At other tournaments I’ve been to, Puzzle 1 is reasonably easy. While there was a simple warm-up puzzle while we were waiting for things to start, Erik Agard’s first contest puzzle was fairly tough. The theme was reasonably amusing, but there were a couple of items of pop culture I wrestled with. Unfortunately, I guessed incorrectly in a couple of cases. So there went my hopes for a day of clean solves.
Puzzle 2, by Peter Broda, was a bit easier for me, as it was the type of theme I particularly enjoy. In fact, it was my favorite of the day, despite a question about scoring. I believe I solved it cleanly, but they marked me wrong on one square. It is, of course, possible, that I had a brain / hand disconnect. I didn’t bother with asking for a correction, since it would have made only a one place difference in my overall (mediocre) standing.
Finn Vigelund won a constructor’s contest and his entry became Puzzle 3. It wasn’t particularly difficult, though it took me a while. I was a little disappointed in the theme, which was not quite as complex as I was expecting from the blurb. Unfortunately, I made a dumb (but, apparently, common) error in one square.
It was time for a lunch break and bugsybanana and I tried to find what I remembered as a new Jose Andres restaurant with a name that had something with Tomato in it. It turns out that the name is actually Beefsteak and we walked right past it on the other side of the street, without my noticing. So we ended up at Roti, instead. Which is fine. But that might be an indication of how my day was going.
Back at the tournament, Puzzle 4 was a huge relief. Andy Kravis gave us a quick and easy one, perfect for getting back into the swing of things. At least I managed to solve something cleanly. Though I will admit that the theme was not especially interesting. (There was nothing wrong with it – I just like themes that are trickier.)
I think that was the point at which the pie bites (little tarts) were brought out in the vestibule. The coconut cream was okay, though I’ve had better. The lemon berry, however, was superb. There were numerous other options, should neither of those be your pie of choice.
And then came Neville Fogarty’s Puzzle 5. Did I say I like puzzles with tricky themes? I did figure out what was going on, but I had to keep reminding myself of the trick several times. That is, each time I’d move to a different part of the puzzle, I’d have to tell myself, "oh, yeah, that’s what I have to do." In the end, 40 minutes was just not enough for me to finish the whole thing.
While we waited for scoring to be completed, there was a bit of trivia I found it hard to focus on. There was also one of the highlights of the day. One randomly chosen contestant (in this case, Joe Cabrera) got to throw a pie in the face of one of the constructors. Peter Broda took the vengeance well.
bugsybanana made it to the Outside Track finals and I cheered her on, but, in the end, she came in second, losing to Joshua Himmelbach, a rookie. Andrew Miller (another rookie) had actually finished the puzzle first, but left two squares blank, pushing him to third place. I should note that I attempted the puzzle using the Inside Track clues – and, after 10 or so minutes, had managed to fill in exactly one answer. The Outside Track clues were a lot more doable for this mere human. As for the Inside Track finals, Joon Pahk won handily, followed by Amy Reynaldo and Eric Maddy.
Overall, I finished 61st, out of 100 competitors – a decidedly mediocre showing. I will attribute that to young constructors, whose trivia / pop culture framework doesn’t synch up well with mine. Or to the cold and allergy issues I’ve been having. Or, of course, I can always blame the New York Yankees, because they are and always will be The Source of All Evil in the Universe. Despite which, it was fun, and I figure I will compete again next year, assuming: a) they do it again next year and b) I’m actually home.