August 29th, 2017

storyteller doll

Vacation, Part 1: Lollapuzzoola 10

I was going to skip Lollapuzzoola 10, since it was scheduled for the Saturday before the eclipse. But I figured out a way to make the travel work. Surprisingly, it is actually possible to fly from New York to Denver. Who knew?

I took the train up to New York, schlepping far more gear than for a normal weekend excursion. I had managed to get a good pre-paid rate at The Library Hotel, which is one of my favorite hotels in the world. Aside from a great location (41st and Madison, about a block from The Library at the Center of the Universe), how can one resist a hotel that asks you "fiction or nonfiction?" when you check in? In addition, it was raining when I arrived and I was there in time for their nightly wine and cheese reception. A glass of prosecco and some strawberries did wonders to revive me. (The rate also includes continental breakfast, but that’s less exciting.)

But this is supposed to be about Lollapuzzoola, not about great hotels of New York City. The weather was better in the morning and I enjoyed riding shank’s mare up Lexington Avenue. Before long, I was settled in at a table doing warm-up puzzles.

At most puzzle competitions, Puzzle #1 is the easiest. That was not quite the case here. Paolo Pasco is a young constructor who hides on the West Coast, presumably because he wants to live to be an old(er) constructor. The theme was reasonably challenging, though my solving picked up once I figured out what evil Paolo was up to. That "aha" moment is always enjoyable – and, in this case, let me solve the puzzle cleanly, albeit slowly. I definitely did not appreciate the guy at the table I was at who felt obliged to comment out loud "it’s too hard." That distraction probably slowed me down by at least 7 or 8 seconds.

Puzzle #2 by C. C. Burnikel was, in my opinion, the easiest of the day. But I do have some qualms about it. Some of the clues told you to do specific things and the instructions at the top indicated that one wouldn’t get full credit if one did not follow those instructions. However, there really wasn’t any way for the judges to know whether or not a given contestant had followed the instructions. I think most people did, but it’s hard to be sure.

Puzzle #3 was by Erik Agard. I have to admit that it had a bit more pop culture to it than I’d have preferred. I also thought that it was one where grasping the theme wasn’t essential to solving it. Both of those aspects made it less interesting than the other puzzles of the day.

Puzzle #4, which was by Francis Heaney, was intended to be the hardest of the day. It was, indeed, challenging, but I caught on to the trick quickly. With entertaining word play, this was my favorite of the day. It also helped me in the standings – especially since it seems that other people struggled more with it.

Puzzle #5 was by Joon Pahk. This was one where the theme didn’t make a lot of difference in solving. As for Puzzle #6 by Mike Nothnagel and Doug Peterson, let’s just say I was glad not to be a finalist

In the end, I solved cleanly (i.e. without making any errors) but was slower than I’d have preferred. I ended up 105th out of 227 contestants, which is the 53.7th percentile. Comparing to previous years (and, why yes, I am a wee bit compulsive), I was not surprised, but mildly disappointed:

2012 – 42.6
2013 – 44.6
2014 – 57.6
2015 – 51.0
2016 – 59.1
2017 – 53.7

Bottom line is that my accuracy has improved, but I remain solidly middle of the pack when speed (or lack thereof) gets factored in. I remind myself that this is a self-selected crowd. And the selection of puzzles really is excellent.

After puzzles, there was pizza and socializing. And then I retrieved my bag at the Library Hotel and was off to JFK to spend a night at a lesser hotel before flying off to Vacation Part 2.

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