Saturday, November 9, 2013

The dog whistle (Sunday brunch: November 10, 2013)

The oddball in my whistle collection is my original no-pea Fox 40.  This was designed by a Canadian basketball referee whose whistle jammed at an inopportune moment, so he vowed to make a whistle that didn’t need a ball inside it to generate a distinctive and strong tone.

It has three air chambers to blend three frequencies (like a train whistle), and since you don’t have to blow hard in order to make the pea swirl around the chamber, it’s a very easy-blowing whistle.  So I got it for those times when you have a chest cold or when you’re on an open rink on an icy-cold morning, and it hurts to take a deep breath.

Well one evening I got stuck in traffic on my way to a summer-league bantam game.  While sitting and waiting, I decided it would be a fine time to re-tape my regular whistle.  But when I got to the rink and went inside to dress, I left the whistle in my car.  Fortunately, I had the Fox 40 as a spare, so I went out with it.  Not long after the game started, I heard some funny sounds coming from one of the benches.  At a stoppage I went over, and one of them explained that they’d heard my “dog whistle” and were responding to it.  We had a good laugh over it, and ever since then, I’ve called it the dog whistle.

The reason is it’s a much higher and thinner sound than an Acme, and though it’s a Canadian product, the original Fox 40 never caught on with hockey officials, and some of the old-timers despise it.  Basketball refs love it though, and I’ve seen (and heard) it used in the NFL and professional soccer too.  Nowadays I only use mine for cross-ice mite games where we have two games going on at the same time on the two halves of the rink.  Then the players and coaches won’t be as confused by the whistles coming from the other side.

Definitely a weekend for variety.  The Wall Street Journal weekend puzzle is a Seven Sages by Patrick Berry.  These can be tough until you get a solid toehold in an area.  I find the best way to do that is to find where you have two consecutive answers figured out, then determine which letters those answers share.  If there’s only two letters shared, they have to go in the spaces joining those two words.  Use the directional information with the clues to figure out which way those two letters go, and then complete the words.  From there, you can build on one word at a time.  Don’t forget that you can use the outside quote to guess at some more letters and confirm a suspicion you might have about some of the answers.

Nathan Curtis did get a puzzle posted last week: it’s a type called a Belt Line introduced by Patrick Berry.  Never a bad idea to pick up on one of Patrick’s ideas.  Then he was early with this week’s puzzle: another Pathfinder.  I think this is going to be Nathan’s forte.

Meanwhile the New York Times puzzle (behind the paywall) is a Split Decisions.  Debate below: should we call this a crossword or a non-crossword?

This is supposed to be a cryptic blog, so fortunately we have cryptics this weekend too.  Hex can always be counted on; so can my blogging ally Falcon, who solves and annotates the National Post cryptic.  Go to him for Qs and As.

Go to Xanthippe for a new British-style cryptic called “Bottoms Up” and another lovely picture.  Anyone recognize that lady?  Hit the comments there and tell our friends across the pond where you’ve found her.  That puzzle reminded me of a fairly easy Mark Halpin variety cryptic I solved this week called “Here’s to the Ladies that Lunch.”  For those not up on their Sondheim, that’s the title from a song in Company.

More puzzles from the NPL convention are finding their way online.  Mark Halpin collaborated on a Texas-sized Extravaganza called “A Matter of Con Science.”  Solving that ought to provide a graduate-level education in puzzling.

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