In any contest, the scores are the essential information but the human stories are always more fascinating. In my previous post I blogged about the B Division scoring mix up from my perspective as an observer. I'm giving up my post today to the woman who won that contest. She was kind enough to send me an email from the perspective of someone right in the middle of it all. It's personal, emotional writing and after thinking about it some, she's given me permission to post it here. Thanks, Anne.
From: Anne Erdmann,
Sent: Monday, March 03, 2008 7:00 PM
Subject: your post on the B finals mistake
Thanks for posting your comments on what happened with the B finals. Your view that it was Will Shortz who was the story (or the victim) here was one I hadn't considered, but you made your point eloquently and caused me to reflect on it in that light. My own perspective was very different. There were other victims besides Will and John Beck, the person who this happened to. I guess I want to tell you that story.
John was right behind me going into puzzle #7, not many points behind. We came out of the room after #7 at the same time and he put up his hand in the classic high-five gesture the minute he saw me. He was sure he had done well on #7 and he was so looking forward to the big stage. He was so happy, not in a smug entitled kind of way, more like a beaming Labrador retriever. While we were waiting to get into the room, he'd occasionally catch my eye with an excited look. I was happy for him. He'd introduced himself earlier and had been so nice. We'd talked about needing to be fast on #7, but being able to afford a minute or two to double-check because we were both relatively far ahead of the next Bs. I was hoping to be up there solving with him.
Then the names for the B finals were called. First the names of the two guys who had tied — I'd known they were both nipping at the pack, but I'd thought they were further back — I'd thought Doug Peterson was the most likely #3. But then Doug was called as #2, and I knew something was wrong, and said so at once to the person I was with — that #2 finalist should have been John or me. It could have been either of us — we were so close in the standings. I wasn’t as sure as John that I’d done well on #7, so I then expected to hear his name in the #1 slot. (I’d been making mistakes all weekend, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if I'd made another one on #7, and I doubt I, unlike John, would have questioned it if my name hadn't been called.)
But it was. When I heard mine instead, I immediately knew something had gone terribly wrong. When the six of us (As and Bs) were led out of the room, John was in the hallway looking ill. I quickly asked him what had happened, but he didn't yet know, and kept saying he was sure he had done well on #7. I urged him to go find out at once. By the time the Bs were led in, the problem still hadn't been found. The competition was on a schedule and wasn't going to be stopped. Immediately afterward, I made sure to find him, and by then he knew there had been a mistake. We stepped out of the crowd and he told me the story. I felt sick. There was nothing I could say that would mean anything to him. What kind of a victory is it when the person who should have been your closest competitor (in points going in) wasn't there? Would I have beaten him? Maybe, but maybe not. I couldn't honestly say that he would have won, or that I would have, or that for whatever reason him being there would have spurred Doug on to victory. That we can't ever know taints all three of us – me, Doug, and Peter, who shouldn’t have even been there. Katie Hamill posted on this last year, when she made the C finals only because of what happened to Howard (and then ended up winning, complicating the emotional impact on her even further).
I don't know why I'm e-mailing you my version of the story; I guess because of how eloquently you posted about it, and because it’s been in my mind ever since. John's version would probably be different as well, as would Peter's and Doug's. Of course mistakes are inevitable, and of course you hope they won't affect the standings (as I'm sure most of them in fact don't). But they ripple out beyond the obvious. Some particular judge is probably the one who initiated the error. I'm sure he or she didn't sleep well last night, either, as I didn't.
Update: Robin is offended, deeply offended, that Steven Ginzburg crossed MATES with SEX in the Wednesday, March 5 puzzle (answers.) Just what kind of kinky, subversive message is being conveyed here? I'm shocked! Nice puzzle, btw.
Update 2: Be sure to read the comments on this post.