For me, the most memorable events of this con were two firsts that I had the good fortune to be part of. One was the Saturday night rendition of the singable Beatles flats from the flat competition, with Trazom on the piano (and Uncanny’s copy of the complete Beatles score) and about 25 Krewe answering my invitation to sing along. I believe this marks the first time at a convention (or maybe anywhere?) that a group of singable flats were "performed" as intended. Later, a few of us tried some other flats from the past year’s Enigmas, including “Esperanto,” “U. of California,” “Medina- Sidonia,” “Ucaoimh- Ucaoimhu,” and more. Trazom even brought an original song for the occasion, a tune for his July 14 (no, not “La Marseillaise”). Look for the CD in your local record store, and look for more singing at IndyCon.
The other was the premiere of the multi-player version of ”One, Two, Three,” dubbed ”One, Two, Many” by Codex. This came to life Sunday night at a party hosted by my suite (me, D. Ness, and Tyger) for late- stayers. (Deja vu: NPL Pyramid was also introduced at such a party, that one at Contana in 1999.)
The rules: two players begin by saying together “one, two, three” and then each naming any object. The other players then try to think of a third object with some association to the others. The first person to think of one says “one,” the second says “two,” those two together say “three,” then announce their objects. If they match, the round ends, and if you’re scoring (which we weren’t) those two get a point each. If not, then again everyone else tries to think of a third object, and so on. The two players who matched get to start the next round. We had a ball playing; look for this game in the chat room and/ or at your next games party.
by Codex and Cramerica
Being relatively new Krewefolk, neither of us had ever been to a Con before; and since we were solving partners who rarely got to see each other in person, it made sense for us to room together. We both made arrangements to arrive in Vancouver on Wednesday afternoon, the day before the official start of the convention. Cramerica flew into Vancouver; Codex, in the interest of complicating matters as much as possible, flew to Seattle and took the cross-border bus.
This was our first con, so this report is going to run a few “metres” over the top. Not to knock Vancouver, as it is a beautiful city and home to many black squirrels, but we feel that the unstinting pleasure of being with much of the NPL all at once could have been had just about anywhere (even Newark, we're told). The initial con effect for us was that, gathered together in our t-shirts and nametags, we Krewe were all inside a live issue of the Enigma. The activities of the weekend, scheduled or otherwise, did little to dispel that effect.
Codex arrived at the hotel just in time to see the last couple people in nom-tags, including The (rather flamboyant-haired) Foole, boarding a big yellow bus. He barely had time to drop his bags off at the concierge's desk and climb aboard for the trip to Witz' house. Once on the bus, he managed to locate some people he knew, and was quickly introduced both to a bunch of fellow Krewe and to the game of One, Two, Three, (in which the players attempt to simultaneously say the same word via converging word association), which was to become a sort of recurrent theme in the coming days.
Witz has a lovely home for a party, and the party was an excellent first introduction to the League as a bunch of actual people (as opposed to bylines on puzzles). Codex used the excuse of not yet having picked up his nom-tag to introduce himself to just about everybody around, and entered into a conversation with Hot and Saxifrage that ranged from current events to what might be lurking behind Witz' cyclopean cypress hedge. Eventually, after scrumptious homemade pizza and a great many more introductions, we all piled back on the bus to the hotel.
Cramerica had already arrived when Codex got back to the hotel. We settled in, and then both headed up to the Hospitality Suite, where we were introduced to the game of Pyramid, along with yet another slew of Krewe. (It was during the course of this game that the two of us really began to realize just how brilliantly twisted the Krewe are, collectively: some of the most outrageous and improbable categories were correctly guessed after only one or two clues.) Far too soon–meaning “later than was reasonable”–Codex decided it was time to retire and get something approximating a night's rest. The last for some time to come…
Thursday was a day for unscheduled activities until the official start of the Con that evening. Codex joined a group that had decided to visit Lynn Creek Park, with its suspension bridge that was somewhat less daunting than the monster bridge at Capilano. By the time we convened on Thursday morning there were almost a dozen of us, mostly Boston-area Krewe with a few extras from hither (Codex) and yon (Artistry). We had a good time exploring the park: enjoying the descents into the river valley while loudly dreading the ascents we knew were coming, commenting on the refreshingly blunt Canadian verbiage on the warning signs, and once or twice running into Sue++ and Tyger, obviously more hardened hikers than we, who tried to talk us into accompanying them on the much longer trail we had ruled out earlier. Wimps that we were, we opted to drag back to the hotel and collapse until dinnertime.
