August 15th, 2014

storyteller doll

New York Weekend - Lollapuzzoola 7 and Just Jim Dale

Lollapuzzoola 7: As I mentioned briefly in my last entry, I went up to New York last weekend. The major excuse was Lollapuzzoola 7, a particularly fun crossword tournament. What makes it so much fun? Let’s just say that the puzzles have rather unconventional themes. I won’t go into a lot of detail on the puzzles since there is a solve at home division and people are almost certainly still plugging away on them.

The first puzzle, by Cathy Allis, was a nice warm-up, with a fairly straightforward theme. It’s the type of thing you could solve without really paying any attention to the theme. Puzzle #2, by Mike Nothnagel, was considerably more challenging. It was gimmicky, but the gimmick was a fun one and this was my favorite puzzle of the day. I will mention, however, that a rookie sitting at the table I was at, left after this puzzle, complaining that he was out of his league and not having fun. I’m not sure if there’s anything that could have made him feel better. #3 was by Tony Orbach and I was slightly intimidated when I saw there was a second sheet with it. I was even more intimidated when I saw it was a sheet of pictures. Fortunately, it turned out that you didn’t really need to be super up on pop culture or able to recognize the pictures to solve it. It was also very amusing.

I used the lunch break to enjoy the fine weather and walk around some (since walking from 29th and Sixth to 80th and Lex wasn’t quite enough for me, apparently.) When I came back, we had an anagram game to play, which I found difficult because I couldn’t always write down the words to anagram quickly and accurately enough. And also because I suck at pop culture.

That was followed by a silly team activity. Each table had to come up with a name for their baseball team and an associated cheer / chant. My table was the Gimme Specifics and our chant (to be used when the announcer said there had been a base hit) was “Single? Double? Triple? What?” My favorite team name, by the way, was the Bad News Gnus.

Then it was time for Puzzle #4. This is the killer, the equivalent of the notorious Puzzle 5 at the ACPT. When there is 45 minutes for a 15 x 15 puzzle, you know there is something evil going on. Let’s just say that I finished it (with the use of google tickets, but some remaining errors) and occupied myself dreaming up tortures to inflict on Patrick Blindauer as a result. The final puzzle (or, I should say, final for those of us who were nowhere in the running for the win) was by Doug Peterson and was far simpler, with a more normal (though not very exciting) theme.

The top 3 in each division competed publicly in the finals, with Jon Delfin being the big winner for the Express division. Before the finals, there was a meta puzzle event, which kept us amused and occupied while the judges were figuring out who would be competing. At the end, there were prizes, followed by pizza and socializing. All in all, it was a great time.

Oh, by the way, I solved everything except Puzzle 4 cleanly and ended up finishing 65th out of 160 people. I consider that eminently respectable. More significantly, it’s a lot better than I’ve done the previous two years.

Just Jim Dale: Looking at theatre listings, I didn’t really see much that was exciting that I haven’t already seen. Based on reviews (and a couple of personal recommendations), I settled on seeing Just Jim Dale. I associated Dale primarily with his starring role in the Broadway musical Barnum, but he had a long and varied theatrical and musical career, primarily in his native England.

The show was the typical mix of songs, Dale chatting about his life, and a few dramatic excerpts. I could have lived without the lengthy Noel Coward monologue and I thought the piece on quoting Shakespeare was a bit long. The excerpt from Joe Egg was more successful. I was glad that the musical numbers included "The Lambeth Walk" (from Me and My Girl), which competed with "Georgy Girl" (for which Dale wrote the lyrics) in the "infect Miriam with an earworm" competition. I also enjoyed "Museum Song" from Barnum, which is that relative rarity - a Broadway patter song. The show also included Dale’s description of recording the Harry Potter audiobooks. And a lot of corny old jokes. Overall, I’d say it was a reasonably good way to spend an evening in New York.

Brief travel note: I stayed at the Doubletree in Chelsea, which offered a good price, because it is allegedly new. I am almost positive, however, that it is not at all new, but merely rebranded (possibly from Hampton Inn) and that I’d stayed there before. Be that as it may, I need to remember not to stay there again, given the complete and utter lack of soundproofing. I understand that New York is the city that doesn’t sleep, but I don’t need to hear motorcycles revving from 17 floors up. And why exactly do people think it is okay to shout at one another in the hallway of hotels at 2:23 a.m.? (Yes, I looked at the clock when they woke me up from the light doze I’d managed.)