Friday evening through Saturday lunch break, or puzzles 1-3.
The first thing I noticed was the theme clothing. Crossword grids worn in some new and imaginative ways. I thought it was hokey at first, but I realized my crossword-themed cookies were exactly the same: a badge to identify me as a member of this club.
Friday evening we found Mike Alpern who organized the CRU dinner for which we had tickets. We met Roy Leban then too and talked about Puzzazz.
It is a great app and I use it often. I have downloaded a few BEQ crossword collections on Puzzazz and that might have helped me a bit with Brendan's notoriously tricky Puzzle 5 Saturday afternoon. I talked to nobody at the dinner and left early. I am hopelessly introverted by nature and find it difficult to make an effort especially at the end of the day.
Later in the evening I stopped by the variety puzzle event. There were 10 areas, each hosted by a constructor and featuring a variety (weird) puzzle. We were invited to sample four. I tried Fred Piscop's "Split decisions". Having never seen such a puzzle, I stared stupidly at the page for 10 of the 15 minutes until I understood what was expected of me. Next up was Rich Silvestri's cryptic crossword puzzle. I consider myself the "Cryptic Queen" and have conquered the London Sunday Times on many occasions so I figured I stood a chance. Nope. Completed half. Defeated and humbled I hung my head and headed to bed.
Saturday morning I woke up feeling excited and raring to go. I had found some robust coffee finally and although I don't usually care about having a morning cup of joe, I was feeling the need for good strong dark roast. Thus fortified, I headed for the lobby. The place was buzzing with folks wearing their ACPT credentials, sitting in every available chair and doing crosswords. iPads were popular and smartphones. Many had clipboards with printed puzzles (this was my choice too). I found myself looking at and identifying with folks and feeling more and more at home.
Then something magical happened. Vic Fleming, constructor and all around nice guy, extended a hand and we started talking. He introduced me to every single person who happened by, including young David Steinberg (I bet he's tired of being called young). I was feeling bold and requested a photo!
You can see by the grin that crossword puzzle fever has trumped introversion now and that grin stayed on my mug for the rest of the tournament.
Then Deb found me and graciously accepted some cookies that were well-traveled and a tad dry by now, but remember the cookies were my crossword calling card!
By now I was getting the hang of this picture-as-proof thing and posed with a few more celebs:
The first three puzzles began at 11 a.m. Saturday and I was cheered to discover that the nerves/excitement I felt helped me focus. I had feared a kind of deer-in-the-headlights stagefright. Or the anxiety of performing in a room with 587 other people. I was afraid the clock would distract me. I thought the early finishers would cause me to lose heart. But Will's words to the rookies were a big help. He told us to solve just as we would at home. Not to race. I did just that. And I found a groove and a pace and really began to enjoy myself. It was hard not to sigh or gasp or call out "Aha!" or "You bastard!" but apart from the occasional grunt I was mum. I did not look up. Not at the clock. Not at the people leaving.
I felt confident after the first three puzzles. I had written down my own times so I could measure something (I'm not sure what) because the times aren't really posted on line. What are posted are scans of one's own actual grids. I still can't get over this. It's fabulous to see your puzzle with no yellow highlighter (indicating omissions and errors)! Thrilling. And I'm happy to report all three of those puzzles were "clean". My ranking was 145th after 3 puzzles. All this was available on the ACPT website. I didn't know about it at first, but my neighbours in the auditorium looked me up and so did our own Karma Sartre who sent me an encouraging word! I was really getting enthusiastic now!