days of the kingdom ... and the second instance indicates the end. Huh. Sometimes the lack of context bewilders us that we're able to understand anything at all of ancient texts! Like Sweet V mentioned “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” the other day, and said it's about Jesus interfering in the stoning of an alleged adultress. So we looked it up, and yes, that scene is exactly as Sweet V described. But part of it is also that Jesus writes unknown words on the ground as he's talking to the would-be stoners. And it seems likely that to a contemporary audience the words he'd have written would be super duper obvious. But to us it's entirely mysterious. Intuitively we suspect that Jesus wrote the names of individuals in the mob. Or something similar that generated sincere introspection.
  • 30A) Iceman Cometh from where you might see a version of it! (6)
    ICEMAN cometh = CINEMA
Erm ok so “cometh” is a foriveable anagram indicator given the sweetness of Iceman Cometh except for, record scratch, at the cinema? The 1973 Lee Marvin version? The Robards 1960 version? Izza stretch. A real stretch. What's that play — sorry — play-slash-film even about? It's Eugene O'Neill so that narrows it down to unhappy Northeastern white people in the early 20th century. If we recall from our Jeopardy studying days, it's something like summer time, and every one is super hot and sweaty, but everyone's also excited that the iceman will come and tell big stories and suck everyone's emotional dick. And then he does, but then everyone gets upset. And the moral of the story is that it's better not to hope or get excited, because nothing is more elusive than maturity and resiliancy.

Something like that.
still of Mr Freeze as played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Batman and Robin | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 34A) Current indications say where Cockney hearts are! (4)
    say (where Cockney hearts are = 'OMES) = OHMS
No. Absolutely orrible. Eliza DooNOT. Raspberry tart all over this one. At LEAST, oh crimey why are we even saying this? ok no but at LEAST “Cocking arts are” please and thank you in advance.

Favorite Cockney accent, don't care what any yall say: Basher

still of Basher as played by Don Cheadle | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 35A) Fish for a word of welcome (3)
    A (word of welcome = HI) = AHI
Read this clue and wrote MAHI in the margin as a joke. Joke was on us.
  • 37A) Einstein's newly-revealed gay period? (8)
    EINSTEIN newly-revealed = NINETIES
This is fine and fun and homosexual revisionist history which is very much in line with our values and homonormative agenda, except we saw basically this exact clue six years ago.
  • 6D) Terror being decentralized, regret going inside faster (5)
    (TERROR being decentralized = T R) (regret = RUE) going inside = TRUER
Blech. Bleh. Another -ER word. Gross.
  • 8D) Under phone company, it comes due—polluted air ...(8)
    (phone company = ATT) IT comes (DUE polluted = UDE) = ATTITUDE
As in like “putting on airs” we guess probably. Automatic Lowlight for invoking the most predictable possible puzzle telecompany.

The Tacky

  • 23A) The Chinese craft cookware mothers put back first (7)
    (cookware = PAN) (mothers = MAS) put back first = SAMPANS
photo of a sampan from Wikipedia | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
UGH the awful unreadable clue ugh so very terrible. Knee jerk reaction automatic Tacky for “the Chinese.” Further knee meniscus tear requiring arthroscopy for the crazy weird snarly word salad nasty snatch clue. Unless “craft cookware” is a phrase.

“Do you use cast iron cookware?”
“No, I use Chinese craft cookward.”

Buh. Three words: poo poo platter.

Comments are fuel for blogs.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Armed to the Teeth - April 2017

answers to the April 2017 Harper's cryptic crossword puzzle | Armed to the Teeth | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

The Theme!

Uhhhh it was fine. “Armed to the teeth” to evoke “gold teeth” and 1A divined by crosses is GOLD FILLINGS and ah sure haha neato that means something about Au the chemical symbol for gold was inserted throughout the puzzle right, o how neat v cool theme.

jk jk, record scratch, run that back. Not AU but OR inserted into seventeen answers throughout the puzzle. “O, r you kidding me???” you ask, rhetorically, knowing the answer.

Dear Readers are invited to fight us in the Comments and explain the v excellent connexion between gold and/or gold fillings and OR. Something better than “OR is a homophone of ore, and gold is a kind of ore. So.” Then you shrug and grimace at us, rightly avoiding our gaze, as our eyes like twin blue tractor beams struggle to extract more from you. Sweep! Sweep! The buzzing electric hum of our gaze as it rakes across your bashful face.

photo of a little girl with blue eyes like tractor beams | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
EDIT: per Brother Danny below “OR” is a type of “gold” heraldry.
In heraldry, or (French for "gold") is the tincture of gold and, together with argent (silver), belongs to the class of light tinctures called "metals", or light colours. In engravings and line drawings, it is hatched using a field of evenly spaced dots. It is very frequently depicted as yellow, though gold leaf was used in many illuminated manuscripts and more extravagant rolls of arms.

Source: Wigipedia

Ah but do you fill teeth with it? AHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhh yes think of the solvers who are extremely literal and prefer on-the-nose themes. Many thanks to Brother Danny!
image of a Biblical manuscript with two male figures and, looks like, Hebrew writing | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Because of the seventeen insertionios, none of the clues had number of answer letters in parens, which added some fun challenge. Dear Readers who find cryptic crossword puzzles baffling and maddening, we're not bragging about our skills to personally baffle and madden you. Make no mistake, we are absolutely bragging about our hardwon awesome cryptic crossword puzzle skills right now. But if you're curious about whether you catch the puzzle dragon, you don't. You chase that puzzle dragon forever. We'll tell you when we've had enough, kai, ta, loipa.


