Willow: I went out to dinner with the flyertalk crowd at Willow in the Ballston area. The seared yellowfin tuna I had was quite good. For a change, I had a satisfactory cocktail other than a gin and tonic (the sage daiquiri, which had slight sage flavoring but good quality rum). The white chocolate crème brulee for dessert was less exciting. This is a good place to know about, but it is expensive. And, of course, it is always nice to talk about travel and frequent flyer miles and so on.
Lollapuzzola 6: I went up to New York for the weekend, primarily to attend Lollapuzzola 6. This is an excellent crossword tournament. Part of what makes it so good is that it is more relaxed than the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. But the biggest factor is that the puzzles are just that little less conventional. I will refrain from excessive detail, since people still have a few days to solve at home. The first puzzle, by Aimee Lucido and Zoe Wheeler, was easy and enjoyable, with pictures to explain why the constructors were not there. Puzzle #2 was by Mike Nothnagel and involved the sort of theme I particularly enjoy. I have a minor quibble with the clue for 57D, but that is mostly me being pedantic. Puzzle #3, by Patrick Blindauer and Tony Orbach, was challenging for me to get started on, though I’m not really sure why. I did get through it all, just a minute or so before time was up. I wish I could say the same for Puzzle #4, by Kevin G. Der, but I figured out what was going on in that one too late to finish it. And I was not helped by a lot of difficult clues. I used two of the google tickets (which affect your score) and still ended up with plenty of blank space. I suspect that I’d have enjoyed this puzzle a lot more had I had it sitting on my desk for a week or so. Fortunately, my confidence in some level of skill was restored by puzzle #5, by Doug Peterson, though I admit to finding its theme uninteresting.
Since I mentioned puzzles one does over the course of several days, I also had the pleasure of getting a new Ucaoimhu cryptic and making reasonable progress on it. There were also fun games (one by Todd McClary and one by Francis Heaney) after lunch and while the puzzles were being scored. Let me congratulate Al Sanders on winning the event and note that he got a standing ovation, even by people who never give standing ovations. I placed 87th out of 157, which is disappointing in that I’d have preferred to make it to the top half. I will blame jet lag (because, you know, Washington is in a different time zone than New York) and the New York Yankees (who I blame for everything as a general principle).
Still Jewish After All These Years: In searching theatre listings for Saturday night, I saw that Avi Hoffman was doing his first show in New York in 15 years. Having really enjoyed Too Jewish, I thought it would be worth checking out. Alas, it was disappointing. It started well enough with Avi singing Allan Sherman’s "Shake Hands With Your Uncle Max." He then moved on to a review of his history in theatre, starting with his appearance in a Yiddish production at age 8. Then came his years as a teenager in Israel, which allowed him to indulge in a medley of songs by Paul Simon, Billy Joel, and Bob Dylan. I won’t go into the question of what makes music Jewish here (a question my regular readers know I am mildly obsessed with) but I will suggest that Avi Hoffman’s audience is more interested in Yiddish theatre music than in 1970’s soft rock. After that came his return to the United States and a lot of kvetching about always playing Jews, ending with excerpts of what felt like every show (including non-musical ones) he has ever had a speaking role in. I am sure this is of great interest to his mother, his wife, and his children. I found it excessively self-indulgent. It’s a shame because he could have made an interesting piece about stereotyping in the theatre and how it can be both positive and negative. Oy.
2x2: I was apprehensive about the opening performance of this New York fringe festival play because all I knew about it was that the playwright is p_j_cleary’s partner, Peter. Fortunately, it was worth seeing. The story involves a young woman with a tragic secret, her boyfriend, her brother, and her parents. The relationships are complex but feel realistic and are treated with a lot of wit. The only real issue I had was the acoustics of the theatre. If you go, sit on the right when you come in so you won’t struggle to hear some lines over the air conditioner.
And then I took advantage of being on the Lower East Side to stop at Yonah Schimmel’s . I’m not crazy about their potato knishes, but, ah, the kasha! Lacking a time machine to take me to Jerry’s on the boardwalk in Far Rockaway, this does quite well.