Brooklyn Tournament 2009: Recap

Monday, March 2, 2009

SPOILER ALERT - this post contains some information about the 2009 ACPT puzzles, so if you are looking forward to doing them at home and don't want any answers spoiled, stop reading now.

I'm writing this post to give you all a sense of the shape and substance of the tournament, and also to provide a forum (the Comments section) for people to discuss the weekend (keeping tourney talk largely out of the normal write-ups so that at-home tourney puzzle solvers can safely avoid coming across puzzle information they don't want to see).

I arrived in Brooklyn just before noon on Friday, after having spent the past two days in Manhattan. I came to NYC early to see people and have fun, but my lingering sinus infection lingered further and made "fun" virtually impossible. My friend Grace made those days more than bearable, having dinner with me twice, taking me to the MoMA, etc., but I was less than optimal company, and felt horrible that I was staying at a gorgeous Times Square hotel and yet was not properly enjoying myself. By Thursday night, my head started to clear a bit, and Grace and I had a great dinner at Community Food & Juice on the Upper West Side (highly, highly recommended).

Brooklyn: got a suite because I knew I was going to have a get-together in my room on Friday night, but being less than skilled at party-planning, I didn't put together things like, oh, a guest list or a shopping list (snacks, glasses, drinks, etc.). While waiting for others to arrive, I wandered around Brooklyn in the afternoon hoping for some kind of shopping inspiration. After half a mile of cell phone and shoe stores, the only inspiration I found was Rite Aid, where I bought chips and peanuts and cups. Oh, and Oreos (Andrea Carla Michaels insisted). OREOS have dual relevance, as they are black & white (like a crossword grid) while also being crosswordese. So by late afternoon, I had all the ingredients necessary for a very terrible party. Thankfully, the heavy-lifting on the entertainment side was already being done for me - I knew Ashish Vengsarkar was bringing six bottles of wine from his private cellar.

By late afternoon, contestants started rolling in in droves. PuzzleGirl (Angela) and I milled about for a while. Then my wife arrived and we got ready to go to the Judges Dinner (ooh la la). Will invited us and the other bloggers (+ partners) because we were providing the first bit of Friday evening ... infotainment for the tournament: the blogging panel. Dinner was a lovely buffet upstairs in a private room at a cool little bar / restaurant called ... I want to say "Eamon's." Something like that. Creator of Ken-Ken was there (from Japan), as were all the judges. Mingling and eating ensued. On way back to hotel, wife and I found upscale food store where we filled out the menu for the party later that evening with somewhat less embarrassing food (this included some of the finest little chocolate truffles I've ever eaten).

Before the panel, I had a drink with Amy Reynaldo (of the blog "Diary of a Crossword Fiend"). Actually, during the panel, I had a drink with her (there was one bartender for 6 trillion drinkers, so our actual imbibing was delayed). I told her it would be like the old "Match Game" where the panelists drank and smoked on air. We couldn't smoke (by law), but drink we could. And did. Amy has decided that her signature drink is the Tom Collins. She didn't know what was in it, but whatever it was, she knew that it was good. My drink is the old-fashioned, in case you are ever in the position to buy either/both of us a drink.

The panel was over very quickly. I went up there, I babbled into a mike at various times. I drank. I have no idea what I said, although I think I said something about being "gun shy about penises" (re: my site's getting flagged a couple weeks' back). Amy was too phlegmy and tired to talk much. Ryan and Brian and JimH rounded out the group, and were probably much more coherent than I was. Given more time and a clearer structure, the panel would have come off better, but for those who could actually hear it, it came off OK, I think.

Angela decided that her suite was better laid out for a party, so we moved the party there, and later at the wine and cheese reception I went around desperately trying to round up guests I'd largely forgotten to invite early on. In fact, the party apparently started while I was still down trying to find people to come. Turns out, despite my failure to find some people I was looking for (the non-Amy bloggers, some faithful readers, etc.), there were plenty of folks in attendance. Some even brought me gifts, which I enjoy. There were constructors, blog readers, red-headed champion solvers ... all drinking wine and Oreos and chatting it up. It was just where I wanted to be at that moment.


