Lollapuzzoola 8 was this weekend and what do you know, my man Francis Heaney finally won a crossword tournament. He'd come close before, and probably a couple other times I can't remember. But everybody loves it when somebody who's been knocking on the door forever finally wins one. (Anne Erdmann, I'm still pulling for you at next year's ACPT). Anyway, good times this weekend, and if you're thinking about doing the puzzles, read no further and just click here to get yourself a copy of said puzzles. They're fun and only $10.
So how'd the ole' BEQ do? I'm happy to report 26th overall out of 194 competitors. Not too shabby for a guy who (a) took the 2:00 a.m. Greyhound down Saturday morning which meant he (b) barely slept at all the night before and oh yeah, (c) had a beer with 5th place finisher Eric Maddy while we watched some of the Chelsea match during lunch break. So what does that all mean? The whole day was a bit of a blur, that's for sure. I remember speed solving legend Ellen Ripstein telling me that a lot of top solvers don't really spend too much time figuring out the themes, and mostly solve with crossings only. Well, ain't that the truth. I can safely say what the themes were for the first and last puzzles (the two most-straightforward), but the other three, I'm pretty sure I couldn't explain any of them without fudging it, a little. It's a scary way to compete, kind of like combining the skills of Usain Bolt and Phillipe Petit. Good times.
One puzzle I do remember was the finals puzzle. It was by Kevin Der, and it has all the Der trademarks: an erudite, almost classical feel to the vocabulary in a wide-open overall grid with hardly any three-letter entries. This one had a theme, though. Normally, finals puzzles for these tournaments are themeless sprints, but this time Kevin had a really clever gimmick running throughout. My honest take? I thought that was a missed opportunity as the gimmick was so elegant (another Der trademark) that to put it in a finals puzzle felt like a bit of a letdown to not have it on a bigger stage. Then again, it's not the first time Kevin's dropped a tour de force for Lollapuzzoola (I'm thinking about "Animal Magnetism" which was a couple years ago). Having said that, a themed finals made for fascinating theater. The top three solvers: the aforementioned Heaney, Trip Payne and Erik Agard just looked at the puzzle for a good minute before tentatively starting to crack it open. And then, it was a slow struggle until they had to figure out a theme was at stake. Honestly, knowing that it was themed didn't really help them at all. The crossword was like a P90X workout in every corner. So yeah, it was kind of wild to see such inhuman talents struggle for nearly the whole allocated 15 minutes just to finish the thing. Real good times.
Share the puzzle. New one on Thursday.