— by Coaster Gal

That was the overwhelming response from family and friends upon hearing that I would be attending my first NPL con. And since I couldn’t give them any more than vague descriptions about what that actually entailed, strange looks and shaking of heads often followed the initial question.

I wasn’t worried — much. I’d been assured by people whose opinions I trust that it would be a fun way to spend time. And, in case there was any lingering doubt, I’m happy to report that I’m hooked.

I never felt singled out as a newbie. At the same time, I really appreciated the efforts that were made to help folks like me get acclimated. Both the cryptic crossword solving seminar late at night and the flat tutorial were great help in wrapping my brain around all the new material1). (Sorry, unable to remember who to thank directly for those!) I was also grateful to the organizers of the Moveable Feast (more about that later) for taking steps to get a balance of experienced/inexperienced players on teams.

I’m accustomed to conferences with multi-page program books and tight schedules. It seemed at first glance as if not much would be going on except for the two evening events. How wrong I was! In fact, I don’t think I ever crossed through the hotel lobby without seeing clusters of NPLers.

Certainly there was always something going on in the hospitality suite — an ever-growing array of puzzles on the bar, games and conversations at all hours, and a kaleidoscope of snacks. Carrots and fruit to negate the potato chips and M&M’s. It was perfect.

The high point of the week for me was definitely Saturday night’s Moveable Feast extravaganza. I loved the diversity of the puzzles. I marveled at the amount of time someone must have spent counting out the correct number of light green and dark green Jelly Bellys. I was awed by the logistics. A month later, I am still impressed by these things. It was also a nice blend of competition and cooperation, so that I felt I got to know more people. Nice group bonding.

Although really, nothing says “shared experience” more than huddling in the hotel lobby in your pajamas, does it? What? The fire alarm wasn’t part of the hidden contest?

So, thank you, everyone. It was a great convention. Hopefully the first of many for me. I’m still trying to get my brain wrapped around the cryptic crosswords, but I’ve got another 11 months or so to practice.

1) Members can download many of the puzzlers from the convention from the Handouts from MichiCon page. /