Thanks are in order. How many thanks? Dozens! (Yes, we’re pretending that “thanks” is a plural form of a count noun here.) In no particular order:
- Thank you, SethG, for the tireless guest blogging here at Diary of a Crossword Fiend.
- Will Shortz, thanks for running a crossword tournament for 33 years and gathering the very best people to make it a success. This was my sixth year at the ACPT and it’s always a ridiculously good time.
- Thank you, Helene Hovanec, for the being the logistics and management savant who coordinates the behind-the-scenes arrangements and does so with good humor. I think this year’s tournament went off even more smoothly than the last five, and I know that much of the credit belongs to you.
Please click the “read more” button because good gravy, there are a lot of other fabulous people I want to call your attention to.
- Much gratitude to Matt Ginsberg for the technical wizardry and initiative in creating the new scoring system. It worked great last year but from my perspective it was even better this year. Hundreds of laptops and smartphones glowed with regularly updated standings on Saturday and Sunday. Just knowing where we stood early on and having a chance to catch any scoring mistakes knocked out a long-lived source of contestant stress. All that antsiness of not knowing if you might’ve made a careless error? Gone! And I hear the judges love the massive streamlining of their job. Matt, you don’t even need to bring almond roca—you’re that good.
- Further kudos to Will Shortz for embracing Matt’s system and investing in new equipment for maximum smoothosity, and thanks to the rest of the technical team—Doug Heller, Joe Cabrera, and…I don’t know who else, but I’ll add their names here if there are others.
- The constructors! I really enjoyed all eight of the ACPT puzzles this year. Sometimes I feel a little “ehh” about one or two of them, but this year? Loved ’em all. I mean, I thought two clues were basically wrong, but still, fun crosswords. The constructors were Elizabeth Gorski, Merl Reagle, Maura Jacobson, Brendan Emmett Quigley (tough #5), Mike Nothnagel, Stan Newman (thank goodness he didn’t write #5!), Mike Shenk (finals puzzle with wicked A division clues), and Patrick Berry.
- Wordplay director Patrick Creadon, a genuinely nice guy, presented the awards on Sunday. He knows so many of the trophy winners that he had lots of warm annotations that past presenters simply couldn’t. He called me “the world-famous Amy Reynaldo,” and isn’t that just the sweetest thing?
- Thanks to Tyler Hinman for being so nice that nobody could really resent him for winning the ACPT five years in a row. He wasn’t in the finals this year, but richly deserved the standing ovation he received at the awards presentation. Shouldn’t his number be retired now?
- I would be completely exhausted and frazzled today if not for my friend Nancy Shack. We often book the same flights for the ACPT trip and split cabs. When our 6 p.m. flight was cancelled yesterday afternoon (with rebooking on a 6 a.m. flight), Nancy had the presence of mind to declare that we had to get to the airport pronto. I had no idea that was the thing to do in such a situation and only got home last night (earlier than originally planned!) because of Nancy. Word to the wise, if your flight’s cancelled and it’s not because the whole airport’s shut down due to weather, head to the airport. Apparently that is where they keep the other airplanes that might take you where you need to go.
- Thanks to Peter Gordon, Tyler Hinman, Barry Weprin, and Dave Sullivan for the cocktails. They are gentlemen all.
- Continual thanks to Janie Smulyan, Joon Pahk, Jeffrey Krasnick, Angela Halsted, and Sam Donaldson for being part of the Diary of a Crossword Fiend blogging/guest-hosting team. (And congrats to Joon for being the top rookie, winning the B finals, and placing 16th overall in his first year. Congrats to Jeffrey for being the top solver in the Foreign division. And congrats to Sam for his E division third-place trophy.)
- Thanks and a hiccup to the constructors who crafted the crosswords for the wee Tipsy Tourney I organized for Thursday night. Angela Halsted edited two puzzles: Pete Mitchell and Janet Siefert made a wickedly tough themed puzzle (a indication of its rigor: It took mildly tipsy Tyler Hinman nearly 12 minutes to complete it, and I was a minute and a half behind Tyler), and Barry Haldiman made a fun tipsy-themed puzzle. I’ll post the puzzles in the Island of Lost Puzzles tonight so you can enjoy them too.
- I was not expecting to be puzzled after the ACPT concluded, but at the airport killing time before our flight, the genial Ben Bass blew my mind with card tricks. I know magicians try to draw your eyes away from what they’re really doing but no matter how hard I tried to figure out how the tricks were done, I remained utterly stumped. Ben blogs (and contributes to) Will Shortz’s Sunday Puzzle on NPR and his blog name cracks me up.
- Most crossword constructors and editors are male, so as a woman I find it’s heartening to connect with other women in the business. A few of us met for a restorative breakfast this weekend, and I thank them all for their perseverance in a male-dominated field. Thanks for the breakfast conversation, Bonnie Gentry, Karen Tracey, Nancy Schuster, Donna Levin, C.W. Stewart, Andrea Carla Michaels, and Deb Amlen. (Here’s hoping others can join us next year!)
- Most of the top solvers are men, too. Thanks to Anne Erdmann for striding boldly into the A finals and reminding everyone that Ellen’s not the only woman who can get there. Anne had the full support of the other women in the top 20: Stella Zawistowski, Katherine Bryant, Ellen Ripstein (of course), Katie Hamill, and me. Represent!
- Thanks, ever and again, to Dave Sullivan for his technical savvy and style. He developed the new look for Diary of a Crossword Fiend a few months ago and handled all the HTML heavy lifting. That handy-dandy Today’s Puzzles download page? All Dave’s doing. And he arranged a lovely group dinner for Team Fiend. Dave’s a total sweetheart with a generous spirit.
- Thanks to Dan Feyer for such an incredible ACPT finals performance. I solve the finals puzzle on paper with the A clues during the C finals. Often I finish a little faster than the finalists on the whiteboards, and people always tell me, “You know, it’s not comparable. Paper times are faster than whiteboard times, so it means nothing.” But I always tell myself I could win the finals if only I had the speed on easy puzzles you need in order to make the finals. This year? Dan was about 4 minutes faster on stage than I was on paper. He didn’t win because it was a fluke that Tyler wasn’t on stage—Dan won because he’s blazingly fast at answering even the toughest crossword clues. Congrats, Dan!