Not one, but two exquisitely written puzzle extravaganzas graced the convention. The second one featured John Cusack (or was it Dart?) as the nattily uniformed Mountie Neir. And there was a beautiful and singable compilation of Beatles-themed flats. And scads of cryptics and other pencilly puzzles. And several other scheduled competitions. And a bunch of pre-written Jeopardy games. And more games. And unforgettable conversations. And, indeed, no real reason to sleep.
Since this is meant to be a newbies'-eye view rather than a full-blown Con report, we'll skip going into a lot of detail on the extravaganzas, and stick with some impressions and thoughts that ran through our heads as we played. Codex: "since I'm listed on the Introductory Bingo card, I seem to be doing more talking than searching…wow, I'm a terrible judge of how poorly eBayers spell… Willz sounds just the same in person as he does on the radio…sweet mother of mercy, these people are smart!”Cramerica: “I am such a newbie; I submitted *normal* categories to the Pyramid game…Hey, I'm in the same room with Manx!…sweet mother of mercy, a Cuneiform cryptic?!”
Most of Friday was spent working on the various puzzles handed out Thursday night or left in the Hospitality Suite to be picked up. Codex joined a naturally-accreting conglomeration of solvers who gathered to solve the running-around puzzle in Stanley Park; the group ended up being so many (Ai, Sanit, Zebraboy, Codex, Hot, Xemu, Jangler, Kegler and Saxifrage) that we split into two groups, but then proceeded to solve simultaneously. By the time we got about halfway through, the groups were mixing and eventually just sort of melded together again.
Many games were played or even developed on the spur of the moment. For Cramerica, the crowning glory of this type of activity was a group elaboration of the two-player game One, Two, Three. The group effort, dubbed by Codex One, Two, Many, called for a different pair of people in the room to perform every next step of the association. For example, after players 1 and 2 had shouted out “macro” and “mouse” simultaneously, players 12 and 6 converged on “rat.” Laborious explanation aside, the two hours or so of this game was pretty much the most transcendent mass-mind experience we've ever had. About 15 sharp people, all absorbing the convergence of the same topic at the same time… and then two are ready, like stimulated neurons, to fire at once.
A lot of the best memories from our first Con are really you-had-to-be-there type moments, that may not hold up all that well to recounting after the fact – but we'll give it a shot anyway. There were the breakfasts, with some of the more motley assortments of people ever to gather around a plate of eggs and discuss Canadian TV game shows.
There was the hilarious lunchtime tag-team reading of an excruciatingly bad children's book, titled “The Muddle-Headed Wombat Is Very Bad.” We read aloud from this story, wherein the eponymous marsupial (who looked something like Joey Buttafuoco) is subjected to a number of seemingly unedited misadventures. When a reader started to laugh or otherwise lose it, he or she had to pass the book to the next reader. A couple of the show-stoppers: “It was so comfortable that Tabby and Wombat almost longed for a flood.” “Mouse: The only thing we have here to do is 'you know what'. Even Wombat knew what 'you know what' was.” For those justifiably concerned for Wombat, 'you know what' was the act of putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
There was the flat competition, which left Codex feeling particularly drained and a little bit stupid; it turns out that speed-solving is a *lot* different from leisure solving. Both of us ended up placing quite respectably in the overall results from the competition; Codex attributes his standing primarily to the fact that he was partnered with Saxifrage, who gets the lion's share of the credit. Cramerica gives a similar nod to Tahnan, who aside from being a solving maniac, appears to have memorized every Beatles song.
There were the two parallel dinner conversations that converged fortuitously… Martini purists and elk lovers beware. We had chatted about exotic meats, such as elk, and exotic martinis, including the chocolate martini. So when the dessert's chocolate sauce arrived, it was naturally suspected to be elk sauce. No, someone said, it's I Can't Believe It's Not Wapiti(TM). So in a martini, the sauce would make a Wapitini! (The Wapitini later stood the two of us in good stead when we were playing One-two-many again.) Then things got weird. Someone pointed out that a cocktail frank in a martini would be a teeny-weeny-weenie-tini. But the kicker was Spelvin's–a similar martini made for Caesar–the teeny-weeny-veni-vidi-vici-weenie-tini.
And there was the winding-down period after Con ended: hanging out with the late-stayers, starting to call people Dan and Lance in an attempt to shift back into everyday mode, stopping at Mondo Gelato for just one more scoop, and eventually heading for the bus back across the border and a plane back home. As Delta flight #304 taxied toward takeoff at Sea-Tac, Codex' seatmate noticed him working the Sky Magazine crossword–more out of reflex than by design–and said she'd never seen anyone do a crossword that fast. You have no idea, lady. You have no idea.