July 27th, 2007


I'm gonna live forever

I was looking forward to reading "Fame Junkies" by Jake Halpern, as it combined my fascination with Hollywood culture with my experience on the other side of fame. Sure enough, I found the anecdotes about wanna-be kid actors, personal assistants, and superfans enthralling. As I got further and the author illustrated his points with academic studies and surveys, the book became less interesting. I like my trash straight up, not with footnotes. This is not to say it's a bad book, but I won't be keeping it (I've listed it at bookmooch.com).

I didn't get much work done, even though the construction site is temporarily quiet. We received a copy of a letter from the Manhattan borough president to the buildings commissioner citing safety and zoning concerns and concluding, "I request that the Department of Buildings revisit its reconsiderations for this project and revoke building permits." With a huge hole in the ground, this seems a little late. I'm still thinking new stores (Whole Foods!) and more people on the street will be good.

It's Restaurant Week, where upscale restaurants offer special prix fixe menus. In the past, I took advantage of this to try the Brasserie and Molyvos. The lunch price used to be correspond to the year, e.g. $20.01 in 2001, but inflation has hit and for 2007 it's $24.07. N suggested we have Greek seafood at Estiatorio Milos. We did this yesterday, and the lunch of Greek spreads, grilled seafood (the service was so attentive they immediately removed my emptied skewers), and raspberry sherbet was tasty and filling.

Friday NPL Convention

I made no plans for Friday during the day and slept and slept and slept. By the time I got dressed and downstairs, it was just after 2 and all the vans downtown had left and the hotel restaurant wasn't serving (I didn't want to eat in the bar). Hardly anyone was around, so I walked to the mall. From the map, it appeared to be across the street but was a much longer walk than crossing a street, involving long driveways and parking lots and a highway, all in the hot sun.

By the time I reached the mall, I had done enough walking and didn't want to check out restaurants at the other end, so went to the nearest one, a California Pizza Kitchen. Normally I prefer local restaurants rather than chains but I'm not sure there were any. We used to order in from CPK at my ex-job, so I knew the chopped chicken salad would be good. I also had a small soup, and sat by myself and did the puzzle in the Zingerman's flyer.

The walk back was similarly long. Ann Arbor feels like LA, where everyone travels by car and you feel like an alien as a pedestrian. This isn't surprising given the main industry of the area. More people were around back at the hotel, and I talked to Quip/Poi and others, though I didn't see my cryptics solving partners.

That night's games started with a revival of Wrybosh's Sound Off. The hotel sound system was muffled, but I managed to recognize "little nerd girl" (we were far from first, though). My team was passing notes back and forth with our suggestions, and I just wrote, "Me!" for that one. Renfield's game was harder than it looked, and Squonk's was a lot of fun, though I'm not a very good arguer.

Badir was available to work on the cryptic, but first wanted to watch Squonk's "Jeopardy!" I had seen the show, but hadn't seen it with live commentary so watched again. The whole room stopped to applaud the three-way tie. We then watched the Match Game, where I KNEW the inaccessible New Hampshire veranda hotel would be brought up as soon as I heard one question.

American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, Friday March 23, 2007

Better late than never!

So there was this crossword tournament back in March. Since I won in 2001, I've felt more nervous than ever, even though I claim I have nothing to prove. I've done it all and have the record for most finals (14, with the welcome addition of 2006). Yet I still seem to want to prove something.

So I nervously met M and L for the train up, where we had a rollicking time but it would have been more rollicking if I weren't so nervous. It was raining, so we called the hotel van to get us. All weekend there was always a feeling of "This is the last time..." but despite my 29 trips to the Marriott, I won't really miss it or Stamford itself. I never got a sense of a vibrant city.

In the familiar lobby (for the last time - but the lobby had been renovated along the way so it wasn't this way all 29 years), we saw familiar people. I checked in and was able to get my usual room with the large dressing room hallway next to the elevator. I had saved and brought plain soap from last year to avoid the fancy spa soap I might be allergic to. I unpacked quickly to get in more meeting and greeting.

Lots of people recognized me from "Wordplay" which was to be expected. There were a LOT of people, with almost 700 contestants including 278 rookies. Fewer than 278 people competed in each tournament before 2000. Next year, the increased cost in Brooklyn could discourage growth but the convenient location may have the opposite effect. Even if the numbers go back down, we've simply outgrown Stamford, with the movie making us victims of our own popularity.

Because of the large attendance, 1/3 of the people would be assigned to the downstairs ballroom for each session. As an A player, I was allowed to stay upstairs so hoped to get my seat from last year on the right under a light (but I brought my portable light just in case).

I signed up for the Cru Dinner which was moved from the restaurant to the basement due to the numbers. The buffet was set up later than we thought; the restaurant's slow service followed us wherever we went. The food, which sounded good on paper, was not that great (through no fault of the organizers). But I did get to sit with some bloggers and commenters - Rex Parker, Amy, Howard, Evad, Byron. Also Judy from California and her son. I also was happy to see Patrick C. (who was competing), and talked to Al, Patrick J., the Orbach family, and probably others I'm forgetting.

For Squonk and Cecil's extravaganza-type game, I ended up with 2 newbies, including Pete Mitchell who took pictures, and a second-year competitor. Everyone pitched in and we had a great time. I must have made a dumb error in Nucky's Norwegian-style puzzle since what I thought was a good time didn't win a prize. All the prizewinners were young. I don't usually do well in the Friday night games, which sends me into panic that I'm going to blow the real tournament.

At the wine and cheese, which is really "grab a piece of fruit and a piece of cheese before it's all gone," I finally met lexicographer Erin and we discussed mutual friends. She was wearing a normal outfit but broke out a specially made crossword dress on Saturday. I brought a book of Sun puzzles requested through bookmooch.com for rookie Robert Loy who I'd never met, and managed to find him before the night was out.