[Byron Walden carries the official whiteboard wipes, i.e. paper towels from the men's room, to the site of the finals]

Then there was sleep, and then there were puzzles. Well, first there was oatmeal from Starbucks (did you know they did that?), and then there were puzzles. At that point, I was still stuffed up and had an arsenal of Kleenex in my pockets, so I was not optimistic about my chances. Seats were scarce and we finally ended up finding two way down in front, next to a very pretty, very anxious-looking woman. At some point she did a double-take, looking from her program to my contestant folder, and said "You're ... you're Rex Parker?" She was happy to meet me, and then immediately despondent that I would make her feel terrible about herself by finishing my puzzles so quickly. Over the course of the day, I think she grew to hate me less. My wife and I and she and the man next to her actually got on great. I think Sandy's got a picture of us all somewhere ...


[I am the one dressed most like a hobo]

The woman's name is Sandra Becker. The man's name, I'm ashamed to say, I forget, but I'd met him the year before and he was really friendly and interesting (out yourself, sir!).

So, after all that talk about "accuracy is more important than speed" and "double-check your completed grid," I totally chucked my own advice out the window on the first couple puzzles. See, I looked up at the clock when I first finished and noticed that I had only a few seconds before the next minute turned over (difference between solving in 3:59 and 4:01 is one whole minute in tournament scoring), so rather than eat the minute and check my puzzle, I just shot my hand up. Done! I was sure I'd made errors or left squares blank, but no. Perfect through 1, 2, 3, 4, and even the dreaded Puzzle 5. It was only at Puzzle 6, which I had plenty of time to check, that I made a mistake - putting MOAPO where MT APO should've gone. Ugh. That was the Maura Jacobson puzzle with Spoonerisms as theme answers. It was super-easy overall, though my brain could not spoonerize. I had to have the majority of the squares in place before I could get Any of the theme answers. Not my favorite puzzle, though now I'll remember it only for MOAPO.

Best puzzles of the day, for me, were Quigley's double-I puzzles (with theme answers like GREOGRIAN CHIANTI and CHOCK FULL O' INUITS) and Mike Shenk's Puzzle 7 (with the theme answer of the tournament: "DUDE, WHERE'S MY CADAVER?").

Had a great dinner Saturday night at Lunetta with PG and her sister and artist Emily Cureton and Andrea C. Michaels. I've never seen so many women eat so many meatballs. Andrea liked that the restaurant felt like a place where one might see an honest-to-god mob hit. I liked that the food was delicious and that my waitress was ... let's say, captivating. I'll leave it there. Wife can tell you more if she likes.

Oooh, I had the pleasure of giving "crossword lessons" for an hour immediately after Puzzle 6 - a gift that a woman bought for her crossword-solving boyfriend. I wasn't sure what I had to offer in the way of insight, but it turns out we had way, way more to talk about than we could ever hope to cram into an hour. It didn't feel like work at all. I had a blast, and made a few bucks to boot. It was sweet how much he appreciated the uniqueness of the gift. So we geeked out for an hour+ about puzzles, and it was off to dinner.

Spent the evening hanging out in the bar with PG, PuzzleSister, PuzzleFutureStepNiece (long story - all you need to know is that she was a gorgeous, charming young actress), and then a host of people who stopped by, including Barry Silk, Kevin Der, and Doug Peterson. Andrea showed up and insisted on finding out the story behind the many young Jewish couples in the room (they were there last year, too). It's like Jewish speed-dating in there, only slow, and no changing partners. There's a story there, but I'll let Andrea tell it. Turns out PuzzleFutureStepNiece knows someone very famous. I said "I'll bet Andrea knows him too." So we asked Andrea over and she said "Oh, no, I've just met him once, I don't really know him." Sorry, that counts. That woman knows Everyone. It's insane. Two old-fashioneds later, I went to bed.

I'd been in 31st place after Puzzle 4, and possibly higher after Puzzle 5, but MOAPO sent me plummeting to 45. Still, with just Puzzle 7 left to go, I felt I had a good chance to hold my ground and thus beat my ranking from last year - which is exactly what happened, so yay. If I hadn't made the error, I'd have been in contention for the B Finals, but since I had no shot at the finals after the error, I was pretty methodical about Puzzle 7, just wanting to get through with no errors. Apparently, I was successful. I ended up at 42, which seems just fine. PuzzleGirl broke the Top 200 and my wife improved from the mid to the low 500s. So it was improvement all around. You can see scans of all my puzzles if you go here and enter 516 in the sidebar under "Puzzle Scans."

