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Tablesaw Tablesawsen ([personal profile] tablesaw) wrote2004-07-18 04:03 am

Of Boston and Beer.

I drank more beer while I was in Boston than I ever had in my life. Now, this isn't saying much. I'm not a big fan of beer, so I don't drink it. I much prefer the taste of a well-mixed cocktail. A Rum and Coke is usually pleasant, and there's nothing that can beat a Margarita mixed with good tequila and a whole lot of machismo. I know there's good beer out there, but since I don't drink often, there's really no point in going out and finding the few kinds that I like amid the amber waves of unappealing brew.

It's kind of like Country Music, in that way.

Anyway, the advantage of going to Boston was that there were lots of people who drank beer a lot and knew what was good. Chief among them was Beer Goddess Hathor who, in addition to giving tips on what to drink where, also brewed some fine beer herself. (She has a website [link removed 8/13/11; originally ""], though I have no idea where in there I'm supposed to look for a homepage.) And when all of the bars are closed, having personalized beer in a hotel room . . . but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Let's instead go back to January, when, after [expletives deleted] 2004 Mystery Hunt, I joined Artistry, [ profile] foggyb and Hathor on a tour of a few Cambridge pubs instead of going to the traditional Hunt Wrapup Party. We hit a few places and talked about the upcoming Boston convention. It was then that the idea for the Puzzle Pub Crawl was born. Later, we adjourned to Hathor's house, where she tried to get us to leave by playing bad music. After we started asking about the musicians, she switched tactics and got us to leave by throwing us out.

Artistry and I then drove back to the hotel in a taxi with the nicest cab driver you could ever meet. He was polite and courteous, even when he completely fell asleep whenever he stopped at a red light. No, I'm serious, the guy would go out. And we'd wake him up, and he'd immediately ask, "Is this where you were going?" "No, dude, it's just . . . the light's green." I think that happened three times.

Anyway, I was understandably excited when a Pub Puzzle Crawl was placed on the list of pre-Con activities. I immediately vowed to attend it, committing myself to being in Boston by Monday evening.

In the efforts of full beer disclosure, I'll also mention that, on Sunday night, after getting into the hotel, I met up with Artistry, ln sin t, and Niff at Tommy Doyle's Irish Pub [link changed 8/13/11; originally ""]. I didn't have beer, just a Rum and Coke, but I feel I should mention that the service was abysmal. When I tried to order some food, I was told that the kitchen had just closed, which made us wonder why he didn't come over and get my order twenty minutes before when the kitchen was open. ln sin t asked for a beer three times without receiving it. We did have the pleasure of stiffing him on the tip. What was he going to do, spit in the food he didn't remember to bring us?

So, Monday evening. It was the first chance I got to see people NPLers, mostly locals. Since there were too many people to easily manage, some of them split off into a Ice Cream Puzzle Crawl through Boston. The puzzles, in this case, were provided on the fly by [ profile] tahnan and [ profile] thedan. Sadly, the Ice Cream Crawl had far fewer stops, since the participants got brainfreeze or something. The cool kids ([ profile] wesleyjenn, QED, Sprout, Sue++, Sir+, [ profile] joecab, [ profile] cazique, [ profile] heaneyland, Otherwise, D. Ness, ln sin t, Niff, Ucaoimhu, Artistry, [ profile] foggyb, Hathor, and I) went off and drank for seven hours.

I wish I could tell you more about the bars and the beers, but I can't, really. I know they were good, but since I don't have much experience with beer (for reasons detailed above), I couldn't really tell you why. I can't even recommend things because I was mostly echoing what other, more knowledgeable people were ordering. I can give you the itinerary [link removed; originally ""] of the crawl, since [ profile] foggyb has been kind enough to upload it. The itinerary also has most of the puzzles.

The puzzles were really well designed considering what they needed to do. They were simple and fun and rarely required too much thought. The KISS mentality showed up many places in this Con, to the benefit of all. Certainly, the NPL is not a group that will shy away from the obscure, the complex, the byzantine, or the difficult. But there's a lot more going on at a convention. There are things to see, people to talk to, games to play. You have to make sure that nothing gets to frustrating, or else solvers will start to wonder why you're wasting their time when they could be doing something else with someone else. (Also, of course, everything has to be solved without references.) In this case, the puzzles couldn't overstay their welcome, because people wanted to be able to drink and chat. Also, puzzles had to be specially coordinated so that they could be easily solved after drinking beer for several hours.