  • 10A) As affront is limitless, it's something to savor
    AS AFFRONt is limitless = SAFFRON
Long anagramas been in short supply this spring from the Harper's puzzle but hidden clues might be our new favorite flavor. Wonky narrative on the clue thus forgiven.

album cover for Donovan's Mellow Yellow | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 13A) Romeo's leader on the road in final face-off
    in finAL FAce-off = ALFA
YAsss! Much love to Formula One! Much love to cool cars!!
  • 18A) Is “kiddo” only partly accepted? Get outta here!
    IS KIDDO Only partly accepted = SKIDDOO
Cousin of SKEDADDLE, v fun!
  • 21A) Ship's helm in the morning? Just the opposite!
    (helm = STEER) (just the opposite [of] in the = outside of) (morning = AM) = STEAMER
Heh heh, you said “steamer.”
  • 25A) During negotiations, a legitmate sign of a bargain
    negotiatiONS A LEgitimate = ON SALE
More hiddensies! YAS!
  • 29A) Sound barrier blasted
    Sound (barrier = DAM) = DAMN
We did a talk for high school students recently, supposedly speaking as a so-called expert performance poet. Oh how we bombed! Oh did we bomb so hard with these high school students! But the talk perked up a little when we got to the interactive section about “what is a poem?” We made a case for Damn Daniel as a poem. V interesting to hear how the students viewed mimetic language as almost like a fashion statement.
  • 37A) Do nag at someone who calls games
    DO (nag at someone = PESTER) = DOPESTER
Had never heard of DOPESTER which is usually an “indicator” that we'll hayte it but not this time! Toyed muchly with DOPESTAR but locked in the E on the cross so hadta be as it twas. Reminded of this guy:

image of early 2000s Flash media icon Homestarrunner | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 41A) Music, after I went at wine
    (MUSIC after I went = MUSC) AT = MUSCAT
Muscat Sally! Muscat Sam!

stylized image of '70s icons The Captain and Tenille | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 44A) And, also, as well—they all come back with dirt
    (And, also, as well = TOOS) they all come back = SOOT
This was one of our last solves of the puzzle and we were guessing ROOT we were guessing COOT and LOOT. Only after running through the alphabet did we get the clear answer SOOT! Three synonyms for word TOO means that they're a set of TOOS. Yes. This one tickled real nice.
  • 45A) State a word of welcome, wearing glasses?
    (a word of welcome = HI) wearing (glasses = O O) = OHIO
That's cute! HI is also a state postal abbreviation contained within the name of another state. Cute cute cute. The image of a word wearing glasses. OHhh! Very cute!
  • 46A) Gives out in so-called sporting events
    so-called (sporting events = MEETS) = METES
Like as in “metes out punishment.” Fresh!
  • 47A) Solver's true nature is elusory, puzzling (and female)
    ELUSORY puzzling and (female = F) = YOURSELF
OHHhhhh YES!! O FOCK yes!!!!! Is this a callout from Maltby directly to this humble female??? We think so!! We think so!
  • 1D) Wind up with, initially, Eric Idle
    up with ((initially Eric = E) (idle = LAG)) = GALE
    entered as GALORE
Shout out to Monty Pyth!

photo of Eric Idle from Monty Python | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 4D) Ref's set for curing sores
    REFS SET for curing = FESTERS
    entered as FORESTERS
Grosssss (awesome)! Fester can be a noun sure no prob. Gross grossssss (fun)!

promotional photograph of Uncle Fester from The Addamm's Family as played by Christopher Lloyd | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 8D) In Japan, goodbye at the end for an old city
    (In Japan goodbye = SAYŌNARA) at the end = NARA
Wasssup Japan! Two of our top favorite moments from visiting last summer:
  1. When the boat tour guide apologized that the tour would be in Japanese, and we said, in decent Japanese, “that's ok!” and “I studied Japanese.” The boat broke into applause!!
  2. Our last night in Tokyo, ordering coffee and water with the right forms of “please” and “pardon me” now second nature, and the clerk at Starbucks reverently saying in Japanese, “you are fluent!”
Always love an opportunity to take those schooldays Japanese language skills out for a spin!
  • 9D) Instinctive gradual erosion takes in a bit of land and the end of rain
    GRADUAL erosion takes in (a big of land = L) and the (end of rain = N) = GLANDULAR
GLANDULAR = INSTINCTIVE is a little stinky, just a little, but a spectacular mostly anagram, so much fun, and some nice smooth narrative cluing.
  • 10D) Rig bears south—they might make short cuts
    Rig BEARS (south = S) = SABERS
A wee bitta back and forth here at HQ about whether it'd be SABERS or SABRES.
  • 12D) Diesel in the actors' union appears in Deliverance
    (Diesel = VIN) in the (actors' union = SAG) =&nsbp;SAVING
    entered as SAVORING
Such nice smooth congruence with actors and Vin and the union and a real movie title! Spectacular.