[Doug Peterson, Mike Nothnagel, BEQ]

The Finals: we all go mooing into the grand ballroom to find a seat from which to watch the finals of the C, B, and A divisions. Dan Feyer, who had been leading everyone from the very beginning, fell into a 4-way tie on the last puzzle, and because of the tie-breaker rules, ended up in fourth, and thus not in contention for the Championship. Luckily for him, he was technically in the B Division, so he competed in the B finals, and, not surprisingly, won, though Dan Katz gave him a real run for his money. Anyway, the grid is the same for all three divisions, but the clues for C are easy, the clues for B are tough, and the clues for A are brutal. I used the "B" (since that was my division) and was hoping to beat the C folks, but didn't. I finished in about 9, I think, which seemed respectable. I'm not sure I could have made so much as a dent in the puzzle if I'd had to use the A clues. They were rough.

So the A Finals - Tyler got off to a good start, but he kept having moments of freefall. He'd tear up a quadrant faster than you can believe, and then screech to a halt and look, and look, and 10, 20, 30 seconds would go by with hardly any action. Then he'd be off again, tearing it up. Meanwhile, Francis Heaney and Trip Payne seemed to be solving at a steadier pace, and eventually it became clear that they were both going to beat Tyler to the finish line. Only Trip and Francis (if I remember correctly) made identical errors - putting ALL ALONE where ALKALINE was supposed to go (clue = [Basic]). So with something like 8 minutes still left on the clock, it was just Tyler, standing there, with what appeared to be two blank squares. And he stood. And stood. And stood. And danced. And stood. Total. Freefall. It was astonishing to see the country's best solver standing there completely flummoxed. Minutes ticked by. I was doubled over at points, either praying or fighting off nausea. My wife couldn't watch. Was the champion really going to go down in such an anti-climactic, painful way?

And then. This:



As I said in my post for today, I leaped out of my chair with my fists in the air, cheering myself hoarse. That kid Will Not Die. He's amazing. He's like Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction." Man oh man. I am so glad I was there to see him pull it out like that. Oh, and remember how I told you that there was a four-way tie for first before the finals? Well, because the puzzle gods have a sense of humor, the two squares Tyler struggled with for so long were both inside the word CO-LEADERS.

Later there was an Awards Banquet, catered by the Food Network's "Kitchen: Impossible," where 19 dishes representing different food clich├ęs were prepared for us. Very decent food, overall, though I accidentally got liver in my mouth and couldn't get the taste out for many minutes. Ate with PG and her sister and my wife and Crosscan and Emily and the disgustingly charming and talented Caleb Madison and assorted other jokesters. Emily and I both got interviewed by the TV show. The questions were terrible and most of our answers were likely unusable, so I doubt I'll show up on the show. At least I hope not.

[Caleb pretends to be cooler than he is / Emily gazes admiringly at biceps on the Food Network chef]

After that, it was subway / Greyhound / home, narrowly avoiding the approaching snow storm.

As anyone who has attended the tournament will tell you, you will not regret attending. It really does not matter how good you are - solvers of all kinds, all ages, all skill levels are there, just having a good time solving and talking puzzles. I might organize an informal, unofficial "Rookies" meeting next year, just so people who are reluctant to attend, for whatever reason, can meet people just like them. I'm also happy to learn that little tournaments seem to be sprouting up all across the country lately. For instance, you'll soon see me plugging the upcoming L.A. area tournament, which I'm hoping will be a big success (it's a charity tournament for a great cause ... and it's close to the beach, come on!).

OK, that's all til next year. Thanks to everyone I met, everyone who introduced himself or herself to me, shook my hand, said nice things, said enigmatic things, said critical things. I had a blast, and I'm already thinking of ways to make next year's experience even more memorable.

Signed, RP

PS Here is Nancy Shack's video of the Blogger panel. I look ridiculous (i.e. I need a haircut, badly), and I talk Way too fast and the audio is half terrible, but ... I like it in parts.

58 comments:

Eli Barrieau 9:02 PM  

Good to meet you again. (I was the other gentleman who was flummoxed by the first clue of the first puzzle... HAYES? Gotta be HAYES. Oh, I know! GRANT!)

