Saturday, January 19, 2013

Drop the puck! (Sunday brunch: January 20, 2013)

After a three month lockout, it's finally time to drop the puck on the NHL season.  But we officials don't really drop the puck: we snap it down, kind of a half-throw.  The training manuals talk about presenting the puck and some other niceties like that, but if you try them in anything higher than a pee-wee game, it's like sticking your hand in a blender.

If you drop the puck instead of putting it down with some force, a center can bat the puck before it hits the ice, which isn't a fair draw.  Another thing is the puck is more likely to come down crooked and bounce.  The lightweight blue pucks we use for mites are even easier to bounce, so even with the littlest players, you have to focus and use good technique to have a good face-off.

But sometimes, getting the puck down flat is only a secondary consideration.  Protecting yourself is job one.  So as soon as my puck hand goes down, it goes back up and in front of my face, to ward off any stray sticks.  There are a couple of players in the adult league at Penn who are pretty dangerous that way.  The Purple Cobras have a center who chokes way down on his stick, so I have to watch out for the butt end of it.  And one of Kate Connolly's teammates tends to slash around at the puck with no regard for the referee's shins.

So when you're watching the NHL start play this weekend, pay attention to the linesmen when they conduct a face-off: the little drama of keeping the centers from getting an unfair advantage, the differences in each official's motion, and the defensive measures they have to take since they're only armed with whistles.

And we have cryptic crosswords for your between-periods entertainment!

Harper's is out for February.  The Richard Maltby puzzle is called "Sentences."  Hot and Trazom ought to like this one.  Its theme entries are all in the form of single words that could be sliced up to form a multi-word sentence.  The grid is hexagonal, with a 19(!) letter word in the center.  The format does lead to a lot of three- and four-letter fill, which is part of why I found this one pretty easy.  Usually Harper's is the hardest of the regularly-scheduled American cryptic puzzles.

Speaking of hexagons, we have a Patrick Berry Rows Garden in the Wall Street Journal this weekend. So far, I see few comments from solvers, suggesting this is a tough one.  I got off to a roaring start, especially since a legendary hockey arena was right across the top, but I haven't had time to finish it yet.     (Update: the end didn't go as easily as the beginning, but I got through it in less than a day with no recourse to the computer.  I was definitely in the minority, as most solvers did think it was harder than Berry's earlier puzzles.)

Don't know whether Hex are hockey fans, though I'm sure there are lots of fans among their National Post readers.  If you didn't know it, the NP is a Canadian newspaper.  "Drop the puck" would be a good theme for one of their puzzles, but this week they give us a little magic.  Falcon will have the puzzle and analysis for you.

Finally, the New York Times says good-bye to George Bredehorn this weekend.  Bredehorn invented many different word puzzles, and authored the infamous "Sit and Solve" word puzzle book, but "Split Decisions" is the one that caught on.  Willz tells us that many NYT readers looked forward to those puzzles, though I can't count myself among that number.  Bredehorn died last month, and his final puzzle appears (behind the paywall) in this week's Times.  Deb Amlen will probably have a few more words in his memory over at Wordplay.

Bredehorn also deserves our thanks for mentoring other constructors, most notably Fred Piscop, who sets Puns and Anagrams for the Times, and has promised to keep creating Split Decisions.  Their relationship went back more than fifty years: Bredehorn was an elementary school teacher in East Meadow, Long Island, where Piscop was one of his students.  Well played, sir....


  1. How did you parse 17D in the latest Harper's?

  2. Not to give you too much since this is a prize puzzle, but I split that clue between the second and third words.

  3. Me, too, and I have the answer and the puzzle completed, but still don't get the word play.

    Forgot about the puzzle thing. I'll just wait until next month.


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