"Steely" Dan Feyer took it all at this year's Lollapuzzola, and to some, it wasn't much of a surprise. (He's the sexy guy on the left up above.) You may recall Dan was the man who announced, yes, damn it, he was to be taken seriously as a speed solver earlier this year in his breakout performance at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. This coming after the ungodly training session of 25+ puzzles a day. Whew! Well he's here, dammit, and he's not going anywhere any time soon. Dan pretty much owned it at Lollapuzzoola. (Coming in second, a mere seven seconds behind Dan, was Francis Heaney, who if you recall was just thisfriggingclose from winning the ACPT outright himself earlier this year. Howard Barkin, no stranger to the world of speedsolving as he was Lollapuzzoola's returning champ, placed third.)
It sounds like I'm stating the obvious in saying that the whole thing was a footrace, but these three guys were, for the most part, tied all the way through the whole tournament. I don't know if it's muscle memory or Zen or hard drugs, but nothing got by these guys. Lollapuzzoola directors Ryan Hecht and Brian Cimmet called me in to make the playing-field leveling puzzle, which I've posted up above. Slight spoiler: the gimmick of the puzzle required you to do two standard crossword gimmicks, with the hopes that solvers would talk themselves out of one or the other and not into both. Even with some hard as hell cluing, at the end of the day, it just didn't matter; Dan, Francis and Howard weren't going to be slowed down. Very humbling, but then again, I know these guys. Dan and Howard frequently post the top times on the Leaderboard to your left.
By the way, just going to throw this out there: I think that one of either Dan, Francis or Howard and let's throw in Trip Payne and (especially) Tyler Hinman could lay waste to the current Guinness Book record for speed solving the New York Times Monday puzzle. So since we're all six degrees separated, if any of you faithful readers knows how to get in touch with the right Guinness people, hit me up. We gotta set this record straight.
Anyway, Ryan and Brian put on a fantastic tournament. The whole even was filled with the humor and showmanship we've come to expect with their entertaining blog. Just a small sampling: one puzzle's theme entries were clued as dramatic reenactments of famous movies by the hosts. Another lovely feature was "Google tickets." By cashing in one ticket and incurring a scoring penalty, contestants were given any answer of their choice. One contestant, Amanda Yesnowitz, used seven tickets just on my puzzle alone. She told me later, if she had to use one, might as well use 'em all. (She did finish mine in time, a feat not all can say they did.)
Anyway, it was a blast. Hope to see you all there at Lollapuzzoola 3: This Time It's Personal. And as for today: share the puzzle. Come back on Wednesday.