March 25, 2006

ACPT, day 1

It's almost 2 a.m. Stamford time, and I finally had a chance to unpack and turn on my shiny new laptop. I have done one crossword puzzle today (or technically, yesterday)—Vic Fleming and Bonnie Gentry's Ornery crossword in the new issue of Games. (It's a good one, and Bonnie and Vic are such genial people.) That's it. I hear rumors about the Saturday NYT, but I haven't seen it yet; I'll wait for the hard copy in the morning.

The Cru dinner at the hotel restaurant was, shall we say, leisurely. I think they're not used to having quite so many people actually expect to order food at one time, so we waited. And waited. And enjoyed the beer, wine, and free-flowing conversation. In any event, the slow service beat the hell out of the absence of service last year (I missed the Cru dinner then, thanks to a tardy flight).

After dinner, there was Quiz Bowl with Ken Jennings (who looks better in person than on TV). Two teams of four each got 38 of 40 preliminary questions right—anyone know off the top of their head how many points there are on the Statue of Liberty's crown? What breakfast cereal mascot's "real" name is Horatio Magellan? My team got 34 right, so we got to watch the top teams acquit themselves in the fashion in which they acquitted themselves. (Better than I could've done.) Ken Jennings talks fast. Quiz Bowl was followed by the Sudoku Smackdown, introduced by Wayne Gould, who kicked the craze off a couple years back. The contest page had three puzzles; I was most of the way through the first one when I made some sort of error and said, "Screw it. There's a bar in this hotel," and went off to find socializing in lieu of sudokuing.

The bar scene morphed into the lively reception, which was followed by assorted chats in the lobby...and back in the bar. Wow, some people sure drink a lot here! (Hey, nobody's driving...) Plenty of good gossip, catching up, getting to know new faces.

The competition kicks off at 11:00 Eastern, with puzzles 1, 2, and 3 before lunch, a long lunch break, and puzzles 4, 5, and 6 at 2:30. The constructors this year include Harvey Estes, Byron Walden, Merl Reagle, Patrick Merrell, Manny Nosowsky, Maura Jacobson, Mike Shenk, and Cathy Millhauser. Hooray! I like them all, and I don't think any of them scare me. I haven't done many crosswords in the past week, but hopefully that means I'm well-rested rather than rusty. But who knows? I truly can't predict where I'll finish in the rankings.

In the evening, we'll watch Wordplay and have popcorn and other movie snacks (plus booze), courtesy of IFC Films. The film's director and producer are here with numerous family members, and they're about to garner several hundred more enthusiastic fans.

Into the wee hours, apparently, the judges (poor saps!) will be scoring papers to generate the preliminary standings for Sunday morning. Stay tuned...

(That wake-up call that's coming in 4 1/2 hours is gonna be painful. Diet Coke in ample caffeinated quantities will be my friend.)

Morning update: I got to sleep around 3:00 and awoke at 5:15, so...yeah, there are a few Diet Cokes with my name on them this morning.