Monday, October 27, 2014

Ask a stupid question... (Solution No. 3,342)

The solution to puzzle no. 3,342 is below the fold.

Scene: Sunday morning on an ice rink somewhere in the Philadelphia area: the third period.  A pee wee player gains control of the puck and skates into the neutral zone, followed by another pee wee player, with a referee trailing them.  The second player wraps his stick around the first player.  The referee raises his arm.  The three continue into the neutral zone where another player knocks the puck away from the first player.  The referee blows his whistle and directs the second player to the penalty bench. 

Referee (to scorer):  44 white holding!  Minor penalty.  Four four.

Coach (to referee):  You’re killing us! How did he hold him?

Referee (to coach):  With his arms and his stick.

Referee skates away.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pits (Sunday brunch: Oct. 26, 2014)

Monday, I groused about the ice at one of my home rinks and the management’s ongoing problems. It’s been like that as long as I’ve been skating there, and I’ve been skating there since Ian Walsh was working Pee Wees.   But there were some years I didn’t skate there.  Around 2000, they fully enclosed the rink (it used to be partly open-air) and reconfigured the boards, moving the benches from one side to the other.

Not surprisingly, they cheaped out on the job.  Instead of buying new glass or at least some replacement panes for the relocated bench doors, they transferred the glass from one spot to another, cutting where the panes were too big.  That left two spots with gaps in the glass about six inches to a foot wide: just enough to catch an arm.  And when the put up protective nets behind the end glass, the eye bolts they bought were too long, and stuck out into the playing area.  If I put up my hand for a penalty in one of those spots, I could cut it on the bolt.  And then the bottom of the Zam door was worn, and if it wasn’t shut tight enough, a puck could slip under.  

All accidents waiting to happen.  If a player got hurt on one of those danger spots during a game I was refereeing, the family would probably sue everyone in sight.  We refs get liability insurance from USA Hockey, but even if it didn’t hit me in the bank account, a lawsuit would be a real pain in the tail.  So I reported the situation to the Risk Management department at USA Hockey, and when the rink didn’t do anything about the problems.  I told my assigner not to give me any more games there. About five years later they finally replaced the boards and glass, and I resumed skating there.  But the place is still a pit.

Much better quality in the puzzles, as always.  First off, don’t forget the annual NYT crossword contest.  You need the solutions to all six of the week’s puzzles to get some kind of meta.  Answers are due at 6:00 tonight, New York time.

The new Harpers is out, and this month’s Richard Maltby cryptic is too.  That means it’s also time for Erica to take apart last month’s Playfair Square.   Even though she and her Sweet Vladimir were winners (again: good for you!), her blog brings the smack from the get-go.  “This was some real bulls***” she says.  But Erica and Vlad were smart enough to pull out a bag of Scrabble tiles to solve the cipher.    I got partway through the cipher (the puzzle wasn’t unduly hard) but never got around to finishing.  I’ll try Erica’s trick.  Bonus in her post: her mom makes an appearance.

The Wall Street Journal variety puzzle is a Rows Garden by Patrick Berry.  It was the easiest Rows Garden I’ve ever solved.  But there are hints elsewhere on the blog if you need them.

Likewise, the Fred Piscop diagramless (Wordplay link: spoilers!) in today’s New York Times posed little difficulty as well. I’ve posted a solution in case you’re stuck on anything.

For your straight cryptic pleasure, there are three weekly puzzles by Hex, Stickler, and the syndicate for the Globe and Mail.  These will be harder than the WSJ and NYT puzzles.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

New York Times solution: October 26, 2014

Below the fold is the solution to this weekend’s New York Times variety puzzle: a diagramless by Fred Piscop.

Once you’re done with it, stay around for Sunday brunch.  This weekend we have all kinds of new puzzles on the menu: straight and variety cryptics, a Rows Garden, and the Times puzzle contest.


Wall Street Journal hint: Oct: 25, 2014

Below the fold are two sets of hints to today’s Wall Street Journal variety puzzle: a Rows Garden by Patrick Berry.  It’s an easy one, so you probably won’t need much of a hint, but you can also use this to check your answers.

First is a list of enumerations for the answers in each row.  Click and drag to see the number of letters in each one.  Then there’s a table of the locations for each of the blooms.  They’re identified by the row number for that color and then A/B/C/D in order.  So the rightmost bloom straddling rows F and G (it’s a dark) would be 2D.

Finished?  Like Rows Gardens?  Subscribe to Andrew Ries’s bi-weekly series.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Gavotte in 225 squares (Puzzle No. 3,342)

When I checked out Peter Schickele’s page for definitive information on P.D.Q. Bach, what should I find there but crossword puzzles?  Thinking a little more about it, I wasn’t surprised. An academic and entertainer, one who puns for a living?  Of course he’ll have an interest in crosswords.  And so Professor Schickele has taken the leap and constructed some puzzles of his own.

I solved one of the later ones in the collection: it’s not to the standard of a Times puzzle, but it’s better than many amateur compositions.  As is often the case with novice constructors, parts of the fill leave something to be desired, with a lot of threes and fours and some clues designed to legitimize non-words as grid entries.  The cluing is better, with plenty of musical references (not obscure, but definitely not common), as one might expect, but several groaners as well.


