I'm not going to attempt to put all of the Crossword Puzzle Tournament weekend into anything resembling chronological order. I think Amtrak jostled my brain so bad that a lot of the memories are starting to run together, all the sweet green icing flowing down. So I'll tell you about it as it comes to me.
I met Will Shortz Friday night, got his autograph, told him how much I appreciate his work. He recognized my name -- maybe from all the years I've done the solve-by-mail ACPT option -- and he was the first of many people to tell me that there is a Robert Moy who also competes at the tournament (more about Moy later.) I told him how excited I was to be there and that I would have come before before I hate going North at the end of Spring. And he said, "Well, I've got good news for you. We're moving South next year." (South to Brooklyn, where the 2008 tournament wil be held.) Will Shortz is a visionary. He was at the forefront of the movement that revolutionized crossword puzzles in the late 1970s. There hadn't been any real crossword competitions since the crossword fad of the 1920's, and nobody thought it was a good idea, and now there are lots of people just like me, already looking forward to next year.
I met Merl Reagle too, and he told me about Robert Moy as well. I got to spend a couple of minutes with Peter Gordon, the crossword editor of the New York Sun. I told him I much I enjoyed the Sun's puzzles, but I was still a little irked about one clue from a month or so ago. The clue was "bug midsection" (6 letters). The answer was "SHORTU" as in a short U vowel sound in the middle of the word "bug." I'm fine with the clue, I just thought it should have a question mark to show that it involved some wordplay or misdirection. Anyway, Peter said it wasn't his, it must have been the Times. So that was embarrassing. Although I could still swear it was the Sun. Oh well.
On the the seventh and final puzzle I sat by Scott Weiss, the guy who engineered the first and only three-way tie on Jeopardy. I told him that I saw him do the tie, but I didn't catch the next episode so I didn't know what happened after that. He said he lost, and I asked him if he was still glad that he went for the tie. And he laughed. "No, of course not!"
My goal for my first tournament was to finish in the top 50 per cent. Since there were 700 people there, that meant I was shooting for 349. I got a couple lucky breaks in that the two times I had to guess at a letter (one was for COHO salmon, which I'd never heard of, and one involved a three-letter abbreviation for lawyer, and I couldn't tell if it was "ATT" or "ATY") I guessed right. When the standings were posted on Sunday morning, I was in 158th place. And after the last puzzle I moved up ten spaces to finish at 148. That's top 20 per cent. So that was exciting. (Well, thrilling, actually, but I don't want to sound like too much of a crossword nerd.)