I came, I saw, I....found the results inconclusive.
Here's the deal. The tournament (if a contest involving fewer than 75 people could be called such) was starting at 9 a.m. Already there was a large contingent of Occupy Little Rock folk outside a major archive/library on a major thoroughfare, and some kind of event with tents and port-a-potties occupying a large parking lot and adjacent grounds, and numerous walkers/bikers/stroller--pushers/joggers/runners/show-offs were traversing the river bridge and nature walk and lengthy walkways between Little Rock's RiverMarket District and The Clinton Center and Heifer International....and it was only 8:38 in the morning!!!
I drove down to Little Rock from Conway (35 miles of Interstate, less than 1 mile of city streets) and met my good friend, who was the 2010 champion. We staked out a table and waited for Puzzle Day to commence.
My recollection could be garbled...but not the Big Oops part.
In a nutshell:
Puzzlers were generally Sudoku solvers and Cruciverbalists (with a few switch-hitters in the mix.) Thanks to anonymity, tables had mixes of aficionados. No problem. Sheets were handed out (face down) and everyone at our Good-Student table wrote his/her name on the back of the sheet. (Insert interminable introductory activities here--including the announcement that no bonus for early completion would be awarded. Accuracy counted, alone..)
First puzzle--Judge Vic Fleming's Wednesday-level puzzle, 15 minutes: So, like a hot knife through butter, I zoomed through that one and had my hand up forEVER before a minion appeared to take the page. Not that it mattered, but my arm did get tired. Felt completely confident.
Second puzzle--the puzzle is very small--possibly 10-pt type, and it's difficult to read the numerals and the clues. Slightly slower solve, but I'm feeling sure that I had it down pat.
Third puzzle: an offering from newbie Milo B-someone--a debut puzzle (although I thought I recognized his name)...15-y-o Harvard freshman: (Please. God, make him such a nerd that he doesn't know rock bands!)...Aha! It takes most of the 15 allotted minutes, but I felt I had a solid solve.
Announcements: the top scorers from both Sudoku and Crossword groups are summoned to Finalists' Tables. My friend's name is called, but not my name....meaning that I had an error of some kind. I am surprised but resigned. A woman next to me asks if we'll be able to see our papers later, and we are told to inquire after the Finals. Solving ensues. The very difficult but clever puzzle keeps us all busy and quiet, until Judge Fleming stops the play. All of the Finalists had completed work inside the 30 minute allowance, so he stops the clock with 2:30 minutes remaining. (I am nearly finished.)
My friend finishes third of three Finalists. She wins a crossword calendar; (both of us are still way behind on our 2011 prize-calendar puzzle-solving.) Applause, applause.
The lady I'm next to and I seek a peek at our (failing) puzzles, along with a couple of other folk. The alphabetized sheets are grouped by puzzle number, so I easily sort out the W's. Puzzle One--100%; Puzzle Two--100%. (What I expected...) Puzzle Three--100%. Huh?
Well, I gather these sheets and go up to the dais, where my friend is still chatting with Vic Fleming....and I ask, 'What's up with this?' as I flourish the three qualifying 100%s tastefully across my bosom.
Ah, well, Mistakes do happen. I should have been competing in the Finals.
Here's the thing: in the age of computers, humans are still keying in the data. Some people are better at Attention to Detail than others; some are more able to manage stress and pressure. Through no fault of my own, I fell through the cracks; (was it the 30 lbs. I have lost this year?)
The two top finishers completed the final puzzle well ahead of me. If the clock had not been stopped, I might have finished the final puzzle, but I wouldn't have beaten those two. Had I been in the Finals (as I should have been) the only 'win' would have been at the cost of beating my good friend! What the heck. I had a great time, the puzzles were delightful, and I'll come back next year for another run. All in all, A Good Day!
My picture MAY be in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Which we don't take.