And oh how we love that Brother Vin! Our younger real-life brother says that Big Vin has a reputation as a cruddy person, which breaks our heart! Oh it does. We choose the reality of this Valentine's Day karaoke cover of Stay:
  • 20D) Stuff that leaves you flat in London
    Stuff that leaves you = flat in London = PAD
This is nice!

re: “stuff that leaves you”
We watched a cute video about rehabilitating stuffed animals the other day. Secrets include restuffing via a discreet slit made in the nape of the neck and refluffing with a wire pet grooming brush.
  • 22D) A-list's membership ends
    A list's membership = TAILS
    entered as TAILORS
Ugh, we dislike greatly when the possessive is inconsistently included as anagrind but then that's also the FUN OF THE PUZZZLE maybe right? So we're putting this clue in Highlights to pretend we prefer challenge over immediate gratification and later we're going to bake a lemon cake for Sweet V and eat some of the cake batter as a late lunch, and none of you can stop us. [slow building gutteral cackle]
  • 24D) Mahler's First fools a lot of people
    (Mahler's First = M) (fools = ASSES) = MASSES
    entered as MORASSES
Wonderful! Would be perfect if not for another ASSES used in 24D. Much enjoy the subtle read that “a lot of people”&nsbp;= “asses” altho mayhap we're the only one who reads that? Mayhap.

An old friend of ours used to say of Mahler, feigning breathless affect, “Gustave! Where does it come from?”
  • 26D) Jimmy welcomes boorish puritanical element
    (Jimmy = PRY) welcomes (boorish = RUDE) = PRUDERY
Nice! Why, Jimmy? Why are you doing it? Did you get Red Pilled??
  • 27D) Tight-lipped group claims one is not wanted in it
    CLAIMS (one = I) is not wanted in it = CLAMS
    enetered as CLAMORS
  • 28D) Drinks out in streets
    OUT in (streets = STS) = STOUTS
Oh YES!! So clean! So tight! We'd've added “the” just to smooth out that language a just a wee smidge otherwise this is about as clean and tight as it gets!
  • 30D) A lot of Hair, they say, takes place in America
    (A lot of Hair = MANE) they say = MAINE
    entered as MORAINE
Moraine! Lovely word! Step through the moraine on the way to Mordor! We toyed with the notion that it would somehow be a MISSOURI => MISERY pun.
  • 36D) Not a nice place for satay—no first-class ratings
    SATAY no (first-class ratings = A) = STY
Only the best satay joints for us!
  • 38D) Place of pure enchantment?
    PURE enchantment = PERU
Sooooo glorious just remove that question mark! Pull it right out! So macchu picchu enchantment. You know this to be true.
  • 39D) Carry a child? Easy at first
    (a child = TOT) (Easy at first = E) = TOTE
Verrrrrry nice! And not involving a spit-pregnancy like 15A.

Also, hahahah what would you know about it, Maltby? Would you characterize the first trimester as easier or harder than the average menstrual cycle? That would be a useful reference point. Go ahead. Cuz we'd love to hear the answer: is [ultra super duper patronizing tone] the first trimester of carrying a human child to term easier or harder than the average menstrual cycle?

Your silence speaks volumes right now, bro.
  • 42D) Fly with only a pair of socks and a last piece of underwear
    (only a pair of SOCKS = SO) and A (last piece of UNDERWEAR = R) = SOAR
Excellent! Rully thought we were gonna have BRA in the puzzle! Cuz “underwear” is almost always a code of that most convenient of puzzle undergarments, that omniprevalent clue fodder. Not this time! And a very fun and unwittingly topical reference to airplane dress codes!


  • 11A) Low parts in Valse Fantastique
    VALSE fantastique = VALES
Ok this might be fine and even fun for that tight cluing essept we JUST had “VALE” in March. We just had it. C'mong.
  • 14A) Country parents holding an area in straitened circumstances?
    (Country parents = PA MA) holding AN = PANAMA
    entered as PANORAMA
Something about “country parents” feels weird. Haha backwoods people haha naw. Tell your maw and your paw.
  • 15A) Like some mothers except, after an exchange of letters with a family member, talking
    EXCEPT after an exchange of letters with a ((family member = AUNT) talking = ANT) = EXPECTANT
    entered as EXPECTORANT
Linking pregnancy with trash-spit feels grimey.
  • 17A) Hemingway and Che Guevara, to friends, hearing ideas evenly
    hEaRiNg IdEaS evenly = ERNIES
Hell no, hell absolutely not. Citation needed. Ci ta tion nee ded.
  • 19A) Taking five letters in “string,” adding one from each, anagramming
    (Taking five letters in string = STRIN) = RESTRING
    entered as RESORTING
And RE-SORTING is also a synonym for anagramming buh buh buh. It's also against the law to reference “anagram” in the cluing and not have at last a couple big beautiful twelver anagrams.
  • 26A) How to indicate Pennsylvania when there's little room for an animal?
    How to indicate Pennsylvania when there's little room = P AND A = PANDA
    entered as PANDORA
This is very very very terrible. This is disgusting and filfy. When you need to indicate “Pennsylvania” but you don't got a lotta space to write it, what option have ye? Just hope they know in their hearts? Just write “PENNSY” and hope for the best? NAY. There is another way. The letter P, AND the letter A. Put 'em together. You just indicated Pennsylvania brothers and sisters. This clue is so gross. Here. Let's look at Justin Trudeau with pandas:

photograph of beautiful Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with baby pandas | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 32A) Preserver finds first page missing from hymnal
    (page = P) missing from (hymnal = PSALTER) = SALTER
Our margin notes guessed at “MALTER” as a cute little sideways reference to the one and only Queen Editor Malt herself but naw, twas not to be. Is a PSALTER properly a hymnal? [long pause] Or is it a Book of Psalms? [feigned smile, coy duck of head]

