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March 26th, 2006

I could look at this as a disappointment


but I won't.

Anyway, if you look at the stats, I crashed and burned. I didn't make the top ten (though at least I stayed in 12th -- I thought after puzzle 7 I might have slipped, as I was a bit slower than the pack). ennienyc beat me out for the NYC crown. This is the first year that I haven't beaten my rank from the previous year. I made a mistake (three mistakes, actually) in puzzle 5 (I told Byron he should have his name legally changed to "Fucking Byron Walden!"), and it cost me dearly.

This also, however, is the year in which I was the only person to finish a puzzle first, both by absolute time count and by number of minutes (puzzle 2). It is the year in which I ran with the pack and knew I was running with the pack.

I've learned a couple of things from the tournament. Number one is that I indeed have the speed to win this (and believe me, I want to and I will!). Number two is that in order to do that, I need to deal with puzzle 5 differently, particularly if it's by a constructor I find more difficult than most Friday/Saturday guys. (I have a special mental block where Byron is concerned, I think more so than others in the top 10.) That is -- given that I have the speed to win, if I am having a tough-ass time with a puzzle, chances are, so is everybody else, and it's definitely worth that extra minute or two to do a thorough search-and-destroy for mistakes. See, I noticed I had some time left in the minute, and I did a check of my acrosses, which did not reveal any mistakes. Had I checked the downs, I would have noticed, if not PIAVU (it was PIAVE, an Italian cheese -- might as well have been unclued), that THE NUNS was a weird answer for "Something to spread." (THE NEWS was the correct answer, but Byron tells me I mightily amused the judges with the dirty-sounding connotations that "spreading the nuns" calls to mind.)

I'm not going to post a full recap, but here are some random observations:
  • Congratulations, rpipuzzleguy! Not that I thought you were a fluke last year, but ya done good.
  • Ken Jennings would make a great replacement Jeopardy! host once Alex Trebek has to step down, if he can manage to speak a little slower. In the meantime...good god, if he comes back for more crossword tournaments, he's going to be nipping at my heels soon enough!
  • testitest should have come to the Friday-night festivities. The trivia contest was very cool (including more in-depth math and science than one sees on Jeopardy!), and unlike me, he might have at least managed to finish more than one of the three Sudoku Smackdown puzzles.
  • If I couldn't win NYC, I'm glad ennienyc could.
  • Also glad to see Kiran in the final.
  • Totally cool to see Wordplay again, and with the crowd most appreciative of it anywhere. Can't wait for it to come out nationwide so I can see it for the FOURTH time!
  • Can't believe the asslunch at Stamford now costs $45. I'm not even going to think about what $45 buys at Osaka, or Mesa Grill, or any number of restaurants in NYC, because it's too depressing to think that I paid that much for the downright terrible grub at the Stamford Marriott.
Speaking of restaurants, testitest and I had dinner last night at Grand in Stamford. I was a little leery of making a reservation there at first because it seemed kind of pretentious (if you click on the link, you'll notice that they spell their name g/r/a/n/d, and the space looks trendier than restaurants I normally frequent), but the menu looked interesting and I got some OpenTable points, so I went ahead and reserved. Dave's salad was good, and so was my lobster fettucine (although so rich that I woke up this morning with nasty stomach cramps), but he got "The Vegan" and it was downright awful. It sounded so promising, too -- I love a good grilled portobello mushroom. But the thing must have been marinating in soy sauce for DAYS. Seriously, it was like eating congealed soy sauce -- I love soy sauce, but not when it whacks you in the face like that! So, for future tournaments, I'm not sure I can recommend Grand (I refuse to do the stupid lower-case and slashes thing), but who knows -- maybe that was just the one bad spot on the menu.

So, to wrap up my tournament talk...next year, man! I'm a Phillies fan, so I'm used to saying that. ;)

Oh yeah, and my boss quit on Friday. Rough times ahead!

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