Meanwhile, I'm still recovering from the weekend.
THE NPL CONVENTION
I don't see how people start con activities Wednesday or even earlier, since Thursday afternoon through Sunday morning is plenty for me.
I landed at LAX at the same time as Will, Nancy, Helene, and Ai and we were transported to the Omni in the luxurious Judy van. Judy is a friend from the old AOL crossword chat (1997-99), a native Brooklynite living in exile in Corona, CA. Judy called just before I left to inform me of the London subway bombings. I'm not saying we're jinxed but one of Judy's visits to New York coincided with the Sudan embassy bombings, and another began September 9, 2001...
Milling around in the lobby, I heard Trip mention my name to a tall stranger. It was Saturniner (Ivan), also of AOL chat! We finally met in person after 8 years of xoxoing online. We went to dinner and yentaed it up to decent Italian food.
More people, more greetings. Though tables would have been good, the con room wasn't THAT small and the clipboards were nicely personalized. Greyflannl (another AOL chatter) appeared. I wasn't wild about the bird game (sorry, Rubrick! You'll get complimented later), and the Name That Tune tunes all sounded alike though the game was OK. Cryptic hangman was OK too. So far, not the best but also not the worst. Ivan and Judy were freaked out by the chirping puzzlers and left after the first game, but Grey stayed on, playing Microsoft Hunt until 4 a.m. I played Noam's and Cramerica's Jeopardy games (or maybe that was Friday), and went up about 2:30 (which was 5:30 a.m. New York time).
Judy woke me up at 7:30, and we yakked on the phone until I actually had to get up at 9 to get ready for the Magic Castle. We trooped en masse to the Metro, where I found it strange that tickets are on the honor system. Can you imagine that in New York? Arriving in Hollywood, the first thing I saw was the aforementioned Susan Lucci star! http://www.livejournal.com/users/ennienyc/9193.html Hysterical. At the top of a hill was the magical Magic Castle. We saw a quick magic show while waiting for lunch, had a nice lunch, saw 2 more magicians, and then the ghostly Irma's piano. Lots of fun. My nephew Joel (http://www.drezmagic.com) would have been in heaven.
Walked over to Starbucks where the Hollywood Hunt was to begin, and had a moment of panic. Now I've been in the NPL since 1982, attended every con since 1983, know tons of people through crosswords... and I didn't have a team for this hunt! Somehow everyone had arranged themselves ahead of time, as groups signed up together and I wondered if I would have to do the thing myself, or turn around and go back to the hotel. Eventually 2 people signed up, and I joined them, and we got a few other stragglers to form a team. The hunt itself was OK, but logistically daunting as we could have used a map of all the stars (if there was one, we didn't have it). Eventually, we gave our partially solved puzzles to another team, and headed back to dinner.
There had been a rumor that the dining hall was too small, but luckily that turned out to be unfounded. Some vegetarians were unhappy with the food options, but I found the meals to be OK. Not the best, not the worst. I make a point of sitting with different people for each meal (and for each game), because the fun of convention is talking to as many people as possible. Even so, there were lots of people I just never got to see (if you were one of them -- sorry!). That is one of the pitfalls of our growing membership.
Friday night's games began with Beat the Champ. I could play that all night, despite the fact that only a few people personally participate at any time. I was a "champ" for one brief moment ("fine fettle"). I don't understand why people don't want to stand up, as you're with other people and never on the spot alone unless you're the champ. The sequel game was funny, and the pub trivia was fairly hard (I recognized a few facts from my former job). I have no recollection of after hours, but I must have played some games.
I missed Saturday breakfast, and made it to the end of the business meeting, arriving in time to vote for Ann Arbor for 2007 (strictly for geographical reasons -- sorry, T. McAy!). I promised Witz we would work on a cryptic after lunch, but then got sidetracked when Toonhead! upgraded my iBook's 11C/NI3 to fix a font problem and let me try his Bose noise-canceling headphones (great sound, though the phones have a muffling feeling; this may be inescapable with big headphones) -- thanks, Toon! I found Witz, apologized profusely, and we managed to finish most of the cryptic before the afternoon games began.
I'm a star (albeit rapidly fading) at crosswords, but not in the NPL. I rarely win prizes at cons. This year was no exception, as I got about half of Atlantic's really hard letter combinations, and made a mistake on Trip's game. I would have been near the top, but stopped cross-checking carefully and had toP-RATing instead of toP-RANKing. Oh well, it's only a hobby.
I insist on solving alone in the flat competition, though I never do very well; I prefer to savor the aha moments. My name got read as an honorable mention, but that was because there weren't that many solo solvers. My favorite flat was one I never even solved. Both my name and nom lend themselves to flat composing (unlike, say, Sisyphus's Assistant, or those noms with numbers in them) and Rubrick used the palindrome "Dog-nod? Nab an Ellen? Abandon God?" as the basis for his DILEMMA. Compliments ("what a bod!") will always get kudos from me.
The picture mercifully had us not facing the sun (my eyes hurt just thinking about Clearwater). I had some nice shoptalk and yentaing with Nancy, and then to dinner. Panache spoke about the LA Times (which I proofread), and I was disappointed that the elusive Amber continued to be elusive.
Then it was time for the extravaganza, usually a con highlight. This year's did not disappoint, and Lunch Boy, QED and Spelvin amused and astounded. Called up as the first award "presenters," Saxifrage and I looked at each other with jaws dropped. I was about to riff on how I didn't bring my baton, when we noticed the script. I'm no actress, but it was fun hamming it up. The original songs were another great touch. A few of the puzzles seemed tedious (thank goodness someone else tackled the logic problem), but although my team didn't do that well, we weren't the last racers to finish, and we did finish.
Greyflannl reappeared for Saturday's festivities, and his stroller team stuck it out and finished. He stayed until 5 a.m. this time, and we have a new member. I played multiple games of Crackpipe, I mean Catchphrase. I could - and did - play that for hours! The teams were clicking and bonding, and not caring about the scores. I never did get to play 3 Jeopardies, T McAy's game, or anything else.
Seriously sleep-deprived, I got to brunch Sunday, talked with other bleary-eyed souls, said some goodbyes, and headed to the awards. More goodbyes. And that was it until San Antonio in 2006.
DOWN IN THE VALLEY
Now it was time for re-entry in the real world. Or in my case, memory lane. Tablesaw had graciously offered to take me to Sherman Oaks (where I was to see my college friend Ruth), and was anxious to leave as he had not slept. So he and Minou and I headed out and drove to his house. There I called Ruth, who picked me up and took me with her to Encino, where we dropped off her son and went to a bakery to get a cake for my next party.
Ruth was on my floor sophomore year of college, and we shared a suite the following summer. She married her college sweetheart Allan, and I hadn't seen them in over 30 years! Their house was lovely, and it was great to meet their kids. We went through our college yearbook and talked about everyone.
Next stop on memory lane was a party with high school classmates. Mickie was visiting from Vermont, so Bobby (#1 in the class, and now literally a rocket scientist) and Susie (his wife, also in our class) hosted a barbecue at their home in North Hollywood. As I happened to be in town for the con, it worked out perfectly. They also invited other '69ers from the area, and we ended up with about 25 people including spouses and kids. About half had not been to the recent reunion, so there was lots of catching up to do. We ended up going through our high school yearbook and talking about everyone. I reluctantly left this rollicking gossip session to make my 8:50 flight out of Burbank, but I'm sure it continued on into the night.
I felt sore throaty on the flight, and not so great all week, but I'm getting back to normal.