We could look it up and settle the issue, yah?
A psalter is a volume containing the Book of Psalms

Source: Wikip

Well but so maybe a psalm is just a type of hymn, right? Hm yah why not let's super casually look it up:
The Book of Psalms commonly referred to simply as Psalms or "the Psalms", is the first book of the Ketuvim ("Writings"), the third section of the Hebrew Bible, and a book of the Christian Old Testament.[1] The title is derived from the Greek translation, psalmoi, meaning "instrumental music" and, by extension, "the words accompanying the music."

Sounce: Wiki agin

Ok then there's some merit to equating psalms with hymns ok cool this was instructive neato Dorito.

Also, this month's Nerd Hot Guy is Salt Bae:

animated gif of Salt Bae adding just the right touch of salt to a dish | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 33A) Muralist represented extremist belief
    MURALIST represented = ULTRAISM
Ewwwwwww gross gross gross we finally get a decent anagrama and what is it it's not ALTRUISM, which is also there. No it's ULTRAISM? Um. We'll pretend that this is a reference to the Spanish Ultraist movement, and not a fake word.

Ohhhh WHOAA ok so “fake word” is our ”fake news.” It's an inflammatory characterization that can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but always it means something bad, always meant to distinguish between the fake and the bona fide. Yes. The -ER words. And the RE- words. Fake words! #fakewords
  • 34A) Heading for disaster, entering so the wrong way, takes too much
    (Heading for disaster = D) entering SO the wrong way = ODS
Ok. We've about overdosed on ODS in the puzzle.
  • 43A) Previous to this place, after initial takeoff
    (this place = HERE) after initial takeoff = ERE
We remember a long long time ago, many years ere now, when ERE was not a part of our regular life when it appeared in the puzzle constantly all the time forever. Buh.
  • 48A) Surely, if going from left to right, and changing, it may have fringe benefits!
    (SURELY if going from (left = L) to (right = R) = SURERY) and changing = SURREY
Chicks and ducks and something better hurry / When we think of Oklahoma! we get surly / Surly with a fringe up top.
  • 2D) Football team not running, seen as a disaster
    (not running = OFF) SEEN as a disaster = OFFENSE
So is OFFENSE synonymous with a football team? The defensive tackle would beg to diff at that definition, most definitely.
  • 6D) Man on a talk show brings up Ogden Nash's other llama!
    brings up (Ogden Nash's other llama = ONE L) = LENO
Ummmm Leno ain't onna talk show, present tense, annymo. So. And as for the Nash, thats thissa:
The one L lama, he's a priest The two L llama, he's a beast And I will bet my silk pyjama There isn't any three L lllama. -- O. Nash, to which a fire chief replied that occasionally his department responded to something like a "three L lllama."


  • 16D) Chest protectors for exotic animals picked up by the ears?
    (exotic = QUEER) (animals = ASSES) picked up by the ears = CUIRASSES
news article concerned with LBJ lifting pet beagles by the ears | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
This would be fun and funny especially because it involves one of the most tittery middle school spittle laugh words ever, CUIRASSES. But it's the second ASS in the puzzle along with 24D and the homophone indicator is tacked at the end without modifying ASSES which is a bummer, pun intended.

Please yes, hilarious middle school laugh words! Please yes TITMOUSE. Please yes BOOBIE. Speaking of, raise your hand if you were certain that “chest protectors” would mean BRA, woulda bet a hundo dollars on it [we raise our hand].

Anyway yes please, yes always, funny words. But keep the clues tight. Tight taut hardbodied clues, toned and sprayed with a fine mist of oil and glitter.

  • 18D) One who patronizes up-and-coming goods in Paris?
    up-and-coming (goods in Paris = BONS) = SNOB
NON. Absolument non. “BONS” ? Quel horreur.
  • 23D) No average parades provide drinks
    No (average = PAR) parades = ADES
    entered as ADES
Oh HAEEyYEEEELLlll no! ADES? ADES?? As a standalone answer, as a little piece of puzzlese only semi-tolerable as anagrind but here masquerADING as a word? No. Bleh. Bleh. No. Save your ADE for your Monday USA Today puzzle please and thank you in advance.