I loved Berry's puzzle, ACM's would have been a great Tuesday.

My least favorite puzzle? Merl's by far. I really dislike puns and though I respect the man, Merl's are usually the groaniest. Also, it's me using words like groaniest that made me drop 60 places. Not my weekend, but I had a blast.

Yossarian 9:27 PM  

The Rookie party sounds like a great idea. As a rookie myself this year, it can feel a bit intimidating, even though everyone was incredibly friendly.

And please don't judge Brooklyn by the neighborhood around the hotel! It's one the most boring parts of the borough. You just need go about five blocks further.

Well, I'm hooked on the tournament. Especially if all the finals are so dramatic.

mac 9:48 PM  

Thanks for the very accurate write-up Rex. I think your idea of a rookie-pre-tournament-get-together (how ugly is that) is a great idea. I think I had an easier time than many other rookies because I knew some people already. I also just found out today that a friend, a very good puzzler, went to the tournament a couple of years ago and found it very
intimidating and tense; she didn't know a soul.

@Eli Barrieau: sorry to have missed you at the tournament. I sort of met you last year when we were both getting tickets (me for myself, you for others) to watch the finals.

PhillySolver 10:04 PM  

I didn't compete...would not have been competitive and yet loved it. The Parker's are great and host a sick wine tasting party. The real story this weekend was that among the most talented solvers in the world, accuracy is the deciding factor. I met and reacquainted myself with a hundred or so bloggers, constructors and luminaries. It is the spirit of the event that is the most memorable occurrence and for what it is worth, it is one of the best times you can have. The ACPT site is posting blogs, pictures and stories to accompany the results and is worth a visit.

HudsonHawk 10:13 PM  

Yossarian (must be a Joseph Heller fan) is absolutely right. You didn't need to go much further away from the Marriott to find some great neighborhood restaurants, bars, shops, etc. I will be happy to help next year. Also, the rookie PRE-MEET is a great idea.

And I have to agree with Eli about Merl's puzzle #3 (although I'm generally OK with the puns). Outside of the debacle that was puzzle #5, I had one wrong square in the other six puzzles. My sin was spelling FRAGRANT correctly, thinking that with OINKMENT already in the answer, I was safe. Doh! I still don't care for GRUNT as it relates to the theme, even if I should have figured it out on the OPULENT cross. I know, sour grapes. ;)

Overall, it was a great experience. As a rookie, I want to throw out special thanks to Rex for bringing it all together, PG for hosting the Friday night partaay, Ashish for the terrific wine selections, and all my other new friends for a wonderfully unique environment.

Yossarian 10:21 PM  

HudsonHawk: I am in fact a Joseph Heller fan. I'm also the person immediately to your left all weekend long. This crossword puzzle world is a small one!

HudsonHawk 10:31 PM  

John (Yossarian), I figured that out right after I posted. Nice finish, fellow rookie (he topped me by a scant 93 spots)!

addie loggins 10:51 PM  

Rex,

It was a terrific weekend, and your write-up is spot on. I moved up about 50 places from last year but, at 548, I still have aways to go. I think I can speak for Sandy and say that we are both living proof of how much fun you can have at the ACPT even if you aren't a top speed solver.

My favorite moments included (in no particular order):

1) meeting ACM -- WOW, she's terrific (and once again, I loved her puzzle) and she has wonderful stories to tell!

2) finding out that the great Rex Parker made the same mistake I did in puzzle 6 (a favorite moment, and yet one that nevertheless fills me with a deep sense of moapo)

3) the Australian(?) cabernet Ashish brought to the party (the one with the yellowish label: for the life of me I can't remember the name of it)

5) the class A final, which could NOT have been more dramatic!

6) running into folks I met last year (my rookie year) and greeting each other like we're old friends

7) meeting so many new people this year, and knowing that next year we'll be greeting each other like old friends.

8) too many others to list.

Thanks again to all for a terrific weekend

Addie (aka PuzzleSister)

PS. PuzzleFutureStepNiece thought y'all were wonderful, too.

Byron 11:00 PM  

I was very happy that Matt Ginsberg designed an automated towel dispenser for this year's tournament. It made the washroom duties go much faster than in previous years.

