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Wed, Mar. 23rd, 2011, 01:00 am
Not Eureka! What a Weekend!

To start, I dropped my luggage off at the Brooklyn Marriott, turned around, and hopped back on the subway to Katz's. There was a line waiting to get in! I had never seen that before, but it was a beautiful day, so it was a fine time to be outside for a while. Apparently, Andrew Friedman's friend saw me there. Small world, huh? Well, I was in Manhattan at the time… I got on line for my favorite cutter, and he recognized me. It's like I'm a regular there! I got a little taste of pastrami that was supposed to be for another customer, and then a corned beef sandwich, fries and a Dr. Brown's Diet Black Cherry. Snarf snarf snarf. Nom nom nom.

Back to the hotel. Normally, I hit the hot tub, but I saw Andrew Feist in the lobby and stayed to chat. And many other people showed up, including elainetyger. A lot of conversation ensued, and at least a few people said, "You look familiar but I don't think we've actually met." I joined a group for dinner at an Indian restaurant. (Scrabblers, you can pick your jaws up off the floor.) There was tandoori chicken, naan, conversation about Edison and Harold's among other things. I got a little bit of a laugh from the table when I mentioned to Peter Gordon that he had rejected a few puzzles that I had sent him, but probably rightfully so.

I felt really good on Saturday morning. I tackled the Fireball Crossword. I was happy to get through it, but it was one of those puzzles that has a gimmick that I don't care for. On the plus side, doing it made the morning puzzles feel easy. Perhaps too easy, though puzzle 1 seemed like more of a breeze than usual. Judy Cole was impressed with my timing on puzzle 2 and I was feeling really happy.

I was back at Lichee Nut for lunch with elainetyger, Jennifer Turney and Marie desJardins, and this time, the waiter didn't knock over my iced tea. We talked about the Cornell chimes, among other things (three Cornellians at the table; there was a picture taken a few ACPTs ago of Cornell alumni, but I missed it). I have to find the CD that my parents got me of them.

Puzzle 4 seemed like a more usual puzzle 4. And then I prepared myself for puzzle 5. I had been feeling that, because of my preparation and because the Friday and Saturday NYT puzzles had been getting easier for me. I was able to dent the lower-right, and had an idea of what one of the theme answers was going to be, but it didn't fit, so I decided, hey, I looked at the title, I'm going to try something with the rest of the answer. And I noticed that it worked for the other theme entries. And after struggling with the upper left-hand corner (which everyone had seemed to be saying about Friday's NYT), I was done with puzzle 5, with about six minutes remaining, and it was legit. I was over the moon. Puzzle 6 went by, and a lot of people missed an entry of PENATES, which I avoided because of Scrabble. I was happy until I made a mistake of looking at my score. It seems that in my zeal I wasn't checking crossings closely enough. One mistake on puzzle 2, four on puzzle 3. And I wanted to hit the hot tub but the attendant said that it was going to be closed from 5 to 5:30, so I was made to wait. OK, so I was annoyed for a little while. I did notice that Will Irving, bar buddy and solver who lives closest to me, was in third in the C division, and I was hoping that he'd make the final.

Saturday night included a fun puzzle extravaganza. I teamed up with Judy Cole and some friends of hers for a puzzle edition of the Amazing Race, which was unfortunately lacking U-Turns and Yields. I was the first person on my team to finish a puzzle, and get a destination (Lagos, Nigeria) and a password, so I went to the greeter to get my next clue. I was shown a Road Block and told to send a member of my team to the front of the room to take the Taste Test. As my teammates were still in puzzles and probably not aware of what I was saying, I went up. I was probably the worst person to do this, but there was a table with containers of herbs and spices and a letter next to each aromatic. The puzzle was a page with spices listed on it. I had to figure out which spice corresponded to which letter. I actually managed to do this without making a mistake, and figured out that my next stop was Cayenne, French Guiana. I had to find the next greeter, standing next to the flag of French Guiana, which I didn't know. (Of course, go figure it's like the one flag that I can't identify.) I keep running past it. Had there been a camera crew filming, there would have been good footage for one of those "Huh?" gong sound effects. I must have also told Mike Nothnagel three times that I wasn't looking for his destination, and then later, I went over to serenade him, so to speak, as that was what the puzzle instructed us to do. I got a little bit of cardio out of it and my team ended up as team #5. Not bad. Oh, there was also a really predictable one-act play presented that centered around a Saturday crossword, but it was not quite up to ftangredi standards IMO.

