After the fantastic year I had last year, I suppose there was no place to go but down. Still, I was disappointed with myself -- I made mistakes in two puzzles (one square per puzzle), and for those of you who understand ACPT rules, you'll understand that that seriously hurt my results. As in past years, therefore, I will share my actual results and my "wouldabeen" results if I hadn't made those mistakes. I like fantasyland... 😉
(Warning: a few spoilers ahead!)
- #39 overall, with 11365 points ("wouldabeen" #14, with 11755 points; and still "wouldabeen" #14 even if I had taken another minute to check Puzzle 3. Note to self: Check the damn puzzles!)
- I'm no longer in the B division, because I was in the B finals last year -- but I would have been #17 in B even with the mistakes, and "wouldabeen" #1 in B without the mistakes
- #8 of solvers in their 50s ("wouldabeen" #2)
- #5 in New England ("wouldabeen" #3, behind Joon Pahk (who was in the A finals and placed 2nd) and Katie Hamill (who started the same year I did and has been consistently, noticeably faster than me every year we were at the tournament together). Not much chance of my winning a trophy (top two solvers) in New England unless one of them stays home...
On the plus side, the mistakes were entirely avoidable, and my (relative) speed was just as fast as last year, so I am optimistic. I "wouldahad" another really great year if I had just paid a bit more attention.
For the first time, I did not beat Dr Fill (and would have been just below (about two minutes behind) in fantasyland). I concede defeat for this year, but just wait until next year!
- Puzzle 1: 4 minutes (time limit: 15 minutes; Dan Feyer (and Dan Feyer alone) solved this puzzle in 2 minutes(!)). At this point, I was in a 37-way(!) tie for 10th place.
- Puzzle 2: 7 minutes (time limit: 25; three solvers (Dan, Joon, and Erik Agard) solved this in 4 minutes). Now in a 12-way tie for 14th place.
- Puzzle 3: 7 minutes (time limit: 30; fastest time: 5 minutes (Dan and Erik)) - one mistake on this one (about which more later), and I was pretty much screwed. Tumbled down to #56.
- Puzzle 4: 6 minutes (time limit: 20; Erik Agard (and Erik Agard alone, blazing his way back from a mistake on puzzle 1 to finish in 6th place!) solved this in 3 minutes). Now at #38.
- Puzzle 5: 13 minutes (time limit: 20; fastest time (Dan, Joon, Erik): 6 minutes). Another error cemented my fate. Even with the error on puzzle 3, I "wouldabeen" #25 if not for this mistake. In reality: #61.
- Puzzle 6: 7 minutes (time limit: 30; fastest time -- 4 minutes (Dan, Erik; are you sensing a pattern yet?)). Now at #52.
- Puzzle 7: 10 minutes (time limit: 45; fastest time -- 7 minutes (Dan)). And eventually, after various scoring errors (of other solvers) were resolved, I finished at the aforementioned #39.
I made a foolish mistake on Puzzle 3. I was racing to finish under the wire of 7 minutes, and didn't take enough time to check it. I put ETAGE instead of STAGE for "Tour de France leg," creating (but not ever noticing) the crossing (non-)word THIRET instead of THIRST. Dumb. But these things happen.
Only 8 solvers solved Puzzle 3 faster than I did -- but you lose 195 points for one mistake (25-pt penalty from the time bonus for the wrong letter; 20-pt penalty for two wrong words; and 150-pt loss of the 'perfect solution' bonus). So I had the 153rd highest score, and was now in 56th place. If not for the mistake, I "wouldabeen" tied with Katie for 11th place.
I had had it in my head that since I had no hope of the A finals, I should "go for broke" and push for the fastest possible times, taking risks to try to break into the top ten. Because why not?? And I think I could possibly be capable of a top-ten finish someday if all of the stars align -- but in practice, the risks didn't quite pay off. (Note that with clean solves, I would have had to be 4 minutes faster to be in the top ten this year. It's a stretch but doable.)
Here's the thing, though: once you make a mistake, it's really hard to stop thinking about it, and that lack of focus would come back to haunt me on The Dreaded Puzzle 5. (Erik's ability to push back to a sixth-place finish after a mistake on Puzzle 1 just amazes me. Nerves of steel!!)
Puzzle 5: I was overthinking this puzzle the whole time, with part of my brain constantly telling the rest of it, "You'll probably mess up, this is going to be too hard for you." And sure enough, I was in low-level panic mode and so never fully understood the very tricky theme -- which meant that I simply wasn't able to check all of my answers. I had BALLETS instead of BILLETS (guessing at ALENE instead of ILENE for the down clue, which referred to a person I didn't know). If I had understood the theme (and honestly, it really wasn't too hard for me, and I almost figured it out, but my brain just kept sliding away from it...) -- I would have known that PHONE JACK and BILLETS mutated into PHONE BILL and JACKETS by switching the names BILL and JACK, and that PHONE BALL didn't make sense and BALL isn't a man's name anyway. (Even with that mistake, I still had the 125th highest score, which tells you just what a bloodbath Puzzle 5 is for most solvers. My score was 1340, and the median score was around 850.)
I am not complaining, mind you! #39 out of over 700 solvers is none too shabby. And I was really fast on all puzzles, not at my very top pace on a few perhaps, but nearly as fast as I can be. And I did do some pretty good clawing-back to recover somewhat after the two errors. Plus I won a prize with a second-place finish in my category on the Friday night puzzles. So there was a modicum of triumph to be had. Still, I am hoping next year will be smoother sailing! See you in Stamford!