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2010 ConPac

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Frequently Asked Questions We Made Up About the NPL Convention

So you're new to the concept of a National Puzzlers' League convention, and you have questions. Let's pretend we know what they are.

What is a National Puzzlers' League convention?

The simple answer is that it's the best decision you will ever make in your puzzling life.

Okay, what is a National Puzzlers' League convention, in slightly more informative terms?

It's a four-day convention where many of the most puzzle-mad people in the world gather. Most of them are members of the National Puzzlers' League, the world's oldest puzzlers' organization. As members of this nonprofit organization, we've been solving puzzles nonstop since 1883. (Well, not the same people. But you get the idea.)

This year, we'll be gathering in Seattle, Washington from July 1st through 4th. And what we do there is something you've never seen before. You'll see dozens of new puzzle types debuted at the convention. You'll play in a team-based puzzle-solving extravaganza and test your skill in a solving contest of wordplay puzzles. You'll play Jeopardy! and charades and many other games in ways you've never thought possible. You'll hear our program director WILLz and other famous puzzlers speak. You'll tour the city with your eyes wide open for clues. You'll constantly talk about puzzles. You might never sleep. As member Mosayc wrote in his post on Wired Magazine's Decode blog: "the annual conventions are lively and entertaining, deftly combining good conversation and puzzle-solving ... Sleep, you'll notice, is not on the agenda. There are 361 other days in the year for that sort of thing."

And you will meet the best friends you'll ever have. Going to an NPL convention was the first time many of us met people from all over the world who were just like us. As longtime member Eric put it, "This is where the people from your home planet are."

You don't have to be a member of the NPL to attend the convention. In fact, many people first learn about the NPL by showing up at the convention when we're in their home city (we were in Baltimore last year and we'll be in Providence next year), and then decided to join. No, you don't have to join afterwards either, but you may find you can't help yourself.

Holy moley! That sounds awesome!

That wasn't a question.

Good point. What type of puzzles are we talking about?

The NPL has a strong slant toward word puzzles, but at the con you'll see a tremendous range, including word puzzles, logic puzzles, trivia puzzles, competitive puzzles, collaborative puzzles, and one-of-a-kind puzzles, games, and puzzle games you've never seen before.

Saturday's Flat Competition, the highlight of the convention for some longtime krewe members, is all about flats, puzzles in verse form that have proven over our 120-plus years to provide endless opportunities for creativity and continuous solving enjoyment. We'll admit flats can be difficult for newcomers, but we don't want that to scare you off -- they're just a small part of the convention. For some examples of flats, check out our minisample (PDF). The flat competition itself is designed to be friendly to newcomers. People can compete individually, in pairs, or join one of several large groups that solve cooperatively.

OK, I'm sold! How do I get involved?

You decide to come. The way most people do that is to pre-register for the convention. Checks should be made out to National Puzzlers' League and sent by June 20th to Aardvark at:

Amanda O'Connor
National Puzzlers' League
8770 171st Ave NE
Redmond, WA 98052
The convention fee is $275.

$275? What does that get me?

The bulk of that fee gets you fed and pays for the convention space. Your meals from Friday evening to Sunday morning are catered by the convention.

The rest of it goes to providing you with the best puzzling experience the League can offer. Every event is included in your convention fee. The program includes three unique games on Thursday night, three more on Friday night, three more on Saturday including a massive wordplay contest, and a giant puzzle-solving extravaganza on Saturday night. There's a free picnic dinner on Wednesday if you come early. Plus you get a convention photo, convention speakers, lots of cryptic crosswords, all the after-hours activities, puzzle tours of neighboring attractions, snacks in the hospitality suite, a hidden contest, and a fancy nametag.

Did you just list a nametag as a selling point?

We might just have. Being in the League is like joining a secret society of puzzle wonks, and we take our names seriously.

See, we mentioned that you'd be sending a check to "Aardvark." Aardvark's name is "Amanda," but you'll never hear anyone refer to her by that name. That's because each of the NPL members has a "nom de puzzle," or just "nom." Your convention hosts include people named Brillig, Dragonfly, Qoz, Rätsel, Sidhe, Slik, Spiel, Vroo, and Wombat. You'll be playing on teams with people whose puzzles you've solved for your entire lives. But when you're sitting with WILLz (that's Will Shortz) and Manx (that's Mike Shenk), those are just your teammates, y'know? Everyone's brain is considered equal at an NPL con.

Dude, I'm so in. How do I get there?

The convention will take place at the Red Lion Hotel on 5th Avenue, in the heart of beautiful downtown Seattle. The National Puzzlers' League (pre-tax) room rate at the Red Lion is $109 per night for single and double occupancy. Triples are $129 per night, and quads are $149 per night. Reservations can be made online by calling the Red Lion Hotel reservations line at 1-800-RED-LION and asking for the National Puzzlers' League Convention room rate, or by going to http://www.seattleredlionfifthavenue.com/, selecting Group Code in the Select Special Rate dropdown, and entering the discount code TNPL0628. The discount rate is available from June 25th until July 8th. In order to secure the discount room rate, reservations must be made by June 11, 2010.

If you're flying in, Alaska Airlines has granted The National Puzzlers' League a discount code which will take 7% off the lowest published fare from June 25th to July 8th, 2010; simply visit http://www.alaskaair.com and enter the Discount Code ECCMB1325 when making your reservation. When you land, take our swank new light rail train from the airport to within a couple blocks of the hotel. It's as easy as that.

Or, if you're not convinced yet and you're local, just come by. If we have room, we'll accept walk-ins all the way through the convention. If you'd like to see what we're up to, poke your head in. The best time to drop in is Thursday night, which starts with a mixer at 8:00 PM; if you can't make Thursday night, Friday night is almost as good. (Just be aware that if your head looks like it's going to stay for the convention, we will ask it for money.)

Oh no! I missed the registration deadline. Can I still attend?

We may be able to accommodate some late registrants. Please send mail to conpac@puzzlers.org.

Did you answer all my strawman questions?

We sure hope so. But if not, send any more you have to conpac@puzzlers.org.

And we'll see you at ConPac!