The Indie 500: Puzzles that will make you feel like a pile of flaming wreckage

I’d been looking forward to the Indie 500 since last August when Erik Agard of the Indie 5 let me know it was in the works. Having just attended Lollapuzzoola 7, I knew another tournament with the kind of puzzles I’d been solving, for free, on peoples’ blogs, would be a lot of fun. It would also be extremely challenging.

I was so right!

I made a pact early on with my Lollapuzzoola pairs division partner Adam that we would be in attendance, thinking nobody else we knew would want to do something like this. In the coming months I recruited two more participants: Brayden and Peter. Brayden has spent some time in DC for work purposes and knew some wonderful places to eat and drink, including Mockingbird Hill— my Sherry Soul Station. 70+ Sherries, a lot of them by the glass, ham, bliss.

En Rama (minimally filtered) Fino Sherry
En Rama (minimally filtered) Fino Sherry

Also, ramen at Daikaya and delicious Mexican at Oyamel.

In my dreams I am eating this constantly
In my dreams I am eating this constantly

When I suggested he register for the Indie 500, Brayden said yes but thought he might get away with just loafing off in DC while sweat trickled down my brain — NYOPE!  And, in the end, he did better than I. Peter and I were about the same, and Adam was by far the speediest and most accurate solver of our bunch.

(Digression: I take note of “hospitality gaffes” (HGs) all the time, but especially when I’m in different cities. I saw that Rex Parker (who posted a great write-up here) seemed to have experienced a HG during his time in DC, and I’m quite curious about the circumstances. The only serious HG I noted was that our brunchtime bartender at Founding Farmers so obviously hated his life that morning and made no attempt to hide it. We were afraid to ask for the silverware he didn’t give us in the first place! I worked at a busy, stressful bar with incorrectly-medicated bipolar disorder and always seemed to make my guests feel happy and taken care of!)

For all his faults, our bartender managed to get a Corpse Reviver no. 2 into my system before we headed to the event. The tournament started a little late, but that was fine by me because I was excited to spend some time putting faces to the names I see above grids all the time. It was nice to see a lot of faces I’d already seen at Lollapuzzoola, and just over 100 registrants is pretty awesome for an inaugural tournament with no monetary compensation for one’s success.

Let the mayhem begin
Let the mayhem begin

But who needs money when there’s free pie? Adorable little pie-bites in a variety of flavors (I went with key lime and cherry). Pie o’ clock was a nice break from the brain-pummeling we’d received before lunch. The puzzles, they were bonkers.

Fraught faces

Although it was Peter Broda who got pied in the face for his Puzzle #2, my pie would have been aimed at that Erik Agard for his dream-shattering Puzzle #1. What a way to start! I liked Peter’s puzzle and thought it was really fun once you figured it out– I think I did the best on this one, ALMOST actually finishing it. I like Finn Vigeland’s candy bar puzzle (#3), but I was definitely ready for lunch.

Over sangria that swiftly transitioned into G&Ts, I reflected on why I’m not good at speed-solving. I am completely okay with not being good at it, but when I’m in a competitive environment I still feel the primal urge to kick ass. The source of my sluggishness is probably a combination of general apathy and having been home-schooled until 8th grade. I’m a smartypants, but I didn’t get the battery of standardized testing in my early education– my SAT and GRE scores are good examples of my badness. I have a lot of negative feelings about standardized tests that I won’t go into here because it’s not like grad school admission is riding on placing in the top ten of a crossword tournament (also, I will never go back to grad school of any kind).

The Cute Puzzle #4 was cute but not really my type. The 5th puzzle, Neville Fogarty’s, was so tricky BUT extremely satisfying to figure out, even if it took me half the solving time. Neville agreed that I should be proud for just cracking the theme; I was.

Overall this was a entertainingly-grueling event, and I’ll be back if the tournament is (and I hope it is). I also hope no first-time solvers entered a state of shock from exposure to the puzzles– I don’t think there were any such casualties since most people figured out that FUN was the meta.

See you all at Lollapuzzoola 8!

The Indie 500: Puzzles that will make you feel like a pile of flaming wreckage

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