We were certain that “average” or “no average” indicated a word from mathematics or statistics as glorious as like “heteroskedastic” or similar. So part of our disappointment in this clue is how hard it busted our boner.
  • 35D) Oh, you singer and actress—so earthy in your makeup!
    (Oh = O) you (singer and actress = CHER) = OCHRE
Um. Cher again. Quick: what was Cher's last name as a baby? Time's up! It was Sarkisian. Homophone to Anita, your feminist crush. How many times Cher in the puzzle? How many times always forever? Uncountable. That's how many. Much love to the goddess Cher but earthy in her makeup she is most certain not. That award goes to Alicia Keys.
photo of Alicia Keys since her switch to absolute minimum makeup

The Tacky

Two this month:
  • 20A) Sound, according to a Siamese?
    Sound (according to = PER) = PURR
the pair of Siamese Cats from Disney's Lady and the Tramp | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

Awwwwwww danngit if this just were tweaked a smidgy to “the Siamese” instead of “a Siamese” it'd be fine. Ugh, but either the clue is meant to invoke cats from the outset, in which case, too easy. Or, “a Siamese” is meant to invoke a human person from Siam. Ugh.

Ok first, Siam isn't Siam, it's Thailand. And Yul Brynner is Russian, not Thai.

still from The King and I (1956) featuring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues

Second, “an American” is totally fine to our ear and “the Chinese [people]” is basically ok but “a Chinese” sounds shitty. We don't know why but that's definitely the case! “Chinese national” does the job just fine.

Here's “an” answer, not particularly satisfactory:
In English there is a distinction between nationalities that end in 'ian' like Canadian or Italian and those that end in 'ese' like Japanese or Burmese.

Those that have the 'ian' can say 'I am Canadian' or 'I am a Canadian' interchangeably, but usually in English the 'ese' ones don't use the 'a' when they're referring to people--unless it is being used as an adjective.

You could say "That is a Japanese person" (where Japanese is an adjective describing the word 'person')

This convention also applies to nationalities that end in 'ish' as well, as in 'I am British' or 'I am Scottish' --though Scotland is a different case because they could say, "I am Scottish" or "I am a Scot".

I don't really know why this convention exists, but saying 'I am a Chinese' to a native speaker would be very strange for them.

Source: Stack Exchange

And thother:
  • 5D) Cable's hookup makes you turn tail
    turn TAIL = LIAT
"Fo' Dolla' ", set in part on the island of Bali-ha'i, focuses on the romance between a young Tonkinese woman, Liat, and one of the Americans, Marine Lieutenant Joe Cable, a Princeton graduate and scion of a wealthy Main Line family. Pressed to marry Liat by her mother, Bloody Mary, Cable reluctantly declines, realizing that the Asian girl would never be accepted by his family or Philadelphia society. He leaves for battle (where he will die) as Bloody Mary proceeds with her backup plan, to affiance Liat to a wealthy French planter on the islands. Cable struggles, during the story, with his own racism: he is able to overcome it sufficiently to love Liat, but not enough to take her home.

Source: Wikiiiiip

Hey there's Liat, one of the main characters in South Pacific. Oh, who she? Ohhhhh she a hookup. For Lieutenant Joe Cable. Ugh.

Also the existence of a song called Fo' Dolla even in the context of an ostensibly critically defined anti-racist play is rough.

Additional fun fact from the South Pacific Wiki article tho:
When the tour of the show reached a racially segregated theatre in Wilmington, Delaware, Rodgers and Hammerstein threatened to cancel the performances there unless seating was integrated, which it was.

Cool people leave comments!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Diametricode - March 2017

answers to the March 2017 Harper's cryptic crossword puzzle | Diametricode | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
Hola Lovers, hola Dear Readers. It's been a minute. Shitty sucky suck shit is happening in our country, the USA country. The agents of state violence sharpen their knives. The highest seats of global power are held by psychos. The president is terrible with money and about to cut investments in clean water (!) and the IRS (!!). The former didn't surprise us so much altho it fills us with extreme dread. The latter ... surprises us! The IRS is where the money comes from! Doesn't that guy want there to be money? How's he going to pay his agents of state violence?

Anyway, we're back! If you're excited, then know that there are two ways you can fuel this blog. One is by writing comments. The other is by sending us money. Passively reading and enjoying is also fine and we respect it and appreciate the lurking masses.

The Theme!

Diametricode. Seena thisa one before in May 2015. Ten clues entered into the grid via an arcane coding mechanism in which the crenellated peripheral letters correspond to their brother letter on the other side of the center dot. We're explaining this in the most confusing way, we realize. But so like if you look at the answer up top, then an “F” is encoded as a “C” and a “C” is encoded as an “F.”

It's fine. Bummer that there were only shorty answers in this puzzle. Nothing over a 8 in length? And some of the fill had only one or two un-encoded crosses, which was also a  bummer. But other than that, a fun fine time. Diametricode is fine.

We're just gonna put the encoded answers down with the regular Highlights and Lowlights.

O and also, there were two errors in the grid girders! The errors went unremarked in the official answer key as well. There was a forgotten vertical line on the left side of the fifth row, and an extra line on the right side of eleventh row. Sloppi.

In a dark room, Babs of The Listener kneels before Maltby. Xander and the Puzzle Minion stands nearby. They're all wearing plague masks like in True Detective Season 2. It's super creepy. Babs will learn perfect grid construction. Oh yes. Babs will learn.


