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.
(later, with the first three letters in place, they were guessing “toga?”)
Bill: How about 14 across: Like a big brother.
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.