HudsonHawk 11:06 PM  

Addie, that was the Paringa cabernet. Look for it (or their shiraz) in your local wine store. Both are great values.

addie loggins 11:22 PM  

Thanks HudsonHawk, that's the one!

Crosscan 12:56 AM  

Random sleep-deprived memories:
• Getting applause at the bloggers forum when I said I was Crosscan while asking a question
• Meeting lots of great people including Rex & Sandy, Orange, Ryan & Bryan, Andrea, PuzzleGirl and many, many more
• Going to Rex’s Friday night get-together
• Andrea who is the same in person as on the blog. But more so.
• Following the “check your answers” advice. Caught 2 errors that way.
• Only making 1 mistake outside of puzzle 5 (BASIK for BATIK on puzzle 2; oops.)
• Puzzle 5. Sigh.
• Being perfect on puzzle 6 – I finished in the top 25 overall on this one
• Having the best score in C division on puzzles 3, 4 and 6. Puzzle 5 kept me out of the C finals.
• Finishing top 10 in C division
• Graduating to B division (107 overall)
• Improving over 50 places for the second straight year. 2011 is my year.
• Sitting at the same table as the professor (Rex) and author (Orange), my unwitting mentors, at the awards luncheon.
• Being the second greatest puzzler in the universe (excluding the USA)
• Being the first one called up to win a trophy by Will Shortz himself!

One more thing: Here is the entire email Air Canada sent me early Monday morning:

• AC0549 for KENNEDY, NEW YORK - VANCOUVER scheduled 07:00. FLIGHT CANCELLED.
**PLEASE DO NOT REPLY TO THIS MAIL**
Would a phone number to call hurt?

David 6:39 AM  

I didn't meet any of you but enjoyed the competition. I was 12th among the rookies and 141 overall, solving all but number 5. I concur in the excitement of the A final and plan to come again next year.

Karen 8:10 AM  

Anyone know what happened to the favorite constructor award?

One bad thing about the scans...I found an error the judges didn't catch (the FRAGRANT one). So I'm still questing to get 6/7 puzzles perfect.

It was great seeing friends new and old.

Orange 8:32 AM  

Karen, you're right—that new annual prize for the tournament's favorite constructor disappeared after just one year. I think Rex and I should put our heads together and announce our own consensus favorite, an ACPT Oryx award. I'm leaning towards Mike Shenk or Brendan Emmett Quigley.

foodie 9:36 AM  

Rex, sorry I could not be there, but it's great fun to read your description and the comments. A couple of thoughts

1) A Neti Pot is really helpful for a sinus problem.

2) I love the symbolism of The OREO. It could be the name of the tournament award. So, you would have the ORYX and the OREO

3) I agree re the Community Food and Juice in Upper West Side. My son lives literally two minutes away and I go there often. One of the many things to like-- instead of selling you bottles of carbonated water (not very green) they carbonate their own. Also great if you have food restrictions.

So glad to hear that everyone enjoyed themselves and congratulations on your performances! I solved on line, so at least I can follow the discussion...

ilivetolearn 10:56 AM  

I kept meaning to ask you if you've ever met an actual Rex Parker but was too shy to approach. The one I know is a scientist doing research on statins at a big pharma company...not a puzzler as far as I know.

This was my rookie year and while I didn't feel intimidated, I was humbled to see the scans and realize that only 2 of the 5 puzzles I thought were perfect actually were. (And I share that deep sense of moapo with Addie.)

I managed to squeak out of D so I'll give myself a C-.

Two Ponies 10:56 AM  

I agree that having a rookie meeting might thaw out my cold feet.
Info on West coast tournaments would be great. Driving instead of flying always my preference.
Sorry I missed the festivities.

Anonymous 11:53 AM  

Rex -- if the tournament is called the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, why do you call yourself 42nd Greatest Crossword Puzzle Solver in the Universe? Shouldn't it be in America?

Clive, London

ilivetolearn 11:54 AM  

Correction: it's a D-. Clearly I have much room to improve.

Pete M 12:16 PM  

I, also, talked myself out of FRAGRUNT (and I'm not sure if the pun is actually GRUNT or RUNT, but either is okay). I stopped beating myself up about it after I saw from the puzzle scan that it wasn't my only error. I got caught in the nasty Natick-principle crossing of silent film stars and Vietnamese names (TALMADGE/DIEN, crossing at the D).

