Tournament Saturday is always a long, stressful day. My longtime seatmate lunchboy and I sat in the same area on the right as the previous year, along with jeffurrynpl and his friend Marilyn, as well as toonhead_npl. Nancy was downstairs for the morning, and Judy's young son sat in that space. The kid asked for a pencil and I wouldn't part with any (since I brought exactly one sharpened pencil per puzzle); sorry, I'm not screwing up my chances just to be nice.
I try to have the judge write the time in front of me, but that's not always possible. I wrote the number of minutes left in pencil under the box to make sure the judges didn't screw up. I was a minute behind Francis (I'm not going to keep using the LJ tag) on puzzles 1 and 3 and the same on puzzle 2.
After lunch (which I have no recollection of, so I may not have eaten), Nancy was back and reported the other room downstairs wasn't bad. Still, I was glad to be an A and not have to move around. I continued to finish even with Francis except on puzzle 5, where I was a minute behind. I didn't think the puzzles were especially hard, and wasn't aware of any mistakes, though you never know. Because Francis is usually somewhere in the 10-15 range, I figured I was in the teens.
I bought a Stamford mechanical pencil, and was looking forward to going to the Greek restaurant I'd missed out on the last few years - taking "Wordplay" pictures in 2006 and practicing my baton before the talent show in 2005. I found a group including Peter, who had also eaten at that restaurant in the past, and we walked past the mall into downtown Stamford... and couldn't find the place. It's gone. So we went into a random bar-type place, which wasn't bad. I had a pasta dish. A vaguely familiar person in our group knew me, and was Larry Finer who I hadn't seen since maybe 1995.
Somewhere in there on Saturday was Erin and Francis's presentation, which was being recorded for TV. Did that show ever air? Hanging around afterward, someone said hello who I hadn't seen since in at least 20 years. It was former NPLer Elf (Ben Zimmer), all grown up!
Back in the ballroom for the evening's festivities, I didn't get a great seat. Not like the 2006 "Wordplay" showing, where I was a VIP. Patrick showed "Wordplay" out-takes and it was nice to see the missing four contestants. Highlights were Doug's saying you're never too old to have a happy childhood, and Maura Jacobson listening outside the door. They even got clip of squonk_npl's recent "Jeopardy!" Later, I played a Jeopardy! game with real champion Leslie Frates.
When the scores were posted Sunday morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see Francis had done much better than usual and was in the top 3, which meant I was slightly behind at 5th. That was a relief. We snuck in the side door to secure the same seats, and puzzle 7 went without incident.
Francis held on to make the finals for the first time. I had no idea what "Secesh" was and had REL/LEVEL instead of REB/BEVEL, so I was glad not to have to do that publicly. Tyler made it three in a row. Enough already; he must be stopped! (evil grin)
When the awards were given, it turned out Patrick Jordan beat me by a minute on puzzle 7, so I moved down to 6th, but that was fine. I didn't bring my "Closer than Ever" score for Richard Maltby to sign, but mumbled something to him about loving the show as I went past.
The banquet was the usual minimal seafood pasta. Good-byes. We drove back with Janet. It's the end of an era.