Conti's Commentsby EDMUND CONTI
March madness to the beat of a different drummer
I'm back from my own particular March Madness in Stamford Connecticut where I participated in my fifth crossword puzzle tournament. I came back on Sunday afternoon to find that the NCAA was about to begin theirs.
Mine began at the Marriott in Stamford. Theirs began at 64 different hotels around the country. (I assume that teams playing each other stay at different hotels.) Stamford is about an hour and a half away. St. John's, on the other hand, has to travel to Tucson. I doubt that I would travel to Tucson to be in a crossword puzzle tournament. On the other hand, St. John's is not in the bottom third of all the contestants. On the other hand (columnists with their three hands can write like this), based on what I've seen of Stamford, Tucson has to be a more interesting city to visit.
But back to the hotels. Hotels like to give you lots of towels, all kinds of soaps and shampoos, a large TV with cable and a Gideon Bible. But they don't want you reading that bible or anything else. There are no lights to read by in hotel rooms. From time to time hotel security will come by, pound on the door and shout, "What's going on in there? I don't hear the TV. What are you doing in there--reading!" This probably doesn't happen in Tucson.
Still, I digress. Which is a word you never see on crossword puzzles, probably because I know what it means. Also, I'm not that anxious to tell you how I did at the tournament. (Suspense, and having three hands, that's the key to great columns.) Not that ours is like the basketball tournament where upsets can happen. E players don't become champions and yes (or no?) neither did I. I improved my score by a few hundred points but dropped down in the standings from #175 to #180. But since we had about 30 more contestants than year, I may have moved from the top of the bottom third to the bottom of the middle third. So (was the suspense killing you?) I didn't �win the championship. Or anything.
I say anything because there are other prizes to be won. For the NCAA even getting invited is noteworthy. Getting to the Sweet Sixteen is a feather in your cap. Making the Elect Eight gets you another feather or an oak leaf cluster, I forget which. Then there's the Final Four -- you can feather your nest getting there. And if you're the champion? Forget the feathers, we're talking t-shirts and maybe one of those funny baseball caps. Or are they painter's caps?
And us, what do we get? Wait, let me rephrase that--and we, what do us get? Well I (that would be me), I got nothing. Because I (me again) was not a winner in my age category (70+), the geographical category (NJ) or the E category (dumb and dumber). I think I was close with the Es which gives me neither a cigar nor a feather. Worse, I may have moved up to the D's (dumb but not dumber) which means I can kiss future feathers goodbye. (Isn't there an organization for us -- Future Feathers of America?)
So let's talk about next year. What can I do besides working on my dribble and cross-over moves? As I write this the basketball games have not yet begun, but I have a feeling that some of the teams like the Bonnies, the Ducks, the Billikens and the Quakers are not going to make it. (The Friars won't make it either, which is probably why they didn't get invited.) No, you need an intimidating name. Like the Blue Devils, the Wildcats, the Pirates or the Gators (ooh, scary). I've been giving my occupation as Poet when I've registered for the puzzle tournament. That hasn't done anything for me. Next year I think I'll be a terminator or an assassin. And when I sit down to each puzzle, people will move away from me, saying "Watch out, here's the Terminator." That's got to help me. Anyway, it can't hurt.
Excuse my mood
I'm at a loss
What's a rood?
At 5 (a cross).
Have a nice day. (Mediterranean winter resort, 4 letters.) Look for me in the Sweet 160 next year.