March 26, 2007

A somnolescent update

Let's take it chronologically:

Yeah, I made a muddle-headed, blind-eyed, synapse-clogged mistake mistake on puzzle 1. There must've been five or six times in puzzle 1 alone that I noticed I'd put in random wrong letters, but erased them and put in the correct letters. Apparently it should've been six or seven times, because the mistake was a rather pointless, brain-dead sort of mistake. Ah, well. I might've placed around 10th if not for the error. I won't beat myself up over it, though. I've been sick lately and writing in plenty of random wrong letters in the last couple weeks (not my usual M.O.!). So I had a rough morning on Saturday, but had a blast on puzzles 4 through 7.

By all rights, I should not have brought home any sort of trophy, but they gave out second-place trophies for regional runners-up this year (in my previous two years, I don't think they recognized anyone beyond the regional winners). So I have a SUPER-DUPER FANCY TROPHY to add to the bookshelf: Second place in the Midwest. It ain't much, but I'll take it!

Richard Maltby of Broadway and cryptics fame delivered some brief remarks before moving on to announcing all the various winners and trophy recipients. (P.D., he was pretty damned funny, but I didn't get to meet him and snag an autograph for you.)

This isn't going chronologically at all, actually. I neglected Friday night and Saturday night. Briefest recap: Had lovely time at the Cru dinner with folks like Michael S. ("Rex Parker," whom everyone wanted to meet), Byron Walden, Dave Sullivan, Howard Barkin. and Ellen Ripstein. Met hotshot twisty constructor, Pete Muller, who has another puzzle coming up (soonish? not sure) in the Sun, I think. Skipped out on the official games and contests for the evening because the Grand Ballroom approximated a Giant Steam Room—much too warm, and with hundreds of people in there, it didn't promise to cool down. Plus I was thirsty, so I got a bottle of water and progressed to the hotel bar. (Ben Tausig and I convinced each other that it was silly to stay when it was so warm in there.) Yes, it is possible to hang out in a bar for hours nursing a bottle of water. And the bar was delightfully over-air-conditioned. Caught up with Deb Amlen (one of the Onion A.V. Club team of crossword constructors) and discussed things like children and their Lego collections. Miscellaneous mingling, good times. Stayed up too late, got under 5 hours of sleep.

Saturday: Lovely breakfast with the Rex Parker Fan Club (but not at IHOP) before the ill-fated morning puzzle session. A quick lunch off-site with Dave Sullivan was the perfect antidote, and I was stoked on a grilled cheese and fries for the afternoon session. Dinner was at the Southport Brewing Company with Byron Walden and good beer, with a rainwater chaser—had to hightail it back to the Marriott in time for the evening entertainment featuring outtakes from Wordplay, and got soaked on the way. I have a teeny, lightweight umbrella that fits into a purse, sure, but it was hundreds of miles away, mocking me from the dry comfort of my home. Movie time was followed by more bar/mingling/party time—stayed up too late, got about 4 hours of sleep.

Meandered into the hotel restaurant Sunday morning, and Nancy Shack invited me to join her and Alan Arbesfeld (whose byline pops up what, about once a week in various venues? It was great to meet him and finally have a face to associate with the famliar name) for breakfast. Was well-fed in time for the standings to be posted, and really wasn't too surprised to learn about that mistake. Still felt good going into puzzle 7, which was the gentlest Bob Klahn puzzle I've ever seen. We were under house arrest after puzzle 7 and couldn't go yap in the lobby because a third of the contestants were solving in the adjacent pavilion area and wouldn't much appreciate the ruckus. Got started on reviewing the page proofs of my book (had picked up the proofs from my editor at the St. Martin's Press table on Saturday) and played junior high, passing notes with Stella Daily, Al Sanders, and Trip Payne.

Enjoyed watching the finals, and happy for all who made it up on stage this year. Nutty foul-ups with scoring meant the incredibly gracious Howard Barkin was excluded from the B finals he should have been on stage for (I believe that there's a statistical tie: Howard and Al Sanders are both the Undisputed Heavyweight Champions of Crossword Tournament Grace). Scoring errors abounded, but fortunately many were caught before puzzle 7. (Howard caught one mistake in his scoring earlier, but alas, the judges or computers made another mistake not in his favor.) I think Byron Walden also should've had the top rookie prize, but the online standings don't indicate that he was a rookie contestant. So...yeah. We'll see where the numbers all shake out in the coming week. (Last year, the judges shorted me 5 minutes, which meant that Al, Katherine Bryant, and I took home one another's trophies last year—but that mistake wasn't identified until after the tournament was over and everyone had gone home. So the three of us swapped old trophies this year.)

If you compete at the ACPT in the coming years, if you think there's any chance you might be in contention for any sort of recognition, it behooves you to write down your finishing time after each puzzle, pay attention to when you finish relative to other people each time, and compare your Sunday-morning scores to your own records and to other people's scores. It's crazy how many errors bubble to the surface, and the sooner they're identified, the better. It pays to be compulsively numbers-oriented at the tournament.

After the aforementioned awards luncheon, Nancy, Tyler, Bob Petitto, and I headed to the airport in Nancy's rental car, and discovered that there were no scoring errors at all in our seat assignments for our flight back to Chicago. The airline had rather randomly assigned Tyler and me to the same row for the flights there and back, and we found the SkyMall catalog to be inordinately entertaining Sunday evening. Would you buy a product that promised to "elevate your little helper"? I almost had Tyler convinced to spend his grand prize money on ludicrous SkyMall items—Tyler, there's still time to go to before you blow the money on a plasma TV and a Wii. We split a cab back to our neighborhood, and that brings me to the end: it's now after midnight, I've got a sizeable sleep debt to repay, and I'm still sitting here blogging. Must go to bed! Apologies for this post's rambling discursiveness. Bonus points to anyone who finds typos!