National Puzzlers' League
New York City MiniCon


by G Natural, Astoria NY

On Saturday, February 9, some 30 NPLers and assorted hangers-on convened in the community room of Val-U's West Side apartment building for the somewhat annual NY Minicon. Tyger organized the event, with Lunch Boy and Otherwise serving as games and refreshments coordinators, respectively. The ever-gracious Val-U (assisted by Twisto) hosted everyone up in her apartment afterwards for pizza.

Attendees came mostly from New York and New Jersey, with Vebrile and Sue++ representing the Boston crowd, and Murdoch receiving the award for Longest-Distance Traveled. He used the minicon as an excuse to come to New York for Toy Fair - or maybe it was the other way around.

After some mingling and munching, the formal games began with Al Desuda's "Simultrivia", a combination logic problem and trivia contest, with trivia being paramount. Each table of four players - my partners were Chainsaw, Val-U and Twisto - was given 12 cards (four blue, four green, four red) on each of which were printed three symbols: a T or an F, a number from 1-6 and a letter from A-D.

Each round consisted of four sets of questions: True/False (three questions), Multiple Choice (three questions, answered A, B, C or D), Sequence (put these three color-coded things in order) or Numeric (three questions, each of whose answer was a number from 1-6). Our goal as a team was to answer the questions correctly, of course, designating our answers to each set with appropriate cards. As the logically astute reader has already guessed, this card assignment was simple for the first round, but by the third or fourth rounds finding the appropriate card often meant swapping an available T for one already used that happened to have the correct number on it.

The questions were well-mixed in difficulty and subject matter, the logic-problem aspect added a nice twist, and Al was, as always, an entertaining host. I expect - and hope - we'll be seeing more of this game at a future convention. (For the record, the game was won by the team of Coach, Lunch Boy, Otherwise and Tyger.)

Chainsaw followed, with a reprise of WILLz' "News Clips" (last seen at Stamford 1995 or 1996?), a treasure hunt through a stack of miscellaneous newspapers. Bounty included items as simple as any pair of five-or-more-letter first-letter changes, two homonyms of different length, or a word with a silent "p" at the beginning (I was certain we'd find "psychiatric" in a sports article about Mike Tyson). Other challenges were tougher: a series of paragraphs whose initial letters spell a common English word, a sentence without an "e", a pangrammatic paragraph. Eager hunters forced Chainsaw to extend his 20 minute time limit another five minutes (my team was sidetracked briefly by the discovery of the "adult" advertisements at the rear of the Village Voice). The victors were Ditto, En, Drfrizby and Ucaoimhu.

I led a version of a game I'd been playing one-on-one and in small groups (often during rehearsals) since college. "Famous Pairs" asked participants to think of notable people with particular pairs of initials, in this case determined by writing a column of the alphabet alongside the first sentence of the winning "News Clips" teams' pangrammatic paragraph: "Privately, Mr. Bloomberg's aides..." This yielded a fair number of challenging pairs: C.I., D.V., O.O., U.S., V.A., W.I. and the seemingly impossible I.Y., Q.B., X.D. and Z.S. (Zoot Sims did, however, make an appearance). Players had five minutes to fill in as many as possible; scoring rewarded unique answers over common ones.

Tablemates competed against each other this time, and the top scorers from each table faced off in a final speed round, where they each had 15 (later adjusted to 30) seconds to name as many people as possible with a pair of initials picked from a Scrabble set. The pairs chosen were J.A., T.N., D.A., I.I. (no one found Ismet Inonu or Ion Iliescu), I.L. and E.O. Competing in the final round were 100 Down, 317537, Al Desuda, Cazique, Drfrizby and Miozoto, with Drfrizby emerging victorious.

With time remaining before our 6-o'clock adjournment to Val-U's apartment, Wrybosh and Cazique led a round of "50-50 Trivia" (first introduced at Contana by Wrybosh). Murdoch emerged victorious, primarily on the strength of his ability to judge whether a question was too easy or too hard. "It's all about the empathy," he claimed in a post-competition press conference.

The entertainment was rounded out by a couple of trademark Wrybosh wall puzzles (one with contributions from Ember as well), a wonderfully complex cryptic-cum-flat-cum-coded-message puzzle from Ucaoimhu, and a copy of Kea's London Times Jumbo cryptic brought in for us by Coach.

It was a splendid event and a nice hors d'oeuvre for those of us eagerly awaiting the main entrees of Stamford and Concouver. Thanks again to all who organized, contributed and participated!

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