Monday, January 26, 2015

Not getting away with it (Solution No. 3,352)

The solution and annotation to The Nation crossword No. 3,352 is below the fold.

Saturday I worked a game for 10-year-olds, and the quality of play wasn’t very good.  More than a few instances of players lining up on the wrong side (usually they get that figured out by December).

One of the visiting team players (they actually were at home but since this was a make-up game, they were nominally the visitors) took three penalties, which is a lot at this level, and might have been whistled for one or two more had we been especially strict.  They weren’t very good penalties: a couple for holding and a tripping.  Between periods, my partner reminded me that we needed to keep an eye on this player and his violations.  I said they were pretty blatant, to which my partner replied: “he hasn’t learned to get away with it yet.”
In the dressing room, I recalled how late in my career I was moved from playing wing to defenseman, and how I soon learned that you could get away with an awful lot of holding if you did it right.  It was all in the placement of your arms and stick, and keeping your legs moving so as to make it look like you’re skating along and maintaining your position when you’re actually restraining the opponent.

With the new (post-lockout) standard of play in the NHL, refs are watching out for even the artful kind of holding and interference, and those actions are now getting called.  Now you have to watch football to see skillful holding, but the principle is the same: illegally controlling an opponent’s movement while making it look legal.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Wall Street Journal hints (January 24, 2015)

This weekend’s Wall Street Journal puzzle is a variety cryptic by Hex called “Guidelines.”  Since none of the answers are numbered, it’s up to you the solver to figure out where they go.  Hex have shaded three rows and three columns as “guidelines” and given you a subset of clues for those rows and those guidelines, but you still have to work out which go where.

To figure out the guidelines, note the third, seventh, and eleventh letters in each pair of guideline answers.  A couple of them are uncommon letters: there’ll be only one place in the grid where each can go, and that will give you the respective guidelines.

As you fill in the rest of the answers, be aware of two things:

  1. Not all letters are checked: each square will have a letter in it, but some will be filled only by an across or only by a down.
  2. The puzzle has regular crossword symmetry except for the center (guideline) row and column.

Below the fold are some hints to get you started.  I’ve provided the row or column in which each answer goes.  As usual, click and drag to see the hint.

Wall Street Journal solution (January 24, 2015)

Below the fold is the solution to this weekend’s Wall Street Journal puzzle: “Guidelines,” a variety cryptic by Hex.

Not a spoiler (Puzzle No. 3,352)

Synchro teams also make good use of rotational symmetry.
This club skates at a rink where I referee frequently.
Usually Hot and Trazom don’t talk about a particular puzzle in Word Salad until a few weeks after it’s run in the magazine, so as not to post any spoilers.  This week is an exception, since the subject of the comments are obvious.

The puzzle is built around a long theme comprising several long acrosses.  Because the parts of the theme have different letter counts, the grid couldn’t be symmetric unless some words broke across lines the way they do in an acrostic, and that would be even more jarring to the eye.  So Hot and Trazom discussed symmetry and its exceptions in their post this week.  It’s important for crossword solvers to understand how rotational symmetry (standard crossword symmetry) works: you need it to work out grids for diagramless puzzles, and it comes in handy with some variety cryptics like this weekend’s Wall Street Journal puzzle.

The other notable thing about the puzzle (and I think this was intentional on Hot and Trazom’s part) is that the remaining clues are pretty easy.  You won’t have any intersecting letters until you figure out the theme, then once you do have it, you’ll get all of them.  So once you crack the theme, you’ll race through the rest.  Not necessarily the most desirable solving experience (by comparison to what I call a “smooth” solve), but one that might be worth it for a particularly clever or amusing theme.

Sometimes, when time is short, I’ll solve just the theme parts of a New York Times puzzle: I find less value in the rest of the fill.  Give that approach a try, and you might get more enjoyment for your puzzling time.

Link to puzzle

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): easy.  I didn’t have too much trouble figuring out the theme and the variation

Hozom’s comment:  “A Fine Balance,” in which (as I said above) Hot and Trazom discuss symmetry and asymmetry in crosswords.

Cluing challenge (at Word Salad): MIRROR.  It’s not quite the right theme, since most crosswords use rotational symmetry rather than mirror symmetry.

Monday, January 19, 2015