Unbelievably, this is my first post since landing on Planet Stamford yesterday evening. What took me so long? Maybe since I take the competition aspect of this thing a bit seriously, breaking each puzzle down into the time I expect to finish it in, anticipating whose puzzles will show up where (Paula Gamache first basically a given), monitoring the early returnees, getting feedback from those who have fallen. And bumping into the folks I generally see once or twice a year, with twenty old friends bumped into on the way to the registration desk alone.
I am doing very well on the competition front, having saved up 112 minutes in solving the six puzzles. The rough solves as advertised by Will Shortz weren't terribly Waldenesque, with Cathy Millhauser and Merl "The Evil Genius" Reagle providing the supposed brain strains. It looks very good at this point for me to carry that New Jersey trophy back to Eatontown, if not the bragging rights for all PathMark employees everywhere.
Talking to the constructors, now my merry mentors, has provided many colorful stories. Byron Walden told me a great story about how the clue Last character seen in "Casablanca" was a homage to a clue from a British cryptic (Joiner character in "Pyramus & Thisbe" (9)). Rich Norris talked of the traps laid and super clues placed in today's New York Times. And Merl Reagle, that jolly old elf, never stops being Merl Reagle.
Tonight is kick back mode, with "Wordplay" outtakes and a contest centered around a Francis Heaney puzzle which will include a combo words not seen since the dawn of Farrar and words Shortz hasn't even learned existed yet. The action will be videotaped for a Discovery Channel show focusing on words. Then comes a batch of great board games in the main ballroom, and an informal video program presented by the Brothers which will include three epsiodes of the 1986 version of "Crosswits" and some crossword-related surprises. Tomorrow, the final two puzzles, one by Stanley Newman, the other by Bob Klahn. And the awards -- and maybe some glory thrown in.