  • 15A) Be around religious figure of musical note (5)
    BE around (religious figure = REV) = BREVE
YasssssSS what is UP, Rev? What is up. Evokes The Young Pope, which always warrants evocation. The informal hip Rev. The Diet Cherry Coke Pope.

image: Jude Law as The Young Pope | caption: [music note emoji] i'm a bitch / i'm a lover / i'm the pope / only younger | @ShutUpAndrosky on Twitter
  • 16A) Island in the Sound gives you a charge—gosh! (4)
    Sound (charge = FEE) (gosh = GEE) = FIJI
Super duper duper fun, this one! Cool and smooth, like a frosty drink on the beaches of Suva.
  • 18A) Character at the end pursuing giant animated mouse in Krazy Kat (6)
    (Character at the end = Z) pursuing GIANT animated = IGNATZ
Only hearda Krazy Kat in the context of Bill Watterson's books about writing Calvin, thus automatic Highlight, and also the name Ignatz is DOPE!

black and white cartoon of Krazy and Ignatz dancing | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 23A) A joint goes with it! (3)
    A joint = with it = HIP
Appreciate the confluence of hipness and drugs and drugs are cool. Yah Babs of the The Listener! Drugs!
  • 24A) Mushy velour paintings are seen here (6)
Yahhhhh this one was a little obvi but love it for the “if only!” hope of velour paintings at the LOUVRE can you just IMAGINE?
  • 29A) Radical group in chemistry, etc.—lay off (6)
    ETC LAY off = ACETYL
Appreced the warning in the instructs, and recognized from “chemistry” in the clue that this would likely be a technical term found in the periodic table, was pleased that this was neither one of the most typical chemistry puzzle terms or derivations thereof (ENOL, ETHENE) but nor was it too tricky to get.
  • 34) Automatic reaction covering Return of Elf King (6)
    covering (Return of Elf = FLE) (King = REX) = REFLEX
YASssssss automatic love for references to magicks, awkwardness of the clue forgiven. Here, we'll fix it and make it sexier:

  • Involuntary bodily reaction to the elf in Return of the King (6)
image of Celeborn from one of the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings movies we guess | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 41A) How having two lines with zero content leads to depression (6)
    HOW having (two lines = ll = LL) with (zero = O) = HOLLOW
Dear Readers invited to finesse this logic in the comments. Nice narrative flow on this one! Reads like sharp commentary on the average shock‑lede low‑calorie newsfeed. And the resulting (our) depression.
  • 44A) Candy coin (4)
    MINT (double syn)
Nice and sweet, what a treat. This was one of our last solves of the puz! We had M--T in the fill and wrote “MEAT??” in our margin notes :)

image of cooked red meat flavored or garnished with mint | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 46A) Trip instigator requires type O transfusion close to departure (6)
    TYPE O transfusion (close to DEPARTURE = E) = PEYOTE
“close” in the sense of “the closing [last] letter.” Took us a long time to parse that. Got hung up thinking about ETD. More drugs in the puzz! Drugs are cool! Babs knows. Babs listens.
  • 48A) Leaders meeting in legal action, collecting millions (6)
    (legal action = SUIT) collecting (millions = MM) = SUMMIT
Nice! V much appreciate MILLIONS => MM in the sense of “one thousand thousands.” Strong and good.
  • 1D) Okay, outside it is limited (6)
    (Okay = FINE) outside IT = FINITE
Misthought that it would be a two‑letter synonym for “Okay” wrapped around ITIS. Like, SITISH. Or CITISE. We like to match fill to the grid first, figure out logic later, as Dear Readers who've found our many errors are well aware.
  • 4D) River flowing around Nubia and the capital of Ghana (6)
    around NUBIA and the (capital of Ghana = G) = UBANGI
Oh YAS! Yes for African geography, givvit to us! First thought was that this would play off ACCRA, obviously. Second thought was it was something with CEDI, obviously. Third thought led to the solve.

image: three young beautiful women in red green and yellow clothes | caption: PARTY IN THE PARK 2013
  • 5D) Liberal issues: touching reading (7)
    LIBERAL issues = BRAILLE
Nice and sweet! Tight and strong! Below, via Sweet V:

image: a black and white printout of the male bathroom symbol and MEN written in English and in Braille | caption: Braille faille
  • 9D) Luminary one in a million (4)
    one in a MILLION = LION
A little easy peasy but SO SOLID and automatic love for invoking Dev Patel what a beauty!

still of Dev Patel in the movie LION | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
  • 10D) Left club with speed? Humorous stuff! (5)
    (Left = L) (club = Y) with (speed = MPH) = LYMPH
Some v gross things here, in particular “Y = club” but a DOPE reference to medieval European humors, green bile, &c. Like when a “barber” also meant “surgeon.” Yes. So strong.
  • 11D) Flood coming from two directions on map—disastrous (5)
    (two directions = South West = S W) on MAP = SWAMP
  • 20D) One's deceptive, one's up-front (4)
    ONES deceptive = NOSE
  • Ysssssss vrry nice! Exquisite narrative, tight taut cluing. Excellent. Sweet V called ____ from Speed Grapher “No Nose.” He was one of our favorites!

    image of Tsujido from Speed Grapher
    • 27D) Play in French—who is appearing in it—will become clear (6)
      (Play = ACT) in (French who = QUI) = ACQUIT
    Unfamiliar use of “acquit” but their story checks out:
    acquit (v.)

    early 13c., "to satisfy a debt" (either for oneself or on behalf of another), from Old French aquiter, acquiter "pay, pay up, settle a claim" (12c., Modern French acquitter), from a- "to" (see ad-) + quite "free, clear" (see quit (adj.))

