i competed in my first american crossword puzzle tournament this weekend! i signed up to participate in person last year, booked a weekend at the stamford marriott ("you kick butt in that tournament!" said my reservation gal) and called dibs on a seat at the welcome dinner, then was promptly informed that the tournament was pandemic-stymied and maybe moving to later in the spring, or beyond (have you made plans based on will shortz's analysis of a potential global pandemic? it's chewy). i felt pretty good about how i was doing as of early this saturday afternoon, as i had four clean puzzles and had only missed one square in the bloodbath that is puzzle five, but two of my first five scores weren't showing up. but hey! clean puzzles, decent speed, and i reported my score glitches and figured the correction would puff me up to the first quartile, based on my back-of-the-bookmark-i-found-on-the-floor math.

no, no. i got a couple emails from the tech team at the ACPT this morning explaining that i'd started my puzzles far later than i should have (35 minutes in one case), per the rules (which they hyperlinked)—though when i read those rules they just said that they "must be solved when they are released." well, sure? i asked in the global chat about how long contestants had to start each of the puzzles, and apparently it's 60 seconds (per something will shortz said in an introductory livestreamed thing yesterday that was not described as compulsory.) internets, i was in no danger of doing really well in this tournament, but i got a little shirty when i got that email today about my lack of alacrity. i know that my reading comprehension is execrable as a general proposition, so when i know that i've overcorrected you are also going to know that i've overcorrected.

last night was the mingling portion of the tournament, and i joined zoom chats for both a 19-year-old standup comic from canada who told crossword jokes and a powerpoint presentation from a man who's had 13 puzzles published in the new york times (when i logged into the room he said, "oh, lauren has joined, so i should start over!") and had extensive correspondence between himself and both will shortz and will shortz's assistant. most of the saturday night presenters seem to have actually been at the stamford marriott—the comic was in the basement and made cracks about will shortz's EDM leaking down through the ceiling, and the puzzle designer was clearly sitting at a table in a ballroom with big old headphones and other loud-talking presenters leaking into his scene from elsewhere in the room.

things you should know about this year's confluence, per my notes:

i am usually a very sloppy rule-reader, but i read them all for this, and i think that you’re kind of asking someone to nitpick with you if you tell them their scores were DQ’ed because of rules (that you then hyperlink) and those rules don’t support what you said. i even re-read them just now to see if there was a Will Shortz Voice of God clause that made anything he said instant canon, and there is not; the closest they have is a line about how their decisions are final.

also please note that there is a player in the global chat known as Won’t Shortz

there is no talent show this year. instead there is a pre-taped crossword esoterica presentation.

oh man there’s a musical component.

it’s a rapped retelling of theseus and the minotaur

holy shit. consensus in the global chat: that totally slapped

okay, filmed finals with color commentary coming up

whenever someone’s name is called they list their letters’ point count afterward, eg OPHIRA EISENBERG (15)

much joking about how anyone who got the pfizer vaccine doesn’t have to film themselves completing the puzzles.

drawing out the pregame banter because the actual final will be about 3 minutes long.

asking the presumptive (and very taciturn) winner if he’s being held against his will.

also much trash talk: “pencils are for golfers and children”


and seeing the way they typed i get why this is a tech person’s game - they try incorrect things based on probability vs putting in words they know for sure first, and they don’t go straight down the acrosses and then straight through the downs - they solve quadrants.

in my heart and on my scratch pad i was in the top quartile, reader.


the dirty dozen {twelve youtube comments about kate bush}

Doctor : you have 4 minutes to live
Me : play Wuthering Heights
Doctor : but it's 4:26
God : it's ok

friend: your crush is coming, quick act normal

03 Absolutely sad and strange underrated song. One of the favorites songs of 2pac.

04 If she was a ghost, she wouldn't have to ask to get back in, she'd simply go through the wall.

05 St Vincent said in a interview that Wuthering Heights is her karaoke song

06 They play this continuously at the supermarket I work at. The speakers are on a really weird volume and all you can hear is the high pitches part of the vocals and it took me forever to Shazam, glad I found it though

07 no algorithm brought you here..... you searched for it

It's just a song it can't hurt you
the song:

09 That first pointed synth goes right into my rib.

10 So 36 years later, and we all agree this is still a God-tier song, right?

11 Play this at my funeral, and I will not come back to haunt you.

12 Dancing in my kitchen with Samsung at 75 years old, stay young everybody


i read a bunch of reviews of the movie we watched this evening as well; this time it was the story of a pair of demonic pants, not to be confused with the icelandic demonic pants that will produce endless riches but consign you to persecution if you have the misfortune to be wearing them when you die. i think i appreciate what it had to say about fast fashion? i definitely appreciate what it had to say about the many ways in which premium denim can be lethal. i enjoy thinking about how nondescript objects might be lethal; when i am seated at a weird table at a wedding i inevitably ask everyone how they would kill a man if they had to use the objects with which we are all surrounded, which is probably how i end up at those tables.

a terrible conversation bloomed in one of my friend groups a couple of months ago after one of us posted a news item about an unfortunate person whose medical condition rendered them unconscious for most of the pandemic. would have been great, right? a dear friend said. just being unconscious through all of this? my dear's comment was throwaway, but she launched A Whole Thing about how each of us in that friend-aggregation has felt about the pandemic, and maybe about pain and tribulation in general. me, i have been having conversations with old friends that probably wouldn't have happened until one of us died. that doesn't make me glad that we have had the year we've had, but it's ours; i'm not giving it back and i'm not forgetting.