From the Archive

Crossword Tournament Dispatch #3

February 20th, 2010 at 6:46 pm ET

The first 6 puzzles are done. This year (like last) they’re scanning and posting our scored puzzle sheets online for review, and my #1, 2, 4 and 5 are now up. I had perfect completions on all except Brendan Quigley’s devilish #5, on which I choked (although every square I did fill in was correct, so I had no penalties).

No standings are up, so it’s really hard to know how I’m doing — if everyone else was hit as hard as I was by 5, my performance just might have been par for my level.

At the breaks, everyone was trying to handicap what the incrementally reduced attendance (due to the economy) would mean for the standings. This is especially important for people like me, who rank near a division boundary.

Last year, out of a field of 800 or so, I was in the top quintile or so of C division, in the 180s. In a field of the same size, all other things being equal, I’d only have to improve 25 places or so to cross into B division (and, in theory, if I had a great year I could conceivably have had a shot at the C championship round this year).

But with attendance down 10-15 percent, what does that mean for me? The sense of the group (and here I’m reproducing gossip from the smoking clique from the front steps, most of whom are high B’s and low A’s, which is passed to me by my high-B tournament buddy): the dropoff will mostly be in C and below, since A’s and B’s are the ones most likely to figure out a way to make it to the tournament no matter what. (If you’re an A, and you’ve been coming for 10 years; or if you’re a puzzle constructor; or if you’re Jim Jenista who starts working on his costumes for next year as soon as he gets home, dude, you’re coming.) This doesn’t bode well for me, since it just incrementally biases the field as a whole toward the top of the scale. (We’ll see…)

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