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Conti's Comments

by Edmund Conti, the bard at Stamford (no, not Stratford)

[Webmaster's note: Shakespearean quotes are shown in boldface]

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. I'm back from the crossword tournament at Stamford and since I am as melancholy as a gib cat or a lugged bear (I finished even lower than last year) I thought I'd call on my friend Bill (no, not that Bill) to help me write this column.

True, I talk of dreams, which are the children of an idle brain. But, hey, I wasn't just dreaming. I did a little preparation. Not as much as a certain nameless and frustrated contestant (Let's call her, say, Susan Lucci) who vowed to do 20 puzzles a day to get ready for this year. I don't have time to do 20 puzzles a day. (Retirement is very time-consuming.) Still, I did buy a copy of Random House's Sunday Mega Omnibus with 300 puzzles.

Season your admiration for a while. I did only 200 of the puzzles. (Come on, I started in January.) Anyway I learned a lot of German and that a macle is a twinned crystal. Which is part of the problem is being fluent in cross words. I have no idea what a twinned crystal is. (Have they ever done studies of those separated at birth?)

Anyway, chok'd with ambition of the meaner sort we left for Stamford on Friday afternoon. The official seven tests (eight if you make the top three of the three skill categories) didn't begin until Saturday morning. Friday evening was a get-together and games to relieve you of any feeling you might have that you were equal to these guys. There was a deal of skimble-skamble stuff ending in human limericks. (Try to imagine each person with a word which he recited in order at a mike. On the other hand, try not to. You'll sleep better.)

The gaudy, blabbing and remorseful day. That would be Saturday when we would do the first six puzzles. The first puzzle, the supposedly easiest, had to be done in 15 minutes. Finishing correctly within the allotted time would give you a bonus of 150. Every minute you finished ahead of time gave you another 25 points. I did a little calculating for your edification, defining par as getting everything all right with no time to spare. If you parred each puzzle you would have received 8270 points, ranking you Number 151. Par is not too good in puzzleland. I finished the first puzzle just in time, getting all the answers right. Par. Humbug.

By heaven methinks it were an easy leap to pluck bright honor from the pale-fac'd moon or dive into the bottom of the deep. Well, yeah, the latter maybe. But there was bright honor to be plucked. The winner's total score (fortunately I didn't know this until Sunday or I would have gone home on Saturday) was 11920. He finished 3650 points over par. (Over is better.) That's an average of 500 points per puzzle. Meaning (and if you're not following me don't worry about it, it won't be on the test) he finished each test 20 minutes ahead of time. (Do the math--500 divided by 25). He must have been done before the first puzzle even started. And thereby hangs a tale.

I could be well content to entertain the lag-end of my life with quiet hours. Or I could come back next year with a new strategy -- cheating. I'm going to sit next to Jon Delfin and copy down everything he writes. One small problem: I'll still be copying his second word when he raises his hand to say he's done. And it would be churlish of me to cry out, "Hey, wait a minute, we're not done yet!"

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. And sisters. Oh, did I tell you I had a good time? Yes, I did. After all, the play's the thing. Besides, glory is like a circle in the water. (Thanks, Bill.) And I'll be back next year. The miserable have no other medicine but only hope.

But enough about me. Let's talk about them.

A Few Cross Words

Oh yes, I say with nonchalance. They're not smarter, just idiots savants.

Have a nice day. Do a puzzle every day. But if you can't do the one in the Monday Times, take up the saxophone.

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