Andrew Greene (530nm330hz) wrote,
Andrew Greene

BCPT writeup

Today was the Boston Crossword Puzzle Tournament. They scheduled it for a Sunday, so for the first time, I was able to solve competitively.

I got to Harvard around 12:30 and signed in. Got to see lots of NPL Krewefolk, including hahathor, devjoe, jedusor, toonhead_npl, saxikath, Ucaoimhu, LaDo, Dado, and others. mabfan and I decided to sit in the front row of the lecture hall, so we'd be able to stretch our legs during the long afternoon ahead.

After announcements and logistics, we got to work solving the first puzzle. It is the one from tomorrow's NYTimes. We were given 15 minutes to work. As I was almost done, I heard and felt a "whoosh!" as many people raised their hands and had their papers collected. I finished four seconds later, looked up and saw the clock at 10:56, took 20 seconds to review my page, and handed in my paper. Thinking back, I realized a few things that I should have done differently --- my usual solving style is to leave the long entries alone to let them emerge at their own pace; this is a great way to maximize my enjoyment of a puzzle, but a really poor strategy when time counts.

The second puzzle was, I think, from this coming Tuesday. I remembered to solve the long entries first, which helped. We had twenty minutes, and this time I messed up on time management. I finished with 15:30 left on the clock, and there was one crossing that I didn't like. I decided to take my 30 seconds to check my answers, and lost track of the time. Raised my hand with 14:58 left on the clock. The judge who collected my paper asked me which minute I'd finished in, and I said "It should have been 15, but it was 14." He said, "I know how that is. Sorry."

I was really angry with myself at this. Fortunately, between puzzles 2 and 3 Willz came out to do his NPR-like quiz, which gave me the time to collect myself and get ready for puzzle 3.

I'm not exactly sure when in the next two weeks puzzle three will run. It had an extra gimmick which made it go pretty fast; we again had 20 minutes and I raised my hand with 14:12 left on the clock. I was shaking at that point --- had gotten myself into the "don't look at the clock; check what needs checking and to hell with strategizing about seconds" mode. So I was relieved to see a small number after the colon.

Puzzle four was a Wednesday puzzle --- I'm not sure which week. We were given 25 minutes, and I finished, looked up, saw 18:04, and raised my hand without a second thought.

While on the other puzzles I just sat there quietly when I was done, at this point I needed to get out of the room. I took my bag of raisins and my water bottle and slipped out the side door. Had a nice chat in the lobby with two other solvers whom I hadn't met before, and when time was up we went back into the room.

After the winners in each division were announced, they projected the final standings on the big screen. And I was in a tie for eighth place overall; seventh in the singles division. If I hadn't messed up my time management on puzzle two, I wouldn't have moved up in the standings, but I'd have seventh singles all to myself. So my learning experience didn't end up costing me position, really. *Phew*!

Looking at the final standings (which are up on, I was one minute behind the fastest on puzzle 1, and two minutes behind on the other three puzzles. Most importantly, I finished clean.

Afterwards, I chatted briefly with Willz, and he autographed my copy of the NYT puzzle collection in which my collaboration with Gabby, TMcAy, and Jangler appears. The NPL Krewe were going out to socialize, but I had promised introverte that I'd come straight home and resume cleaning house for Passover.

Thanks to introverte for letting me take the afternoon off from Passover preparations. Thanks to those of you who gave me good advice a few weeks ago, and thanks to all the superior Boston-area solvers who didn't compete. :-) This was a great experience, and it's a thrill to be able to say I finished in the top ten.
Tags: puzzles
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