Had a great time, as always. Sorry I missed the wine tasting; got stuck in the bar. :)

The "Dude, Where's My Cadaver?" puzzle was my favorite by far.

See you all next year.

- Pete M

ArtLvr 12:27 PM  

Someone please help? What was that word in the final that Tyler asked about at the end -- started from the D in CO-LEADERS? DOONAN? Thanks...

∑;)

Eli Barrieau 12:36 PM  

@ ArtLvr: It was Doohan, clued as (paraphrasing here) as a Star Trek actor. I'll let the Trekkies get more in depth than that.

HudsonHawk 12:42 PM  

ArtLvr, While the D was his final letter, I believe he was asking about BONES, which provided the first E in CO-LEADERS. The clue was "Items in Stock". I think this was in reference to soup stock, although we were contemplating livestock also.

Martin Allen 12:54 PM  

It was great meeting everyone, and it made the final lunch a heck of a lot of fun. One minute, I'm debating whether I should move to an already-occupied table and not be a loner, the next I am surrounded by veritable puzzle royalty.

A great write-up. In my own emails to friends during the event I related your MOAPO problem, as an example of a completely justifiable (albeit unfortunate) error. As contrasted to my own flame-out of BEQ's puzzle, where I actually allowed myself to hand in something with the "word" PFEELED prominently displayed, having convinced myself that it was some unknown Yiddish expression. Oof.

@Crosscan: hope you made (make?) it home safe eventually.

addie loggins 12:59 PM  

ArtLvr,

HudsonHawk is correct that Tyler asked about what BONES had to do with "stock." I think the reason it took him so long is that he had (understandably) written BONDS. And since he apparently didn't know DOOHAN, he was staring at
COLDA_ERS

Rick 1:04 PM  

I know I don't comment much on this blog (I'm in syndication land) but I do read it often. I didn't get to meet anyone (not that you'd know who I was anyway) but still had a good time all by my lonesome, certainly more than I was expecting. I'm sure it had mostly to do with the fact that I was very close to competing in the C finals (CrossCan I was right there with you, just ahead of in fact) but puzzle 5 tripped me up too and I had 2 letters wrong. It's hard to follow your own advice of changing something that doesn't work when you're under the gun. And now I'll be in the vast wasteland that is the B division if I decide to return. The cost is getting to be an issue, and without the social network it just becomes a weekend of puzzles. Maybe I just need to comment more and become part of this family.

Anonymous 1:57 PM  

As a totally intimidated rookie (who lives close enough to the tournament to come), I would be so appreciative if you did anything next year to ease people like me into the tournament and the PuzzleUniverse.
Peri

Crosscan 2:06 PM  

In Vancouver airport so just a short hop home now.

I spent 2 years as the shy loner; then I started blog commenting and put Crosscan on my nametag. The difference was amazing.
Rick - I am gunning for you next year!

Favorite puzzle - BEQ

Orange 2:10 PM  

Clive, is there any other country in which people are gonna be better at doing American crossword puzzles? I view Rex's universe claim like the Phillies' claim to have won the World Series when only one Canadian team vies against all the American teams.

Crosscan 2:19 PM  

I suddenly feel like the Toronto Blue Jays.

Rick 2:21 PM  

I have to agree with Orange on this one; since English is the most rich language, I don't think crosswords in other languages could really compare. And since the ACPT is open to anyone, anywhere, you can't say it's not a world tournament.

Crosscan, I accept your challenge, if I decide to return

fergus 3:20 PM  

Orange -- it took a moment to understand the wryness in your seemingly ethnocentric comment.

Crosscan -- you've become my favorite unalloyed crossword geek, which you know is a compliment.

addie loggins 3:25 PM  

@Orange and Rick: I concur (regardless whether the American describes the puzzle or the tournament). Also, PuzzleFutureStepNiece used to do the Sunday puzzle from one of the British papers (the Guardian, perhaps?) and we tried to do it together a few times. It was a really very awful puzzle!