One of my favorite puzzles was one of the more complex ones: Boston Beer Works [link removed 8/13/11; originally ""]. It was an early puzzle, and one of the only ones where everyone dug in and did some pencil solving. What I enjoyed the most was that, although solvers were warned that the beer list incorporated into the puzzle was out of date, it still represented the menu very well. Pretty much everyone ordered their drinks off of the puzzle without really looking at the menus. I also sat near Cazique, QED, and the right shoulder of Sprout, triviaites all, who offered and solved variuos sports trivia questions.

At Bukowski's [link changed 8/13/11; originally ""], we settled in for the inevitable Pub Trivia [link removed 8/13/11; originally ""] game. The theme was "Dead Authors," since Bukowski's is the home of the Dead Authors' Club. (Although it wasn't explained then, I now know that some patrons of this bar undertake to sample every beer on the menu, though mercifully not on the same night. Those who succeed get mugs engraved with their names placed on the wall. And by "their names," I mean "the names of dead authors they choose.") I did predictably poorly, especially compared to some of the general knowledge hotshots. But still, I don't think the questions [link removed 8/13/11; originally ""] were balanced all that well. (I'll try to explain more about the balancing trivia, but it's a tough subject and I'll need a separate entry.) Anyway, the balance of the knowledge is definitely a nitpick in this situation. Everyone had fun, even when losing, which is much more important, and difficult to accomplish.

Also, while I was at Bukowski's, I recorded an Audblog. I'd say more about that, but I can't listen to it while I'm work.

The last puzzle I'll talk about is the one from Redbones. This is a fantastic puzzle, though you can't see it or solve it online. Go visit the redbones site, and you'll see lots of wonderful artwork. That original artwork is all over the downstairs barroom. It was the artwork that we were looking at back in January when we thought about a Pub Puzzle Crawl. And it was the artwork that made our last stop an Eyeball Benders-style extravaganza.

We got a huge pile of letters. Each letter seemed to have been cut out of the pictures along the walls. We had to locate, then put them in order according to their position around the room. It was great fun. This might seem a complex puzzle to deal with after seven hours of drinking, but I think that the lowering of the inhibitions helped us to take over the more-or-less empty room staring at pictures. Also, they had great dessert. And great meat. And good margaritas. (Wow, I didn't realize how out of it until I tried to remember it just now. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if someone there told me that I said, "I love you man! You're like my brother! My puzzle brother! Mi hermano de crucigramas!")

At some point at Redbones, I got a picture of QED, Sprout, Toonhead! and somebody's hair. You can see the wacky Redbones artwork, along with the cute and very helpful bartender who decided to be a semi-waitress even though she didn't have to be. Also, at some point earlier, I got a picture of [ profile] wesleyjenn and [ profile] heaneyland, probably in a T station somewhere.

After all of this, those of us who remained were directed by Foggy Blotto to the best beer in Boston. By this time, many of our crew had ducked out to return to their homes or the hotel. Thus, when I snapped a picture, en route to our final destination, only [ profile] foggyb, QED, Ucaoimhu, Hathor, Artistry, and [ profile] joecab. Sprout was also there, though he cannot be seen in this picture. As we staggered toward the terminus, Hathor tried to scare us by saying that once we were there, we were going to have to solve a cryptic crossword by Ucaoimhu, known for his labyrinthine crosswords that involving learning Sanskrit [link changed 8/13/11;"] or decoding Cuneiform [link changed 8/13/11; originally ""].

Well, the best beer in Boston turned out to be at Hathor's house. But the crossword turned out to be no empty threat. We were provided with two beers that were brewed specifically for this convention. (There was a third prepared beer, but it had been part of an auction, and thus, we were not allowed to drink it.) The labels were designed by [ profile] joecab, and as you can see, Hathor's threat turned out not to be empty.

And, with no more puzzles, we just kept drinking without puzzles.

I spent a lot of time drinking Hathor's beer and, later on, [ profile] joecab's wine. And although there was definitely puzzle-related conversation, not all of it was. Of course, I can't really remember the specifics of what they were. That's not necessarily because I was drinking, just that it all kind of blended together as the evenings wore on. And the evenings start to blend together as well. But it was quality time.

