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March 3rd, 2008

ACPT, Friday night

I want to blog about this while it's still fresh in my mind, but of course I have so *many* things fresh in my mind that this is going to have to be in segments.

Anyway, I didn't end up rushing back to my apartment to get my crossword shoes. Turns out that wasn't the only thing I was a spaz about, as I forgot my cell phone charger (important since my phone was low on juice and I needed to use it the next day to coordinate lunch plans and tell testitest when to show up), and I also ended up buying a disposable digital camera because for the second digital camera in a row, I have lost the charger and couldn't replace it in time. What is it with me and @#*& camera chargers? Of course my camera doesn't have an easily purchased battery type, so I couldn't even get a nonrechargeable replacement to tide me over for the weekend. Oh, well. Guess I'll be breathlessly waiting for everyone else to post their photos!

A lot of people had chosen to fork over $35 for the Cru dinner at the hotel restaurant, but I was still able to find people in search of greener (more green remaining in the wallet, yet tastier) pastures, namely lunchboy and ennirol. We ended up at Pacifico, where I haven't been in at least a couple of years, and my nostalgic memories of the place were correct: it WAS good. I had perhaps the least Mexican thing on the menu ("Veracruz" crabcakes), but hey, it was tasty, and at least I got an excellent chile relleno with it.

The evening activities were fun. Spoilers.Collapse )

After the puzzles came the usual Friday-night socializing. I got in on Noam's Jeopardy! game, which was a lot of fun even though I got spanked pretty well, at least during the regular rounds. (I got some of it back in Final Jeopardy, though, the reverse of my performance on the actual show!) I made most of my money in Medical Abbreviations, surprise, surprise. (I'd be fired from my job if I didn't know what some of those meant!)

It was also on Friday night that qaqaq delighted me by informing me that he now reads Project Rungay due to my plugging it here. I was hoping I'd induced at least one person to discover the joy of the PRGayBoys!

More to come...

ACPT: Saturday morning/afternoon

crossword_fiend had organized a Women in Crosswords breakfast for Sunday morning. I signed up for it, and spent the few days leading up to the tournament wondering why I had. Nothing against you, Amy, and everything against 8:00 AM. :) It was, despite the ungodly hour, a good time.

At last it was time to start solving. This year I took a very different approach to the tournament than I have the past couple of years. After I made it into the top 10 in 2005, I kind of freaked out at my sudden rise in the rankings and was determined to win. So I was solving, like, 20 puzzles a day for three months. What did it get me last year? 31st place, because I was freaking out so hard over winning that I lost the care I needed to stay mistake-free. I needed to listen to that little voice that says, "If it doesn't feel right, it's not right." So this year I consciously decided: Less training (in fact, it worked out to be almost none; many days I solved the NYT puzzle, and nothing else), but more training my brain to think "be careful!" and "check your work!" I realized that if I have a perfect year, I'll make it into the top 10, and if I don't, I won't, and that's that. So I decided to say "screw the rankings," and aim only for a goal of a clean run.

I didn't quite make it, as the rankings show, but I'm not too upset with myself for that, the reason being that, while my error was somewhat boneheaded as I was making it, and I did make it in the only puzzle that I turned in without checking my work (I had ONE second left in the minute), it was not something that I would have caught with my normal methods of checking. The error was in puzzle 3: Spoiler.Collapse )

This year was different in that the preliminary rankings were posted on Saturday instead of Sunday. In theory this would have been a huge help for afternoon play; in practice, 700 puzzles were simply too much to grade in enough time to post the rankings at a time in which they would have changed anybody's strategy. The scores for puzzles 1 through 3 did not appear until we had already finished puzzle 6, and the scores through 6 not until late that evening. Still, it was good to *know* where I was and not *wonder* where I was.

