June 19th, 2009


Puzzles, poker and pain

1. Tomorrow sees the US Puzzle Championship, used as the qualifying test to select the national teams for the World Puzzle Championships in the countries of most, though certainly not all, of the people reading this. Theoretically I think you were meant to have registered by yesterday - whoops - but I registered yesterday and was still directed to the puzzles. (But perhaps I'll be disqualified for late registration! Who knows?) This year's puzzles look really good; I haven't tried the qualifier for several years, but this year's look fun. They also look accessible; I don't know how many I'll be able to finish, but I feel like I have a shot at most of them. (The last few, which will go completely over my head, look really inspired.) Threepeating US champ motris comments, as does test compiler Nick Baxter.

I'll be going in to the puzzles tomorrow "cold", but this test looks like it has a lot more to offer to more modest solvers - like me! - than previous years' tests do. If you've ever been attracted to the thought of taking part, this year looks like a really good one to try, even if it's your first one. Let Really Smart Guys, a lovely near-live blog written at the 2008 World Puzzle Championship, inspire you! Conversely, if you're frustrated by the annual puzzle championship schedule for national-class solvers apparently being one event long, the monthly-ish Oguz Atay Puzzle Contest is similarly very fine; I enjoyed stinking the place up in its fourth edition.

2. The World Series of Poker is in progress at the moment; in fact, it's about half-way through. Numbers are similar to those from last year; some tournaments are attracting more players than last year, some slightly fewer. My gut feeling is that it bodes well for the main event; while I haven't seen anyone quote an over/under for entrance figures and I'm not sure how the online qualifier numbers compare to last year's, I'd guess at about 7,000 - a little more than last year's 6,844 but below 2006's 8,773. The big story so far is that Phil Ivey has won two tournaments in the first half of the event; Brock Parker won two short-handed ("6-max") tournaments in quick succession and Ville Wahlbeck has impressed by so far taking first, second and third places in three of the five $10,000-buyin events he has so far entered.

3. Many people have observed the phonetic similarity of the name Johnny Marr, who plays guitar (for the Smiths, as it happens), to the French phrase "j'en ai marre", often translated "I'm fed up". However, "j'en ai marre" is just a sentence fragment; you would use it in the context "j'en ai marre de ((quelque chose))", or "I'm fed up with ((something))". There is a lovely bit of British English slang, "mardy", which could be translated as "fed up" in a similar way. (A BBC h2g2 author has more.) Accordingly, it's got me wondering whether the phonetically similar "marre de" and "mardy" might have some sort of linguistic link. Etymology or coincidence? (Or, alternately, perhaps someone doesn't like Tuesdays...)

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