This year's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament was probably my favorite ever. I'm trying to put my finger on why. I mean, I did the usual socializing with friends, which is always fun, and I had a personal best performance that I'm chuffed about, but I suspect a lot of the good feeling about this year centered around the delightful joy of watching Howard Barkin pull out a dramatic upset in the finals, beating reigning champ Dan Feyer by a nose.
I met Howard behind the elevators late Saturday evening at my first ever ACPT where he was walking off the nerves from being in the running to be on the stage at the finals. So he's been chasing this win for a while, plus he's just the sweetest nicest guy, and when he won yesterday, not only did the crowd jump to their feet cheering, but it also turned into a massive hug fest.
Now, yes, some of that comes from Howard and how much people love him, but the tone was set early in the weekend, as people were feeling the absence of the late great crossword constructor Merl Reagle. I didn't really know Merl, but he touched the lives of many people I do know, including Michael, with his generosity, wit, and brilliance. There were events that celebrated Merl that got us all more than a little teary and I think that contributed to the overall sense of lets-all-just-get-along.