Ilivetolearn's Blog

March 25, 2011

ACPT 2011

Filed under: crossword puzzles,sewing/knitting — ilivetolearn @ 5:54 pm

My third outing to the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament was this past weekend. As usual, it was a blast. Since I had finished in the 400s the first year, and in the 300s last year, my goal was to get into the 200s. Success! I was at 269 Sunday evening, then 270 for the early part of the week, now back to 269. Surprising, since scoring changes in the past have only made my rank worse. I still can’t break into the top 40% it seems (there were 655 competitors, so I’m guessing 262 is the cutoff)…maybe that’s a goal for next year. I despair of finishing in the 100s anytime soon, unless Puzzle 5 happens to be right in my wheelhouse, as the bloggers would say–let’s see a puzzle that rewards those of us who know twill from toile and melton from moire and serge from selvage! Not likely, unless I construct it myself.

Last year I suffered from a couple of silly mistakes, so this year I did a lot more checking before handing them in. And STILL I left a blank, on puzzle 7. Oy. Otherwise I would have had 5 perfect puzzles, one error on number 6, and one total clusterf**k.

But as everyone agrees, the best part of the tournament is the fascinating people, the commiserating, the joking, the thought-provoking conversation. For part of Saturday I happened to sit between two left-handers. We speculated that the percentage of lefties in the room was probably greater than in the population at large, and I agreed (Margo is a lefty and I feel attuned to living in a right-handed world) that even with a second copy of each puzzle, so they wouldn’t have to obscure the clues while filling in the grid, they were at a disadvantage. How hard would it be to print up a mirrored subset of each puzzle, grid on the left and clues on the right?

Another contestant (also left-handed) had been sitting at our table but moved over a section. When I observed that he had scored an empty seat between two attractive young ladies, my gallant neighbor said, “In my opinion all women are attractive.” I thought he must be in the diplomatic corps. We had a great discussion of opera and made amazing progress on #5 as a team (with his extra copy) after they had taken away our dismal official mostly-blank versions.

The biggest laugh riot I had was on the way home. My family had tagged along with me to the city to do cultural things while I puzzled, and they decided to try their hands at Puzzle #1 (which took me 6 minutes). Bill, Evan, and Margo labored for over 2 hours, with generous hints from me, while I drove. A typical exchange was:

Evan: One down: Like many a fast-food order.
Bill: Crappy.
(later, with the first three letters in place, they were guessing “toga?”)

Bill: How about 14 across: Like a big brother.
Evan: Crappy.

Can’t end without a photo. Here is my concession to the nerdiness of crossword-themed apparel, whipped together the Thursday and Friday before the tournament, of which I was inordinately proud, and which ony two people actually commented on:

the left-brain side:

the right-brain side:

And now it is a very long wait until March 16, 2012.






March 5, 2011

happy national grammar day

Filed under: crossword puzzles,Margo's life rules,names/language — ilivetolearn @ 12:24 am

Every year at this time I become even more of a word nerd, as I gear up for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. And to the girls’ chagrin, I also ramp up my Grammar Police activities. I recently cringed when Margo came home with an English test for me to sign. The only thing marked wrong was this sentence, which the students were to punctuate correctly:

Girls who have red hair are very lucky.

Margo (the redhead), of course, had left it as is. No, according to the teacher. It should be:

Girls, who have red hair, are very lucky.

This is because the rule is to “separate the interrupter with commas.” Never mind that the meaning of the sentence has now changed from “redheaded girls are lucky” to “all girls have red hair and are lucky.” I think the teacher didn’t want to confuse the students with a longer sentence, but the length of the sentence is the point if you’re trying to improve its flow by the use of commas. A simple re-write of the example would have fixed the problem:

Irish girls, who are apt to have red hair and creamy complexions, are very lucky.

Maybe once Margo has graduated in June, I’ll suggest this for next year’s test. That would be after we go through this special session offered by the administration:

“The presentation by the Head of the Upper School will focus on 3 related topics:  ERB results, high school acceptances, and exist interviews with parents of graduates…”

I told Margo maybe I should go to see if I’m still alive. This may be a case of Spell Check Run Amok. Which brings me to Margo’s favorite new game of finding pairs of words always used together. Run amok (but “amok” does appear freestanding in crosswords) and wreak havoc (she said I was cheating by bringing up “Cry ‘havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war,” accusing me with “Is that Shakespeare?”) are her current favorites.

And for my parting shot, here is a sign put up by a different set of grammar-challenged educators at the elementary school all my kids attended in nearly consecutive years from 1990 to 2005:

Have they never heard of adverbs? And this is at a school with “Grammar” in its name!


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