And the theme entries and clues were excellent (you’ll have to solve for yourself to see them).  The kind of wordplay in the themes hints that Schickele might have a knack for cryptics. Maybe some constructor could invite him for a collaboration.


Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): moderate to hard.  Not exceptionally difficult, but at least to me it wasn’t as smooth a solve as some other recent puzzles.

Hozom’s comment: “Between the Cracks” in which Hot and Trazom try and categorize a few of their less common clue types.  Like me, they often resort to “pun” as a means of explaining wordplay. Generally, these are the ones with emphasis on the “play” part of “wordplay” and the I think the puzzles are much richer for them.  The best of them I’ll share with The Other Doctor Mitchell at cocktail hour, and she’ll alternately cheer and groan.

Cluing challenge: CATEGORY

Back with the solution on Monday.  Join us this weekend and every weekend for Sunday brunch.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Don’t leave without the check (Solution No. 3,341)

The solution to puzzle no. 3.341 is below the fold

Yesterday started at the hockey rink (well, actually it started at church) and ended at the figure skating rink.  In between, I refereed both a hockey game and a fencing tournament (hadn’t ever done both the same day before).  The hockey game was at the nearby rink where the ice feels dead.  This year, I know they melted down and remade the ice over the summer, since there’s a ‘heads-up’ line around the perimeter.  It was marginally better than it was last year, but it’s still by far the worst ice of any rink I ref at.

While we were at the season-opening cocktail party (it’s the Main Line, you don’t need much of an excuse for cocktails) at the figure skating club, I mentioned to the manager and the Zamboni driver the contrast between their ice and where I had skated in the morning.  The Zam driver actually had worked at that rink a coupla years ago, and the manager hears all the rink scuttlebutt from around the area (rink people frequently need to borrow parts and equipment from each other).  Both of them weren’t surprised at the conditions at the other rink.  They apparently have a couple of floor and refrigeration problems they can’t afford to fix (an old story at this place, even under the previous management—I’ll tell you about it another time), and everyone knows the ice there is crummy.

That they were having money problems didn’t surprise me either.  Before the season started, we got a directive from our supervisor: don’t leave that rink without the game check.  Apparently a couple of guys got their checks three months late last season.  There’s too much history of rinks failing to pay their refs when they get into cash-flow trouble, so when something like this happens, the rink is kept on a very short leash.  If we don’t get our money right after the game, we notify our supervisor, and very soon that rink isn’t going to have any refs.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Marshy (Sunday brunch: October 19, 2014)

This is being posted on Saturday because 25 years ago today, The Other Doctor Mitchell and I were honeymooning in Toronto (after a few days in Niagara Falls—how traditional can you get!), and on October 18, 1989, we attended the Toronto-Vancouver game at Maple Leaf Gardens.  The home team won (we didn’t have a rooting interest), but to my delight, Leafs’ veteran defenceman Brad Marsh played a memorable game.

Being an old, slow defenseman myself (I wasn’t old or a defenseman until the end of my playing career, but I had a lifetime of slow), I was especially thrilled. The Leafs, who had had a pretty bad start to the season, got the go-ahead goal early in the third period, but the Canucks mounted a furious effort to tie the game.
One of the last NHL
players without a helmet
(not that I endorse that).

Late in the third, Marsh had a shift where he blocked two shots: dropping to the ice to put his shins in front of a slap shot (one of the unsung aspects of the game you can’t appreciate without having played it).  After the second one, he picked up the puck and lugged it up ice into the Canucks’ zone.  After all, even a stay-at-home defenseman knows that sometimes a good offense is the best defense.   The crowd roared its appreciation and Marsh was named one of the three stars of the game despite having no goals, no assists, and only one shot on goal.
A few years later, when I earned a place refereeing in one of the high school leagues here, and my number 5 wasn’t available, I took number 8, in honor of Marshy, who wore that number for the Flyers.  

Now it turns out that Marshy has joined Hockey Buzz and contributes a few blog posts each month. Maybe he’ll share a few memories of that game in T.O. with us.

Speaking of slow, it continues to be a slow cryptic month: nothing new recently from LizR or Kevin Wald, Harper’s is off this month, and in the national papers it’s a two-acrostic week: Mike Shenk in the Wall Street Journal and Hex in the New York Times (blogged with spoilers by Deb Amlen).  Solvers note: the week-long New York Times crossword contest will be going on all next week.  20 solvers who figure out the correct answer to the challenge will win a full year NYT puzzle subscription.  I got my win already, finding out (on my birthday no less!) that I’d won Aries’s Rows Garden meta sweepstakes, and another year of his timely and thoughtful puzzles

The National Post cryptic (blogged by Falcon) was a little disappointing because of the large number of ‘ing’ words. Probably an easier grid to construct, but it made it easy to get partials, and the words those partials intersected.  The syndicated puzzle in the Globe and Mail is your other new cryptic today.

So I solved some Sticklers this week.  Go out and give them a try.  Stickler’s an Aussie, but he’s quite welcoming to us Northern Hemisphere solvers, providing “overseas help” in the form of definitions of Australian slang and cultural references that show up in his weekly puzzles. Every constructor should be so considerate: making the explanations available to those who need them but not forcing them on those who don’t.