NPL convention - Thursday 7/9
Every year as I head off to the NPL convention, non-puzzle friends and family wish me luck and I have to correct them: "It's not a competition, just a fun weekend of puzzles and games." Actually, there is an element of competition (the official puzzles and games have prizes), but since I almost never win anything, I ignore that part.
I booked the Bolt Bus early enough to get a round-trip fare of $2.50 (this is not a typo), cheaper than going by subway to Times Square and back (and almost cheaper than going one-way to Times Square). I took the subway to the pick-up point near Penn Station and was running dangerously late for the 12:15pm departure, but arrived at the corner to see people waiting. L was on the same bus, and got there a minute later; she reserved more recently, so her fare was around $13, still much cheaper than the train. There were only 13 people on the bus, so we could spread out in our own rows. I had my laptop and the wi-fi was working, so I surfed the net the whole way. We arrived much later than expected.
We took a cab to the hotel. There was a confusing notice at the registration desk about using debit cards, but that's all I brought (it's also a credit card, but I'm not sure how payees make that distinction). Entering my 26th-floor room, I was astounded at its size. This was not just a room but a full-size apartment: living room, dining area, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom. I wondered if it was a mistake and I'd be charged a high amount. The place wasn't perfect: there was no clock other than on the microwave, and the bathroom sink drained very slowly. More important, my laptop wouldn't connect to the Ethernet, and I couldn't glom onto a wifi network. We did get it to work with the hospitality room modem, so the problem was the room hookup, not the laptop settings.
Milling around the hospitality room, I found a group heading out to dinner and we walked past the Inner Harbor, to the Oceanaire
over a mile away. I had the prix fixe dinner with chowder, stuffed fish and tangerine sorbet, and we also shared calamari and spinach side dishes. It was getting late so we took a cab back, arriving in time for the official program.
To start off, we introduced ourselves and said what languages we spoke (I talked about how my mother was scared my 2 years of high school Russian would put me on a subversive list... and maybe it did). Some people listed expected answers on a bingo card - so clever! The acoustics weren't good and I missed many of the jokes. The first mixer game had everyone given a word which then had to be combined with other people's to make a puzzle question. I roamed around with AWKWARD which could be an anagram indicator, but it didn't fit anywhere and the exercise just seemed too hard.
I needed to go to the ladies' room, and was at first annoyed I'd have to either go up or down a flight from the meeting room. But it turns out the downstairs Ladies Lounge is famous
(by the end of the weekend, most of the guys peeked into this amazing space). The con venue was a former Masonic lodge and marble and other ornate trappings remained (or were restored) throughout the building.
After drying my hands on the cloth towels, I returned to the meeting room to play a game where you had to make ever-longer words including specific letters. Last was an astounding visual game by TMcAy. I jokingly asked him if he'd also prepared an after-hours game, and he said yes. I thought he was kidding, but he really did have another game, which I never got to play.
After hours, I did both Noam's Jeopardy games. I think that was it. I probably should make notes since everything blurs together.