Ellen (ennienyc) wrote,

That long, dreaded Saturday

Saturday at the crossword tournament is always long and stressful. Why do I do this?

I put on my red dress and glasses (secret weapon! or not so secret) and headed down to scope out a seat. I went back to Friday's area and looked for a seat under a light where I wasn't bumping into the table leg. I saved the adjacent seat for traditional seatmate Francis and nervously did puzzles. Erin ended up right behind, but I hardly talked to her (sorry! I'm a basket case while competing), and I apologize to the others around me for not being friendly.

Before sitting down, I had seen Dean near the door. One day we'll see his writings on these matters. And R from high school came over. She'd e-mailed me that she was competing and we arranged to meet for lunch. Saw Jim Jenista. I didn't think he could outdo himself, but he really outdid himself.

So much nervous energy. My letters were shaky like an 80-year-old but the morning went OK. I was slightly behind Francis, with our roles reversed from when I used to be his "pace car." Aww, my little boy is growing up and leaving the nest. I harassed the judge a bit, who wrote about it here, but this is necessary to insure times are not misread. I always stay in my seat and do puzzles afterward but heard about a few early errors among the top contenders (uh, can't say I was that upset). I'd find out later it was still pretty much a speed race which is not my forte, and I was 8th after the morning. I didn't want to look at the preliminary results but somehow they found their way to me.

R and I went over to Brooklyn Heights, where I wanted to find the Breukelen (mission accomplished; she took the picture in a previous entry), and then we ducked into a random coffee shop for lunch. I had spinach pie. I thought I'd written down walking directions there, but couldn't find them. I later saw the Post-It in my room key envelope.

The afternoon made me even more nervous, since there's the unknown of puzzle 5. Often that's been the positive turning point for me, but occasionally not; the prose article with words missing instead of traditional clues was especially bad. This year's puzzle 5 was just hard, and I never determined the theme while solving. I had trouble in the lower left corner and even considered handing it in with known errors, but somehow changed (trying to avoid spoilers here) a word meaning "not hot" to a word meaning "not soft" and finally it fell. I finished in the same minute as Francis and found out later we beat almost everyone. Huge applause for Maura. Results after 1-6 (out later in the evening) showed I'd moved up to 5th, tied with Roger ("Together at last!").

I went out to the lobby, said hi to Nicole and her sister at the NYT table, and looked at Emily Cureton's art. I wrote my name down for a tote bag with a Puzzle Palace drawing (not the one in Sundance but an Azteclike structure) but haven't heard back. Speaking of the Puzzle Palace, Patrick (who I managed to find right away on Friday; assistant TJ was there too) said that for "IOUSA" this year they stayed at the Debt Dungeon.

After the long day, I put back on my contacts (almost thought one was lost, but it was in the cap portion of the case). Based on Stella et al.'s guide, I wanted to eat at Taze, a Turkish restaurant. I found some people who had enjoyed the Greek place at Stamford (which was gone last year, alas) since the cuisines are similar. My walking directions found, we tried to follow them but they seemed really roundabout. Hopstop alleged these were walking directions, but maybe they were really for driving since it was definitely not the most direct route. We finally just asked someone. A subgroup that left the hotel after us was already there. The restaurant seemed slightly annoyed we hadn't called for a party of 8, but seated us. The food was delicious. I had chicken yogurt kebab and want to have it again soon from Turkuaz (but I think Taze was better). Definitely worth a return trip.

I was standing in back of the ballroom at the beginning of the night's entertainment but my legs were getting tired and I found a seat next to a random young guy who turned out to be the son of my fifth grade friend's college roommate (confusing, I know). We had all been at the Tribeca showing of "Wordplay" where I hadn't met him or his family but did see my old friend. He e-mailed me afterward to express interest in the tournament, and now he was here.

"Wordploy" had its moments and it was fun to see familiar faces. It could have used some editing (full songs weren't necessary), but we've gotten spoiled by the professional excellence of the real "Wordplay." I forgot about carrying the EDDDDDD banner; that was really funny. Ed is the person who made the RRRRRRIPSTEIN banner.

I had been briefly e-mailed about the "1 vs. 700" game but didn't hear anything further so wasn't sure I was supposed to be up there. Seeing everyone on the panel I decided to go up after the first round. Someone hoisted over a chair, which I proceeded to trip over in my haste to push it in place. Klutz! I assured everyone I was OK (really, this stuff happens all the time), apologized for disrupting the game, and it continued. Doug should have come up too (there was also some miscommunication with him), but no biggie. The questions were tailored to the group and I might have gotten the Merl "Wordplay" URINE question wrong if ENEMA had been a choice - even after seeing the movie 30 times or so. Greg and John were polished hosts. Someone should give these guys a real game show. I guess the radio one's a start. Oh, and it looks like Greg and Jessica's family will be growing: Congrats!

I was told Amy needed me to sign a poster, and she was in the bar along with Dean and some others. Didn't talk to anyone because, ick, bars (shudder). We quickly left and I signed the poster outside in the lobby.

All day, I asked guys with shaved heads if they were Jon who was getting my book, but no luck. He was listed in the results so was definitely there, but we were not crossing paths.

I consented to play one "Jeopardy!" game (Noam's Brooklyn version) and my opponents were formidable: John Beck who was a real "Jeop!" champ, Jeremy who I'd first met at Sundance (friend of Byron) and seemed to have quiz bowl experience, I forget the rest. People seemed surprised I knew Hazelden. I don't remember the results but I think I bet wrong on FJ.

By this time, puzzle 1-6 results were in and we looked at them on people's iPhones. I also examined them on the wall. Wow, Howard B. and John Beck were doing REALLY well, as was Rex Parker (huge jump from last year). Even if I screwed up on puzzle 7 (and I hated even thinking that, lest it jinx me to screw up), it looked like I could stay in the top 10. That felt good, but didn't make me any less nervous.

I did not hang out late and learned later the hotel would not let you hang out late even if you wanted to. Giving up on the shower, I took a bath. That always makes me feel soapy so I then used the shower nozzle to rinse. Reset the alarm (and got a back-up wake-up call), and again remained awake until drifting off for another 5 hours.

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