I think there were enough non-Americans on hand to make Rex's claim legit.

addie (aka PuzzleSister)

Karen 3:30 PM  

A trekker here, to comment on DOOHAN...this clued James Doohan, the actor who played Scotty the engineer on Star Trek: the Original Series, most famous for saying "Cap'n, the engines cannae take anymore." He died a few years ago of Alzheimer's. The fiendish A level clue: actor in the original Star Trek, could have been answered by Doohan, Kelley, Koenig, or Nichols. (Although I was surprised he took so long to fill it in once he had '__OHAN'. From his comments, it sounded as though he knew the answer but was having trouble with the crossing.)
/geek mode off.

My nominee for the Oryx would be BEQ's puzzle, if only for CONNECT THE IDIOTS.

Rick, I think the B division is more of a small wasteland. Welcome!

Anonymous 3:46 PM  

@Anonymous In London. You may note that Rex can be sardonic at times. Part of the fun.

Dan 4:07 PM  

I was very happy that Matt Ginsberg designed an automated towel dispenser for this year's tournament. It made the washroom duties go much faster than in previous years.

That's so funny, you all need to read it again. Bwah! Seriously though, the scanning system was the real story of this year's ACPT... blah blah four-way tie five-peat.

It was great to meet many Rexites and see familiar faces from last year. (But I can't believe that KarmaSartre was there and nobody seemed to know it!) I rarely post here - skimming the comments for favorite names is the best I can usually do - but I've read every post Rex has ever written... part of my training for last year's ACPT. :)

I posted a semi-detailed rundown of the tournament puzzles, and my experience with them, over here.

treedweller 5:44 PM  

I liked the BEQ, I liked the DUDEWHERESMYCADAVER (and MEETTHEPARLIAMENTS was a nice creation, though I do feel it's a little tarnished by the fact that the band was called Parliament, not Parliaments).

But I've got to speak up for the pig puzzle. I know a lot of people hate the puns on principle, but this was a really good one. I snickered a couple of times while solving, as did my neighbors. I almost fell into the trap of the double pun--started from the east backward, had OINKMENTS, and dropped in FRAGRaNT without much thought. Fortunately, I still had lots of white space in that bottom corner and had to read the clue for OPULENT. It was sneaky, but the title did warn us there would be seven. Anyway, I had a lot of fun with that puzzle and I think it was my favorite.

judymay 6:56 PM  

Oh Martin Allen! I'm with you!!!!! I did such intricate mind contortions in order to hand in PFEELED. But there was no way I could get rid of the "F" - just totally blanked on chock full o'. . .
Well, there's always next year!

Todd G 7:28 PM  

I had a great time at the ACPT...and I wasn't even there! Ashish was kind enough to distribute hundreds of copies of a puzzle I created. I even got to see a picture of my puzzle here, with Mr. and Mrs. Parker seated next to it (with Andrea Carla Michaels and Byron Walden rounding out the picture).

For those of you not at the ACPT who want to try this puzzle, you can do it on line here.

Thank you for the report, and congratulations on improving your standing.

Rick 7:50 PM  

@Karen: OK, maybe B division isn't so vast, but it appears as such to me because now I will never have a chance to win a prize, unless I have 3 subpar years and fall back down to C. Even though getting into B was a goal of mine, as was making the top 100 (both met), the tourney will now have to add some social appeal to me for it to be worth the expense. Unless I make it a goal to beat Rex (heh).

At the risk of embarrassing myself, I have 2 questions about clues: one from puzzle 3, what does "plenty of slop" mean? what's that a pun of? and from puzzle 8, A clues: 18 across "becomes a new person, say, " shouldn't the answer be "getS smart?" this bothered me the entire final, yet the contestants all got it fast and didn't seem to question it. Am I nuts?

PuzzleGirl 7:59 PM  

I am still riding the high from the weekend. Those of you who were there know exactly what I'm talking about. It was Too Much Fun!! My pictures from the weekend are here.

@Todd G: I'm pretty sure my sister took a picture of Tyler holding your puzzle. I'll see if I can get her to post it somewhere for you.

@treedweller: Did you know you were sitting in the same row as the Parkers and me for the finals? It took me a minute to figure out it was you and then when the finals were over, you somehow managed to escape before I could say hi. Next year!

@Rick: "Plenty of slop" = "plenty of sleep." And the answer to 18A is actually "play acts." So I think you're just confused. Although you might also be nuts.

treedweller 8:28 PM  

@PuzzleGirl

I knew the Parkers were there, but didn't know you. It was my most golden opportunity of the weekend to introduce myself, but I still talked myself out of it (rationalization being, it was almost over by then and it would have been kind of lame). as I said, I'm not much good at introducing myself.

