Toni Morrison was a Pulitzer Prize winning author and Nobel laureate. Her best known novels include Beloved and Song of Solomon. She also taught at Princeton and mentored numerous African-American artists.
Kathleen Blanco was the first woman to serve as governor of Louisiana. She earned me 20 ghoul pool points and I have backfilled with Roberta McCain.
Richard Booth was the bookseller who was largely responsible for turning Hay-on-Wye into the town of used books that it is now. It’s an amazing place and well worth visiting if you like books.
Non-celebrity Death Watch: Mike Quandt was a former colleague. The most interesting thing about him was that he lived on a boat. He had worked at Boeing for a while and, when he moved to Los Angeles, he just sailed down the coast. Then he remarried and she wanted more space so they bought a condo.
Jim Murrell was one of my bosses for a while. He used a wheelchair, due to multiple sclerosis. I got his office when he moved to a different one, which had a huge plus. Namely, it was set up so that the lights stayed on without you having to get up and flail around periodically. When I moved to a different office a year or two later, I learned about what I referred to as the Building 115 exercise program. On a more personal note, Jim had a reputation at one time for having trouble working with women, but had overcome that by the time I worked for him and I found him pleasant, amiable, and (most importantly) fair.
Laurie Kramer (nee Schwimmer) was a high school friend. She and I were both part of a group who hung out at the library playing word games during our free periods.
New York – the Travel Stuff: I took the train up to New York on Friday evening. Things were relatively empty for that time of day, surprisingly, and I only had a seatmate for the stretch from Baltimore to Trenton. Except she was supposed to get off in Philadelphia and didn’t understand that the announcement that "the next station is…" refers to the one the train is about to stop at in five minutes, not the one a half hour away. I have no idea whether they made her pay for the ticket back to Philadelphia from Trenton. There was also some sort of kerfuffle between another passenger and the conductor, who got someone else on to confront her, because he said had cussed at him. It can’t have been too serious, since she didn’t get kicked off the train. (Note: there was no drama getting home.)
I stayed at the Algonquin, largely because I got a very good price. Or, I should say, a nominally amazing price of $174 a night, except that doesn’t count the taxes and the "destination fee" of $30 that Marriott adds. You get that back, sort of, by applying it to breakfast at the hotel, except that their breakfast is absurdly expensive and you really end up paying $10 or so on top of that for it. It’s still a good hotel price for New York. The location is excellent and, of course, there is all the history there. Also, they have particularly good toiletries (Beekman 1802). They don’t alas, have windows with great soundproofing.
Lolapuzzoola 12: The primary reason I was in New York was Lillapuzzoola 12. This crossword tournament was held at Riverside Church, which proved a bit more complicated than usual, due to subway track work. I took the M5 bus uptown. Which was also more complicated than it should have been, due to a closure of part of 6th Avenue and MTA’s apparent belief that everyone should psychically know how they have rerouted bus service instead of putting up actual useful signs. Still, I got there just fine.
There were three puzzles before the lunch break. Puzzle #1 was by C. C. Burnikel and was straightforward enough. Puzzle #2 was by Stella Zawistowski and was also straightforward, though it had some fill I thought was a bit obscure, making me need to rely on the crossings in a few cases. Puzzle #3 was by Paolo Pascoe and went smoothly, too. I should note that it was printed on larger paper, which was slightly awkward but more readable. At the end of those three, I had solved cleanly. In fact, I was briefly in tenth place, though that was only because not all of the scores for the third puzzle had been entered yet.
I didn’t go out for lunch, opting to eat a couple of granola bars instead. That was probably a mistake, but I guess I can blame lack of protein or lack of vitamin D or lack of something for what followed. (And, oh yeah, have I mentioned the chronic jet lag due to business trip during the week?) See, puzzle 4 is the tough one at Lollapuzzoola, the puzzle that tests one mettle. This one was by Maddie Gillespie and Doug Peterson. In one sense, it wasn’t all that hard. I actually knew exactly what to do. The trick related to something about how the answer was to be entered. And I just failed to execute it. That is, I pretty much saw what they wanted, but I didn’t see a way to actually enter it that way. A lot of people apparently had similar problems, but I was annoyed because, as I just said, I understood what they wanted. Now, to be fair, when the scores were posted, I apparently had some other error, too, so very well may not have solved cleanly. But I was frustrated. What was particularly irritating is that it was actually an excellent puzzle and the most interesting of the set. (Details are in a rot13 comment below.)
Puzzle 5 was constructed by Robyn Weintraub. This was back to straightforward and I solved it cleanly. Not that it mattered at that point.
In addition to the Puzzle 4 fiasco, I found the puzzles this year not to be very interesting, largely because the themes were too similar. (See comment below in rot13). Perhaps time travel was just too limiting a general theme for constructors to work with? What I normally love about Lollapuzzoola is the sheer craziness of the event and I felt that was missing. It was still worth doing and I will continue to come, schedule permitting, but it was disappointing.
I’ve done an annual recap of my placement over the years, so here it is, much as I hate it. I finished 146th out of 258 individual competitors, which comes to the 43.4th percentile. Sigh.
2012 – 42.6
2013 – 44.6
2014 – 57.6
2015 – 51.0
2016 – 59.1
2017 – 53.7
2018 – 55.7
2019 – 43.4
I think I will write about my evening separately.
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