Our seats were still available (since seats aren't assigned, there's always the danger of losing your desired seat on Sunday), and I went back to nervously doing puzzles, now just left with the Dell book. Having not found shaved-head Jon, I asked Will to make an announcement. He did, but since I left the room after finishing puzzle 7 this didn't help. I found out later that though Jon didn't hear the announcement, he had seen me at other times but thought I looked too busy to interrupt. Dude, I carried the book around all weekend, you should have interrupted! (I'll mail it next time I go to the P.O.)
We were filmed during puzzle 7 and I didn't even notice (aagh, glasses, and my part looks like a bald spot). I confidently filled in 1-Across using an abbreviation (trying not to spoil), saw it was wrong, but soon saw my idea was right, just not the exact spelling. I felt slightly slow but wanted to be careful as it would be easy to make mistakes executing the theme. Whew! Phew! Another year over.
I went up to pack and put on my lenses, after having to unpack the lens fluid and case I'd just packed. I brought down my bag and coat, and checked them in the lobby. No sooner had I done that when I found out that Janet and Joe were indeed driving back, so we'd have the traditional Stamford car ride home. So I stood on the concierge line again and got back my stuff (tipped them anyway even though they had it for all of 15 minutes). Joe's car was close by in the parking garage and we loaded it for a quick exit later.
An uncomfortably large mob milled around waiting for the ballroom to open. When it did, we rushed up and found Janet had already saved seats. She must have been right next to the door.
Tyler's parents (who prove genetics works) were there, and it looked like their trip wasn't for naught. Barring mistakes, we were about to see Tyler, Howard (welcome to the A's!) and Francis up there. The finalists were announced. As usual, rookies hijacked the C finals from the real C's (except for nonrookie Emily O'Neill). Since most rookies are really E-level, ranking them as C's is the best compromise, but you'll always have ringer rookies in the C finals. There was a tie in the B's that kept out Todd. I hadn't examined the scores closely so didn't stop to wonder what happened to John Beck.
Then the A's. Will said the third-place person had been in many finals, and my heart stopped for a second thinking it might be me, but it was Trip. Someone made a mistake. Unfortunately, it was Francis, leaving in PROLIFE without checking the crossings (and maybe it was even on film). I hadn't gained ground on time (though a minute faster on puzzle 7 would have put me in the finals instead of Trip), so I could only have made the finals if a second person made a mistake. I didn't know any of this at the time, but figured it out later.
The C finals started and I began doing the A clues. I filled in the entire right fairly quickly and then got stuck. Leslie seemed to be busily writing, and I assume she was doing A's. Uh oh. VERY glad I wasn't up there. I took so long pondering that the B finals started, and I heard an answer in the commentary. Oh well. I filled that in and since it was shot anyway, looked at the B clue for 1-Across. So I eventually solved the left but not legitimately. Not sure I could have stared long enough to get any more just using A's.
The real A's had much less trouble, even Howard, who although he apparently suffered first-time playoff nerves, still managed to finish most of the puzzle. Trip was soooo close. He didn't have time to consider that maybe his choice of fill wasn't the greatest (and had not heard of the entry that was just wrong). Tyler's reaction to realizing he wasn't second was priceless. Why are all these people applauding? Because you WON! For the fourth time, yet. Still, he must be stopped. More Trogdors in 2009?
After the round, R outside wondered if she had a chance for Best Handwriting (she'd competed in an early U.S. Open and won it there). She hadn't registered for the banquet but thought she might go if she was winning the award. We asked around and found out Peggy Rosen decided this, but couldn't find her. Meanwhile, C winner Dan mentioned he had an extra banquet ticket from friends who weren't staying, so she took it and that problem was solved. They never collected the tickets anyway, at least at our table.
Inside the room, I didn't sit with my carpool mates since I'd be seeing them in the car, and R and I found seats with ticket benefactor Dan, Patrick B., Electra, Andrea and Ulrich. Apologies to them all since we spent the entire luncheon gossiping ("Who did you have a crush on in high school?"). As expected the meal was underwhelming but I like having the whole experience (and it's deductible). I guess better food would be even more costly.
The awards were announced with record speed. Someone else won handwriting. Our table was busy collecting prizes, with Patrick winning E and Dan winning C and rookie prizes. As the names were announced going higher and higher, I knew I was either 11th (having made an unknown bad mistake) or 4th, so luckily it was the latter, with Al moving up to 5th and Roger to 6th (oops, he should have gotten the Trogdor memo).
With 3 trophies (4th, 50s and NYC) and 3 books, I was glad I had a ride back. We made record time (23 minutes) and it was jiggety, jig, another year. Happy. Relieved.
My sister had left a phone message saying she hoped I hadn't disgraced the family, and I was able to assure my nephews Joel and Jeffy that I hadn't (they were KIDDING - or were they?). Called my mother. Then realized there was no one else to call. Got a few congratulatory e-mails. And life goes on.