Regarding the NPL tree, here's my little branch:
(Crossword Crosstalk and WILLz) —> Maelstrom
I first heard about the league from Panache and Amber's book, but, at the time, I didn't think I was up to the NPL quite yet (the concept of flats was a bit over my head). After submitting some puzzles to WILLz at NYT, he noted that my Milwaukie address reminded him of Sibyl and Smaug, and that I might be interested in the NPL, and that the next convention was in Portland. And here I am now.
Source: npl-folk email from Maelstrom.
First issue: Oct 1994
It's one of my favorite words. I first ran across it trying to solve a Robert Leighton cryptic in Games some time ago. It had to do with a maestro and a “musical maelstrom.” It stuck with me ever since.
Maelstrom and Matt Jones both contain 9 letters, and start with the same 2 letters. And how many 9-letter words can you think of that start and end with the same letter, and contain an uncommon combination of 2 vowels followed by a string of four consonants?
Take 2 letters and you get “maestro.” I've had quite a bit of experience with music in school (singing in choirs, jazz ensembles, etc.), and I'm currently studying music education, which involves conducting! (Hint, hint…)
Weird coincidences in my nom once I got to Willamette University: Maelstrom contains all the letters in Salem, OR, where Willamette is located. Also, there's a fairly big waterway running through campus called the Mill Stream. Just change 2 vowel sounds….
Even though “maelstrom” is often used in a negative connotation, I like to think of it in a positive sense (especially musical…), being surrounded by a swirling cacophony of sound, being drawn inward. I like the chaos theory, and maelstrom is nearly synonymous with “chaos.” Of course, I go with the good, natural chaos, unpredictable, but inevitable. I'm into all sorts of music, and there are certain types (techno, jazz, ambient, classical) which give me a mental image of being drawn inward into unpredictable sound. Well, that's my opinion, and I'd better stop here before I start getting Jungian…