My second outing at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament was last weekend (Feb. 20-21) and man, was it fun. I skipped the Friday and Saturday evening events in favor of socializing with the friends who were putting me up in my old Upper West Side neighborhood. I’m sure I missed some laughs and brain expansion (a heady combination) but it was a kick to be sitting with Eric and Melissa while checking out my scanned puzzles and finding out where I stood after puzzle 6.
My 365 days of practice definitely paid off and I went up 115 in the rankings, from 428 (my final 2009 number, after several downgradings due to other solvers reporting scoring errors) to 313. This year’s scoring must have been less glitchy, because that number has held constant in the 8 days since the finals. So I am solidly in the middle of the pack of 643 competitors. Didn’t made it into the C division, which by my calculations would be #257 and up. Oh, well, maybe next year.
Despite my resolution to check over each puzzle carefully and the clock be damned, I turned in #1 and #2 with one error each in my rush to get credit for full minutes off the time limit. #3, #4, #6, and #7 were perfect, and #5 was…well…not quite the total wash-out it could have been because the judges took pity on me and gave me credit for a correct answer I had ineptly tried to erase.
Highlights: spending lots of time with John and Jody, friends of a friend; having lunch with them and a Senior competitor who has been to 18 tournaments and once won the Best Handwriting award; seeing my old classmate again and conspiring about which members of our college circle we would convince to come next year; watching the finals and chatting with the proud mom of David Plotkin, a first-time competitor who was 2nd in the C finals and 28th overall (at age 20); talking knitting–mitered squares, socks, felting–with other solvers (maybe we should have a separate table next year).
Random observations: some great constructors are only mediocre solvers; some great solvers are not speed demons (one of the 60 who were error-free for all 7 puzzles finished at 153); some people with vast stores of knowledge are not that good at tricky clues; and some of the wrong answers are so funny I think the solvers wrote them on purpose.
Tradition I hope to continue annually, weather permitting: