Ellen (ennienyc) wrote,

Puzzling Weekend

Last weekend could have been wall-to-wall puzzles: Pleasantville tournament Friday, Great Neck South high school puzzle hunt Saturday, and Miami Herald Hunt Sunday. It was possible if I flew out of LaGuardia 7:25 pm Saturday night. But I realized that was a little crazy, and decided to forgo helping out in Great Neck this year. It turns out that trains were not all running due to the bad storm that morning, so I may not have gotten there at all.

I did get up to Pleasantville, for the fifth year in a row. The Magic Wok has an almond-encrusted chicken dish I've never seen elsewhere, and I had that again, along with a lot of other food at a large table of puzzlers. I helped Bonnie carry prize books to the church, where there were again homemade baked goods I didn't eat. The crowd was bigger than ever, but judging was a breeze since you can stop once you get the first correct entry. Spelvin's trip down from Providence turned out to be worth it, as he won the event. Pleasantville resident David Phethean was the only non-NPL finalist (Al DeSuda made an unfortunate error on that puzzle). I didn't recognize Mike Nothnagel at first, since I didn't know he moved back to this area. A large group went to Will's afterward, and a few of us took the train back. Pleasant, non-pressured event (easy for me to say since I'm a judge).

Saturday morning brought rain accompanied by 50 mph winds. Not the best flying weather. I checked online and my 2 pm flight was supposedly going to be on time. Since I just had a duffel bag, I walked to Broadway and 106th and took the M60 bus. Very convenient.

Before packing, I had checked the Homeland Security site, which said:

You are now allowed to carry travel-size toiletries (3 ounce or less) in ONE, QUART-SIZE, clear plastic, sealable bag through security checkpoints...We are continuing to permit prescription liquid medications and other liquids needed by persons with disabilities and medical conditions. This includes...saline solution for medical purposes...If the liquid medications are in volumes larger than 3 ozs each, they may not be placed in the quart-size bag and must be declared to a Transportation Security Officer.

I put my 2.5 oz deodorant and Binaca in a quart-size freezer bag. I had asked my sister to provide toothpaste, since I didn't have a travel size. I wasn't sure her contact lens fluid was similar to mine, so brought my own. It was 12 oz. but seemed to fit in the above category of medication. I declared it when I went through the line, but the security officer said it was "too big." I argued, "The web site said lens fluid could be any size" but she claimed it could be no more than 4 oz. I didn't bring a copy of the rules as proof, so I watched forlornly as my 3/4 full bottle of expensive lens fluid was tossed in the trash. "It really is lens fluid!" I argued futilely as my name probably got put on a watch list. They said I could check the bag, but I didn't think there was enough time to wait on the long lines back in the terminal. Just past the checkpoint was a newsstand where I bought a 4 oz. replacement for $6.59. Grumble.

The gate still claimed we would be leaving on time, but the departure time came and went with no plane. It turned out I would have had plenty of time to check my lens fluid bag, as we left 2 hours late. I had plenty to read. On the plane, I was in the middle seat. I'm not a large person and it seemed crowded. Flying is such a zoo. Lines, crowds, delays.

Arriving in Miami, I called my sister who was waiting in an area for people with cell phones, who could then leave and meet their party. I told my sister I was arriving in Concourse A and went out. I waited and waited without seeing her. I went back inside (yeah, still no cell phone) and called again, and she said they had circled 4 times without seeing me and she just sent the boys in to look for me. I said I was by the Dolphin Garage and she said she was there. Why couldn't we find each other? After some more waiting, I asked some redcaps if there was a lower level, and sure enough I was on the departure level, not the arrival. I'm pretty sure I went down a level from the terminal, but I needed to go down another level. Finally, there they were!

We were meeting my mother for dinner, but due to the late arrival and then not finding each other, dinner was going to be at 9 pm, insanely late for my mother. We went to Timo's in North Miami Beach where we'd celebrated my mother's 75th birthday. We had a good meal (I liked my mother's butternut squash ravioli more than my plain chicken, but wished she didn't douse it with salt) and Joel captivated the waitstaff with his magic tricks (how did he get that card to land in the window OUTSIDE the restaurant? I don't wanna know).

This year's Hunt was very close to my sister's house, and we were meeting my sister's friends at Deli Lane for breakfast. Joel was doing magic at a benefit, so just Jeffrey came with us. My high school friend M (who I hadn't seen in at least 25 years, but we'd been back in touch due to "Wordplay") was going to come down from the Fort Lauderdale area, but she called in sick. Maybe next time. I had a fruit plate and banana muffin, and noticed the "Wordplay" postcard we'd tacked up near the ladies' room in June was gone. These were different friends than we'd previously played with (this was my 4th Hunt), and they were serious and attuned to the not-always-elegant Hunt style.

Arriving at the starting point, we saw Trip, Brian, Eric and Todd. "Ooh, weren't you in 'Wordplay'?" I greeted Trip, making that his only time being recognized. "Wordplay" was not widely seen in South Florida. We were near the stage, and organizers Dave Barry, Tom Shroder and a woman asked us to take their picture. My sister took the picture, later admitting it wasn't a good picture. As they were dispersing, I asked Tom, "Did you see the movie 'Wordplay' by any chance? Some of the stars are here." He looked at me like I was an alien and gruffly said, "No." I didn't have the nerve to approach Dave Barry (who used to live on my sister's street). So much for self-promotion.

The Hunt began with the announcement of the site coordinates, and we immediately lost the rest of our team. Linda, Jeffrey and I trudged around in the heat (my legs got cramps from getting up from a squat too quickly), not getting anywhere with the puzzles on our own. Meanwhile, Trip's team and the rest of our team were able to solve everything. The puzzles had their flaws (already discussed in Trip, Todd and Eric's blogs), but the day was still fun. One problem is the number of opportunists who use the huge audience to hand out fliers at the puzzle sites. Since any piece of paper is potentially part of the game, you take them. The picture of classic cars with letter-number coordinates was obviously part of the Hunt, but I was surprised that the organization to bring together Jewish men for uncharacteristic activities like hunting and fishing was real.

We figured out the endgame, but like Trip's team, couldn't count. I could swear there were 5 of each item, but knew a normal telephone number could not begin 555-. The rest of our team did complete the end game but weren't fast enough. I don't know how the same people manage to win year after year, and they're not even NPL ringers. We were thinking of asking the guys if they wanted to hang out at my sister's house (a few minutes away), but were so tired we just went home. As the crowd was dispersing, a guy on the 4th place team recognized me (the only time all day); he was Dan who was sitting behind me at the "Wordplay" showing at Stamford and had also done well in previous Hunts. He wasn't sure if he would be at Stamford again.

Since there was lots of time before my afternoon flight Monday, I took the SuperShuttle which insists on picking you up really early. This time it was warranted as the driver ran into traffic on the way. By the time I waited on the really long line at security (not wanting to go through another hassle, I left the newly purchased lens fluid in Miami for next time), it was almost time to board. Glad to be home.

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