For example, at one point, [ profile] foggyb and I went to the Hospitality Suite to get some provisions. Going back to [ profile] joecab's room, probably around 3:30 a.m., I remember noticing that I was listing to the left rather drastically. Foggy knocked for us to be let back in. "[ profile] joecab's in room 1407, right?" I asked for confirmation. "Yeah," he replied. "But that's 1405," I said.

Suddenly, we were both ten-year-olds. We knocked urgently on the correct door, getting as close to it as possible so that, if the neighbor happened to wake up, maybe he wouldn't see us. The fact that we were two grown men trying to compress ourselves into six inches to get behind a corner didn't quite register. I have no idea what I was doing. Did I think I was going to get grounded?

I recorded an Audblog after one of these beer sessions. As I mentioned above, I can't relisten to it right now. But I'm pretty sure I talked about Toonhead!, aka [ profile] joecab. I may even have mentioned a picture.

See, I was "cosolving" [ profile] thedan's cryptic with [ profile] joecab very late one evening / very early one morning. I don't know why I thought attempting this was a good idea at all. [ profile] foggyb was there, and I he may have had a hand in convincing me, since it would have been very amusing for him. We actually managed to do rather well, though all together, we found a completely and utterly wrong answer to the end game of the cryptic.

At a certain point, after the grid had been filled and [ profile] foggyb and I had started puzzling through the final steps, [ profile] joecab crawled around us on the bed, then fell down. He didn't get up again. After a while, we noticed.

We took this as a sign of two things: (1) we should probably get out of his room, (2) we should probably take a picture and post it on the Internet.

And here it is:

[identity profile] 2004-07-18 06:25 am (UTC)(link)
great blog! I had forgotten about knocking on the wrong door...

At some point, I'd like to know more about balancing trivia...I had a tough time writing the questions for the quiz, since I had a constraint that all of the questions had to deal with literature and specific book titles. (I think I may have had too many mysteries in the mix, a natural upshot of focusing on the word "Dead").
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[identity profile] 2004-07-18 06:38 am (UTC)(link)
The mysteries was the most obvious thing I noticed. I'll try to speak more about trivia in general, there certainly was enough of it floating around this year.

[identity profile] 2004-07-18 07:34 am (UTC)(link)
That is the best picture of Toonhead!. Krewe sleeping cuddled up next to the 11C... awesome.

[identity profile] 2004-07-18 08:01 am (UTC)(link)
That picture is just so darn cute. There should be t-shirts.....

[identity profile] 2004-07-18 12:47 pm (UTC)(link)
Thanks for the pub crawl summary and links to the puzzles.

Did the participants approach all of the puzzle individually? Was the solving rapid and competitive? If yes to either of the previous questions, did the tactics change much as the evening went on?
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[identity profile] 2004-07-19 06:56 am (UTC)(link)
The only puzzle that was solved individually was the Boston Beer Works ( However, two of the bars and their corresponding puzzles were skipped, The Middle East ( and The Burren (, both of which were more conducive to solo solving.

The solving was only competitive in situations (Cambridge Brewing Company ( and the quiz at Bukowski's) where things were set up as a game, rather than a puzzle. Speed never really seemed to be anything we were too worried about, either.


[identity profile] 2004-07-19 08:50 am (UTC)(link)
Notes to myself:

1. dig hole in ground
2. crawl in
3. DIE

Actually that pic isn't as bad as I thought it would be: I was expecting seeing myself drooling. Or, worse yet, clutching my 11C like some cold, uncaring teddy bear. (BTW I really didn't care about you guys hanging out in my room while I was comatose. Even though I was out cold, Foggy still managed to get up before I did and woke me up for the morning business meeting before he went down to breakfast.)

Gee, I hope I managed to get at least a few entries in Spelvin/thedan's in with you since I was the one who asked if you wanted to co-solve. (My nebulous memory says I did.) With all those cryptics, and all those NPLers, and all those other activities going on, it's tough giving everyone their fair due. How the heck did I manage to polish off all 3 offical Con cryptics last year? Next year I'll need to manage my time better, which should be easier since I won't be able to tote another case of wine with me.

-- Toonhead!

P.S. T-shirts?!?

Re: oh GAWD

[identity profile] 2004-07-20 07:16 am (UTC)(link)

Of course there should be T-shirts. Official NPL T-shirts.