Saturday, May 17, 2014

The NHL draw (Sunday brunch: May 18, 2014)

Typical men's league faceoff.
Last Sunday I had a spring league double-header.  Off-season hockey ought to be more about building skills than being competitive. There was a summer league I worked in Maryland twenty years ago that had the right idea.  Body checking was not allowed, and the organizers told the players they were expected to play defense by outskating the puck carrier instead of hitting him or going for his stick.

Even at this point in my career, I too still look for opportunities to work on new skills, and last weekend was one of them.  The first game was 9- and 10-year-olds, and many of them look to have just moved up from mite-level.  So I decided this would be a great time to try an NHL-style draw: down way low with your arm out to present the puck.  Colorado wants us to use that type of draw, but most of us value our safety more than pleasing the USA Hockey administration, so we drop the puck the way they used to instruct us to do.
An NHL face-off.  See where the players are?
But a spring league game, with players who probably couldn’t hurt me if they tried?  Perfect time to work on a new technique.  The photo at left shows what it should look like: get your rear end down and form a diamond with your rear end, your shoulders, your puck hand, and your skates.

But I bounced the puck through the whole first period.  Once I was comfortable with the position and still bouncing pucks, I shifted my hand and put two fingers on top of the puck.  The pucks started landing flat.  Mission accomplished.

Work on your pencil-holding grip for these puzzles.

It’s an excellent weekend for variety cryptic fans like me.  The Wall Street Journal puzzle is a Hex cryptic called “Rebuses.”  There are fifteen unconventional clues: you should be able to figure out how they work.  If you can’t, try these hints.

Next we’ve got the new Harper’s, which is called “Full Circle.”  A dozen answers are unclued.  How do you take on a puzzle like this?  Get as many of the regularly-clued answers as you can and hope they give you enough intersecting letters for you to get some of the unclued answers.  Then those might help with the rest of the regular ones.  I couldn’t figure out the theme connecting the unclued answers until I was nearly through with the entire grid.

And on top of that Mark Halpin has a Sondheim-themed puzzle called “There’s Always a Woman.” These are good puzzles, not impossibly difficult, but hard enough that getting all the themework done gives you a real sense of accomplishment.

Straight cryptics?  Hex have you covered in the National Post (blogged quickly by Falcon, who is going off on vacation), while Fraser Simpson’s weekly puzzle is in the Globe and Mail.

This week’s New York Times variety puzzle (behind the paywall) is a Hex acrostic.   Deb Amlen felt like getting a drink when she was through with it.  That sounds like a good idea.


  1. Yikes! I have most of the Harper's Half Full puzzle filled in and I still have no clue as to the common theme.

    1. Persevere! I didn't get it until I was close to the end.


If you're responding to a hint request, please remember not to give more information than necessary. More direct hints are allowed after Monday.