PROGRAM: [Across Lite]
Call it coincidence. I made this puzzle after my man Joon Pahk suggested I'd make a killer "Movin' On Up" theme. And hey, why not make a good tribute puzzle for the late great Sherman Hemsley? But wouldn't you know, this puzzle runs on the same day I'd be talking about two of my favorite people in the puzzle world. Two who are clearly movin' on up the ranks of crossword tournaments.
Lollapuzzoola 5 is taking place this Saturday in Manhattan, and it's going to be hosted by those dashing dudes in the above picture: Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer. Lolla is the underground cult classic alternative to the grandaddy American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Certainly, it's the biggest tournament that was launched from a crossword podcast (the late great "Fill Me In"). The puzzles are made by some of the top names in the business and the emphasis on the day-long contest is irreverent fun. I should know. I had a puzzle in Lolla 2, and competed in Lolla 3, going up against my arch-nemesis Jared Hersh. Please consider coming down.
I'd be there if I didn't have other obligations. UPDATE:I am going. See you there. (If you can't make it, like me, consider doing the play at home.)
Brian and Patrick took a minute out of their busy schedules for an interview. So, let's do this.
BEQ: Did you ever think that you'd do this many Lollapuzzoolas? Any wood-related gifts for the winners to celebrate the fifth anniversary (traditionally)?
Brian: This question requires a major tip of the hat to [now retired Lollapuzzoola co-founder] Ryan Hecht. Hosting a tournament was initially his idea, and it was a great idea. I'm so glad we did it. I think there were about 25 people in the room that first year, and we certainly lost money, but it was totally worth it. I've certainly always hoped there'd be a longevity to Lollapuzzoola, and making it to our fifth is a great milestone. I'll look forward to my BEQ interview at Lollapuzzoola 10!
BEQ: What's Ryan up to nowadays anyway?
Brian: Ryan decided to go back to school a couple years ago, and also got very seriously involved in both improvisational comedy and long distance running (obvious pairing, right?). He came back to Lollapuzzoola 4, and won the coveted "Highest Score By A Former Lollapuzzoola Co-Host" award. I believe he'll be at the tournament this weekend as a volunteer.
BEQ: Patrick, how'd you get involved with the proceedings?
Patrick: I was a competitor for the first three years, and I had such a blast. The chemistry between Ryan and Brian was obvious, and I was a big fan of their former podcast, too. (Alas, my Tuesday mornings aren't nearly as fun since they stopped doing the show.) Brian asked me to cohost starting last year, and I didn't hesitate in the slightest. We had became friends by then, both through the podcast and when Brian did some temping at the office where I work, Sterling Publishing. We also have a shared love of musical theater, so we've rarely been at a loss for conversation, whether chatting about puzzles or shows (or puzzles about shows).
BEQ: Tell us a little bit about the puzzles (if you can).
Patrick: Can't say too much about the tourney puzzles beforehand, but we do have a stellar roster of constructors: 'Zoola regulars Mike Nothnagel and Doug Peterson each made a puzzle; Tony Orbach and Liz Gorski made one last year and are back again; Matt Gaffney and Karen Tracey are the new kids, though they're far from new when it comes to making amazing puzzles. I think we've got some incredible stuff to share.
Brian: There's puzzles to enjoy for every type of crossword solver, and the range of difficulty levels plus our own special version of Googling answers makes this a great tournament for people who might otherwise shy away.
BEQ: One thing I liked about previous Lollas was that the puzzles tended to have at least one or two that employ a completely gonzo idea or theme. Whether it was requiring contestants to make innocuous noises, or running a puzzle on a torus. Can we expect anything like that?
Brian: We always like to do something that you can't find in your daily newspaper. "Steely" Dan Feyer constructed a "Name That Tune" puzzle our first year, where I played songs on a little electric keyboard, and the titles went into theme entries in the grids. Todd McClary did an awesome puzzle one year that was an homage to John Cage's "Four Minutes, Thirty-Three Seconds" in which the theme entries instructed the solvers to make specific noises while solving. Doug Peterson made us eat cookies once. Mike Nothnagel had the top four finishers of a puzzle play Twister. I made a puzzle one year that had a special 5x5 section of the grid outlined so that solvers could play Boggle after they were done with the crossword. Plus we always have one super hard puzzle with a brain-twisting theme to separate the pack.
You never know what lies in store. Although we promised no more Twister.
Saturday, August 4th, 10am-5pm
All Souls Church, 1157 Lexington Avenue (at 79th Street)
$25 to pre-register; $30 at the door; add $5 to stay for the pizza party
$50 for the Pairs Division; $10 for the At Home Division
www.bemoresmarter.com has a PayPal link for easy registration