Tuesday 4 September 2012

Sunday – The Mall and The Awards Dinner

Gill and I joined the tour to the Mall, and specifically the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and we found ourselves wandering around with Jim and Susan Strayer, Chinny and Peter and Lesley Wiltshire. I’d been to the SA&SM once before but this was the first time that Gill and I had been together and we really had a blast. It’s quite a wonderful opportunity to be within touching distance of a Wright Flyer the one minute and an Apollo capsule the next. To be able to see DC-3’s and Doodlebugs in the rafters and look at the Hughes H1 racer – it really is a wonderful place if you’re even vaguely interested in flight and hardware.

After a brief forage through the gift shop we all ended up buying some little rubber poppers (you turn them inside out and then drop them and they make a loud popping noise when they hit the floor and rebound a lot higher and faster than they fell – apparently aim is important as Jim discovered!) – then Gill and I headed to Alexandria for some retail therapy for Gill and some lunch. (She’d been with the girls and wanted to take me back there because it was so pretty.)

We hopped on the Metro out to Alexandria and then took the tourist trolley down to the waterfront and wound our way slowly back up King Street, stopping for a great lunch at 219 – where the food and service were superb. Highly recommended!

We ended up buying a couple of things for the pups and some gifts to bring home before heading back along the Metro to Crystal City, where I managed to get back in to the Design Competition just in time have one last whizz around the room and cast my votes. Nick Baxter was manfully trying to pry puzzles out of peoples’ hands so that he could close up the room, get the puzzles ready for return to their owners that evening / ready for shipping and then get all the votes tallied and the winners determined before the Awards Dinner later.
Wooden tie people...
While all that was going on I met Ginda Fisher (a fellow numbers-type!) and we sorted out the arrangements for returning Jane Kostick’s puzzles to her with Nick who’d been custodian of all the Design Competition entries since they started arriving from around the world. (Give that a bit of thought, 80 entries from around the world, two copies of each, sent to different places to reduce the chances of them both going missing en route – yes, it’s happened, that’s why they do it, all need to find their way to this room, where hundreds of puzzlers play with them for 4 days, getting running repairs where required or being swapped for their spares if necessary, then afterwards they all need to get back to their owners, spread around the world – that’s no mean feat and the fact that Nick does it every year, including taking all the pics and putting the booklets together means he deserves a whole lot of kudos in my books! Thanks Nick! We all appreciate it!) 

I chatted with Ginda a bit and later that evening she tracked me down at the dinner and gave me a copy of Trickier Trivet, her IPP29 Exchange Puzzle – it’s an interlocking wooden star-shaped trivet – and she was adamant that we should use the trivet in the kitchen, it just also happens to be a puzzle ... one that might just come apart when you pick it up in not-quite-the-right way – thanks Ginda.

At the Awards Dinner we had two tables full of Renegade Puzzlers, again at the back of the room (except this time our sneaky food-plans were foiled when they called up the tables a few at a time from the front of the room!) . During a bit of a lull in the proceedings a well-known voice booms over the PA system that all the Renegades need to gather at the back of the room for their group photo – thanks Rox – she’s not shy that one...

The Renegades appeared from various corners of the room and before long we were all present and accounted for (more so than the previous attempt, anyway!) and the pictures were duly snapped. After the Renegades pics, we took pics of the Renegades partners.
After we’d finished the Renegades pics, a few other groups got in on the act and soon there were group photos of the Twisty folk, some of the organisers and even an aborted attempt at a Midlands Puzzle Party pic – but only because afterwards I realised that Richard, Simon, Peter, James and Wil should probably have been in it as well – not just me!

There were a couple of speeches from the upcoming IPP hosts, each of whom did a fantastic job of pitching their IPP as the best one ever, possibly. They both had us in stitches and had clearly put a huge amount of effort into their presentations.  The next presentation was a little sad, in that it was Jerry Slocum’s official retirement from being the head of the International Puzzle Party – having started it in his own lounge 31 years ago and seen it grow to an annual gathering of some 400-odd committed puzzlers he should rightly be proud of what he’s done for the puzzling community, but on the other hand it must be a little sad handing over your creation to someone else to take care of for you. Having seen some of the Board members in action, I suspect it’s in very safe hands – just like Jerry’s puzzle collection at the Lilly Library – I get the impression Jerry is very careful about these things...

Every past IPP host attending this year was up on stage to thank Jerry and he was presented with a signed photo of all of the past hosts together with Jerry taken earlier in the week, although Jerry had been told it was for the souvenir book ... and instead of the traditional gold watch after 30-odd years service, Jerry was presented with a Stickman Grandfather Clock Puzzlebox – and I get the impression that Jerry absolutely loved it! After the presentations, every single past host thanked Jerry personally, with Wil hanging around until last and giving him a great big hug.

Afterwards Robert Yarger was talking about the puzzle and he said he had kept back an extra copy to sell off to fund his retirement “one day” so he knew it was waiting around for something special, and then this opportunity came up and he could think of no more noble a cause for this puzzle than to go to Jerry as thanks from the IPP for all that he’s done for the puzzling community – that’s kinda cool!
After the presentation, the results of the Design Competition were announced (the full results are over here) but the Renegades ended up doing rather well! Peter Wiltshire and Brian Young both won Jury First Prize Awards for their puzzles, Ferris’ Box and Houdini’s Torture Chamber respectively, and Chinny, Greg Benedetti and Mike Toulouzas all came within the Top Ten vote getters – excellent stuff for a band of Renegades! Well done guys!!

The organising committee were all hauled up on stage and presented with a little gift made by Jane Kostick and they received a huge round of applause from a very appreciative bunch of delegates. 

After all the awards were dished out and proceedings drawn to a close (i.e. Matti’s head was shaved! You have to be there...) folks wandered around chatting and saying their goodbyes and you got the distinct impression that nobody really wanted it all to come to an end, so we just kept chatting to folks...

Rob Hegge wandered across to where Neil and I were chatting and announced with a fat grin that he’d got so many puzzles over the past few days that he might just have to start blogging about them! [That’s great Rob, but then what am I going to call you?]  we chatted a bit about my cards and Neil asked if I’d given one to Jerry yet and I replied that I hadn’t and wasn’t sure if he’d appreciate one – he has everything, remember! They then talked me into it so I dash upstairs to get the second last impossible card that I have there (I’m keeping the last one for someone in NYC) and we wander up to Jerry who loves the card and even agrees to pose for the obligatory picture – what a gent!

Eventually we find ourselves back down in the bar again, chatting, not wanting it to have to end and I find myself in a group of folks chatting to Robert Yarger and he’s telling us stories about the toads that inhabit his wood shop and sit on his boards watching him work, and how his bees (he keeps bees) found they like playing in and out of the eddy currents created by his table saw when it’s running and watches them for ages.  He talks about the pressure he feels when he gets toward the end of a run of puzzleboxes and they’re almost all completed and all in one place, but what if one of the ever-present tornadoes comes a bit too close and he loses an entire run? He talks about the tremendous responsibility he feels having 15 peoples’ Apothecary drawers stored in his home while he finishes off the project – those tornadoes or a bit of flooding could really mess up a project like ... and if you ever want a really good laugh, buy Rob a drink and ask him to tell you about his tarp-surfing exploits.

One after another the guys who’ve been propping up the bar for the last couple of evenings drift off to bed – a sure sign that burning the candle at both ends over the past couple of days has finally caught up with them and that IPP32 really is coming to an end.
To Chris Morgan, our host, and his committee - well done on a superb puzzle party. You guys should be really proud of what you've done, and thanks for making a newbie feel so welcome!

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