Wednesday, March 5, 2008
ACPT 2008 - Part I, "It Begins..."
This year's experience was far more exciting than last year's, primarily because I was relieved of the burden of having to force myself to socialize with total strangers (not something I do well). So many people recognized me and came up to me and introduced themselves and chatted amiably with me that I was never lacking for companionship or conversation. So if you were one of those people, and I somehow forget to mention you by name, I apologize in advance. I shook a lot of hands this weekend.
Our "journey" (I put quotation marks around it because it makes me feel like an "American Idol" contestant) began where all great journeys begin - at the Binghamton Greyhound station.
The bus ride was uncomfortable, as my seat was stuck in the reclined position, which is fine if you're sleeping, not so great if you just want to sit up and do a puzzle. One of my students just happened to be taking the same bus to the city, and I watched her fall asleep over her homework part way through the trip (she was sitting right across the aisle from me). I guess the story of the making of the King James Bible isn't the most exciting bus-ride reading.
We got to Port Authority and then took the subway. Given Horrible directions by the Marriott staff - told to get off at "A and C" (turns out these are just the names of the lines, not an actual stop). Shouldn't hotel staff know the "Which subway stop" question instantly, without having to think about it? Anyway, it was just a short walk and we were there. It's grander than the Stamford Marriott, but in most ways the same - just bigger. You enter the lobby via escalators which take you from the street level up one floor. Most times I went up this escalator, there was a large-ish man looming at the top eyeballing me, perhaps protecting the hotel and tournament from interlopers. Who knows? NY is understandably security-minded.
Went out to Peruvian food at Coco Roco with my friend Kathy and her fiancé. It was ... OK. I especially liked the "Cuban martini," which I desperately needed after my exhausting travel day. Wife Sandy ordered something she thought would be hot but ended up cold (not undercooked ... it was supposed to be cold). That's always weird / awkward. Walked around Brooklyn afterward. Got coffee at some hole in the wall where I swear a non-tournament-related crossword conversation broke out right next to me. Customer and dishwasher swapping stories of crosswords, when and where they do them, who they know who is really good at them. I wanted to say "I'm the King of CrossWorld! Why aren't you paying homage!" But I just took my coffees and walked away. At same cafe, there were copies of The Onion (whose puzzle is edited by Ben Tausig - about whom more later). My reaction: "Hey, The Onion comes in paper now!" (I only ever see an e-version).
Friday night was team puzzle night - teams of three this year instead of last year's four. We rejected this "rule" and added Dave Sullivan to our team of me, Sandy, and Canadian puzzler / crossword jewelry maker Russell Brown.
We did OK. I kept my nose to the individual puzzles and let the others figure out the big picture (you had to solve a bunch of puzzles to get certain clues which then allowed you to complete the overarching, final puzzle, if I remember correctly). After that was wine and cheese reception (I had only wine), where I got to meet some of my favorite constructors (2007 ACCA Award-winners Ashish Vengsarkar and Craig Kasper, among others). Artist Emily Jo Cureton (whose work I have featured on my xword site) was there, like some kind of tall, bright, sunny beacon to whom all of crossword nerd-dom was drawn. She shmoozed the hell out of that room - she had on a T-shirt with one of her crossword designs on it (Sneakiness/Owl), and she had a crowd around her the whole night. At one point, she and I were talking and then this kid came over (I think it was constructor Kevin Der, though I could be wrong), and I thought he was waiting patiently to meet me, but it turns out, no, he was waiting patiently to tell Emily that Will Shortz was ready to grant her an audience. HA ha. So much for my star power. What I'm saying is that Emily was a big hit. Understandably.
And so to bed. Stay tuned for Part II: "It Really Begins..."