American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

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 Crossword Tournament

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Conti's Comments

by Edmund Conti

ACROSS the river and DOWN the tubes

Its that time of year again. March Madness and the crossword puzzle tournament in Stamford CT. Therell be no Rutgers, no Princeton, no Brown (lucky for them) and no Providence College in the NCAA tournament. So I guess well all be rooting for URI and trying to remember their glory days when they were Rhode Island State and played hell-for-leather basketball. Or you can root for me in Connecticut.

Rooting for me will be as much fun as rooting for Chickenbone State (or whomever Duke is playing in that other tournament). Or the Nets. I will once again finish at the top of the bottom third or (if I remember that a wapiti is an elk) at the bottom of the middle third.

The first year I participated I finished 162 out of 250 which was good enough to get me an E rating. Youre rated A,B,C,D or E. E is not very good. The best part of being an E is that the next year I was eligible for any prizes reserved for the dummies. I figured that since I had a high E rating I could bring home a trophy. And because I did remember the wapiti (I bet you forgot already) and also that a flat plinth is an orlo, I bumped my score up to 159. Unfortunately, several others on the E-team made quantum leaps into double figures. (In the poolroom we call these people hustlers.)

All I got for my troubles and my 159 was to be put in the D category where I was forced to compete with slightly more skilled competitors. And once youre in a skill category, youre stuck there for the next five years.

So, there Ill be at the bottom of the Ds with no chance for any prize. Except, maybe, the neatness prize. However, my es (which I write in lower case because its faster) are starting to look like os. Which would be all right if they were neat-looking os.

I will be in a new age category, 70 and up. What this will buy me besides a half-price ticket at the movies, I dont know. So far Ive been the only professed poet at the tournament. But theres no category for profession. There is one for geographical area, New Jersey being considered an area in itself. I could win a prize if I were the best Jersey entrant. Im not.

Im not altogether discouraged though. I have some new strategies that might help me out. For instance, those accursed es that look like os. I will slow down and get them right. Then when I find myself looking at a three-letter poet that ends in oo, Ill realize one of those os might be an e. (Is Leo a poet?)

Another problem I have that Ill try to improve is ignoring a letter already in a word to be solved. Say I have a five-letter word for simpletons. I already have an e in the second letter, so Im pretty sure the answer is geese. So, do I fill in the g and the final ese. No. Somehow I ignore that e and put in g, e,e,s, trying to spell geese. I thus end up with - not geese - but geees.

This not only costs me valuable points toward my score, but I think I lose style points. What a goose!

One more thing Ill try to improve on but probably wont. Sometimes Ill look at a clue for 102 across and then put the answer in 103 across. This is not good for your score. Occasionally I catch the error but that means time wasted erasing and correcting.

But why are you telling us all this, you ask. Why not wait till you get there and give us one of your typically scintillating and amusing reports? Because, O Imaginary Reader, of the First Rule in column writing - Never write one column when you can write two.

And why write one poem when you can write two? (but not both today.)

TRAIN OF THOUGHT
Im tied to the rails, pondering
my fate, about to be attacked
by an oncoming train, and wondering
which of us will become untracked.

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