    Source: our boyfriend Etymonline

    • 30D) Made to be sauced! (6)
      be SAUCED = CAUSED
    MMmMMmMMMmmm this is what we're talkin BOUT!! This is a tasty one from the Sauce Doctor! Lovely and amazing! Tight and smooth. Excellent.
    • 32D) Some not clerical work, namely (6)
      work NAMELY = LAYMEN
    Ver nice! Tight and neat like a chaplain's turtleneck after hours. Or Young Kirk Douglas's turtleneck at all times:

    black and white photo of young Kirk Douglas smoking a cigarette and wearing a dope black turtleneck
    • 33D) Plains inhabitants, moving in a kind of column (6)
      PLAINS inhabitants moving = SPINAL
    Ooooh excellent! And big time sike out cuz we were expecting OTO to thus trigger a donation from us to the American Indian College Fund.
    • 34D) Go over what happened, concerning, like, between two goalposts! (6)
      (concerning = RE) (like = AS) between (two goalposts = HH) = REHASH
    The sins of the incoherence forgiven for a top favorite word REHASH along with inventive H = goalpost, v fresh, never seen before, much like!
    • 35D) Unusual producer of energy and toxic wastes (6)
      producer of (energy = E) and TOXIC = EXOTIC
    Yasss v tight narrative! Excellent clue and also involving an anagramma hurrah!
    • 37D) Narrow fork, questionable on moral grounds (5)
      (Narrow = SLIM) (fork = Y) = SLIMY
    Yassss much like this equivalence of uncouth and “slimy”! Was expecting an obscure word for rivers like AIT or similar. But naw! None of that slimy silty fill here!
    • 42D) Escaped from slammer? (3)
      sLAMmer = LAM
    A little handwavey on the indicators, a little of that too clever for its own good stuff, but so nice and tight! So fresh! To have a prison clue without CON! Hoorah!

    image: photo of three lambs frolicking in green grass | caption: Richard Peters Photography,


    • 8A) I entered into a lot of yards, at university setting (6)
      I entered into (a lot of yards = MILE) at (university = U) = MILIEU
    Mili‑ew indeed. This was our first solve of the puzzle, whiz bang first one outta the gate. “a lot of yards” => MILE is especially ugh. Why not inches. Why not millimeters because technically. Why anything. Why not.
    • 12A) Citrus blend produces a big open smile (6)
      CITRUS blend = RICTUS
    Automatic Lowlight for RICTUS, a gross word that makes us feel gross inside, evokes a razor blade smile.

    a creepy black and white drawing of creepy smiler
    • 14A) Preceded by an article concerning fight (4)
      Preceded by (an article = A) (concerning = ABOUT) = BOUT
    Dear Readers are very much invited to correct our logic on this one. Where's the indicator to remove the article from the synonmyn for “concerning”? Does “preceded” have multiple meanings or something?
    • 19A) Cleaning item used to be hot, however regressed (7)
      (used to be = WAS) (hot = H) ((however = BUT) regressed = TUB) = WASHTUB
    Uh. Dat's notta word, bro. Kinda sorta it is but kinda it's not.
    • 26A) Make another copy, but peter out around copy's end (6)
      PETER out around (copy's end = Y) = RETYPE
    Ugh. What a bummer way to make a copy, retyping. One day OCR will be kickass, and we shall all be free of retyping. Bummer at RE- words. Bummer at kinda‑sorta words.
    • 28A) Almost nothing protects downloaded program, one that eliminates bugs (6)
      (Almost (nothing = ZERO) = ZER) protects (downloaded program = APP) = ZAPPER
    Zappers are strictly “ok” at killing bugs, would hardly call it “elimination.” Just as RE- words are bummers so are -ER words. Keep them to the Scrabbo game, where they belong for hooks both pointful and glorious, Bingos fall from your rack to the music of your Scrabblenemies lamentations.

    photo of a shirtless middleaged sunburned white man with a raquet bug zapper
    • 45A) Something Poe made, when starting out! (4)
      POE (MADE when starting out = M) = POEM
    Ew gross, ew POE => POEM gross gross gross. To mention Poe in our marriage is to invoke Sweet V's Vladologue about how Poe was found dead in Baltimore, perhaps drugged by the political machine after being forced to vote. It remains a dark, strange, unsolved mystery. We try and hang in when Vlad repeats it for the nth time. We try to be the patient wife as Sweet V tells the tale of his telling tale heart.
    • 47A) Unfinished work, many thanks to the British (3)
      Unfinished (work = TASK) = TAS
    Nottawerd. Not a word. Use it in a sentence, please. “They packed up the picnic and said their tas.” No. Absolutely not.
    • 2D) Practices eliminating the origin of digital streams (5)
      (Practices = DRILLS) eliminating (the origin of digital = D) = RILLS
    Ok so in our view “digital” is unnecessary except to add some narrative flair like hip kids with their digital streams which is aight maybe but when flair adds noise then a different choice is in order summore finesse is in order.

    ad for the Microsoft Zune
    Also we kept trying to work out what could stream from fingers (digits) and could only think of “blood” which reminded us of a story our neice told us about the “blood. was. flowing.” Our neice is a dark and cool kid. She is not afraid to look into the darkness.
    • 3D) Hoodlums: good unless bad (7)
      (good = G) UNLESS bad = GUNSELS
    Didn't even look up GUNSELS cuz we had the crosses and it just seemed like the only option that fit, but automatic Lowlight for being a weird word, invoking “hoodlums” which is the closest that this puzzle got to Tacky. Anything that evokes criminal neighborhoods as lesser places is dovetailing with public rhetoric of “Chicago qua place of warfare and unending murder” such rhetoric threatening to turn into actual “feds” enforcing martial law.