The pajamas came with me again, of course. Not the same pair this time, though. I dropped a dress size training for the marathon (thought I would gain it back afterwards, but apparently my off-season training schedule has been enough to keep me at the lower weight), and I'd long since lost the drawstring to the pajama pants. Now, perhaps there are some people who would enjoy it if I dropped trou in the middle of the tournament, but I wasn't going to go there, so I ordered a smaller pair and tossed the old ones. (You can't have any sentimentality when you live in a tiny Manhattan apartment -- not even for an outfit I wore in a movie.) As usual, I was photographed many times, usually by nice people who asked permission, and once or twice by surreptitious cell-phone-camera snappers. Dude, I would have said yes if you'd asked. I suppose I'll end up with a black rectangle over my eyeballs in Glamour's Dos and Don'ts one of these days, but as I've said before, the ACPT is the only environment in which it is socially acceptable to wear crossword pajamas in public, so why not?

I've been loudly championing the cheap eats in Brooklyn (and dissing the Marriott's expensive food) for months, so of course I had to practice what I preach and lead some solvers to lunch. Ten of us, including lunchboy, qaqaq, rpipuzzleguy, Trazom, and me, went to Lichee Nut, because we only had about an hour for lunch and I figured it would be a cheap, good (if not amazing), fast option. Well, I got two out of three of those right. Guess they just couldn't handle so many people (there was another group of ACPT'ers whom I had pointed to the place also there) at once, because our food took an agonizingly long time to arrive. More so because puzzle 4 was getting alarmingly close and we had five A solvers at the table! (cazique and thedan were there, too, so a couple of the top B's were feeling in danger of missing out.) Fortunately, the food finally did arrive, in just enough time for everyone to wolf it down before going back for puzzle 4. Also fortunately, the black pepper beef (my favorite dish there) was as good as usual -- I recommended it, and three other people ended up ordering it! I was, like, "Shit, if this isn't very good, then Trazom, cazique, and his friend are all gonna hate me!" They didn't hate me, and they did like the food. :)

Evening report to come. Good thing it's a slow day at work!

ACPT: Saturday evening

After puzzle 6 was over, I decided to go to the gym to pound out some miles on the treadmill. I only got 2 in -- the treadmills were not very good, and my Achilles tendons were screaming in protest. I should've braved the wind and run on the Promenade instead.

testitest showed up when I was done. I knew the evening entertainment was supposed to start at 8, so I knew we were risking being quite late for it, but I decided the awesomeness that is Franny's made that a risk worth taking. Oh man, it was even better than I remembered. Grilled octopus with minced onions, olive oil, and white beans? Fabulous. Spaghetti with Meyer lemon sauce? Even more fabulous. And Dave's pizza with clams, chilies, and parsley was almost enough to make me weep with joy. Not to mention the ever-fabulous panna cotta, this time served with saba (a grape must reduction; I just need Franny's to make this dessert famous so I can use SABA as a fill word). Well worth missing half of Wordploy (apologies to Ed Stein).

The "1 vs. 700" game, in which past ACPT champs squared off against the mob, was pretty awesome. (Thanks to Chainsaw and G Natural for putting it together.) We were a pretty smart mob, but rpipuzzleguy came awfully close to knocking us all out. He ended up getting beaten by ONE mob member (mobster?).

After the official activities were over, testitest and I joined a game of Luck of the Draw, organized by squonk_npl. A few people looked at the name of the game and refused to play on the grounds of lack of drawing skills, but Squonk assured us that drawing ability is, at times, an impairment in the game. I'd agree with that! See, you pick a subject off the card and everyone draws it...but then the criteria by which the drawing should be judged are not revealed until after the fact. So you might finish your masterpiece, only to find that the judging criterion is "Proof that a picture is not worth 1000 words." (This was an actual category in one of our games.) It was a blast! My drawing ability (which is nowhere near toonhead_npl's, but still decent enough to hold my own in most Pictionary games, was indeed a detriment in the first game we played. The second time around, I got luckier, since "Art school teacher's pet" was one of the categories. So was "happiest," and I had fortuitously chosen that round to add a tiny Dalmatian to my drawing (the subject was "fire truck"). Of course, NPL members making up the majority of the players, plenty of hysterically punny pieces of art were generated. Now I want that game for myself!

I know I'm lame for not staying up super late like everybody else, but despite my consciously trying to be more Zen about the competitive aspect this year...I AM still hypercompetitive, and I still wasn't going to allow lack of sleep to slow me down. So I wasn't there when people started getting kicked out of the hotel common areas (for "safety reasons"? Boooo!)

Sunday's recap to come!

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