Thursday, 3/28/19

Add your times here.

ACPT 2019: Eight Is Enough?

No, I'm not retiring. Years ago I promised that if I won 8 ACPTs in a row, I'd hang it up. Since then, it's become clear that I don't have a lock on this thing: I've been thoroughly beaten in the finals by Howard and Erik, and nearly taken down twice by Tyler. It felt good to win the old-fashioned way this year. Now that I don't have any more records or goals to achieve, I'll feel better about it when Erik kicks my ass again in the future, and when Joon and David and others win their own much-deserved titles. I have no plans to stop competing, but the ACPT may be a lower priority going forward.

A few comments (no spoilers) on the puzzle action itself. I solved Puzzle 1 under two minutes, again without trying to - everything just broke the right way, I used the theme to work faster (not usually the case on easy puzzles), and never misread or had to erase anything. On the disappointing side, I failed to solve Puzzle 4 in under three minutes for the first time since my rookie year. It was a particularly tricky one, but I felt like I was on pace, until I checked the clock and saw three minutes had already elapsed!

After the hardest Puzzle 4 ever, we got one of the easiest Puzzles 5 ever, and when I grasped the theme quickly I felt a huge sense of relief - not because I was moving fast, but because it would likely keep Erik from making up too much ground after his error on Puzzle 1. Sure enough, Erik finished the preliminary puzzles essentially just one minute shy of the top 3. If he'd had a chance to obliterate the field on Puzzle 5 (having beaten everyone by three minutes last year), my chances of regaining the title would have diminished.

In the final round, I felt great almost all the way through. The top and left sections fell very quickly before I got stuck a few times. I knew my pace was good, but still worried that Joon or David would pass me while I was puttering around in the center and lower-right sections. Fortunately, even the three wrong answers I wrote in (at 31-Down, 35-Across, and 47-Down) didn't slow me down too much. I was telling people all weekend that I was more confident about this final puzzle than in recent years - not because we all assumed (and hoped) it was by Robyn Weintraub, but because it was a 70-worder instead of the 64, 62, 60-word constructions I'd had so much trouble with. More words means shorter words, and I've seen all the clues for shorter words. Case in point: 4-Down was a gimme, despite being fairly obscure, so it didn't matter that I never understood the impenetrable clue at 1-Across.

I know you're really here for the solving times, so I'll close with those. As always, these are approximate because I check the clock before finishing, not after:
Puzzle 1: 1:55
Puzzle 2: 3:50
Puzzle 3: 4:15
Puzzle 4: 3:10
Puzzle 5: 5:30
Puzzle 6: 3:50
Puzzle 7: 6:45

...And I never got around to posting times from 2018, so in the interest of completeness, here's last year's numbers:
Puzzle 1: 2:10
Puzzle 2: 3:40
Puzzle 3: 4:30
Puzzle 4: 2:55
Puzzle 5: 7:30
Puzzle 6: 5:00
Puzzle 7: 6:45