    Triggered, that's what we're trying to say. The word “hoodlums” triggered our suspicions. But this clue comes up clean. Hoodlums are good unless bad. A hoodlum is often gunsel. Close enough. Carry on.
    • 7D) One might cite torque as an example of twisting! (6)
      TORQUE as an example of twisting = QUOTER
    Talk about -ER words. Gross. Lotta words in this clue. Lotta heat. Notta lotta light. You can be the quoter of us on that.

    Also, show us a QUOTER who doesn't cite, please. Maybe you can see them doing it in their head. And you say, “hey! Are you gonna tell me that hot quote you're thinking of?” and the QUOTER coyly smiles and says, “I might.”
    • 13D) Emerging from Biltz, a really royal figure (4)
      BliTZ A Really = TZAR
    Nyet!! Hard nyet on this one! UGHHH one of the grossest clues nyet! Ya pick a cz or a ts for yer transliteration. Ya pick and ya stick. That's the rule. We don't make the rules. We just have uncanny access to them via psychic satellite link.
    • 22D) The Scottish version of 20D, if you're listening! (4)
      The Scottish version of (NOSE) = NAES
    Noo! No, one thousand times. Nae. Ya can't just. Ew. It's a reference to another clue answer [already: barf] in the name of ... bringing NAE into the puzzle?? At least ... Ugh. Extraordinarily vulgar and inappropriate analogy, but if you're gonna ask us to give you a handjob in the backseat, at least stick with it enough to climax. If you're gonna reference another clue answer, let it yield something worthy, interesting, vital, surprising. Don't just zip up your fly after five minutes and say you've gotta work early tomorrow.

    Shout out to the three Dear Readers who track with us :) 
    • 25D) At a low point, say goodbye to Mark Antony (4)
    “Vale” as in valley, “vale” as in Latin for “goodbye.” Sigh. Never hearda vale. We are not a vale girl.

    a white sorority girl with a toga and flower garland | Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues
    • 28D) Things put in lists, just so arrangement can be made (6)
      JUST SO arrangement = JOUSTS
    Fine, whatever fine. It's fine. Unfamiliar use of “lists” but their story checks out via this Web 1.0 reference:
    Jousting Terminology

    The jousting terminology used during the Middle Ages included the following terms:

    Lists - The 'lists' were barriers which defined the battlefield in a tournament


    • 31D) Military exercise that's a mark on your character? (6)
    Whaddisit with this weirdo usage? What is it with these archaic definitions tripping us up so hardcore?
    tattoo (n.1)

    signal calling soldiers or sailors to quarters at night," 1680s, earlier tap-to (1640s), from Dutch taptoe, from tap "faucet of a cask" (see tap (n.1)) + toe "shut, to," from Proto-Germanic *to (see to (prep.)).

    Source: our boyfriend again Etymonline

    Points and kudos for not using a diacritic (tilde, accent, cedilla) which is where we woulda sworn this was headed.
    • Tricky answer above? I'm outta there! (3)
      (answer above = SLIMY) I'M outta there = SLY
    Gross. Gross and bad. More of this bad recursive internal infernal referencing cluing. No.

    The Tacky

    • 19D) Bravery to appear with no underwear? Really? (4)
      Bravery to appear with no (underwear = BRA) = VERY
    This was the closest to Tacky as we define it in the most consciousness raising social justice warfare sense here at Tacky Harper's Cryptic Clues, in that there's an anti-slut anti-nudity anti-body tone (“Really?”).

    We were a nude model for $10/hr in college at a super chill art studio in Providence. Even for a hardcore exhibitionist extrovert such as ourself, and even in the context of a chill respectful environment, it was difficult to remove dat robe the first time! Every fiber of socialization telling us, “do NOT take your clothes off!! Not in front of STRANGERS??” But then we did it, and it was liberating and awesome.

    image: pen and ink drawing of a female nude | caption: 'Draw what you see.' 'But how do you know what you see? What if you see everything?' 'See fewer things.' 'How?' 'Squint.' | dated: 10/7/08
    “Draw what you see.”
    “But how do you know what you see? What if you see everything?”
    “See fewer things.”

    Anyway. People tell us that our personal sobriety is brave. And it's hard to explain that nyah, sobriety doesn't feel brave. Probably because it's so tied up in ancient shame. Tellya what though, posing naked felt brave. And we'll guess that any Western-socialized person who believes otherwise about public nudity has never done it.

    If interested though, there's a college art class near you that would love for you to take your clothes off for them. If you're brave enough.