I still had fun, met some nice folks who don't visit here AFAIK, and look forward to next time (next year, I'm not so sure, but sometime . . . )

mac 10:29 PM  

@PuzzleGirl: thanks for the photographs - I am in Miami now, and am still on a high after last weekend, but also tired....
It was great meeting you and your sister, too bad I didn't see the other puzzle relatives, they sound like fun too.

@Rick: just post every once in a while and you will be part of this party-group next year!

Todd G 11:20 PM  

@PuzzleGirl: That would be great! Ashish says Tyler was working on it Saturday night...so I'll take some of the credit for his come-from-behind victory. :-)

addie loggins 1:54 AM  

@Todd G: send me an email at addieloggins [at] gmail [dot] com with your email address and I'll send you a copy. It's not a great picture (I took it on my iPhone) but you can see Tyler and your puzzle.

addie (aka PuzzleSister)

Rick 9:50 AM  

@PuzzleGirl:thanks for the clarification. and I guess I am nuts, but whatever the number for the answer of Get Smart....I still think the answer doesn't match the clue.

Rick 9:52 AM  

also, @mac: I love to comment; the problem is I do the puzzles 5 weeks later so when I do comment, almost no one sees it. :(

Ben Z. 11:57 AM  

@treedweller: Parliament actually started off as a doo-wop group called The Parliaments, so the clue was legit (if obscure).

treedweller 7:14 PM  

@Ben Z.
thanks for the correction. I never would have guessed. It's hard for me to imagine Clinton singing doo-wop. But since it's legit, I declare that my favorite entry in the puzzle.

Citizen Mundane 10:33 AM  

I followed the link to the ACPT, but I could not find a Parker listed in any of the divisions, or alphabetically... Is RP a Sobriquet? Also, if the skill levels are A-E decsending, wouldn't that make Rex the 42nd greatest puzzle solver in the second best skill level in the universe? I hate to drag up an old joke (OK, i really don't), but could someone please define "the universe", and give three examples? And Clive, I hate to say it, but any language that produces terms such as "aluminium" and refers to sausages as "bangers" desperately needs to be fixed... God Bless American arrogance...

Crosscan 3:10 PM  

@citizen mundae - Clearly Rex exaggerates about the universe. There are plenty of faster solvers on the planet Pencil-hands.

P.S. - Click on the program link from the ACPT main page and you will find Rex Parker's secret identity and how the skill levels work.

G 5:41 PM  

Ha! I forgot to check this blog. I am cited--twice!--in an absurdly popular crossword blog. I feel so validated.

(The pleasure was all mine, by the way.)

emilyjo.c @ gmail dot com 12:42 AM  

i love lurking this blog!

Citizen Mundane 6:43 PM  

@crosscan Thanks for the follow-up... looks to me that everyone competes in A, then players who have less recent success get to compete in a lower division simultaneously... like we say in the IT biz, I should RTFM! I like the "secret" identity, though its not all that much of a secret...

Elaine 5:07 PM  

Maybe I'll ask my hubby for a trip to the tournament for my birthday/welcome to Social Security present! I'm only in my Sixties, so surely there would be older Rookies there, right?
BUT...I was horrified by your photo, which looks NOTHING like Rex Parker. You're...you're....hmm, the clue might read, "Young whippersnapper" or something.
So much for mental imagery.

Rex Parker 5:15 PM  

Elaine,

Yes, there are many many "older Rookies," as you say. And I am going to thank you (I think) for the "young whippersnapper" comment. I'll be 40 this year, so I'll take the word "young" however I can get it. All the best,
RP

Elaine 3:15 AM  

Believe me, 40 is young. Not even a Boomer! (Hey, I would gladly take my 50-yr-old body back.) Life experience bring some good things (like knowing NC Wyeth and Natick) but the trade-off can be ....ow.) Just that your blogs made me think "a contemporary/colleague" while I was cracking up. It's like the first time I was seen by an MD who might have been my own offspring... "How can this be?" Here in the South, when you are addressed as Miss Elaine, it's an honorific that means OLD, and probably "past the height of one's powers" if the truth be known. May as well laugh!

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