Saturday, April 30, 2011

Crosswords LA Tournament, Sunday May 1

William and Kate are all smiles because the wedding weekend schedule (pronounced shedjool) is going according to plan:

1.     Fri., April 29:  Get married in London
2.     Sat., April 30:  Hop on a plane to Los Angeles
3.     Sun., May 1:   Attend the Crosswords LA tournament at Loyola Marymount University

If you're in the L.A. area, or have access to a royal jet, please join a great group of puzzlers at tomorrow's Crosswords L.A. Tournament.  Elissa Grossman (tourney director) outdazzles herself each year, and tomorrow's event promises to be fantastic.  Elissa says:

Walk-ins welcome! Registration opens at 10. Welcome remarks at 10:45. Then puzzles ... and word games and prizes and food and nice people

I'm honored to have been asked to write one of the tournament puzzles. (Mega-bonus:  all the puzzles are custom-made for this event!)

So wish I could hop on a royal jet from NYC and join in the fun.  But I'll wear my Crosswords LA Tournament t-shirt tomorrow, in celebration of the royal tournament weekend.  Happy puzzling to all!

(You lucky tourney folks!   Let me know how it all went down . . . please leave comments re tournament results, etc. !)


Joanne said...

Alas, I cannot hop on a royal jet or even a non-royal jet either. But congrats on having one of your puzzles featured there!

David R said...

Thank you Liz, your puzzle was probably the most entertaining for this first time competitor. I didn't have the opportunity to look it over like I would've liked with the time constraints but what I saw was quite enjoyable.

Tyler made the evil puzzle of the tourney which I came oh so close to solving and Blindauer had the most creative puzzle without the constraints of a "typical" puzzle. I'll probably be back for more punishment next year.

Jordan said...

Liz, I loved your Puzzle #5. It's always fun (because it happens so rarely) when an entry's a gimme for me and a hope-I-got-it-from-the-crossings for others; in this case, Ruth REICHL. More restaurant critics (and critics in general), please! (I know, she went on to do more than restaurant reviews, but that's what I remember from her days at the LAT.) Thanks also for your really sweet note, I appreciate it!

Crosswords LA was once again a great event, thanks to Elissa and everyone else involved, from constructors to scorers to other volunteers. They always make it seem to run seamlessly even when it ain't. This year's was the biggest yet.

Crosswords #1 (by Alex Boisvert) and #3 (by Suzy I-don't-want-to-misspell-her-last-name) were good solid traditional Monday or Tuesday type puzzles.

Patrick Blindauer's #2 was somewhat harder, mostly because of a twist that saw several answers start on the right side of the grid and finish on the left side in the same row. E.g., the entry "SCREAM AT" was entered as "SCRE" on the right side of one row and "AMAT" on the left. This tripped up a lot of the rookies, but the puzzle itself was at a very reasonable level and the trick, while not intuitive, seems like it probably should come to you within 30 minutes if you've ever dealt with "hyphen puzzles." (Early on, though, I did keep scouring the left side praying that just one of the clues I needed wouldn't be a hyphen; alas, they all were.) I would say that in the heat of the moment the mash-up of the roll-over trick with long entries in the form of the words to "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" (for which we were all grateful) did not pack a coherent punch to me.

Tyler's #4 was a really good, really fun puzzle, not actually crazy hard except for the extra-credit part that I spent far too much time trying to suss out and ended up giving up on. The idea was that in seven squares, the words going across and down (which were "clashing colors," the long theme entry and possible title) used different letters. The trick, as I later found out, was that one new letter could be used to make new words in each direction, and those read from top to bottom to form the extra credit word PALETTE. All totally cool, but somehow it didn't have maximum oomph to me, maybe because the new words were just any old words. Somehow it felt like if Gaffney did it, the new words would all be related in some unbelievable way. Or maybe not.

Jordan said...

More generally, a couple of thoughts occur: To many of the newcomers, I think having both an unusually hard AND tricky Puzzle #2 and this really hard AND tricky Puzzle #4 may have been a bit much. I could be all wet, but I'm guessing the number of unfinished puzzles on #2 and #4 might have been atypically high - and that may be a bit discouraging. The way one of the top folks put it was, these puzzles were great fun for us, but I'm just not sure whether two of them was a bit too much for many of the folks we are trying to bring in (if we are in fact trying to do so).

Also, I heard that different people put the entries in the grid in different ways. Some with slashes separating the alternate letters, some with both letters, some with all three letters (including the substitute letter), some with just the substitute letter. Aside from the scoring issues and difficulties, I just think the uncertainty created by that is really nervewracking for a lot of solvers (it definitely is for me), and I think it should be addressed really explicitly beforehand and if it's impossible to do that without ruining the puzzle, sacrifice the puzzle. My opinion only.

Liz's #5 was back to a Thursday type puzzle - no tricks, just really snappy clues and fill.

Then came Karen Tracey's puzzle in the final, and what a puzzle. 24 of the 26 letters were used (no F or V), including 10 P's (without seeming like it) and 3 each of X, Y and Z. If you saw this moron in a black t-shirt who had about five letters in the grid after several minutes (mostly S's at the ends of plurals, at least one of which turned out to be wrong), yeah, that was I. I quickly assumed I would once again have to take solace in trying to complete the puzzle within the alotted time. This must have relaxed me, because then I was able to slowly grind it out, making bad guesses freely (and often) and erasing with my hand. I am biased, but I think it's a terrific puzzle, a really smooth mix of some perhaps slightly "crosswordese" entries (rankers, rewon) with super-cool rarities, Saturday Stumper-esque clues, and in-the-language gems (TARIQ AZIZ, RECTI, ROPE TRICK, KOTOS, SLATHERED, TOSS ASIDE, "Shift, e.g." for DRESS, ECHINACEA, STOCK PART, SILK PURSE, "Kind of mean?" for GEOMETRIC, IDLE BOAST, UTRILLO).

Again, the key phrase, as I said in a note to Karen, was "hard but fair." I think this was a great choice by Elissa and her crew for the final puzzle: a genuinely hard puzzle that most non-crossword people would pick up and look at like it's in a foreign language, but fair, with wildly diverse subject matter and different footholds for different folks - and no gimmicks that leave solvers in the heat of an already pressure-packed moment wondering whether, for example, the desired answer is just a picture of a circle, or the word "circle" coming down and the word "hoop" going across. I have absolutely no problem with rebus puzzles - love 'em - but to me this is what a final puzzle should be.

I assumed that when I turned around, I would again see everyone rolling their eyes, waiting for me finally to finish, but to my amazement, the Erics finished (VERY shortly) after me, and it was a great one-shot win for me before they once again reassert their dominance.

La Liz said...

Wow, thanks for the play-by-play! Sounds like a great event, and I love the way Elissa choreographed a diverse puzzle line-up; there was something for everyone.

Jordan, you're amazing . . not only do you solve beautifully, but you have total recall of the proceedings. That's a great solving skill. Congrats to you.

David, I'm so glad that you'll re-up for Tourney 2012 . . . Elissa seems to outdo herself with each year.

Joanne, congrats to you on your new blogging gig. Good times!