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fauxklore
06 June 2019 @ 03:34 pm
The Indie 500: Saturday was The Indie 500, which is an annual DC crossword tournament. The name refers to the organizers being independent crossword constructors. I’ve managed to compete in this every year, which is a bit surprising given that it is inevitably the same weekend as two dozen other things I want to do. Just imagine you hear me muttering something about priorities.

Puzzle 1 was a straightforward one, with a theme full of the sort of wordplay I enjoy. I solved it cleanly in 7:17, which I think was a little slower than it should have been. I will blame the lack of speed on being sleep deprived. I should probably mention that all of the themes were sort of travel related which is, of course, right in my wheelhouse.

The traditional pie arrived at that point and included coconut custard, which is as good as it gets without a time machine. (Nesselrode pie from Custom Bakers would be better, but is long extinct, alas.)

That lack of speed was even more apparent on Puzzle 2. The theme wasn’t difficult, but didn’t particularly resonate with me. And I had a few moments of hesitation regarding the fill. As a result, it took me 12:19, while it should have only taken me about 10 minutes. (Note that the top competitors finish a puzzle like this in maybe 5 minutes.) It was not helped by them having left out clue 75, which was read out. How did the test solvers miss that? At least I was still error-free.

I continued being accurate, but plodding through Puzzle 3. In this case, it took me a while to grasp the theme. Once I did, I thought it was particularly clever and I’ll say it was my favorite of the day. While my time of 17:05 was middling, it is better than making mistakes. (See the comments for a spoiler in rot-13.)

Over the lunch break, I went with a few people to Poki DC, conveniently around the corner. Getting some protein and upping my blood caffeine level apparently helped quite a bit, as I more or less zoomed through Puzzle 4 in 14:47. That is, of course, a bit of an abuse of the word "zoomed" given that the top solvers finished in 5 or 6 minutes, but it was a big improvement over the morning. The theme was the type I tend to be good at, which also helped. More importantly, I was still solving cleanly.

And, yes, the perfect solving continued through Puzzle 5, the last regular puzzle of the day. I didn’t find the theme particularly interesting, but it was easy enough to grasp. I finished the puzzle in 7:14, which I thought was pretty respectable.


While we were waiting for scoring to complete, we played a game that involved identifying countries through various clues. Some of those involved anagrams, which are hard to do quickly and, for me, something I either see immediately or never. On the other hand, geography is one of my good trivia categories, so I can quickly answer clues like the location of the Blue Hole.

They did something experimental this year and had the non-finalists do Puzzle 6 before bringing in the top 3 in each track. I thought this worked well. The puzzle was challenging and I had to switch from the inside track clues to the outside track ones to finish it. (The inside track is for people who have finished in the top 25% in a crossword tournament within the past 5 years. The grid for both tracks is the same, but the clues differ.)

I needed to meet a friend at 6, so left at that point (i.e. without watching the actual finals) so as to not be disruptive while slipping out. All in all, it was a fun event and good to see people I don’t see often enough, as well as meeting a few new ones.

So how have I done overall in the Indie 500? Here are my results:

2019 – 83/195 (57th percentile)
2018 – 100 / 164 (39th percentile)
2017 – 64 / 128 (50th percentile)
2016 – 60 / 117 (49th percentile)
2015 – 61 / 100 (39th percentile)

Note for next year - be sure to caffeinate adequately in the morning.

Oyamel: My friend, Teri, made a dinner reservation at Oyamel, because we had tickets to see Describe the Night at Woolly Mammoth, which is more or less around the corner. When she got to the restaurant, she went to check what time the show started – and discovered it was cancelled. I’d bought the tickets on Goldstar, checked my email, and saw the cancellation notice, as well as a refund notice from Goldstar (whose customer service is quite good about this sort of thing). I was already in the city, at least, so it wasn’t horribly annoying. And, frankly, I was tired enough to be glad for an early night. (We found out later that an actor was ill. Do they not have understudies?)

There was no reason not to continue with dinner, however. We shared a dish of stuffed plantains with a chili arbol sauce and brussels sprouts with pumpkin seeds. I got a lengua taco (i.e. tongue) and she got some other sort of taco. I drank a cocktail with the cute name of Nick and BacaNora. (Bacanora is similar to mezcal, but less smoky.) Everything was quite good. We also had a brief conversation with two women at the next table about theatre and other things to do.

JGSGW Annual Potluck Luncheon: I had to be up early on Sunday to cook for the annual Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington members’ potluck luncheon. I made cold peanut noodles, largely because I had all the ingredients on hand. The event was in downtown Silver Spring and I contemplated metroing there, but decided that it would be an okay drive on a Sunday. And it was, except for the part where I thought I knew where I was going and had to circle around the downtown area to get to the parking garage. Still, I had left plenty of time and it all worked well.

The speaker, Emily Garber, talked about evidence and how you can prove or disprove family lore. She had a couple of interesting examples, e.g. a claim that a Shawnee chief in Ohio was a white man.

Which gives me an excuse to talk about a particularly ridiculous story in my family. I think the source of this was my great-aunt Bernice, but it is possible someone else told it to my mother, who told it to my brother. Anyway, the claim was that my great-great-grandfather, Berel MAKOWER, lived to be 100 and was murdered on his birthday by Hitler himself. Aside from there not being any evidence that Hitler personally killed anyone, there are two problems with this. Namely, my great-grandmother, Malka Ryfka MAKOWER, married Enoch Ber SZWARCBORT in 1896 and their marriage record (which I have a copy of) says that her father, Berel, was already deceased. And the death certificate of my great-great-grandmother, Byna MAKOWER, from Pultusk in 1909, shows that her husband, Berel, was deceased. So, even though I haven’t found his death certificate, I can be reasonably sure he died long before Hitler came to power. And, while it isn’t impossible that Byna was a lot younger than he was, it seems unlikely he made it to 100.

Movie Night: Monday night, I went to see the new documentary The Spy Behind Home Plate at the Cinema Arts Theatre in Fairfax, followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker, Aviva Kempner. The film is about Moe Berg, who was one of the more interesting Jewish baseball players. He was known for his prowess with languages, which allegedly led someone to say about him that "he knows 12 languages and can’t hit in any of them." More significantly, he became a member of the OSS during World War II. I’ll say more about the movie itself when I do my quarterly rundown. The Q&A was interesting mostly for learning that a major source was archival footage from Princeton from an earlier attempt at making a movie about him. She also emphasized that the OSS deliberately drew people from all walks of life, which was part of the reason for their success. All in all, it was an interesting evening.

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