There were also a few games of Celebrity and Jeopardy! and Roll Your Own Jeopardy! over the weekend. Good times. We got a little bit catty when "The Solar System" was chosen as a category in RYOJ. There were quite a few bad jokes relating to Uranus, because like Scrabblers, puzzlers are, you know, 12.

I saw that I was up to about 130 in the standings from the 200s after puzzle 3. I made a mistake on puzzle 5, but one mistake is much much better than 40 blank squares. And in spite of my biscuitry, I stood a good chance to make the top 100. Of course, I made another stupid mistake on puzzle 7, but managed 141st, which was still good enough to be a personal best. Will was hung over, unfortunately, and was one minute short of making the finals.

Talent show was good. I finished the C final puzzle just as the first competitor finished. Meh again. I feel like the ACPT final puzzle plays to my strength a bit more than the themed puzzles. The B final was very exciting. If ever crosswording needed a photo finish, this was it. It made the A final seem like a yawner. Is it too early to start talking about Feyer-proofing the final puzzle? Is it even possible?

I said a few goodbyes (probably not enough) and headed into Manhattan for some Scrabble, and went 3-1, pulling out my first two games by getting unlikely late 104-point bingoes, drawing both Fs at the same time to make FEARFUL in the first game, and drawing into TAQUERIA from a leave of EIU in the second. Much to gijoel666's dismay, I was off to meet my brother for dinner at the Plaza Food Halls. Burgers and fries were consumed, nom nom, although we were really disappointed that the sour cream Yukon gold mashies were not on the menu.

No one bribed me to not blow my vuvuzela, which was in tow this weekend. Nor did anyone bribed me to sit next to someone and blow it to distract said someone.

It was a great weekend. I also got to chat with Sarah Keller a bit (Jay wasn't in attendance this year), and I hope that we get to chat a bit more over the year.

I'm pretty happy with my performance in that I finished all the puzzles. However, I really wanted to be clean. Almost all of my errors fell into either "How the hell did that letter get into that box?" or "Why didn't I just check the damn crossing?" I think I could have made most of the saves within a minute. On the other hand, I can train to make the C finals next year. If I can be accurate and maybe a minute faster per puzzle, I'd be right there. I know I've solved puzzle 7 much more quickly, so it's not out of the question.

I think there were five regular Scrabblers in attendance, four of whom competed. I'd like to see a little more cross-pollination, so to speak, between communities. More Scrabblers to ACPT more ACPTers to NASPA.

I also feel like I want to try my hand at more constructing. I have an idea for a puzzle that would probably not work for publication (and I have a feeling that scrabbleshells might punch me in da mouf for it), but maybe it will get the jones going.

Fri, Mar. 25th, 2011 03:18 am (UTC)

I will be posting the vuvuzela picture within a few days.

To get better at guessing & not skipping crossings, try to solve a puzzle every day for 6 months using only the down clues.

Fri, Mar. 25th, 2011 04:33 am (UTC)

Dave Mackey got a picture of it too. :)

Will try solving only with down clues. Do you think that I should get a book of easy crosswords explicitly for that purpose? Part of what happened wasn't guessing or leave a square blank. It was like I'd know an answer was ENYA and for some reason I'd write ENYT or something silly like that.

Fri, Mar. 25th, 2011 04:59 am (UTC)

No easier than the puzzles on the easy end of what you'd normally solve; even try with the medium or hard puzzles after a few weeks. You won't get much of them, but you'll get better at picking out patterns of letters and making correct words without seeing clues... you want to get good at being correct when you don't understand the multiple-possible-meaning clues or don't know the trivia. Let entering correct letters become a habit.