Sunday, March 16, 2014

ACPT 2014 Recap

I had a very fast ACPT year, but I also had a couple of what can only be described as brain farts.  So... I did very well (47th out of 580 contestants), but really should have been around 20th place if I hadn't had those two mistakes.

I finished the first puzzle in 4 minutes, just behind the group of 14 solvers who finished in only 3 minutes.  Off to a good start!

Dan Feyer (5-time sequential champion, including this year) finished Puzzle #2 in an incredible 4 minutes.  Six people finished in 5 minutes (including A finalists Tyler Hinman and Howard Barkin, and my mid-Atlantic archnemesis #1, Erik Agard, who is both delightful and a junior in college, which is just a bit humiliating for us old folks).  Another 11 solvers finished in 6 minutes.  I finished in 7 minutes, along with 15 other solvers, including my good friend, mid-Atlantic archnemesis #2, and three-time Jeopardy! champion, Scott Weiss.

Puzzle #3 went OK.  I solved it in 12 minutes, a solid if not especially awesome time (tied for 37th), and certainly nowhere near as fast as the top three solvers, who finished it in 6 (yes, that's SIX) minutes. I felt a bit fuzzy on it and knew I could have done better, but oh well.

Puzzle #4 was my Waterloo.  I solved it in 5 minutes, two minutes behind the fastest solvers but still tied for 16th.  But.  But.  I had all of the answers right, but my hand and brain just betrayed me, writing a "P" where there should have been an "R", smack in the middle of "PEPSON" and "BLACK MAPKET."  I just honestly have no idea whatsoever how that happened.  But it's there, clear as day, no mistaking it for an R under any light.  You can see it in my facebook profile pictures if you're inclined to schadenfreude.  I am still kicking myself, because I even took half a minute to check it over but didn't see the error somehow.

Fortunately, I didn't know about the mistake until later that evening, so it didn't rattle me going into the monstrously hard Puzzle #5.  That's always a tough puzzle, but this year it was especially killer -- I know a lot of fast solvers who didn't even manage to finish it.  At 6 or 7 minutes in, I had gotten pretty much nowhere and didn't think I had any hope at all of finishing.  Then I somehow had a breakthrough and started working my way across the puzzle, and finished correctly with 12 minutes left on the clock.  I actually didn't check it over, because I had revisited the whole grid so frequently in trying to solve it in the first place!  I was damn proud of finishing, but was still 9 minutes behind the two top solvers (Dan and Tyler).  Good grief.

Puzzle #6 was my best performance -- I finished in 6 minutes, just a minute behind the top 5 solvers and tied with only 6 other solvers (including my good friend Katie Hamill, former C champion and B finalist, and the first person I ever met at a crossword puzzle tournament!)

By Puzzle #7, though, I had found out that I screwed up on Puzzle #4 and my head wasn't quite where it needed to be.  I actually solved it really quickly -- I finished in 22 minutes, which should have put me tied for 31st for that puzzle (five minutes behind the top solver, Erik Agard), and 30th overall.  But... somehow... like I said, my head wasn't in the game, I guess.  I left three squares blank.  There was part of the puzzle that I wasn't sure about -- and I *knew* I wasn't sure about it -- so I left it for later, and then just didn't take the time to check it over or come back to it.  Down in a blaze of glory.

Still and all, it was, as always, a great time, and I plan to be there again next year hoping to redeem myself from the lapses in attention!!  As always, it was a ton of fun spending the weekend around puzzlers.  My Friday night game performance (two first-place finishes and a second-place finish in the four rotating puzzle rounds) redeemed me from my "oops" moments in the tournament, and I even won a prize! (the game "Lexagon," which is pretty good but has some design flaws...)  I also had a great time having a now-traditional Friday night drink with my old friend Pete Muller (who also regaled us marvelously in the talent show Sunday), enjoying the now-traditional Chinese lunch on Saturday with a group of puzzling pals, and eating a wonderful dinner at Jean-Georges with my sister Susan.

See you next year!